Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich returns watercolor by Rudolf von Alt to heirs of the original owner
The Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich has today returned the watercolor “Das Arbeitszimmer des Künstlers” (The Artist’s Workroom) by Rudolf von Alt (1812–1905) to the surviving relatives of the former owner. The painting has been identified as Nazi-confiscated property. Between 2011 and 2013, the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte systematically researched the origin of 617 drawings and watercolors by Jakob von Alt (1789–1872) and his son Rudolf von Alt (1812–1905). The project was funded by the former Bureau for Provenance Research (now the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg). The restitution is the result of this research project.
The artwork dates from 1905. Following the death of von Alt in the same year, his heirs left the painting to the son of a prominent Jewish manufacturer, Stephan Mautner, whom von Alt had taught to draw. After Austria was annexed to the German Reich in March 1939, the Mautner family’s assets were confiscated and they were forced to sell some of their collection to finance their escape. Mautner and his wife emigrated to Hungary in 1938, from where they were deported to Auschwitz and murdered in 1944. Their children managed to escape to the US.
The watercolor came into the possession of Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and a close confidant of Hitler. In 1945, the Allies took the painting from the repository at Altaussee salt mine to the Central Collecting Point in Munich, where Mautner’s son submitted a claim for it in 1947. However, for reasons that are inexplicable today, it could no longer be found there. In 1956, the watercolor was given to the Minister President of Bavaria and subsequently transferred to the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich.
The Staatliche Graphische Sammlung made contact with Mautner’s heirs in 2013. Mautner’s grandchildren in the USA agreed to sell the artwork to the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, which in turn made it available to the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich on permanent loan.