The Nazi kidnapped painting of the “father of Polish symbolism” returned to Warsaw
The painting of one of the most famous artists in the history of Polish art, stolen from the National Museum in Warsaw after the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, finally returned to their homeland. The “piano lesson” by Jacek Malczewski with the artist’s sisters behind the piano was put up for auction in November 2019 at the Roseberys auction house in London with a preliminary estimate of £ 6,000-8,000.
The description of the lot stated that the painting belonged to the artist’s sister Elena Karchevskaya (born Malchevskaya) until her death in 1933. In 1997, the painting was sold at Christie’s auction in New York for 19 thousand US dollars.
However, it was found that this canvas is included in the list of more than 63 thousand Polish works of art stolen during the Second World War. The auction house removed it from the auction, and the British authorities took it for preservation. “The owner of the picture, who was presented with evidence of its origin, behaved with dignity and did not create any obstacles,” said Minister of Culture of Poland Peter Glinsky.
Before the war, the painting was part of the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw. On the back side, the recognizable marking of the institution is still preserved - the letters MN. Additionally, the artist’s signature helped identify the work, the mention of the city of Radom, where he painted the sisters at the piano, dated 1877.
Upon arrival in Warsaw from London, the parcel with the painting was thoroughly disinfected, and then opened by museum staff in the presence of the Minister of Culture. During the week the work will be in strict quarantine, after which it will undergo conservation. The frame of the painting is damaged, the canvas is poorly stretched, and the colors faded slightly. Later, the work will find its place in the gallery among other paintings of Malchevsky.