A watercolor by Vincent van Gogh, seized by the Nazis during World War II and not on public display since 1905, is due to be auctioned next month in New York City, where Christie’s experts estimate it could sell for between 20 and $ 30 million.
The proceeds from the sale of the work “Meules de Blé”, created by van Gogh in 1888, will be shared between the current owner – the family of Edwin Cox, a Texan oil businessman – and the heirs of two families. Jews whose predecessors owned the work during World War II.
In a statement, Giovanna Bertazzoni, Christie’s vice-president for 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 previous highest price was around $ 14.7 million for “La Moisson en Provence” in 1997.)
The watercolor was once owned by Max Meirowsky, a Berlin-based manufacturer, who bought it in 1913.
But when the Nazis seized power in Germany, Meirowsky, who was Jewish, fled the country in 1938, ultimately entrusting “Meules de Blé” to Paul Graupe, a German Jewish art dealer who worked in Paris.
The pastoral piece was then purchased from the merchant in Paris by Alexandrine de Rothschild, a member of a Jewish banking family. At the start of World War II, de Rothschild fled to Switzerland. The watercolor was confiscated by the Nazis after the German invasion of France.
He was taken to the Jeu de Paume museum, then a Nazi sorting center for looted art, in 1941. Later, he was sent to the Kogl Castle castle in Austria, which at the time was annexed to Germany.
The route of the work after the war remains unclear, but in 1978 it is in the gallery of Wildenstein & Co. in New York, which sells it the following year to Cox.
Christie’s statement did not address the basis of the competing claims to the coin by the heirs of Meirowsky and Rothschild. But the Art journal, who first announced that the van Gogh would be part of the sale of works from Christie’s Cox collection on November 11, said the Meirowsky heirs declared the work a “forced sale” in 1938.
In its sales documents, Christie’s notes that the work is sold pursuant to an agreement between the current owner and the Meirowsky and Rothschild heirs.