THE MASTER OF FRANKFURT (ACTIVE ANTWERP, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY)
THE MASTER OF FRANKFURT (ACTIVE ANTWERP, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY)
THE MASTER OF FRANKFURT (ACTIVE ANTWERP, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY)
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THE MASTER OF FRANKFURT (ACTIVE ANTWERP, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY)
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PROPERTY RESTITUTED TO THE HEIRS TO THE COLLECTION OF JULIUS AND CAMILLA PRIESTER
THE MASTER OF FRANKFURT (ACTIVE ANTWERP, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY)

Portrait of a man, traditionally identified as Emperor Ferdinand I, half-length, in a fur-lined overmantle

Details
THE MASTER OF FRANKFURT (ACTIVE ANTWERP, LATE 15TH/EARLY 16TH CENTURY)
Portrait of a man, traditionally identified as Emperor Ferdinand I, half-length, in a fur-lined overmantle
oil on panel, shaped top, in an engaged frame
14 1⁄4 x 10 3⁄4 in. (36.1 x 27.2 cm.)
Provenance
Edmond Riel de Beurnonville; Pillet, Paris, 9-16 May 1881, lot 324, as ‘Hans Holbein’.
M. Édouard Aynard; (†) his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, 1 December 1913, lot 27, as ‘École de Holbein,’ when acquired by the following,
with Julius Böhler, Munich, until February 1917, when acquired by the following,
with A.S. Drey, Munich.
Julius and Camilla Priester, Vienna, from whom confiscated by the Gestapo, 11 February 1944.
Anonymous sale; Dorotheum, Vienna, 17 October 1995, lot 375, as 'Follower of Hans Holbein'.
with Galerie de Jonckheere, Paris, 1996.
Private collection, France; Christie’s, London, 7 July 2006, lot 114 (withdrawn).
Restituted to the heirs of Julius and Camilla Priester, 2008.

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Julius (1870-1955) and Camilla (1885-1962) Priester were passionate Viennese art collectors. Their elegant apartment in the heart of Vienna displayed more than 80 Old Master and nineteenth century paintings, evoking the refinement and confidence of pre-war Vienna, and the Priesters’ own clear sense of taste and style.
Generaldirektor Julius Priester, a respected industrialist, was involved in numerous enterprises including the Petroleumgesellschaft Galizin GmbH and notably had commercial interests in oil and the energy sector.
From the early 1920s, Julius Priester devoted himself to building up an art collection, advised by Moritz Lindemann, an Old Master dealer with a gallery on Vienna’s Karlsplatz. The paintings were displayed both in Priester’s office and in the third- floor apartment where he and his wife Camilla lived on Ebendorferstrasse in Vienna’s historic centre. Julius Priester was particularly interested in Dutch and Italian artists including Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Hals, Tintoretto, David Teniers, Pinturrichio and Anthony van Dyck, and had a distinct eye for portraits. Photographs of the Priester apartment taken before 1938 show the paintings displayed within and complemented by an oak-furnished setting evoking a Renaissance-style interior. The collection also included outstanding works by nineteenth century artists such as Josef Danhauser, Carl Moll and Rudolf von Alt.
The Priesters’ life was dramatically changed by the ‘Anschluss’ or annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938. Forced to flee their home and their country, they lost all of their property and assets in Vienna, including all their paintings, as well as silverware, tapestries and antique Persian carpets. On 31 March 1938, Julius and Camilla Priester fled to Paris and then on to Mexico City, where they arrived in late August 1940. They never returned to Austria. Julius died in Mexico in 1955, Camilla in 1962. From abroad, Julius Priester arranged for the contents of the Ebendorferstrasse apartment to be packed and stored with the interior decorator and shipping agent Max Föhr; he was to have sent them on to Paris. But, as the Nazi grip on Jewish property tightened, these plans proved in vain. In August 1938 and 11 May 1939 the contents of the apartment were appraised by art experts under the supervision of the Gestapo and the Zentralstelle für Denkmalschutz (Central Office of Heritage Protection). This resulted in the seizure of five paintings in November 1938, followed by a further nine in May 1939, which entered museum collections including that of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The rest of the collection and furnishings were transferred to Max Föhr for storage but, although an export licence was applied for, no shipment was permitted. In February 1944, the art collection and furnishings were confiscated by the Gestapo and removed in six trucks.
After the war, Julius Priester made extensive efforts to trace and recover the missing collection. In May 1947, his lawyer, Dr Erich Goglia, registered a claim with the Austrian authorities, enclosing a list of paintings based on an inventory drawn up for insurance purposes on 4 May 1937 by Dr Robert Eigenberger, director of the Picture Gallery of Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts. From Mexico, Julius Priester was in frequent contact with his Vienna-based lawyers and his private secretary Henriette Geiringer. Their extensive correspondence on tracing the collection bears testimony both to their concerted efforts but also to the obstacles encountered. They contacted the authorities in Austria, including the Federal Heritage Office and the Austrian Federal Police, and internationally, through Interpol and their own efforts, the German, Swiss and French police and US legal authorities. The Priester losses were also reported in the press, notably in connection with court proceedings, such as a 1953 court case against Julius Strecker, a former appraiser for the Gestapo, in whose possession their Rubens painting Man with a fur coat was located. In 1954 the Austrian Federal Police circulated internationally an illustrated search list of 17 of the missing Priester paintings. This list includes the de Witte and the Master of Frankfurt, but not the El Greco as the police were then on its trail. While a number of works, notably those confiscated in 1938 and 1939, could be traced in the years after the war, the bulk of the collection remained missing. After Julius Priester’s death, his widow continued to search for the missing art, a search which has since been carried on by the couple’s heirs. While a number of works, notably those confiscated in 1938 and 1939, could be traced in the years after the war, the bulk of the collection remained missing. After Julius Priester’s death, Camilla continued to search for the missing art, a search which has since been carried on by the couple’s heirs.

This work belongs to a small group of intricately executed male portraits by the Netherlandish Master of Frankfurt, produced during the first decades of the sixteenth century. With the attribution confirmed by Professor Stephen Goddard in a private communication in 2006, it probably dates to the late 1510s or early 1520s and depicts a wealthy gentleman of the patrician middle classes.
Positioned facing to the viewer's right, this picture may originally have been paired with a portrait of the sitter’s wife, painted to commemorate a significant event. While few of the Master of Frankfurt’s portraits can be identified, his Portrait of Franz von Taxis (private collection, Germany) suggests that the painter may have worked in court circles, with Franz von Taxis being the postmaster to the Emperor Maximilian I from 1489, and then to his son Philip the Handsome from 1504. It is thus possible that the present sitter may have held a position at the Imperial court in the Netherlands. Much can be gleaned from sitter’s fashionable contemporary attire, with his white chemise under a black doublet, sleeves of grey and black figured velvet and large fur-lined overmantle. While previously identified as a portrait of Ferdinand I (1504-1563), Holy Roman Emperor from 1556, this identification appears tenuous upon comparison with other known portraits of the sitter, like that by Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen, painted circa 1531 to commemorate the sitter’s election as King of the Romans (Toulouse, Fondation Bemberg).
The painter appears to have maintained a busy and successful practice and, as well as executing works specifically on commission, his workshop also produced compositions for the open market. Amongst his most successful works, however, are the small group of portraits he produced throughout his career. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Portrait of the artist and his wife (Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten), dated '1496' on the frame. Alongside the present work, other portraits in this small group include the Portrait of a man in Munich (Alte Pinakothek), the Portrait of a man (whereabouts unknown; see S.H. Goddard, ‘The Master of Frankfurt and his shop’, Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België, XLVI, 1984, p. 131, no. 3), a circular Portrait of a man (formerly with E.V. Thaw Gallery, New York; ibid., p. 131, no. 4, fig. 25), the Portrait of a man with a rose dated 1518 (private collection; ibid., p. 132, no. 6, fig. 9) and his Portrait of Franz von Taxis (private collection, Germany; ibid., p. 131, no. 4, fig. 25).

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