Of the hundreds of paintings in Hermann Goering’s art collection, these works are considered by art historian Nancy Yeide to be among the most significant:
“Virgin and Child” (1520) by Jan Gossaert
Goering made 20 visits to Jeu de Paume in Paris between 1940 and 1942 to select looted art, including this Flemish painting confiscated from a French collector. The picture was restituted to the collector’s daughter in 1946 and sold to the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2002, it was featured on the U.S. Postal Service’s Christmas stamp.
“The Judgment of Paris” (1528) by Lucas Cranach the Elder
This German Renaissance painting was acquired by Goering in 1936 and loaned to a Berlin exhibition of Cranach works the following year. In 1954, it was returned to the Frankfurt collector who had owned it before 1936. He and his wife donated it to the art museum in Basel, Switzerland.
“Portrait of the Marquise Jeronima Spinola-Doria” (c. 1625) by Anthony van Dyck
This Flemish baroque portrait of an Italian noblewoman was acquired by the Rothschild family and confiscated by the Nazis, who transferred it to Goering in 1940. The Rothschilds got it back and donated it to the Louvre in 1949.
“Portrait of his Sister Elizabeth van Rijn” (1632) by Rembrandt van Rijn
The sitter is identified as Rembrandt’s sister but the artist intended the portrait to depict a female type not an individual. Walter Andreas Hofer, Goering’s chief buying agent, acquired the painting in 1940. After being restituted, it was sold in 1953 to a Swiss collector whose estate auctioned the painting at Sotheby’s in 2007 for $9 million.
“The Crowning of Saint Catherine” (1633) by Peter Paul Rubens
Created for a church in Mechelen, Belgium, this painting was sold in the mid-1700s to an English duke. It was eventually purchased by a Jewish collector in Berlin and acquired by Goering in 1942. After being returned to the collector’s son, it was purchased by the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art.
“River Landscape With Ferry” (1649) by Salomon van Ruysdael
In 1940, Goering orchestrated his largest art heist: the coerced acquisition of artworks from Amsterdam’s famed Goudstikker Gallery, including this Dutch landscape. After the war, the painting was transferred to the Rijksmuseum, where it remained for 45 years. In 2005, the painting was restituted by the Dutch government to the Goudstikker heirs and purchased two years later by the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
“Alexander the Great and Campaspe at the Studio of Apelles” (c.1740) by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Goering’s agent, Hofer, bought this painting in a forced sale of works collected by a Jewish businessman in France. After the war, the Tiepolo hung in the Louvre for 50 years until it was returned to the businessman’s heirs in 1999. The following year, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles purchased the painting at a Christie’s auction.
“Venus at Vulcan’s Forge” (1769) by Francois Boucher
Among several works painted by Boucher for a grand Parisian residence, this work was sold in 1882 to Baron Edmond James de Rothschild. It was confiscated from Rothschild’s heirs and acquired by Goering in 1941. The painting was returned to the Rothschilds and sold in 1972 to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.
“Portrait of Mademoiselle Grimprel With Blue Bow” (1880) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
This portrait of a young French girl was looted from Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg and acquired by Goering in 1941. After its return to the Rosenberg family, it was sold to the manager of a perfume company in Paris.
“The Beautiful Falconer” (c.1880) by Hans Makart
Adolph Hitler gave this painting to Goering in 1938 as a birthday present. On the inventory of recovered Goering paintings, it was mistakenly titled “Brunhilde,” perhaps for its depiction of a voluptuous woman holding a bird. The painting now hangs in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich.
— Deborah K. Dietsch