Painting banned by the Nazis and lost for 80 years sells for £6,000,000

Painting banned by the Nazis and lost for 80 years sells for £6,000,000

Tanz im Varieté’s painter was included on a Nazi list of ‘degenerate art’

A painting thought to have been lost or destroyed by the Nazis eight decades ago has just sold for a massive sum.

Tanz im Varieté was painted by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a German expressionist who was included on the Nazi list of ‘degenerate art’ which led to hundreds of his pieces being sold or destroyed.

The oil on canvas painting is dated to 1911 and shows a black man and white woman dancing at a party.

They’re thought to be doing the cakewalk, a dance popularised by African-American dancers across Europe in the early 1900s.

The piece, which had only been seen in black-and-white pictures taken by Kirchner himself, was thought to have also been sold or destroyed.

But it resurfaced at an auction house earlier this year in what art historians are calling a ‘sensation’.

The piece by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was thought lost or destroyed (Picture: Kirchner Museum Davos)

A spokesperson for Ketterer Kunst auction house said: ‘More than 100 years have passed since the painting was last published. Now it is back.

‘Tanz im Varieté can finally take its rightful place in art history.’

It’s now been revealed that Tanz im Varieté was owned by a jewellery designer in 1944, who kept it in a heavy duty crate on a farm in the countryside to protect it from bombing – and from the Nazis finding it.

When French troops took the village in 1945, the crate was found and forced open, when the painting was damaged by a bullet and stabbed with a bayonet.

But the soldiers left the crate and painting behind, allowing Tanz im Varieté to be rescued and restored.

The owner then gave the painting to his two children in 1980 on his 75th birthday, and told them to return it to public view in the future. They asked to remain anonymous.

The bullet mark damaged the head of one of the female dancers, while the male dancer’s torso was pierced with the bayonet – but while the damage is still visible on the reverse side of the canvas, it still sold for a massive sum at auction.

It went under the hammer in Berlin where it made €6,958,000 (£5,875,509) – more than double than the €2,000,000 estimated.

The auction house added: ‘The painting Tanz im Varieté is a document of the fascination that dance exerted on Kirchner.

‘However, it had been waiting for its entrance on the stage behind the curtain of art history for almost 100 years.

‘The last time Tanz im Varieté was on public display was in an exhibition at Paul Cassirer in Berlin in late 1923.

‘Shortly after, the painting disappeared from the scene. Its reappearance is a real sensation.’

Kirchner died in Switzerland in 1938. His death was initially believed to have been a suicide, but historians now say he was likely shot by someone else, with theories including his partner, neighbouring farmers, or local Nazis pulling the trigger.

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