NEW YORK, NY.- The painting Mercury Carries Psyche to Mount Olympus by Bartholomäus Spranger was rediscovered in a private collection. Following a just and fair solution between the private collectors and the heirs of the former owner Prof. Dr. Curt Glaser, the artwork will be auctioned at Christies in London in December.
The painting Mercury Carriers Psyche to Mount Olympus by Bartholomäus Spranger (1546-1611), a court painter to the German Kaiser, which for a long time was believed lost, has been rediscovered in a private collection by the art historian and internationally renowned Spranger expert Sally Metzler. It is a landmark painting by the great mannerist artist, which has previously only been known to scholars by virtue of an old black and white photograph. Spranger painted it around 1576 during the hiatus between the arrival of Rudolf II in Vienna and the death of Emperor Maximilian. Spranger presented the painting to Rudolf II where it is recorded in the 1621 inventory of his famous Kunstkammer. It is one of the most significant paintings by the artist still remaining in private hands and certainly the most significant work by him to appear on the market in recent memory. After the current owners and the heirs of the former owner Prof. Dr. Curt Glaser agreed on a fair and just solution following the principles of the 1998 Washington Conference, the artwork will be auctioned at the Christies auction house on December 7, 2017 in London.
Professor Glaser, a medical doctor, famous art historian, art critic, author of many important texts and books on art and art history, as well as a notable art collector, worked for Berlin museums since 1909. He had achieved great distinction while working for the Kupferstichkabinett [Gallery of Prints] before he became director of the State Art Library in Berlin in 1924.
With the Nazis rise to power, he was persecuted because of his Jewish origin. Prior to his forced retirement in September 1933, the Nazis suspended Glaser as an unwanted and persecuted Jewish museum director from his position as director of the State Art Library already before the enactment of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service [Nazi law forbidding Jews from holding German civil servant positions].
As a result of the loss of his position and due to Nazi persecution, Professor Glaser had no professional or personal future in Nazi-Germany. Already in June 1933, he emigrated, together with his second wife, to the United States via stopovers in France, Switzerland, Italy and Cuba. He died in Lake Placid, New York in 1943.
In order to finance his emigration, he had no other choice than to sell a large part of his art collection, his apartment furniture, as well as his art library at the Berlin auction houses Internationales Kunst- und Auktionshaus (on May 9, 1933) and Max Perl (on May 18/19, 1933).
At the Internationales Kunst- und Auktionshaus auction on May 9, 1933, the art dealer Wolfgang Gurlitt acquired the painting from the collection of Prof. Glaser. After the death of Wolfgang Gurlitt (March 26, 1965) the painting was given to auction at the Lempertz auction house in Cologne. Without knowledge of the loss due to Nazi persecution the family of the current owner bought the painting at the auction on November 18, 1965. Since then the painting had been in the familys ownership.
After the current owners learned of the Nazi-Era History of the painting they immediately contacted the representatives of the heirs of Prof. Dr. Curt Glaser. In a process guided by expertise, respect and fairness the parties amicably settled on a fair and just solution following the principles of the 1998 Washington Conference.
Pursuant to the 1999 Joint Declaration of the German Federal Government, the Federal States and the National Association of Local Authorities on the tracing and the return of Naziconfiscated art, especially Jewish property, these principles are only binding upon public authorities. However, the owners of the painting nevertheless decided to acknowledge the principles of the Washington Conference as private persons and to act in accordance with them.
The agreement follows other fair and just solutions which the heirs of Prof. Dr. Glaser have found with the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation Berlin, the Bayerischen Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections), the Germanische Nationalmuseum, the Museum Ludwig Cologne, the Kunsthalle Hamburg, and other private collectors.