Władysław Czachórski (1850–1911)
oil on canvas, 9.45 x 14.17 in. (24 x 36 cm)
Władysław Czachórski’s Cleopatra was owned by the Museum of Western Poland, or Muzeum Wielkopolskie, in Poznań. Containing over 100,000 objects, it was founded in 1894 as the Provincial Museum (it was renamed in 1918), and was one of the oldest and most historic museums in Poland.
With the advent of the September Campaign in 1939, Nazi forces entered Poland and invaded within six days. The looting of Polish cultural heritage started almost immediately with the inventories of both public and private art collections in Poland, which were then seized as property of the Third Reich. During the German occupation, the Museum of Western Poland was renamed again, this time to the “Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum”. In charge was Dr. Siegfried Ruehle, an art historian who is thought to have been placed in his position to aid the looting of Polish collections.
The museum was requisitioned by Nazi officials, and an inventory of the art works was started almost immediately. First the works of foreign artists were taken, then those by Polish artists as well as the Polish ethnographical collection. According to a later testimony by Dr. Ruehle, a number of different locations were used for ‘safekeeping’, all in Germany. These included a fortress near Meseritz, Castle Reinhardtsgrimma, the saltmines of Grasleben, and Castle Schlegel. Taken by truck or train, other collections from Poznan were also taken, including that of the Diocese Museum, and some Polish private collections. A full list of objects and where they were moved to was made, but was lost sometime during the war years.
Once the war had ended, the museum again was renamed, this time as the National Museum of Poznan in 1950. Because all relevant documentation has been lost, it is unknown if the Czachórski’s Cleopatra was taken to Germany, or left in Poland. It has not reappeared since the end of the war, and its current whereabouts are unknown.