There are probably few people about whom more words have been written than Adolf Hitler. But today the Library of Congress has helped add to the visual dimension surrounding one of the most reviled figures in history.
You might have seen news a couple of weeks ago about a painting in Britain’s National Gallery. The Gallery announced that the 1525 painting “Cupid Complaining to Venus,” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, was once part of Hitler’s private collection. And the Library provided the proof.
The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division (P&P) 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.
Today P&P posted online images from the entire album, known by its German title “Katalog der Privat-Gallerie Adolf Hitlers,” here. (Go to page 58 to see the Cranach image in question, which is also reproduced at right.)
The National Gallery knew the photo of the painting existed, thanks to researcher Dr. 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 P&P 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.
Thanks to the excellent reference service from the Library, not to mention the value of visual collections, the National Gallery was able to announce the fascinating history of its painting. And now the entire album is online for the world to see.
For more information on the Third Reich Collection, visit this link.
(Thanks to Donna Urschel for help writing this post)