PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF J.E. SAFRA
Similar compositions by Wijnants can be found in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (inv. no. 508, 94 by 120 cm.) and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (inv. no. 38, 22.2 by 27.9 cm., one of a pair).
The Rothschild Provenance:
The Rothschild history of this painting by Wijnants is one which highlights the taste for Old Masters by one of the most important collecting dynasties in modern times. The picture was in the collection of Baron Anselm von Rothschild (1803-1874) by 1845. Anselm was the son of Salomon Mayer von Rothschild (1774-1855), founder of the family banking house, and created the K. K. Priv. Österreichische Credit-Anstalt für Handel und Gewerbe, which became the largest bank of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From the moment of their earliest success, each generation demonstrated a diverse yet equally passionate and astute aptitude for collecting, whose cumulative efforts rival the greatest European noble collections including those of the Habsburgs, Medici, and Bourbons.
This Wijnants hung in Anselm’s palatial home on the Renngasse in Vienna, and specifically in the aptly named ‘Gemäldesaal’ or ‘Museum’ room of the home. It was in this home that the core of the Rothschild family’s Dutch painting collection hung, and it was Anselm who was the first member of the family to truly engage with Dutch pictures on a high level. The core of the collection began with Anselm’s 1845 purchase of the entire collection of the Dutch businessman Klerk de Reus. This acquisition en bloc brought into the family collection important pictures by the best names from the Dutch Golden Age. From this moment Dutch pictures became a priority for Anselm and, indeed, in his posthumous inventory 116 oil paintings were recorded, 93 of which were Dutch old masters.
The picture passed into the collections of Anselm’s sons, first Nathaniel von Rothschild and shortly thereafter to Nathaniel’s brother Albert von Rothschild. Baron Alphonse de Rothschild inherited it from his father Albert, and it was during his period of ownership, within days of the Anschluss in March 1938, that the collection of the Viennese branch of the family was seized by the Nazi authorities. The Wijnants was earmarked for Hitler’s never-realized museum complex in his native Linz. Following the conclusion of the War, the picture was recovered by the American 42nd Division from the Nazi storage facilities in the Salt Mines in Alt Aussee before being restituted to Baroness Clarice de Rothschild, Alphonse’s widow, in 1947. The Wijnants was one of eleven key paintings from the Rothschild collection which the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna selected in exchange for the grant of a license to export the remainder of the collection to New York. The Wijnants hung in the Kunsthistorisches Museum from 1948 until 1999 when it was restituted by the Austrian State to Clarice’s daughter Bettina Looram.
1. See P. Sutton in Masters of 17th-Century Dutch Landscape Painting, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam 1987, pp. 492 and 523.
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