Martin Johann Schmidt, called Kremser-Schmidt
- Martin Johann Schmidt, called Kremser-Schmidt
- Saint Florian Rescuing the Burning Stockern Castle; Saint John Nepomuk
- a pair, both oil on canvas
- each, 86 1/4 by 49 1/4 in.; 219 by 125 cm.
City Expansion Fund (Stadterweiterungsfonds), Vienna 1905; Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este, until his death in 1914;
Dr. Richard and Alice Neumann, Vienna (acquired on the Viennese art market, circa 1925);
Sequestrated by the Magistrates, Vienna, October 1938 and deposited with the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; Stadtmuseum, Krems, from May 1939 until restituted to the heir of Richard Neumann April 2007.
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Restaurierte Gemälde von Riemenschneider bis Kremser Schmidt, 2008;
Vienna, MAK-Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst, Recollecting: Raub und Restitution, 2008;
Manchester, New Hampshire, Currier Museum of Art, The Secret Life of Art: Mysteries of the Museum Revealed, Currier Museum of Art, New Hampshire, 2010/2011.
S. Lillie, Was einmal war: Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens, Vienna 2003, pp.790—797;
S. Lillie, "Restitution in Österreich als zweite Enteignung," 245-251, in Raub und Restitution: Kulturgut aus jüdischem Besitz von 1933 bis heute, exhibition catalogue, Berlin 2008- 2009.
Kremser Schmidt has here presented two less commonly pictured Saints: Florian and John of Nepamuk. St. John is the national saint of the Czech Republic, who was drowned in the Vltava river at the behest of Wenceslaus, King of the Romans and King of Bohemia. Florian is the patron saint of Linz, Austria and a figure who Kremser Schmidt, an Austrian, would have encountered often. He is also the patron saint of firefighters, and is here shown extinguishing a fire in the midst of burning Stockern Castle.
A note on the provenance:
Born in 1879, Richard Neumann (fig. 1) came from a family of Austrian textile industrialists. His grandfather Max Bernhard Neumann was the nineteenth-century founder of a cotton weaving and printing factory in Königinhof, Bohemia (now called Dvur Kralove). A pioneer of industrial-scale roller printing, M. B. Neumann soon operated additional textile plants in Pecka and Dittersbach (Dětřichov) and a head office in Vienna. The company principal, Richard's uncle Adolf Neumann Edler von Ditterswaldt, was nobilitated by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1913. Richard Neumann entered the family business in 1901, after earning a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, and oversaw its transition into a public shareholding company. A captain of the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War, he served as president of M. B. Neumann Söhne in the 1920s, and as director of the Guntramsdorfer Stoffefabrik in the 1930s.
Richard Neumann's great passion was art. He began collecting as a young man, guided by distinguished scholars such as Otto Benesch and Lilly Fröhlich-Bume. By 1921, the Neumann collection comprised some two hundred objects and was officially recognized as a landmark of Vienna. Neumann regularly loaned his works to Viennese exhibitions. The last such venues were Bozzetti und Modelletti der Spätrenaissance und des Barock at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, in late 1936, and Italienische Barockmalerei at Galerie Sanct Lucas in 1937—only months before Hitler's invasion of Austria. Neumann, who was Jewish, was forced to leave behind his collection when he fled the country in March 1938. That October, the Nazis impounded many of Neumann's most prized objects and placed them on the so-called "Reich List," a central registry of Austrian cultural treasures. Among the works seized were these two paintings by the Baroque artist Johann Martin Schmidt (or "Kremser Schmidt") which the Nazis gave to the City of Krems, the artist's birthplace.Richard Neumann and his wife Alice escaped Europe to Havana, Cuba. There, Neumann worked as a foreman in a textile factory and taught evening classes on art history for the refugee community. He was later named honorary professor of the University of Havana and laid the foundation for Havana's Palacia de Bellas Artes. He died in 1961 in New York. Richard Neumann's post-war attempts to recover his Viennese art collection failed. His grandson—himself a Nazi refugee—resumed the quest to recover his family's lost art in 2001, encouraged by Austria's new position on art restitution. These Kremser Schmidt oils were the first Neumann works to be restituted in 2007. Following the family tradition, the Neumann heirs generously loaned these works to public exhibitions. Originally executed as side panels for the church of Stockern, Saint Florian and St. Joseph Calasanz were re-united in 2008 with the central altarpiece, Saint Vitus, at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. The paintings subsequently travelled to Vienna's MAK-Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, to be included in a show highlighting the restitution of Nazi-era art, and, most recently, to the Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire.
We are grateful to Sophie Lillie for her assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.