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FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE DUKES OF ANHALT
The Princely and Ducal family of Anhalt (the so-called Askanier) was among the oldest and most important of the former reigning families in Germany. From the early Middle Ages until 1918, the heads of different branches of the dynasty were the sovereigns of the Duchy of Anhalt, which had been reunited in 1863 and later became in part today's federal state of Sachsen-Anhalt. Over several centuries, they influenced the political, economic and cultural history of Germany, not to say of Europe by virtue of marriages to other noble families. But their influence is most apparent in Sachsen-Anhalt itself, and in the towns of Ballenstedt, Bernburg, Dessau, Köthen, Mosigkau, Wörlitz and Zerbst.
The famous "English park" at Wörlitz, created by Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz von Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817), has not been proposed as one of the World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO.
Many members of the family played roles of international importance in European history, for example Prince Leopold I von Anhalt-Dessau (1674-1747), the famous miliary commander of the Prussian royal army, nicknamed the 'Alter Dessauer'. By the time of his death the family had produced its most famous scion, Princess Sofie Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst (1729-1796), who was to become the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia.
After 1918, the Duchy retained considerable estates as well as a large part of the family collections that they had assembled over the centuries - over 3,000 paintings alone were catalogued at the time. Besides these, the collections comprised prints, furniture, glass, porcelain, precious objects and works of art. Duke Joachim Ernst von Anhalt (1901-1947) for the most part kept th vast and important art collections in the castles at Dessau and Ballenstedt, although many objects were lent to public museums, such as his own Joachim-Ernst-Foundation in Wörlitz.
The last reigning Duke and sole owner of the Askanian heritage, Joachim Ernst von Anhalt, was an outspoken opponent of the National Socialist regime, and consequently was sentenced to forced labour in the Dessau armaments industry during the Second World War. In 1944, he was sent as a prisoner to Dachau concentration camp whre he remained for several months. In spite of his anti-fascism, he was subsequently arrested by the Soviet Secret Service in August 1945, and finally brought to the Special Camp 2 in the former concentration camp at Buchenwald. He died there on 18 February 1947. Officers of the Red Army helped his wife and five children to flee to the Western occupied zone.
War losses, looting and dispossesion of the Duchy's assets in the Soviet occupied zone, which later became the German Democratic Republic, reduced and dispersed the collections considerably.
In 1992 and 1994 the Russian Chief State Prosecution rehabilitated the Duke posthumously, as well as his three surviving children, and declared them to have been victims of political persecution. This rehabilitation had the express purpose of reinstating the rights of the Duke's heirs in Germany. So far, only a small part of these rights have been exercised, although the family's researches into the whereabouts of the collections has led to the identification and restitution of several works of art, amongt them the present picture.
The three children and heirs of the Duke have now returned to Ballenstedt. Following their long family tradition, they are again active in the economic and cultural life of Sachsen-Anhalt. This activity will be supported and strengthened through this sale auction.