BERLIN.- The Gemäldegalerie
is returning two paintings, originally from the Zeughaus (Armoury) holdings, to the Deutsches Historisches Museum. The 18th century portraits had been placed in safekeeping at the Gemäldegalerie, as works of unknown provenance. The Deutsches Historiches Museum, which is now responsible for the Zeughaus collections, believed the paintings had been lost in the war.
The portrait entitled 'The Margrave of Bayreuth, Officer of the Dragoon Regiment' was painted by the artist Frans Lütgert in 1734. It shows Friedrich III of Brandenburg-Bayreuth wearing a short powdered wig and a uniform of the period of Friedrich Wilhelm I. The second work, painted in 1770, is a portrait of 'Albrecht Christian von Oheimb, Lieutenant General of the Cavalry and Governor of Rinteln'. He wears the Order of the Golden Lion of the House of Hesse and the Hessian Order of Military Merit 'Pour la vertu militaire'. The identity of the artist is unknown.
Staff members of the Deutsches Historisches Museum came across entries for the two works while searching the Lost Art database of the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (German Lost Art Foundation). On the basis of its own catalogue of items of unknown provenance, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz had placed the works in the keeping of the Gemäldegalerie. A comparison with the catalogue of works lost by the Berlin Zeughaus confirmed their identification and they have now been returned to the Deutsches Historisches Museum.
For both institutions, the return of the paintings is a success story for provenance research, which includes the identification of works which museums hold but do not own. The Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz attempts to trace the origins of such items and restore them to their rightful owners. All works which are held by the Stiftung but which are not its legal property are being documented in a series of publications by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: the first catalogue, for the Gemäldegalerie, appeared in 1999, the volume for the Nationalgalerie was published in 2008, and a volume for the Antikensammlung is now in production.
The Deutsches Historisches Museum has made its digitalised collections available to the public on-line since 1992. So far, 600,000 data records can be accessed via the museum's website and are thus available to support provenance research.