Arnold Böcklin Tritonenfamilie (1880-81)
Photo: The Art Newspaper
Lost painting sighted in Monte Carlo and a Berlin Hotel
New hope to recover a long lost Arnold Böcklin masterpiece has emerged from a surprising source, the Art Newspaper reported. Looted from the collection of the Kulturhistorisches Museum in Magdeburg around the end of World War II, Tritonenfamilie (1880-81) was spotted back in 2004 in two Helmut Newton photographs by Andrea Linnebach, a Böcklin specialist at the University of Kassel.
A photograph taken by Newton in 1977—Jenny Kapitan, Pension Dorian, Berlin—depicts his favourite model in a Berlin boarding house. She is naked, with a bandaged leg and a neck brace, and leans on a stick; a version of Tritonenfamilie hangs above a bed. The painting probably belonged to the hotel, and was used by Newton as a prop.
The second photograph, of the Playboy model Yvonne Honsa, was taken in Newton’s apartment in Monte Carlo in 1999, where what appears to be the same painting is in the background.
The Kulturhistorisches Museum first learned of Linnebach’s discovery in 2008. Directors have since made several unpublicized efforts to obtain further information on the missing Böcklin piece from June Newton, the photographer’s 91-year-old widow.
It is unclear whether the masterpiece used as a prop was indeed the original painting. Matthias Harder, curator of the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin told TAN “We know that it cannot be the original Böcklin.”
Yet there are no known replicas made by the artist, and the chances of a different painter copying the original after its disappearance are slim, as no color photographs of the original exist.
In 1943 the artwork was moved to a salt mine in Strassfurt for safekeeping. Museum historian Tobias von Elsner believes the original panting was probably looted by allied troops, German civilians, or forced laborers. It may also have been destroyed in a fire that broke out in the mine in 1945, although von Elsner believes the piece “probably survived.”
If the painting owned by Newton is the original, other missing paintings from the museum may have also survived, TAP points out. These might even include one of the greatest artistic losses of the war: Van Gogh’s The Painter on the Tarascon Road, 1888.