Straight from our social media series, #MeetTheArtworks shows archival photos colorized by our team to spotlight a work of art found and recovered by the Monuments Men and Women and museum officials of countries in Europe.
Peter Paul Rubens
Portrait of Helene Fourment with a Carriage
Rubens’ portrait of his second wife, Hélène Fourment had been sold by the 8th Duke of Marlborough to Baron Alphonse de Rothschild of Paris in 1884. It passed on to the Baron's son, Édouard de Rothschild, and from him it was confiscated in 1940 by the Nazi authorities (ERR code R91).
The portrait first made its way to the Jeu de Paume Museum to be sorted and catalogued. On February 5, 1941 it was selected by Hermann Göring for the "Führer's Collection," Hitler’s proposed museum in Linz, Austria. It ended in the salt mines of Alt Aussee, where it was discovered by the Monuments Men and Women in the summer of 1945. It was sent to the Munich Central Collecting Point (MCCP No. 4296) and returned to France on September 20, 1945 and to Édouard de Rothschild the following year.
It joined collection of the Musée du Louvre in Paris in 1977, where it can be found today, in Room 855.
Thomas Carr Howe papers, 1932-1984. Smithsonian
Pallas and the Centaur
During WWII, “Pallas and the Centaur,” along with hundreds of works of art from Florentine museums, was loaded on an open-top truck and taken to the northern Italian town of San Leonardo in Passiria. German soldiers transported the uncrated painting over hundreds of miles of poor-quality roads with little more protection than straw.
Monuments Man Lt. Fred Hartt reached the town of San Leonardo on May 12, 1945 and found the painting by Botticelli, alongside hundreds of others that the Germans had taken from the repository of Villa Bossi-Pucci in Montagnana, "piled against each other in damp and narrow cells."
In the months that followed, the Monuments Men arranged for packing materials, workmen and trucks to reach San Leonardo. Transportation of the art back to Florence began on July 16, 1945 and arrived safely at the Campo di Marte train station in Florence in the afternoon of July 22, 1945.
US National Archives
Madonna and Child
This beautiful “Madonna and Child” by Bernardino Luini was one of the treasures stolen by the Hermann Göring Division from the Abbey of Monte Cassino and belonging to the collections of the National Museum and Galleries of Capodimonte (Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte) in Naples, Italy.
Luini was the most prominent follower of Leonardo da Vinci. In the 1520s, he produced especially sensitive paintings of the Virgin and Child modeled after Leonardo’s example. A version similar to the Capodimonte panel is in The Wallace Collection in London.
The painting was recovered in mid May 1945, by Monuments Men Maj. Robert Posey and Pfc. Lincoln Kirstein from the saltmine of Altaussee, Austria, along with 6,576 other paintings, 230 drawings, 137 sculptures, 78 pieces of furniture, 122 tapestries, 181 cases of books and so much more.
Thomas Carr Howe papers, 1932-1984, Smithsonian
Bartolomeo di Giovanni
St. Jerome Penitent in the Desert
This photograph shows the visit of Eighth Army General Sir Harold Alexander’s visit to the Castello di Montegufoni in 1944. Used as an art repository by the Germans, it housed some of the artworks from Florentine collections.
To Sir Alexander’s left is Lt. Frederick Hartt, who was among the earliest Monuments Men to serve in the MFAA. He worked in and around Florence in the wake of the advancing Allied armies. For his service to Florence and its heritage, after his death in 1991 the city of Florence buried his remains with full honors at the cemetery of the Church of San Miniato al Monte.
Today, "St. Jerome Penitent in the Desert" can be found in the Monastery of S. Michele in S. Salvi, Florence.
Frederick Hartt Papers, National Gallery of Art
Venice: The Feastday of Saint Roch
“Venice: The Feastday of Saint Roch” by the master Canaletto was bequested to London’s National Gallery by silk merchant and politician Wynn Ellis in 1876, and depicts a mass in honor of Saint Roch in Venice’s church of San Rocco. Annually held on the 16th August, Saint Roch was celebrated for ending the plague of 1576.
After the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, British museums moved their most important works of art for safekeeping to various locations. The collection of the National Gallery ended in the disused slate mine of Manod Quarry in North Wales. Explosives were used to enlarge the entrance in order to accommodate the largest paintings and several small brick ‘bungalows’ were built within the caverns to protect the paintings from variations in humidity and temperature. The paintings remained there for four years.
The photo shows the Canaletto being taken out of storage for routine inspection at the underground facility.
Piero del Pollaiolo
Depicting the personification of Faith holding the chalice of the Eucharist and a processional cross, "Faith" was painted as part of a cycle dedicated to the Virtues for the Court of Merchandise, Piazza della Signoria, Florence. Completed in 1470, it was bequeathed to the Gallerie degli Uffizi in 1777.
With the outbreak of the war, the art collections of Italy were transferred out of the cities for protection. Mostly stored in privately-owned villas, the Palatine collection was stored for safe-keeping at the Villa Bossi-Pucci in Montagnana. In July 1944, the 362nd Infantry Division of the German Wehrmacht loaded the contents of the villa into trucks and drove them North.
The photo shows to unloading of “Faith” by the Germans at the art repository of St. Leonard in Passiria, near Bolzano in North Italy.
Leonardo da Vinci
Lady with an Ermine
Monuments Men Frank P. Albright, Everett Parker Lesley, Joe D. Espinosa and Polish liaison officer Karol Estreicher pose with Leonardo da Vinci's painting upon its return to Poland in April 1946.
US National Archives
Madonna and Child
late 16th century
"Madonna with Child" by Carlo Dolci was once part of the collection of Vittoria della Rovere Grand Duchess of Tuscany, before being bequeathed to the Palatine Gallery of the Pitti Palace in Florence.
With the outbreak of WWII, the art collections of Italy were transferred out of the city centers for protection. Mostly stored in privately-owned villas, the Palatine collection was stored for safe-keeping at the Villa Bossi-Pucci in Montagnana. In July 1944, the 362nd Infantry Division of the German Wehrmacht loaded the contents of the villa into trucks and drove them North.
When the Monuments Men arrived at the Villa in August of 1944, they found almost 300 paintings missing including masterpieces by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Carlo Dolci and Rembrandt.
Almost a year later, the collections were discovered in the mountain village of San Leonardo in Passiria, near Bolzano, by the U.S. Fifth Army. The photo shows Germans unloading Carlo Dolci's Madonna in front of the repository. Today, the painting is back in the Palatine collection and it hangs in the Room of Ulysses.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
Time and the Old Women
This photographs shows Goya's “Time and the Old Women” being inspected in September 1944 at the Chateau de Grand-Lucé, a stately home in the Loire valley that during WWII kept safe some of France’s masterpieces.
The museum collections were evacuated to Brittany and Normandy between the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940, and by 1942 the Grand-Lucé was was one of five depots for the French National Museums chosen in the Sarthe area.
From left to right, the photograph shows:
- Three unidentified men
- Monuments Man, Lt. Felix Bonilla (far left)
- Monuments Man, Capt. James Rorimer (center left)
- Germain René Michel Bazin would become chief paintings curator of Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre) ,(center right)
- Paul Cardonnier, chief of the Le Mans Museum
- Maurice Serralaz, official of the Louvre Museum
Upon inspection, all of the paintings inside Grand-Lucé were found to be in excellent condition. Goya’s masterpiece was returned to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, where it can be seen today.
James J. Rorimer Papers, National Gallery of Art
Giorgio Vasari’s "Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist" is one of the great treasures of the Acton Collection at Villa La Pietra, in Florence, Italy.
Both the Castello and its neighboring villa (also an art repository) were owned by the Conte Lorenzo Guicciardini. The properties had been requisitioned for the storage of art works in 1941, and when the first Monuments Men discovered them in 1944, the pictures were found safe and undamaged.
The photo, from the collection of Monuments Man Albert Sheldon Pennoyer Collection at Princeton University, shows Dr. Giorgo Castelfranco and Dr. Cesare Fasola of the Belli Arti in Florence examining the pictures inside the repository established within the Castello Guicciardini, in Poppiano, Italy. Inventory checks by Capt. Pennoyer disclosed “nothing missing.”
Vasari’s Holy Family was eventually returned to Florence and to Villa La Pietra, which is also the home of NYU Florence.
Princeton University Library, A. Sheldon Pennoyer Collection.
Follower of Rubens
Study of a Woman's Head
This wonderful study of a woman’s head by a follower of 16th-century Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens was once owned by the Comtesse Cornet de Ways-Ruart of Brussels and as of 1933, by renowned Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker.
While its wartime provenance is unclear, at some point it passed through the hands of Leon Seyffers of Brussels and through those of German jurist Helmuth Graf von Moltke, who was executed by the Nazis for treason in 1945.
This painting was deposited in the Heilbronn salt mine for safekeeping, where it was found by the Monuments Men in 1945. It was transferred to the Wiesbaden Collecting Point, where it is seen here being held by Monuments Man Capt. Raymond Lemaire and Monuments Woman Capt. Edith Standen.
The painting was sold last April 28, 2021 at Sotheby's London in the Old Master Paintings Portrait Miniatures sale (https://www.sothebys.com/.../old.../study-for-a-womans-head).
Jean-François de Troy
Salmacis and Hermaphroditus
"Salmacis and Hermaphroditus" by the French Rococo painter Jean-François de Troy depicts a lesser-known story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and it was painted alongside de Troy’s Venus and Adonis for the Comte de Sainte-Maure in 1729. By the 1930s it was in the collection of the Galerie Georges Wildenstein, Paris.
Georges Wildenstein was a French gallerist and art dealer who worked alongside fellow dealer Paul Rosenberg. Georges and his family fled Nazi occupation to the United States in 1940, and his gallery was aryanized, that is, its ownership was transferred to non-Jews. De Troy’s painting was confiscated by the ERR and made its way into the possession of Hermann Göring. Misattributed as a Lemoyne, it was discovered by the MonumentsMen at Berchtesgaden as shown in this photograph. It was restituted to the Wildenstein Gallery after the war, where it stayed until 2001.
The painting was sold at Christie's in the Old Master Paintings sale of October 16, 2006 for USD 296,000.
Gerrit van Honthorst
Adoration of the Shepherds
This photograph shows “Adoration of the Shepherds” (Die Anbetung der Hirten) by Dutch Golden Age painter Gerrit van Honthorst, painted in 1662. An intimate, emotional take on the nativity scene, this masterpiece can be found at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, Germany.
The painting had been in the collection of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum since 1855. With the onset of Allied air raids across Germany, the art collection of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, as well as other German public collections, was moved for safekeeping. “Adoration of the Shepherds”was moved to the mine at Siegen.
On the far right of the photo, Monuments Man Capt. Walker K. Hancock inspecting the painting, which was moved first to the Marburg Collecting Point for sorting, then to Wiesbaden Collecting Point. It was then returned to its home at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum.
With the outbreak of war in 1940, the art collections of Italy were transferred out of the cities for safekeeping. These collections were mostly stored in privately-owned villas in Tuscany. A masterpiece of the Mannerist style, the Visitation was found in the art repository of Villa Guicciardini, in Poppiano, Italy.
The Villa had been hit by German artillery fire which caused the ceiling to collapse. Most of the paintings there were stored in boxes, however Pontormo’s "Visitation“ had been thrown down on the floor… and thus received the full weight of the ceiling when it fell; furthermore, the soldiers had walked on it later, rubbing the plaster into the surface and removing considerable areas of paint,” as it was reported at the time. It was noted that it was one of only two badly damaged works of art in the Poppiano deposits.
Monuments Man Lt. Frederick Hartt, wi