Portrait of 18th Century Duchess Missing Since World War II Returned to Heir

duchess-portrait-sothebys-lootA portrait of Duchess Anna Amalia of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach painted by Angelika Kauffmann in Rome in 1789 that disappeared from her descendants’ residence in Poland after World War II resurfaced at Sotheby’s in 2011, and now has been returned to Michael Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, a descendant of the Duchess’s family, Bloomberg reports. The painting was brought to Sotheby’s London by the Polish collector Piotr Buchner and is worth an unspecified six-digit figure in euros, according to Christoph von Berg, the attorney who brokered its repatriation.

“Our identity is closely linked with this city, so this is where it had to come back to,” Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach said at a ceremony marking the painting’s return to Weimar, where it was originally commissioned by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach is loaning the painting to the city permanently, which will put it on view next year in a special exhibition at Roman House.

We will probably never know where the painting went after 1945,” Sotheby’s specialist Nina Buhne said during the ceremony. “It is lucky that it didn’t end up in a Russian archive. And lucky that it ended up on the art market.” Buchner claimed ownership of the work after it was spotted on the Lost Art Internet Database by a Sotheby’s employee, and received an undisclosed sum as compensation.

— Benjamin Sutton