Auguste Rodin (1840–1917)
marble, height 38.89 in. (99 cm)
Auguste Rodin’s sculpture Sappho was purchased directly from the artist by German-French banker and bibliophile Hans (Jean) Fürstenberg (1890-1982). The son of a prominent banker, Carl Fürstenberg, and Daniela Natanson, Hans completed an apprenticeship with his father’s company, Berliner Handelsgesellschaft (BHG) before volunteering for service in World War I. He was awarded an Iron Cross for his service and returned to banking, first in Brussels, and then at BHG.
Thanks to his large inheritance, Hans was able to amass an excellent collection of books from a young age. As a Jewish man, he experienced discrimination from the new Nazi government, and in 1936 emigrated from Berlin to Paris, paying the compulsory flight tax to do so. Hans, who changed his name to Jean and became a French citizen, was able to send around 16,000 volumes from his personal library with him to France. The Rodin sculpture also accompanied him and was kept at the warehouse of Société Parisienne, 44, rue Laffitte, Paris, for safekeeping.
In 1938, Jean purchased Château de Beaumesnil in Normandy, France. That same year, he donated his collection of several hundred first edition Weimar Classics to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. When France declared war the following year, partial holdings of the library’s collection, in addition to the Archives Nationales’ collection, and the private archives of the Belgian king were transferred to Château de Beaumesnil for safekeeping. However, by 1940, the Germans had invaded and occupied portions of France. Around this time, Jean fled the Gestapo in France by fleeing to Switzerland, where he would remain until 1945. Jean’s impressive library was seized and inventoried by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), with portions of it subsequently being sent to the Hohe Schule der NSDAP — the elite school of Nazi ideologue and ERR namesake, Alfred Rosenberg. The Rodin sculpture was also confiscated by the ERR on November 16, 1942, from its storage place in Paris.
After his return to France, Jean tried to recover his collections. Portions of the library were recovered from a prince-archbishop's Konvikt Tanzenberg near Klagenfurt, Austria and Grand Hotel Annenheim in Carinthia, Austria, while others disappeared in the chaos of the war’s end. Rodin’s Sappho remains missing.