Restitution of The Young Girl with the Straw Hat by Friedrich von Amerling

1. Friedrich von Amerling (1803-1887)
The Young Girl with the Straw Hat
Oil on canvas - 58 x 46 cm
Sale Vienna, Dorotheum, 15 October 2008
Photo : Dorotheum

29/9/08 — Restitution — Vienna, Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere The Young Girl with the Straw Hat (ill. 1), considered to be Friedrich von Amerling’s masterpiece work, is very popular in Germanic countries, often reproduced on different objects, as well as on book covers (for example L’Art du XIXe siècle, editions Citadelles Mazenod in 2003). Done while the painter was visiting Italy, the prestige of the painting has risen along with the renewed interest in the Biedermeier school [1]. Until recently it was one of the most famous works at the Belvedere Gallery but it was returned to the heirs of the architect, Ernst Gotthilf and his wife Else [2] in 2007. The owners then entrusted it to the Dorotheum, the Viennese auction house, where it will fall under the gavel, with little publicity, next 15 October (estimate upon request).

These last few years the Austrian authorities have been unable to buy back returned works at foreign auctions, particularly the Klimt Bloch-Bauer canvases [3]. Since this sale is taking place in Vienna, the purchase may be a bit easier. One idea for keeping the canvas in the capital would be to have the Prince of Lichtenstein step in as his museum already owns several paintings by the artist who was in fact the family’s official portrait painter. For example, the Lichtenstein Museum in Vienna has on display a Portrait of a Man by Frans Hals returned by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in 1999 to the Rothschild family and which the collector then purchased in 2003.

Several other works which were returned to their legal heirs will be auctioned off the same day (and the next) :

2. Friedrich von Amerling (1803-1887)
Self-portrait, 1846
Oil on canvas - 62 X 50 cm
Sale Vienna, Dorotheum, 15 October 2008
Photo : Dorotheum

- a Self-Portrait by Friedrich von Amerling (ill. 2), from the Landesmuseum Joanneum in Graz [4] ;

- a Portrait of an Old Woman by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (Führermuseum in Linz and then at the Kunsthalle in Mannheim until 2006) ;

3. Master from Großlobming (15th Century)
Christ Resurrected
Wood - H. 110 cm
Sale Vienna, Dorotheum, 16 October 2008
Photo : Dorotheum

- a wooden polychrome sculpture, Christ Resurrected by the Master from Gro§lobming (ill. 3 ; Führermuseum in Linz then the Belvedère Gallery until 2007). Strongly influenced by the French school, the artist is one of the most important figures of early Gothic International in Austria ; he was active in Styria and in Prague, protected by the Emperor Charles IV and especially by his sons, Venceslas and Sigismond.

Version française

P.S. (15/10/2008). Over the past few days, curators of Austrian museums have tried in vain to stir public opinion with a petition and requests for funds in order to purchase Young Girl with a Straw Hat, but their appeals were based on an estimation of 250,000 to 300,000 euros. As we had foreseen, the Prince of Lichtenstein did indeed win out in the intense bidding war, reaching 1.5 million euros (including charges). The canvas will be featured as painting of the month in November at the Lichtensteinmuseum which will then welcome the work in its collection (let us point out that the October painting of the month in this museum is an elderly Self-portrait also by Amerling).

M. de P.

Michel de Piles, lundi 29 septembre 2008


[1] Catalogue for the exhibition Friedrich von Amerling, 1803-1887, Vienna 2003, p. 228, n°73. There are also signed versions at the Neue Pinacothek in Munich and at the Lady Lever Gallery in Liverpool.

[2] Ernst Gotthilf was a renowned architect who designed many buildings in Vienna, apartments, banks, and the Fanto Palace (today the Arnold Schönberg Center). Born in 1865, he left no trace after fleeing Austria during the Anchsluss. The Belvedère acquired the work during the sale of his works which was imposed on 15-17 March 1939.

[3] A significant credit line of about one hundred million dollars had been opened up by Austria, but the total asking price for the six works being far over this amount, the administration decided to renounce its efforts rather than negotiate for only one or two of the canvases.

[4] Op. cit. note 1, p. 79, Ill. 76.

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