Władysław Czachórski (1850–1911)
oil on canvas, 9.45 x 14.17 in. (24 x 36 cm)
Władysław Czachórski’s Cleopatra was housed in the Greater Poland Museum in Poznań, (Muzeum Wielkopolskie w Poznaniu), today the National Museum in Poznań (Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu). Containing over one hundred thousand objects, Prussian officials established it as the Provincial Museum in Poznań in 1894, renaming it the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in 1902 and then the Greater Poland Museum in 1918 to mark Poland’s independence.
With the swift invasion and occupation of Poland by the Nazis in September 1939, Poland’s cultural heritage with immediately endangered with many public and private art collections outright confiscated as property of the Third Reich. During the German occupation, the Greater Poland Museum was once again name the Kaiser Friedrich Museum of Posen and requisitioned by Nazi officials. Its new director 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 began almost immediately prior to their evacuations. First the works of foreign artists were taken, then those by Polish artists as well as the Polish ethnographical collection. According to later testimony by Dr. Ruehle, several different locations were used for “safekeeping,” all in Germany. These included a fortress near Meseritz, Castle Reinhardsgrimma, the saltmines of Grasleben, and Castle Schlegel. Taken by truck or train, other collections from Poznan which had been consigned to the Kaiser Friedrich Museum’s protection, were also taken including that of the Archdiocesan Museum (Muzeum Archidiecezjalne) 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.
The museum was promoted to the rank of a National Museum in 1950. Because all relevant documentation has been lost, it is unknown if Czachórski’s Cleopatra was taken to Germany, or remained in Poland. It has not reappeared since the end of the war, and its current whereabouts are unknown.