Pre-war Provenance of Christie's Ghirlandaio

November 19 2020

Image of Pre-war Provenance of Christie's Ghirlandaio

Picture: Christie's & Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III w Wilanowie

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader from Poland has sent through some interesting articles that shed light on the Pre-war provenance of the Salvator Mundi by Domenico Ghirlandaio that is coming up in Christie's Evening Sale in December.

It turns out that the painting had been in a Polish collection before the war. A website published by the Muzeum Pałacu Króla Jana III in Wilanowie, Poland, shows that the work was included in an 1940 exhibition of old masters from Polish collections held at European Art Galleries Inc. NYC where it was photographed (right).

Another article shows a photograph featuring Count Jerzy Potocki, the Polish Ambassador in Washington and S. Maurice Solomon, owner of European Art Galleries Inc. standing in front of the very same painting.

Although the lender of the work was not published, it has been suggested that the owner had been the Counts Potocki of Łańcut. The most valuable pictures in the Potocki collection were seemingly transferred to Austria and Switzerland in 1944. There is no further information yet on what happened to the work in the intervening period. The painting was presumed lost until now.

The provenance Christie's has supplied mentions that the work had been purchased in Paris during 1955 by the present owners family, and had previously been with an A L Nicholson. No wartime provenance is supplied.

Christie's have been informed and are conducting a full review before making a comment.

Update - Christie's have updated the work's provenance in their online catalogue note. It includes the following addition:

Schachna Maurice Solomon, London, by 1931, with his International Art Galleries Ltd., by whom taken to New York by circa 1937, with his European Art Galleries Inc., until at least 1940.

Update 2 - I've cast my eyes over a letter from the Polish Ministry for Culture and National Heritage regarding their thoughts on the picture's provenance. Their verdict is that the paintings were brought to New York in 1940 in order to be sold to benefit the Polish Pavilion at the 1939 New York World Exhibition. The ownership of the works rested with the Standing Committee and not the Polish State. Thus, the Salvator Mundi is not considered a war time loss.

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