Posts Tagged ‘Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection’

Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Revisited or Caravaggio Tart Art

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Collection in Madrid continues to qualify ever more as a misguided cultural and financial ‘investment’ for the State of Spain.

Every day that passes, the art becomes more of a tourist attraction and less of a cultural statement, with a corresponding reduction in quality and authenticity.

Meanwhile treasury budgets have sored, fundraising activities become ever more ambitious and competitive, while the original owners, on the other hand, continue to exploit tax advantages inherent in the business of art collecting.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza collection has always been at the forefront of such mirages, ever since, in 1993, the Thyssen family sold half of Heini Thyssen’s highly questionable collection to the Spanish state for what the gullible Spanish public were convinced was a bargain price of some $600 million.

By now they must have begun to realise that the purchase price and cost of housing the museum was only the tip of the iceberg. For then you have to constantly invest more money in such necessities as staff, insurance, the cost of mounting one-off exhibitions, whose purpose is to encourage the public to revisit and, finally, the black art of restoration.

The latter being, of course, a contradiction in terms, for the more paint that is added to the surface, the less of the original work can legitimately be attributed to the artist in question. This is particularly relevant in the case of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, which has often been accused of already suffering from over-restoration.

But as the restorers are the same people as those who advise on how much restoration is needed, it rapidly becomes an ever increasing financial burden, to the point where the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum has even had to resort to crowd funding and sponsorship to raise the finance needed to undertake such activities!

The latest example of this artistic vandalism is Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Caravaggio, originally commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, which, according to the Thyssen-Bornemiza Museum’s restoration ‘team’, had already suffered from ‘aggressive’ restoration at some unspecified earlier point in time.

Ironically, considering the rumours surrounding Heini’s widow Tita Thyssen-Bornemisza’s colourful past history, the model for the picture was anything but saintly and was in fact Fillide Melandroni, a leading courtesan of the time.

Originally attributed to Orazio Gentileschi, the painting was ‘re-attributed’ to Caravaggio when scholars began to realise that they could make more money from confirming rather than denying the authenticity of art.

For this claim to be accepted by other ‘scholars’, it was also necessary to re-establish the status of a remarkably similar work, owned by the Prado and deposited in the church Iglesia de los Jeronimos, as being a mere ‘copy’.

There can now be little doubt that like many similar national institutions, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum has become, as I warned them it would, more of a financial tread-mill than a cultural asset.

Fortunately, due to the fact that the Spanish agreed to sign a contract that prevents them from ever selling or disposing of any of the works that make up the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, the value of the works is somewhat academic.

Thus they might be best advised to get rid of their costly restoration team and follow the example of my late mother, who used to add sparkle to our artistic family treasures by giving them an annual wipe with a diluted mixture of toilet cleaner!

 

see this article by Natividad Pulido in the Spanish ABC newspaper of 21.10.2018:

https://www.abc.es/cultura/arte/abci-retrato-cortesana-como-santa-paso-manos-cardenales-201810210128_noticia.html

CARAVAGGIO (Michelangelo Merisi) Saint Catherine of Alexandria, ca. 1598 (photo copyright Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid)

A representative of the ASISA charity funding the restoration (middle), with two representatives of the Thyssen Museum Madrid (photo copyright: Guillermo Navarro, ABC newspaper, Spain)

The ‘restoration’ team at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, Spain (photo copyright: Giullermo Navarro, ABC newspaper, Spain)

 

 

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Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Art, Thyssen Family No Comments »

Book Review: Thyssen in the 20th Century – Volume 3: “The Thyssens as Art Collectors. Investment and Symbolic Capital (1900-1970)”, by Johannes Gramlich, published by Schöningh Verlag, Germany, 2015

After the ducking and diving and profiteering from other peoples’ death and misery, we will now be looking at the „shinier“ side of the medal, which is the so-called „artistic effort“ alleged to have been made by the Thyssen family. This had more to do with capital flight, the circumvention of foreign exchange controls and the avoidance of paying tax (art collections being described by Gramlich as „a valid means of decreasing tax duties as they are difficult to control“), short-term speculation, capital protection and profit maximisation than it did with any serious appreciation, let alone creation, of art.

Significantly, not a single review of this third book in the series „Thyssen in the 20th Century: The Thyssens as Art Collectors“, which once again constitutes nothing more than the shortened version (at 400 pages!) of a doctoral thesis – this time at the University of Munich – has been posted. Not a single suggestion that this student of history, german and music might not know what he is talking about, since he does not seem to have any previous knowledge of art history or obvious personal talents in the visual arts. Or about the fact that way too much of the art bought by the Thyssens was rubbish. Or that the Thyssens pretended to be Hungarian when they wanted something from Hungary, Swiss when they wanted something from Switzerland, or Dutch when they wanted something from the Netherlands.

In fact if there is one overall message this book appears to propagate it is this: that it is the ultimate achievement to cheat persistently, and as long as you are rich and powerful and immoral enough to continue cheating and myth-making all through your life, you will be just fine. Not least because you can then leave enough money in an endowment to continue to facilitate the burnishing of your reputation, so that the myth-making can continue on your behalf, posthumously. And if by any chance you can take advantage of another person’s distress along the way, so much the better – as Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is said to have done from the Jewish collections of Herbert Gutmann and Max Alsberg and Fritz Thyssen from those of Julius Kien and Maximilian von Goldschmidt-Rothschild.

But: does anybody find this message acceptable?!

Mysteriously, this book also contains some very derogatory descriptions of the Thyssens’ true characters. Fritz Thyssen is described (in a quote by Christian Nebenhay) as „not very impressive“ and „meaningless“. His brother Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is said to have been „difficult“, „unpleasant“, „avaricious“, „not always straight in his payment behaviour“ and somebody who „could not find the understanding for needs and aspirations of people who were in a relationship of dependency from him“. Amelie Thyssen is said to have tried to get the historical record bent very seriously as far her husband’s alleged distancing from Nazism was concerned and to have lied about the date of art purchases to avoid the payment of tax.

Fortunately, we did not know any of these second-generation Thyssens personally. But we did know Heini Thyssen, the last directly descended male Thyssen heir, and very well at that. Over the period of some 25 years (Litchfield more than Schmitz) we were lucky enough to be able to spend altogether many months in his company. We both liked and miss him greatly. He was a delightful man with a great sense of humour and sparkling intelligence. What was most astonishing about him, considering his family’s general sense of superiority, was his total lack of arrogance.

Heini Thyssen described the art business to us as „the dirtiest business in the world“. He knew of the secret-mongering of dealers, the hyperboles of auction houses and the dishonesties of experts. It was a choppy sea that he navigated with just the right combination of caution and bravado to be successful. But of course, he also used the art business outrageously in order to invent a new image for himself. The reason why, contrary to his father and uncle, he was extremely successful in this endeavour, was precisely because he was such a likeable man.

But this did not make Heini Thyssen a moral man. He continued to cheat about his nationality, the source and extent of his fortune, his responsibilities and his loyalties just as his father, uncle and aunt (and to some extent his grand-father) had done before him. And now, this series of books continues to perpetuate the very same old myths which have always been necessary to cover the tracks of these robber barons for as long as the modern-day German nation state has existed. The size and claimed value of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection also persuaded many members of the international art community and of the general public to accept this duplicity.

The all important Thyssen-owned dutch Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart, for instance, is repeatedly said to have been founded in 1918, when the real date is most likely to have been 1910. This is important because the bank was the primary offshore tool used by the Thyssens to camouflage their German assets and protect their concern and fortune from allied retribution after the first lost war. But the information is precarious because it also implies a massive disloyalty of the Thyssens towards Germany, the country that was, is and always will be the sole original source of their fortune.

And again Heinrich and Heini Thyssen are said to have been Hungarian nationals, presumably because it is meant to excuse why, despite supporting the Nazi war machine that made possible some of the worst atrocities in human history, the Thyssen-Bornemiszas entirely avoided allied retribution after the second lost war also. In reality, Heinrich Thyssen’s Hungarian nationality was highly questionable, for several reasons: because it was originally „bought“, was not maintained through regular visits to the abandoned country, extension papers were issued by Thyssen-sponsored friends and relatives in diplomatic positions and because Heinrich actually maintained his German nationality. In Heini’s case, his status depended entirely on the fact that his mother’s second husband worked at the Hungarian embassy in Berne and procured him the necessary identity papers (a fact that will be plagiarised from our work by „Junior Research Group Leader“ Simone Derix in her forthcoming book on the Thyssens’ fortune and identity, which is based on her habilitation thesis (!) and as such already available – Strangely, despite being volume 4 in the series, her book is now said to be published only following volume 5). To call those Hungarian nationalities legitimate is plainly wrong. And it matters greatly.

When Philip Hendy at the London National Gallery put on an exhibition of paintings from Heini Thyssen’s collection in 1961, Heini apparently told Hendy he could not possibly be showing during the same year as Emil Bührle, because “As you know Bührle was a real German armament king who became Swiss, so it would be very bad for me to get linked up with German armament“. But this was not, as this book makes it sound, because Heini Thyssen did not have anything to do with German armament himself, but precisely because he did! Since this partial source of the Thyssen wealth has now been admitted by both Alexander Donges and Thomas Urban, it is highly questionable that Johannes Gramlich fails to acknowledge this adequately in his work.

Then there are new acknowledgments such as the fact that August Thyssen and Auguste Rodin did not have a close friendship as described in all relevant books so far, but that their relationship was terrible, because of monetary squabbles, artistic incomprehension and public relations opportunism. The only problem with this admission is that, once again, we were the first to establish this reality. Now this book is committing shameless plagiarism on our investigative effort and, under the veil of disallowing us as not pertaining to the „academic“ circle, is claiming the „academic merit“ of being the first to reveal this information for itself.

Another one of our revelations, which is being confirmed in this book, is that the 1930 Munich exhibition of Heinrich’s collection was a disaster, because so many of the works shown were discovered to be fraudulent. Luitpold Dussler in the Bayerischer Kurier and Kunstwart art magazine; Wilhelm Pinder at the Munich Art Historical Society; Rudolf Berliner; Leo Planiscig; Armand Lowengard at Duveen Brothers and Hans Tietze all made very derogatory assessments of the Baron’s collection as „expensive hobby“, „with obviously wrong attributions“, containing „over 100 forgeries, falsified paintings and impossible artist names“, where „the Baron could throw away half the objects“, „400 paintings none of which you should buy today“, „backward looking collection“, „off-putting designations“, „misleading“, „rubbish“, etc. etc. etc. The Baron retaliated by getting the „right-wing press“ (!) in particular to write positive articles about his so-called artistic endeavours, patriotic deed and philanthropic largesse, an altruistic attitude which was not based on fact but solely on Thyssen-financed public relations inputs.

The book almost completely leaves out Heini Thyssen’s art activities which is puzzling since he was by far the most important collector within the dynasty. Instead, a lot of information is relayed which has nothing whatsoever to do with art, such as the fact that Fritz Thyssen bought Schloss Puchhof estate and that it was run by Willi Grünberg. In the words of Gramlich: „Fritz Thyssen advised (Grünberg) to get the maximum out of the farm without consideration for sustainability. As a consequence the land was totally depleted afterwards. The denazification court however came to the conclusion that these methods of exhaustive cultivation were due mainly to the manager who was doing it to get more profit for himself“. Apparently Grünberg also abused at least 100 POWs there during the war but, after a short period of post-war examination, was reinstated as estate manager by Fritz Thyssen. This gives an indication not only of the failings of the denazification proceedings, but also of Thyssen’s concepts of human rights and the non-applicability of general laws to people of his standing.

One is also left wondering why Fritz Thyssen would be said to have bought the biggest estate in Bavaria in 1938, for an over-priced 2 million RM, specifically for his daughter Anita Zichy-Thyssen and son-in-law Gabor Zichy to live in, when Heini Thyssen and his cousin Barbara Stengel told us very specifically that the Zichy-Thyssens, with the help of Hermann Göring, for whom Anita had worked as his personal secretary, left Germany to live in Argentina in 1938, being transported there aboard a German naval vessel. After repeating the old myth that Anita’s family was with her parents when they fled Germany on the eve of World War Two, this book now makes the additional „revelation“ that Anita and her family arrived in Argentina in February 1940, without, however, explaining where they might have been in the meantime, while Fritz and Amelie Thyssen were taken back to Germany by the Gestapo. Of course February 1940 is also the date when Fritz and Amelie, of whom Anita would inherit, were stripped of their German citizenship, a fact that was to become crucial in them being able to regain their German assets after the war.

The defensive attitude of this book is also revealed when Eduard von der Heydt, another Nazi banker, war profiteer and close art investment advisor to the Thyssens, is said to be „still deeply rooted and present in (the Ruhr) in positive connotations, despite all protest and difficulties“. This has to refer not least to the fact – but for some reason does not spell it out – that some Germans, mindful of his role as a Nazi banker, have managed to get the name of the cultural prize of the town of Wuppertal-Elberfeld, where the von der Heydt Museum stands, changed from Eduard von der Heydt Prize to Von der Heydt Prize. Clearly because Willi Grünberg was but a foot soldier and Eduard von der Heydt a wealthy cosmopolitan, Grünberg gets the bad press while von der Heydt receives the diplomatic treatment, in the same way as book 2 of the series (on forced labour) blames managers and foremen and practically exonerates the Thyssens. It is a distorting way of working through Nazi history which should no longer be happening. Meanwhile, Johannes Gramlich is allowed to reveal that in view of revolutionary turmoils in Germany in 1931, Fritz Thyssen sent his collection to Switzerland only for it to be brought back to Germany in the summer of 1933 – as if a stronger indication could possibly be had for his deep satisfaction with Hitler’s ascent to power.

In the same period, Heinrich, after his disastrous 1930 Munich exhibition, teased the Düsseldorf Museum with a „non-committal prospect“ to loan them his collection for a number of years. It is also said that he planned to build an „August Thyssen House“ in Düsseldorf to house his collection permanently. Considering the time and huge effort Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza spent during his entire life and beyond on not being considered a German, it is strange that Johannes Gramlich does not qualify this venture as being either a fake plan or proof of Heinrich’s hidden teutonic loyalties. In view of the dismal quality of Heinrich’s art there was of course no real collection worth being shown at the Düsseldorf Museum at all, which did not, however, stop its Director Dr Karl Koetschau from lobbying for it for years. He was disappointed at Heinrich’s behaviour of stringing them along, which is an episode that leaves even Gramlich to concede: „(the Baron) accepted all benefits and gave nothing in return“. While the „Schloss Rohoncz Collection“ is said to have arrived at his private residence in Lugano from 1934, this book still fails to inform us of the precise timing and logistics of the transfer (some 500 paintings), a grave omission for which there is no excuse. It is also worth remembering that 1934 was the year Switzerland implemented its bank secrecy law, which would have been the ultimate reason why Heinrich chose Lugano as final seat of his „art collection“.

The many painfully obvious omissions in this book are revealing, particularly in the case of Heini Thyssen having a bust made of himself by the artist Nison Tregor when the fact that he also had one made by Arno Breker, Hitler’s favourite sculptor, is left out. But they become utterly inacceptable in the case of the silence about the „aryanisation“ of the Erlenhof stud farm in 1933 (from Oppenheimer to Thyssen-Bornemisza) or the involvement of Margit Batthyany-Thyssen, together with her SS-lovers, in the atrocity on 180 Jewish slave labourers at the SS-requisitioned but Thyssen-funded Rechnitz castle estate in March 1945. Both matters continue to remain persistently unmentioned and thus form cases of Holocaust denial which are akin to the efforts of one David Irving.

It is also astonishing how the author seems to have a desperate need for mystifying the question of the financing of Heinrich Thyssen’s collection, when Heini Thyssen told us very clearly that his father did this through a loan from his own bank, Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart. This fact is very straightforward, yet Johannes Gramlich makes it sound so complicated that one can only think this must be because he wants to make it appear like Thyssen had money available in some kind of holy grail-like golden pot somewhere that had nothing to do with Thyssen companies and confirmed that he really was descended from some ancient, aristocratic line as he would have liked (and in his own head believed!) to have done.

The equally unlikely fact is purported that all the details of every single one of the several thousand pieces of art purchased by the Thyssens has been entered by „the team“ into a huge database containing a sophisticated network of cross-referenced information. Yet, in the whole of this book, the author mentions only a handful of the actual contents of Thyssen pictures. Time and time again the reader is left with the burning question: why, as the subject was so important to the Thyssens, did they leave it to such an unenlightened man rather than an experienced art historian to write about it? Is it because it is easier to get such a person to write statements such as “personal documents (of Fritz Thyssen) were destroyed during the confiscation of his fortune by the National Socialists and his business documents were mainly destroyed by WWII bombing“, because the organisation does not want to publish the true details of Fritz and Amelie’s wartime life? (one small tip: the bad bad Nazis threw them in a concentration camp and left them to rot is definitely not what happened). Or because he is prepared to write: „The correspondence of Hans Heinrich (Heini Thyssen) referring to art has been transmitted systematically from 1960 onwards“ and „for lack of sources, it is not possible to establish who was responsible for the movements in the collection inventory during the 1950s“ , because for a man whose assets are alleged to have been expropriated until 1955, it would be difficult to explain why he was able to buy and deal with expensive art before then?

Was Dr Gramlich commissioned because a man with his lack of experience can write about „APC“ being an American company that Heini Thyssen’s company was “negotiating with”, because he does not know that the letters stand for „Alien Property Custodian“? Or because time and time and time again he will praise the „outstanding quality“ of the Thyssens’ collections, despite the fact that far too many pictures, including Heinrich’s „Vermeer“ and „Dürer“ or Fritz’s „Rembrandt“ and „Fragonard“ turned out to be fakes? The Lost Art Coordination Point in Magdeburg, by the way, describes this Fragonard as having been missing since 1945 from Marburg. But Gramlich says it has been missing since 1965 from the Fritz Thyssen Collection in Munich, when it was “only valued at 3.000 Deutschmarks any longer, because its originality was now questioned”.

At one point, Gramlich writes about the „two paintings by Albrecht Dürer“ in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection without naming either of them. He describes that one of them was sold by Heini Thyssen in 1948. It went to the American art collector Samuel H Kress and finally to the Washington National Gallery. What Gramlich does not say is that this was in fact “Madonna with Child“. The other one remained in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection and can still be viewed at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid to this day under the title „Jesus among the Scribes“. Only, it has received a highly damning appraisal by one of the world’s foremost Dürer experts, Dr Thomas Schauerte; Johannes Gramlich does not tell his readers about this.

The truth in all this is that no matter how many books and articles (and there have been many!) are financed by Thyssen money to tell us that Heini Thyssen bought German expressionist art in order to show how „anti-Nazi“ he was, such a thing is not actually possible and is not even believable after the Nazi period. It is ludicrous to say that August Thyssen saw Kaiser Wilhelm II as „Germany’s downfall“, since he had the Kaiser’s picture on his wall and started buying into the Bremer Vulkan submarine- producing shipyard in 1916, specifically in order to profit from the Kaiser’s war. And it is not believable, in view of Fritz Thyssen’s deeply-held antisemitism, to say he helped Jakob Goldschmidt to take some of his art out of Germany in 1934, because he was such a loyal friend of this Jewish man. Fritz Thyssen helped Jakob Goldschmidt despite him being Jewish and only because Goldschmidt was an incredibly well-connected and thus indispensable international banker – who in turn helped the Thyssens save their assets from allied retribution after WWII.

All the Thyssens have ever done with art – and this book, despite aiming to do the contrary, does in fact confirm it – is to have used art in order to camouflage not just their taxable assets, but themselves as well. They have used art to hide the problematic source of parts of their fortune, as well as the fact they were simple parvenus. In the same way as Professor Manfred Rasch is not an independent historian but only a Thyssen filing clerk (the way he repeatedly gets his „academic“ underlings to include disrespectful remarks about us in their work is highly unprofessional), so the Thyssens are not, never have been and never will be „autodidactic“ „connoisseurs“. And that is because art does not happen on a cheque book signature line but is, in its very essence, the exact opposite of just about anything the Thyssens, with a few exceptions, have ever stood for.

As Max Friedländer summarised it, their kind of attitude was that of: „the vain desire, social ambition, speculation for rise in value….of ostentatiously presenting one’s assets…..so that this admiration of the assets reflects back on the owner himself“. Despite the best efforts of the Thyssen machine to present a favourable academic evaluation of the Thyssens’ art collecting jaunts, in view of their infinitely immoral standards, the assurances of both the aesthetic qualities and investment value of their „art collections“, as mentioned so nauseatingly frequently in this book, are of no consequence whatsoever. The only thing that is relevant is that the extent of the family’s industrial wealth was so vast, that the pool of pretence for both them and their art was limitless. Thus their intended camouflage through culture failed and the second-generation Thyssens in particular ended up being exposed as Philistines.

Johannes Gramlich

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Posted in The Thyssen Art Macabre, Thyssen Art, Thyssen Corporate, Thyssen Family No Comments »

The Thyssens’ Poisoned Chalice

It was recently announced that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid has suffered a loss of some 4.5 million Euros during 2014. Considering the fragile state of Spain’s economy and the fact that, contractually, they are not permitted to capitalise on the value of the collection by selling any of the pictures, it was bad news.

But worse was to come. For it was also revealed that the total legal costs of defending a claim by surviving members of a German Jewish family against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum for the return of a picture painted by Camille Pissarro that they claim to have sold under duress to the Nazis in 1939, and which was subsequently procured by the Thyssen family before being sold on to the Spanish nation, has now reached 1.3 million Euros.

Heini Thyssen and his father had always used their art collection as a smoke screen behind which they could hide the fact that much of their fortune was the result of profits earned fuelling and arming the Third Reich and supplying it with banking facilities.

One of the unfortunate effects of such a restitution claim is that it reminds people of the Thyssens’ Nazi past and the fact that it is the Spanish people who are being obliged to fund the protection of the Spanish ‘investment’ as well as the defence of the Thyssens’ name, who in turn have not exactly been forthcoming in contributing to the coffers of the Spanish tax authorities.

And while the American lawyers are representing the Cassirers on a contingency basis, which avoids the family having to make any contribution to costs, the plaintiffs remain all too aware that every time they mount another appeal (which they are doing at this very minute), the Spanish legal fees, for which there is no ultimate profit which they can be offset against, continue to mount. As do the Museum’s losses. Thus there must come a time when the Spanish will be obliged to ‘take a view’ and hand the picture back.

To us it has always been clear that this collection would one day reveal itself as a poisoned chalice for the host country. The Cassirer claim, if successful, could open the gates to further claims against the museum, as there is no shortage of paintings in its holdings with questionable provenances, a fact that the Spanish failed to identify by independent verification before they committed to buy. The potential for a major eclat is intrinsic to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. The only question is: how long will it take to unravel?

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On 4th April 2016 Mark Kochanski commented:

In a recent court brief the Foundation contends that the plaintiffs (the Cassirers) ”continue their campaign to tarnish the Foundation’s image with “red flags” to suggest actual knowledge of the 1939 taking or, at the very least, a level of negligence that warrants punishment.” The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has tarnished its own image by knowingly hoarding Nazi looted art in violation of the Washington Conference Principles and the Terezin Declaration. This is shameful and the “Baroness” needs to be held to account.

Camille Pissarro: "Rue St Honore, apres-midi, effet de pluie" (1897).

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Will Spain Give The Thyssens A Second Gold Hoard?

Interview with Sara Olivo for Epoca Magazine (Gaceta de Negocios)           12 March 2010.

EM: Do you think that Carmen Cervera and the Spanish State will come to an agreement for the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection to remain in Spain?

DL: I hope not. The Spanish state does not need her pictures. And Carmen Cervera should not be asking the Spanish state for any payment. The Spanish state cannot afford it and the Madrid museum already loses money every year. So why pay more money to a wealthy Thyssen in order to lose even more money for the state? For the life of me I cannot think of a reason why Spain wants Carmen Thyssen’s third-rate pictures, when it already has too many first-rate pictures in other museums.

EM: What are the main difficulties faced by Tita to reach a satisfactory agreement?

DL: The main problems are her greed and Spain’s bad financial situation. She is trying to repeat the deal that her husband Heini made nearly 20 years ago. But she does not have his skill or knowledge. You did a terrible deal with Heini Thyssen. Even some of your own experts expressed scepticism about the wisdom of Spain buying his collection in 1993, for instance Eduard Castellet, President of the Fundacion Miro. So why would you want to do another, even more terrible deal?

EM: She says that she has offers from some museums in the USA and Europe. Can this be true?

DL: No, I don’t think that’s true. If she did, why would she not name them and say what they are offering her?

EM: She says she has as much money as people think…..Is it true?

DL: Her worth is never going to be what she says it is. I’m not sure she would even know herself. If she can claim that her pictures are worth €700 million, then of course she can claim to be a billionairess. But I believe that all of that is totally and completely exaggerated. Anyway, what does it matter how much money she has? She is taking money from Spain, not giving it.

EM: Is the Thyssen Collection overrated? Tita says it is worth €700 million.

DL: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection (i.e. Heini’s collection sold to Spain in 1993) is worthless, because it cannot be sold and requires constant taxpayers’ support to be housed and exhibited. As far as the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection is concerned, as Carmen Cervera never says exactly what her collection comprises (240 pictures? 900 pictures? 3000 pictures?), it is impossible to value it. Therefore, what she is saying about its value is of no consequence. It is interesting, for instance, that the Spanish state seems to be insuring 655 of her pictures, when officially she is only exhibiting 240 at the Madrid museum:

http://vlex.com/vid/prestadas-coleccion-thyssen-bornemisza-15449009

EM: Can the negotiations affect the dispute between Tita and Borja and visa versa?

DL: Negotiations for what? She never says what she is negotiating. She constantly changes the number and nature of the pictures she wants Spain to rent from her. In Malaga, she is talking about a catalogue of 200 pictures, which only the conservative mayor has ever seen (not even the left-wing opposition in the town council has had the honour). The deal in Sant Feliu de Guixols is even more obscure, and yet she is talking about a ‘Thyssen museum network’ between the three locations. In the meantime, I calculate that Spain has already spent a total of around €100 milllion (!) to build facilities in Madrid, Malaga and Sant Feliu de Guixols to house parts of the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. If she is negotiating about pictures which are part of her son Borja Thyssen’s inheritance rights, then obviously he could challenge any deal.

EM: Do you think that being such a populist politician, Prime Minister Zapatero has a real interest in the collection with such a financial crisis as we currently have in Spain?

DL: I don’t understand why anyone, regardless of their political beliefs, would want to pay for pictures, some of which the Spanish state has already rejected before and others which were purchased from money previously paid to the Thyssens by the Spanish tax payer. It would be a bit like paying for the same thing twice!

EM: Tita said that the topic of her private collection is independent of the negotiations on the future of the Thyssen Museum. Do you think this is true?

DL: Carmen Cervera’s pictures housed in the Madrid museum since 2004 were not part of the original agreement with Heini, for which Spain paid $350 million in 1993 (according to my figures it was actually closer to $600 million if you include the real estate, architectural costs, insurance, lawyers fees, administration, etc,. etc.). Heini Thyssen did, however, manage to get a foot in the door for his wife by signing a separate agreement to loan an additional 70 pictures to the Madrid museum which remained in the ownership of him and Tita. This seems to be the basis of what she is trying to negotiate for Madrid now. This leads to an interesting point, which is that very few Spanish people (if any) have ever seen the original agreement. I have seen it, which is why I know that Spain made such a terrible deal.

I believe, that as a Spanish tax payer, you have the right to demand concrete information about all of this. At the moment, it is still all shrouded in a veil of smoke and mirrors. I can think of no reason why anyone would even consider acquiring her pictures, unless they are being paid some form of commission for doing so. On a personal level, I would also like to say that in my eyes, Carmen Cervera’s vulgarity and lack of taste actually damages Spain’s cultural image internationally. One more thing, which is very important: neither Tita nor Borja can do anything to affect the status of the original paintings bought by Spain from Heini Thyssen. Some reports make it sound like she could take Heini Thyssen’s pictures out of the Madrid museum as well. She cannot!

More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, More, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mas, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr, Mehr...

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Thyssen Art Elevator Hits Spanish Buffers

At last! Spain begins to question the quality of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, what the taxpayers might have got for their money and the wisdom of paying yet more money for ‘Tita’s Collection’. These were all things we have been publicly questioning for the last three years. So why has it taken so long? Without wishing to sound cynical, could it be a result of the credit crunch? While Spain was flooded with Euros, nobody wanted to see the King naked.

Today’s critic, Dr Juan Jose Junquera, is a Professor of Art History at Complutense University in Madrid, and as such could hardly claim to be a stranger to the collection. Perhaps the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation Board, particularly Sir Norman Rosenthal, will now be obliged to make a comment, though with Rosenthal’s wife still working at the Prado, he could of course be accused of a conflict of interest.

The following is a translation of the Spanish original from today’s ABC newspaper.

No wonder Tita is busy preparing Villa Favorita in Lugano for re-occupancy. This feature looks to me like the Culture Ministry’s way of say ‘No’ to any further deals with Tita and if this one hits the buffers, Malaga looks ever less likely.

“After reading Carmen Cervera’s declarations in ABC on Sunday 3 January, I’ve had the following thoughts: I’m not doubting the generosity of her offer to loan the Thyssen Collection, but I’m asking myself of how much interest it actually is to the Spanish taxpayers. We still don’t know which paintings will stay in Spain once the current cession agreement concerning the collection of her late husband, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, ends, which was a question raised in its day by the then Director of the Prado, Professor Perez Sanchez, and to which there still hasn’t been a reply. In the meantime, the Prado lacks good quality Dutch paintings, such as Franz Hals, gaps which the Dutch Masters of the Thyssen Collection cannot fill. Is it really advisable to spend the few Euros that the Culture Minisry has available in order to rent a Gauguin escorted by paintings of somewhat dubious quality and authenticity on a background of nineteenth century artists whose works already gather dust in the storage rooms of both the Prado and provincial museums? Nobody doubts the commercial acumen of Baroness Thyssen; but what we mustn’t do is buy a lift for a bungalow without discussing the matter in public.”

http://www.abc.es/20100110/opinion-cartas/lectores-20100110.html

ABC Y SUS LECTORES,  Domingo , 10-01-10

……..«La atenta lectura de las declaraciones de doña Carmen Cervera en ABC del domingo 3 de enero me sugiere unas reflexiones -dice JUAN JOSÉ JUNQUERA, catedrático de Historia del Arte de la Universidad Complutense-. No es que dude de la generosidad de su oferta de alquiler de la colección Thyssen, pero me pregunto hasta qué punto éste interesa a los contibuyentes españoles. Aún no sabemos cuáles son los cuadros que quedarán en España cuando acabe el convenio vigente de cesión de la colección de su difunto marido, el barón Thyssen-Bornemisza, pregunta que formuló en su día el que era director del Prado, profesor Pérez Sánchez y que aún no tiene respuesta. Mientras, el Prado carece de holandeses de calidad como Franz Hals, huecos que no cubren los maestros holandeses de la Colección Thyssen. ¿Realmente interesa gastar los poco euros de que dispone Cultura en alquilar un Gauguin escoltado por cuadros bien de dudosa calidad o autenticidad, bien de segundones decimonónicos cuyas obras decansan en los depósitos del Prado y de los museos de provincias? Nadie duda de las cualidades comerciales de la baronesa viuda Thyssen; lo que no debemos hacer es, sin discutirlo públicamente, comprar un ascensor para un chalet de planta baja……..».

One of Tita's ten 'Gauguins (?)', which could become the subject of her forthcoming 'cleansing' operation (see ABC newspaper on 03.01.2010).

"'The Crucifixion', attributed to a painter from the circle of Sir Anthony van Dyck, which Heini purchased from Sotheby's at the 1995 sale of the Bentinck-Thyssen Collection for only £17,000 and immediately re-attributed to the Master himself" (from: 'The Thyssen Art Macabre' / 'La Historia Secreta de los Thyssen')

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The ThyssenArt Beast (1928-2009): A Letter To Tavarua Blogspot (by Caroline Schmitz)

Dear Author of Tavarua – The Traveler Blogspot,

I feel compelled to comment on your post dated 21 October entitled ‘A Legendary Art Collector’, where you repeat several of the Thyssen mantras, including that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection was once housed at the family castle in Hungary. How far away from the truth you are can be seen from the evidence as described in our book. For instance, the foreword to the first exhibition of this collection, which took place in Munich in 1930, is extremely explicit and I will quote the most relevant passages from it to illustrate my comment to you:

‘…It was known to the inner circle of experts that during the last few years, shielded from the public, the basis for a new collection was created in Germany…..Even the owner and creator of the collection so far renounced the pleasure of seeing all of his treasures assembled in one place. Rather, he left them first of all under the seal of confidentiality in all those various locations where they had been acquired. This is why the Directorate of the Bavarian State Art Collections were so grateful and excited when, upon their suggestion, the collector Dr Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza decided to assemble the works, dispersed in Paris, The Hague, London, Berlin and other cities, temporarily in Munich and to entrust them to the ‘Neue Pinakothek’ for an exhibition…

…Here they are gathered for the first time to be appreciated by the public. One will note with amazement what has been possible in a surprisingly short period of time…I only wish to point out that it was possible to use the big movements on the art market, which the recent turmoils have brought with them, with circumspection and energy……

…Here they are: an exquisite male portrait by Michael Pacher and a female portrait by Albrecht Altdorfer, which we wholeheartedly commend as one of the high points of German art, as the perfect representation of German womanhood of that time in insurpassable truth and freedom…

…This new creation stands entirely alone in our German present……We believe that the national treasure can experience no greater enhancement and grounding than through the acquisition of great, noble works of art…

…The increasing impoverishment of our ‘Volk’ [the German people] and the financial crisis of our stately powers, which are becoming more dangerous every day, make us fear that the maintenance of cultural institutions will fall behind more and more…

…Dr Rudolf Heinemann-Fleischmann also carried out the laborious task of gathering all the works to be exhibited from their various locations….’ (Dr Fr Dörnhöffer, Munich, June 1930).

The sad truth about the Thyssen connection with Rechnitz (which has been Austrian, rather than Hungarian since 1921, before which it was known as Rohoncz) is that to this day the Thyssen family uses the name of the place to hide both the real provenance of their paintings and their own national provenance, which was firmly German, not Hungarian, Swiss, or anything else. This would not be quite as bad if, in March 1945, an appalling crime had not taken place in Rechnitz, which has tarnished the town’s image for ever.

The fact that, to this day, the Thyssens refuse to own up to their involvement in the Rechnitz Massacre of over 180 Jewish slave labourers to my mind makes their continued use of the town’s good name as a cloak for the early years of their collection especially distasteful.

Jan Lievens, 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt' (ca. 1635): The first painting purchased for the Thyssen / Rohoncz Collection, in the year 1928. It never went anywhere near Rohoncz (Rechnitz) Castle and neither did any of the other 524 of Heinrich Thyssen's paintings.

Jan Lievens, 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt' (ca. 1635): The first painting purchased for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection (Rohoncz Collection), in the year 1928. It never went anywhere near Rohoncz (Rechnitz) Castle and neither did any of the other 542 of Heinrich Thyssen's paintings.

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‘The Thyssen Dynasty – A Masterclass In The Unacceptable Face Of Capitalism’

Book Review by Dr Erika Abcynski, Dormagen, Germany (translated by Caroline Schmitz):

‘David R L Litchfield has written a book about the Thyssen family from the founding of the Thyssen Concern to its collapse. Litchfield has assembled much interesting information about the Thyssens and thus about German capitalism per se.

As early as the founding of the first Thyssen works in 1870 August Thyssen combined greed, cleverness and sharp practice against his first business partner and brother-in-law as well as the elimination of competitors and the procurement of capital through marriage. Indeed, he concealed from his brother-in-law that he wanted to found his own rolling work in direct competition to him. The company Bechem & Keetman in Duisburg had to produce machinery exclusively for him. In the area surrounding Duisburg nobody but August Thyssen was able to buy machinery for a rolling work.

For the workers of the Thyssen works there was the rule of carrot and stick. “August’s expectations of his workers were very simple and straightforward. He expected them to abide by the ‘Reglement’, work very hard with the minimum of waste in time or materials, and produce as much as their engineer managers could get out of them…..The Meisters were expected to act as sub-contracting entrepreneurs rather than production or workshop supervisors of their respective departments”.

“The workers… remained entrapped by the Thyssens’ policy of supplying, and owning, all the worker’s needs ‘on-site’. The story, baths, canteens and lodging houses were all a man had time to need.” (quoted from David Litchfield, ‘Die Thyssen-Dynastie’). People were fired for minute transgressions. In 1928 the Thyssen-brothers Fritz and Heinrich locked out 225,000 workers for one month. Through the ownership of 67,000 workers’ lodgings, pressure could be exerted on the workforce and the government could be blackmailed through the threat of mass redundancies.

The Thyssen balance sheet for 1912 claimed the value of the Concern to be 562,153,182 Reichsmark. Before and during the First World War, there was strong collaboration between Thyssen and the Imperial government. One of August Thyssen’s friends was Hjalmar Schacht, later Hitler’s Economics Minister. Thyssens armaments production for German increased. By 1918, practically the whole enterprise produced for the war. The founding of firms in The Netherlands safeguarded Thyssen assets in case the war would be lost. Furthermore, tricks were used through the Thyssen-owned Bank voor Handel en Scheepvaart NV and assets safeguarded. Using the Hungarian citizenship of the Thyssen-son Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, topped by a residency in the Netherlands, the Thyssen fortune was protected from allied confiscation, also after 1945. Heinrich Thyssen had married the daughter of the Hungarian Baron Bornemisza and had had himself adopted by his father-in-law in order to gain the title of Baron.

In 1923 there were the first contacts to Hitler. Fritz Thyssen knew about the plans for the putsch. He donated 100,000 Goldmarks for the National Socialist Party. He liked the fact that Hitler wanted to sort out the workers’ movement once and for all. At the beginning of the 1940s, Fritz Thyssen conceded that he had donated 62 million Reichsmark to the Nazi party over a 12 year period. Göring was one of his friends. In 1933 Fritz Thyssen joined the Nazi party, his wife had done so even earlier.

Tax evasion was an important business tool for the Thyssens. From 1919 to 1939 there were constant investigations by the financial authorities. In 1939 the Tax Directorate in Düsseldorf was able to prove that Fritz Thyssen had committed tax evasion and illegal foreign currency transactions, which Hitler had declared to be a capital offense. A fearful Fritz left for Switzerland on 1. September 1939, then moved to France. All his assets were placed by Göring under the trusteeship of Prussia and managed by joint friends and business partners of the two men. In other words, it was not his enmity against Hitler or any concerns about the mistreatment of Jews that led to Fritz Thyssen’s persecution, but the fact he was lining his own pockets. From the 1930s the Thyssens once again made money from armaments production, but also began simultaneously, just like August Thyssen during WWI, to safeguard their fortune, for instance in the USA and in South America. August Thyssen Hütte had nine POW-camps and seventeen camps for forced labourers. Heinrich Thyssen lived in Switzerland, led the affairs of his firms from there and continued to do business with the Nazis, but not publicly. From 1941 onwards he made his son Heini attend the meetings in Switzerland with the managers of his enterprises, which were also sometimes attended by Baron von Schröder of the Nazi bank Stein in Cologne, who was the trustee for Fritz’s confiscated industrial shares.

The most disgraceful story which members of the Thyssen family were involved in, is the murder of 200 Jews at Rechnitz Castle, where the eldest daughter of Heinrich Thyssen, Margit Batthyany, nee Thyssen-Bornemisza, lived with her husband, Count Batthyany, and high-ranking Nazis and SS-officers. During the night of 24 March 1945 the Ortsgruppen-leader Podezin, a Gestapo-official, left a party hosted by Count and Countess Batthyany with guests to shoot the Jews. The victims were 200 half-starved Jews who had been declared unfit for work. Local people said that Podezin had been in the habit of shooting Jews who were locked up in the castle cellars and that the Countess had enjoyed watching these events. After the war neither Margit nor other members of the Thyssen family wanted to know anything about this massacre and they were never prosecuted for it.

Litchfield has also assembled much information about the behaviour of the Americans and the British towards the Thyssens. For fear of the communists the Thyssens were handed back all of their fortune, works, shares and gold, despite their role in the Third Reich.

After 1945, Heinrich Thyssen transferred his role within the Thyssen Bornemisza Group to his son Heini Thyssen. But he did not much care for the Concern. Rather, he spent most of his time with sharing out his fortune. Other than that he had many relationships with glamorous, high society women and with the excesses of alcoholism. As a form of investment he bought many hundreds of paintings which were first exhibited and stored at his father’s villa in Switzerland. August Thyssen had started the art collection by buying works of Rodin, also as an investment. When Heini realised, that the maintenance of his collection was expensive, he searched for another way of handling it. Here he used all of his business acumen and various goods contacts, thus managing to sell about half of his art works to the Spanish state for 350 million dollars, payable free of tax, outside Spain, having first loaned the collection to the Spanish for 5 million dollars a year. The Spanish state met all costs for the use of the Thyssen pictures as a permanent public display.

The facts assembled in this review represent only a tiny fraction of the innumerable data painstakingly collected by Litchfield, which illustrate the greed and corruption of the Thyssens. The book is over 500 pages long and a thrilling read, the part about Heini Thyssen is somewhat too extensive.’


http://www.secarts.org/journal/index.php?show=article&id=948&PHPSESSID=ec1b0e599e946f1f299627d9346a7f4a

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Thyssen-Bornemisza Dürer A Fake

“Readers of my book should be all too aware of my questioning of the authenticity of many of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection’s claimed master pieces, but only now, finally, has a major art historian supported my claim by insisting that the ‘Dürer’ ‘Jesus Among the Scribes’ in the Madrid Museo Thyssen is a fake”.

http://www.nnonline.de/artikel.aspart=1079333&kat=48&man=3

Translation by Caroline Schmitz of the article by Birgit Ruf in the Nürnberger Nachrichten of 02.09.2009.

”Dürer would have been ashamed of this work”
Nürnberg art historian raises doubts concerning the authenticity of a Dürer painting

Thomas Schauerte, the new head of the Nürnberg Albrecht-Dürer-House and an expert on the work of the famous artist has dared to proclaim an explosive theory. He is convinced that the painting ‘Christ Among the Scribes’, a main attraction in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, is not by Albrecht Dürer’s hand.

Thomas Schauerte had his first doubts concerning the authenticity of the painting – which was allegedly painted by Dürer in 1506 on poplar wood – in 2003 when he visited the big Dürer retrospective at the Albertina in Vienna. As a long-standing researcher on Dürer, who wrote his dissertation on the artist and participated in the publication of the full catalogue of his prints, Schauerte viewed the Albertina exhibition through the eyes of an expert. There, for the first time in many years, the famous painting was shown together with five existing drawings, showing details of the overall composition. It is a representation of the 12-year-old Christ in discussion with the scribes inside the Temple.

Crass decline in quality

“When one compares the Dürer drawings directly with the painting, one can see a crass decline in quality”, says Schauerte. Compared to the brilliant drawings the painting, he says, is “simply bad”. Clear words, which the art historian backs up by demonstrating various inconsistencies. “The head of Christ was originally planned in much too small a size”, he says and, using a reproduction of the painting, points towards a “shadowy area” where the head was subsequently “increased in size” through the addition of more hair.

And in Schauerte’s opinion another mistake, namely on the scribe positioned on the very left, would “never have been made” by the great master: the noble elder is possibly 70 or 80 years old, but he has the hands of a young man – no wrinkles, no age spots, no veins can be seen. “But Dürer above all people required in his teachings that a figure has to be harmonious and that the details must all fit together”, says Schauerte.

A mix of references

Apart from these details, he has some things to criticise concerning the overall composition as well. He says that the heads have simply been cut off at the upper edge of the painting, that the people in the work do not get into any kind of relationship with each other through visual contact and that no coherent image space is being created. Based on all these observations, Schauerte concludes: The painting is a product in the style of Dürer from the early 17th century, a pastiche, a mix of references. At the time there was a veritable Dürer-boom, so that everything that came from the master sold mit reißerischem Absatz. Therefore, those were also good times for Dürer-copyists and falsifiers.

If you listen to the 42-year old, you wonder very quickly why nobody else before him noticed the inconsistencies. As Thomas Eser, head of the Dürer-Research-Centre at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, confirms, no other scientist has ever raised doubts as to the authenticity of the Madrid painting, which surfaced for the first time in 1642 in a private collection in Rome and was sold to the Thyssen Collection in 1934. “The painting is not documented anywhere before 1642. That is unusual for Dürer”, states Schauerte, who recently moved from Trier University to the Dürer House in Nürnberg. When the painting was sold around 1930, “the critical awareness was not yet so much in existence”. And that people in Madrid “are not very keen to open this box” is something one can comprehend.

Only in private collections

Eser explains: “Since the painting was known, there was a consensus amongst Dürer researchers that it is a Dürer. But as it only used to hang in private collections and not in world museums, it “hasn’t been critically examined often enough until now”. Eser welcomes the fact that his research-colleague Schauerte has now done so: “He adds to the knowledge by suggesting alternative viewpoints”. Schauerte’s “heretical theory”, which he has worked six years to back up, will now be published in time for the Book Fair in the series “Dürer-Research” by GNM-Verlag (German National Museum Publishers).

“The painting has no coherent spatial-narrative composition, but is, rather, a juxtaposition of Dürer-heads at close quarter”, Eser agrees with Schauerte’s observations. The latter asserts in his essay that almost all the heads of the scribes in this painting have models in other works by Dürer, but that most of them appear after the year 1506, which is the year inscribed on the tableau, next to the AD-monogram.

Like a medley

Eser draws a very graphic comparison: “If it were a pop song, one would say it is a medley. There are many Dürer themes placed in it, but only a few bars of each of them”. Eser thinks that Dürer himself would have made higher demands as to the “coherence of the description of space.” Schauerte expresses it even more drastically and insolently: “Dürer would have been ashamed of this work”.

Speaking of ashamed: That’s what the Thyssen Collection might prove to be if Schauerte is right. He has not yet spoken to the people in charge in Madrid about his “radical theory”. The Nürnberg researcher knows: “If I’m right, it would be a catastrophe for the collection”. The painting would then only be worth a fraction of its original worth. But Schauerte has also been in this business long enough to know: “It’s a very long process for new research results to become acknowledged”.

http://www.nz-online.de/artikel.asp?art=1080338&kat=49

Art historian Thomas Schauerte, Director of the Albrecht Dürer Haus in Nürnberg (photo: Karlheinz Daut, Nürnberger Nachrichten)

Art historian Thomas Schauerte, Director of the Albrecht Dürer Haus in Nürnberg (photo: Karlheinz Daut, Nürnberger Nachrichten)

'Jesus Among the Doctors', claimed by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid to be the work of Albrecht Dürer, but claimed by Thomas Schauerte to be the work of an early 17th century copyist.

'Jesus Among the Scribes', attributed by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid to Albrecht Dürer, but claimed by Thomas Schauerte to be the work of an early 17th century copyist.

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