By DONNA URSCHEL
There are probably few people about whom more words have been written than Adolf Hitler. But the Library of Congress recently helped add to the visual dimension surrounding one of the most reviled figures in history.
On March 27, Britain’s National Gallery announced that a 16th-century painting in its collection, “Cupid Complaining to Venus,” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, was once part of Adolf Hitler’s private collection. And the Library of Congress provided the proof.
The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division supplied the National Gallery with a copy of a photo of the Cranach oil-on-wood painting contained in an album called “The Private Gallery of Adolf Hitler.” The photos in the album depict 74 paintings and two tapestries in Hitler’s private art collection.
The album is one of nearly 2,000 items included in the Library’s Third Reich Collection, which is housed in both the Prints and Photographs and the Rare Books and Special Collections divisions. The total number of photo albums in the collection is 548.
The National Gallery knew the photo existed, thanks to researcher Birgit Schwartz, who had been studying Hitler’s art collecting and spotted the painting’s photo at the Library. After getting the tip from Schwartz, the National Gallery approached the Library. Archivist Alan Crookham corresponded via e-mail with Prints and Photographs’ reference assistant Kristi Finefield. She tracked down the album, found the photo and confirmed with Crookham that the images matched. Finefield then photographed the photo and sent it off to the National Gallery.
The museum, which bought the painting in 1963 from New York art dealers E & A Silvermann, is investigating to determine the exact provenance of the 1525 painting, including the possibility that it might have been looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis.
Following the museum’s announcement, the Library digitized the photo album containing an image of the Cranach painting and made it accessible online at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.18496. (The image is on page 58 of the 74-page album). A catalog record of the Hitler album can be found at http://lccn.loc.gov/2004676971. A catalog record and image of the painting can also be viewed on the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.18495.
For further information on the Third Reich Collection, visit www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/coll/239.html.