A watercolor of Vincent van Gogh, confiscated by the Nazis during World War II and not displayed publicly since 1905, is to be sold at auction in New York next month, where Christie’s estimates cost between $20 and $ 30 million to sell.
The proceeds of the sale of the work created by van Gogh in 1888, “Mules de Ble” (“Wheatstacks”), would be divided between the current owner – the family of Edwin Cox, a Texan oil businessman – and the heirs. Two Jewish families whose predecessors had work during World War II.
In a statement, Giovanna Bertazzoni, Christie’s vice-chair of 20th and 21st century art, called the image of a French farmyard “a tour de force of exceptional quality”. The auction house said it could set a new world auction record for a work on paper by van Gogh. (The highest previous price was approx. $14.7 million For “the harvest in Provence” in 1997.)
The watercolor was once owned by Berlin-based manufacturer Max Meiroski, who bought it in 1913.
But when the Nazis seized power in Germany, Mierovsky, who was Jewish, fled the country in 1938, eventually handing over the “muules de bleu” to Paul Groupe, a German Jewish art dealer working in Paris.
The clergy piece was then purchased from a dealer in Paris by Alexandrine de Rothschild, part of a Jewish family of bankers. When World War II broke out, de Rothschild fled to Switzerland. The watercolor was confiscated by the Nazis after the German invasion of France.
It was moved in 1941 to the Jeu de Palme Museum, then a Nazi sorting house for looted art. Later, it was sent schloss koglu Castle in Austria, which was then annexed to Germany.
The path of the post-war artwork is unclear, but until 1978, it was in the gallery of Wildenstein & Company in New York, which sold it to Cox the following year.
Christie’s statement did not address the basis of competing claims on the piece by the heirs of Mirowski and de Rothschild. But, he art newspaper, which first reported that Van Gogh would be part of a sale at Christie’s from the Cox collection on November 11, said that Mirowski successors have said the work was a “forced sale” in 1938.
In its sales materials, Christie’s notes that the work is being sold pursuant to an agreement between the current owner and heirs Mirowski and de Rothschild.