Portrait of a Young Man (Raphael)
|Dimensions||72 cm × 56 cm (28 in × 22 in)|
|Location||whereabouts unknown since 1945
formerly exhibited at the Czartoryski Museum, Kraków, Poland
Portrait of a Young Man is a painting in oil on panel, probably from 1513–1514, by the Italian High Renaissance Old Master painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino better known simply as Raphael. The painting was stolen by the Nazis from Poland. Many historians regarded it as the most important painting missing since World War II. In 2012 the painting was discovered in a bank vault, and is to be returned to Poland.
The subject's identity is unverified, but many scholars have traditionally regarded it as Raphael's self-portrait. The facial features are perceived by specialists as compatible with, if not clearly identical to, the only undoubted self-portrait by Raphael in his fresco The School of Athens at the Vatican, identified as such by Vasari. If it is a self-portrait, no hint is given of Raphael's profession; the portrait shows a richly-dressed and "confidently-poised" young man.
The painting was brought to Poland, along with Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine and many Roman antiquities, by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, son of Princess Izabela Czartoryska, on his travels to Italy in 1798.
The Nazi theft
At the onset of Nazi German invasion of Poland in 1939, the painting was rescued from the Czartoryski Museum of Kraków along with the Rembrandt masterpiece, and Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine, and placed at a residence in Sieniawa. The collection was discovered with the help of Gestapo by Hans Frank, appointed by Hitler as the governor of the General Government. The three paintings used to decorate his residence in the city before they were sent to Berlin, and Dresden, to become part of the Führer's own Collection at Linz, arranged by Hitler's plenipotentiary, Dr. Posse.
In 1945, Frank, a friend of Adolph Hitler, brought the paintings back from Germany to Kraków for his own use at the royal Wawel Castle. This is where Portrait of a Young Man was last seen. When the Germans evacuated from Kraków in January 1945 ahead of the Soviet offensive, Frank took the paintings with him to Silesia and then to his own villa in Neuhaus. The Americans arrested Frank on May 3, 1945 pending trial for war crimes. The Polish representative at the Allies Commission for the Retrieval of Works of Art located some of the paintings stolen by him, and claimed them on behalf of the Czartoryski Museum. However, the Raphael and 843 other artifacts were missing from storage. In recent times, a book about Nazi plunder by Lynn H. Nicholas and a documentary film by the same title, The Rape of Europa, suggested that if the painting were to reappear today, it would be worth in excess of 100 million US dollars.
On 1 August 2012 Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the painting has been found "in a bank vault in an undisclosed location"; a ministry spokesman was confident that the painting would eventually return to Poland.
Popular culture references
Portrait of a Young Man is clearly depicted in several scenes of the 1996 Simpsons episode "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'" in which it is among paintings looted by soldiers Abraham "Grampa" Simpson and Montgomery Burns at the end of World War II.
Painting Portrait of a Young Man is also seen in character Henri Miller's home at the end of a science fiction film called Justice Is Mind. It is meant to settle the link between suppressed World War II crimes and the present, shared between two of the main characters.
- Houpt, Simon et al. (2006). Museum of the Missing, p. 49.
- Winid, Boguslaw. "Not Lost Forever: Recovery of Polish Art Looted During WWII," Polish Art club of Buffalo. 3 April 2004.
- "History of The Czartoryski Museum". Czartoryski.org. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
- Jones, Roger et al. (1983). Raphael, p. 170–171.
- PBS: The Rape of Europa, 2006 film, aired November 24, 2008.
- "Raphael’s 'Portrait of a Young Man' re-discovered". Panarmenian.Net. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Justice Is Mind synopsis from the official website.
- Houpt, Simon and Julian Radcliffe. (2006). Museum of the Missing: a History of Art Theft. New York: Sterling Publishing. 10-ISBN 1-4027-2829-8, 13-ISBN 978-1-4027-2829-7; OCLC 67375076
- Jones, Roger and Nicholas Penny. (1983). Raphael. New Haven: Yale University Press. 10-ISBN 0-300-04052-0, 13-ISBN 978-0-300-04052-4; OCLC 440831341
- Nicholas, Lynn H. (1994). The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York City: Vintage Books. 13-ISBN 978-0-679-40069-1; OCLC 32531154
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