Dutch Masterpiece Stolen by Nazis Expected To Fetch $2M at Auction

Painting Once Belonged to Catherine the Great

Looted: Gerrit van Honthorst’s ‘The Duet’ was confiscated by the Nazis from Jewish art collector Bruno Spiro
Looted: Gerrit van Honthorst’s ‘The Duet’ was confiscated by the Nazis from Jewish art collector Bruno Spiro

By Reuters

Published May 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A 17th century Dutch masterpiece that once graced the collections of Catherine the Great’s art adviser and Russia’s Hermitage Museum before being seized by the Nazis could fetch more than $2 million at auction, Christie’s said on Friday.

Gerrit van Honthorst’s “The Duet” was confiscated by the Nazis from Jewish art collector Bruno Spiro and sold in 1969 to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which returned it to Spiro’s heirs last month. It will be sold on June 5 at Christie’s Old Master paintings sale.

Executed in 1624 at the height of Honthorst’s career, the painting is among the finest examples of the kind of nocturnal revelry for which the Dutch artist is celebrated, according to Christie’s.

The work depicts a theatrically clad man and woman standing together over an open book, singing by candlelight. The woman’s exposed breast and revealing garb, as well as the Utrecht setting, suggest that she is a courtesan and the man her client, Christie’s said.

“This is a painting which has everything,” said Nicholas Hall, Christie’s co-chairman of Old Masters and 19th century art.

“It is a beautiful composition. It is by a major artist at the peak of his career. It is in pristine condition and coming from the collections of Count Alexander Stroganov and then the Hermitage it has a superb provenance,” said Hall.

“The Duet” belonged to the collection of Count Alexander Stroganov of St. Petersburg during the 19th century. He was Catherine the Great’s art adviser.

The picture passed by descent through the family and was eventually housed at the Hermitage before being nationalized following the Russian Revolution. The Soviet regime sold the work in 1931 at auction in Lepke, Berlin, and Spiro bought it shortly after.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.