Painting seized by the Nazis to be auctioned for charity 

07 Jun 2021 News

Waldmuller - The Beggar


A painting that was plundered by the Nazis and recently restituted will be auctioned at the Dorotheum in Vienna today.

Proceeds from the sale of The Compassionate Child, The Beggar, will go to the Vision Foundation in its centenary year. 

The Beggar was painted by the leading 19th-century Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller and taken for Hitler’s planned Führermuseum in Linz.

Art consultants Cadell + Co advised pro bono how best to bring the Waldmüller works to the attention of collectors. 

The Beggar is considered the most valuable of three restituted Waldmüller paintings and is expected to fetch between €150,000 to €200,000, according to Cadell co-founder Willem de Gier.

In November 2020 the first two Waldmüllers were sold for €383,900 by Dorotheum, acting pro bono by waiving its fee. 

Legacy to the Vision Foundation

In 1938, Irma and Oscar Löwenstein, members of Vienna’s Jewish community, escaped from Nazi oppression to London with their lives but not their many valuable artworks. 

Oscar Löwenstein died soon after they arrived and while Irma Löwenstein survived and spent the rest of her life trying to reclaim her art.

She remarried and when she died in 1976 left her estate to the Greater London Fund for the Blind, now the Vision Foundation. Her art collection, which had been sold under duress, remained unaccounted for.

In 2018, the charity learned that three Waldmüller paintings from the collection had come to light in museums in Munich, Dortmund and Berlin and as the beneficiaries of the will, it had rights of restitution.

With the pro bono help of law firm Charles Russell Speechlys the paintings have been bought to auction. 

Rudy Capildeo, partner and art lawyer specialist at Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “It has been a real honour to help support the legacy of the Vision Foundation. We hope the sale of this piece will boost the future growth of the charity and help transform and empower the lives of London’s visually impaired community.”

'This has turned the Vision Foundation into an unlikely art detective'

Olivia Curno, chief executive of the Vision Foundation, said: “Legacies are vital to the Vision Foundation and this one, which brings with it such a powerful story of loss, is particularly poignant, as well of course as being hugely generous and quite unexpected.” 

Curno added: “This is a real-life story about lost art seized by the Nazis but with a twist, which has turned the Vision Foundation into an unlikely art detective.” 

The Waldmüller paintings are three artworks from a collection which originally comprised dozens of objects. The whereabouts of many of these works are still unknown. 

The Beggar is Lot 526 in the auction of 19th Century Paintings at 4pm at the Palais Dorotheum.

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