Home Art sale Chagall painting stolen by Nazis auctioned in US for $7.4 million

Chagall painting stolen by Nazis auctioned in US for $7.4 million


Marc Chagall working in his studio in Vallauris, southern France, in June 1952


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A painting by Marc Chagall, which was among 15 works stolen by the Nazis and eventually returned by France to the heirs of the families concerned, sold for $7.4 million at auction in New York on Tuesday.

The sale at Phillips auction house was part of the fall auction season, which sees major industry players sell hundreds of artworks for billions of dollars in a matter of days in upscale Manhattan neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, Phillips sold 46 works for nearly $139 million. The most expensive, a monumental painting by Cy Twombly, “Untitled” (2005), which belonged to the French businessman François Pinault, went for 41.6 million dollars.

Chagall’s 1911 oil on canvas “The Father” was purchased in 1928 by a Polish-Jewish luthier, David Cender, who lost his possessions when he was forced to move to the Lodz ghetto.

Deported to Auschwitz, where his wife and daughter were killed, the luthier survived and settled in France in 1958, where he died in 1966 without having regained possession of the painting.

In the meantime, the work had reappeared in exhibitions and it turned out that Marc Chagall himself had bought it, probably between 1947 and 1953 — without knowing its provenance, according to Phillips and the ministry. cultural French.

After the death of the artist, born in the Russian Empire, in France in 1985, “Le Père” entered the national collections in 1988, then was assigned to the Center Pompidou and deposited at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaism in Paris.

The French parliament unanimously passed a law earlier this year to return 15 works of Jewish families looted by the Nazis. Then-Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot called it a historic “first step”, noting that other works of art and looted books were still kept in public collections.

Cender’s heirs decided to sell the painting, a common scenario “when a work is returned so long after it was stolen”, because “you have multiple heirs and the work itself cannot be divided “said Phillips Vice Chairman Jeremiah Evarts.

Chagall painted his father’s portrait the year he arrived in Paris. He was “electrified by the modernism” of the city at the time and his works from this period are rare.

“Many of them were destroyed when he left Paris to return to Russia in 1914,” Evarts noted, saying he was certain that “The Father” would attract the interest of museums and collectors.

Phillips did not reveal details about who bought the work, a common practice among auction houses.