Published on January 2nd, 2017 | by Zuzanna Stanska
The Story Of The Lost Raphael’s “Portrait Of A Young Man”
Have you seen this painting?
It is missing. Since 1945.
Portrait of a Young Man was created by Raphael probably in 1513–1514. By many it is considered to be the most important painting missing during World War II. It was stolen by the Nazis from Poland from the collection of the Prince Czartoryski.
The collection had three highlights – Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine, Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Good Samaritan and Portrait of a Young Man. They were hidden at a residence in Sieniawa, but was later discovered by the Gestapo, working for Hans Frank, Hitler’s appointee as the governor of the General Government. The masterpieces decorated Frank’s residence in Kraków before they were sent to Berlin, and Dresden, to become part of the Führer’s own collection at Linz, arranged by Hitler’s plenipotentiary, Dr. Posse. It disappeared somewhere on the way there.
Leonardo and Rembrandt came back to Poland after the War. Nobody knows what has happened with the Raphael. From time to time some sources claim that the investigation brings new information and there is a chance that the painting is in some mysterious private collection in Germany. In the 2014 film The Monuments Men, the painting is shown being destroyed by the Germans. It is shown as a prominent painting in a large cache of stolen art stored in an unidentified cave or mine that German troops set on fire with flamethrowers.
What about the portrait itself? The subject’s identity is unverified, but many scholars have traditionally regarded it as Raphael’s self-portrait, but there is no proof of this. The young man is richly-dressed and “confidently-poised”. It is probable that Raphael’s studious approach to idealized representation of human proportion was based on his studies of ancient athletic and military heroes in Classical sculpture such as Doryphoros and Augustus of Prima Porta. Some scholars say, that if it was to reappear today, it would be worth in excess of 100 million US dollars.