Portrait of a Young Man (Raphael)

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Portrait of a Young Man
Raphael missing.jpg
Artist Raffaello Sanzio
Year 1513–1514
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.[1] The painting was stolen by the Nazis from Poland. Many historians regard it as the most important painting missing since World War II.[2][3]

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.[4]

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.[3]

The Nazi theft[edit]

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.[3] The three paintings used to decorate his residence in the city before they were sent to Berlin,[1] and Dresden, to become part of the Führer's own Collection at Linz, arranged by Hitler's plenipotentiary, Dr. Posse.[3]

In 1945, Frank, a friend of Adolf 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.[2] 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[disambiguation needed]. 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.[3] 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.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

The painting's whereabouts are unknown, although the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that it has been known "for years" that the painting survived the war.[6] However, in the summer of 2012 a false report about the painting's rediscovery appeared in popular media, attributed to an alleged statement made by representative of the Polish Foreign Minister for the restitution of cultural property Wojciech Kowalski. The Polish newsflash was a hoax intended to drum up readership. Soon afterward, the ministry spokesman explained in a public announcement that there are no new leads in regard to the whereabouts of the artwork.[7]

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 resolve the link between suppressed World War II crimes and the present, shared between two of the main characters.[8]

In the 2014 film The Monuments Men, the painting is shown being destroyed by the Germans. It is shown as a prominent painting in a large cache of stolen art stored in an unidentified cave or mine that German troops set on fire with flame throwers. The scene ends with a close-up of the painting as it starts to bubble and is then consumed by the flames. As an ironic plot twist, during a briefing George Clooney's character is giving to President Harry Truman in a darkened screening room, he projects a picture of the painting on the screen and says that it is believed to have survived the war and that it will eventually be recovered.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Houpt, Simon et al. (2006). Museum of the Missing, p. 49.
  2. ^ a b Winid, Boguslaw. "Not Lost Forever: Recovery of Polish Art Looted During WWII," Polish Art club of Buffalo. 3 April 2004.
  3. ^ a b c d e "History of The Czartoryski Museum". Czartoryski.org. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  4. ^ Jones, Roger et al. (1983). Raphael, p. 170–171.
  5. ^ PBS: The Rape of Europa, 2006 film, aired November 24, 2008.
  6. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland. "MSZ: nie mamy informacji, gdzie jest "Portret młodzieńca" Rafaela, depesza PAP 01.08.2012" [Communiqué of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: we have no new information about the painting]. MSZ in the Media (in Polish). Polish Press Agency. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Małgorzata Skowrońska (02.08.2012). "Obraz Rafaela cudownie odnaleziony i szybko utracony" [The Raphael painting miraculously found and again lost instantaneously]. Gazeta.pl > Kraków. Retrieved 14 January 2014.  The hoax (available online) and discussed by director of Wawel Royal Castle Prof. Jan Ostrowski among others, was confirmed by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  8. ^ Justice Is Mind synopsis from the official website.

References[edit]

External links[edit]