World War II’s Top Ten Missing Artworks

When Focus, a Germany-based magazine, revealed a few days ago that German authorities found in a dilapidated Munich flat a stash of historic 20th century European art which went missing in WWII and were suspected to be part of the loots the Nazis took during the war, the said news made it to the headlines worldwide.

Art investigators saw the it as a sign that after all these years, there is still a possibility to recover other lost art pieces during that era.

Purging private art collections was one of the legacies left by the Third Reich — in a bad way, that is. According to Katya Hills of the London-based Art Loss Register which is the world’s biggest database for lost and stolen arts, about 200,000 artworks are believed to have gone missing during WWII.

Currently, the said organization is hunting down 30,000 items from their list of missing or stolen from the war era.

The Art Loss Register also compiled a list of the top ten most priceless and famous art masterpieces that went missing or were stolen during WWII. Hills has high hopes that some pieces in this list will turn up in the latest Nazi art bust German authorities found in Munich, reported to be over 1,400 items in all.

1. Raphael, Portrait of a Young Man, 1513/14

Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man, believed to be a self-portrait of the art master himself. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man, believed to be a self-portrait of the art master himself. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

Art historians regard this work as the most famous piece which got lost during WWII. The Nazis took the Portrait of a Young Man from the private collection of the Czartoryski’s family in Krakow to be installed in Hitler’s Fuhrer Museum in 1939. However, it was reported missing by the end of the war. Unsubstantiated reports stated that the artwork was found stored in a Swiss vault last summer.

2. Andreas Schlüter: The Amber Room, 18th Century 

The Reconstructed Amber Room (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
The Reconstructed Amber Room (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

The complete chamber decoration of amber panels with golden leaves and mirrors dubbed by the art world as the “Eight Wonder of the World”, this Andreas Schluter creation was made for the Prussian royalty but was given to Russian Tsar Peter the Great as a gift. It was believed to have been taken by the Nazis and brought to the city of Königsberg and was never seen again. The Amber Room was reconstructed in Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2003.

A relative of Cornelius Gurtlitt, the man who owned the Munich flat where the vast art loot dating back to the Nazis was found, revealed that the man had always claimed he knew what happened to The Amber Room. See story here.

3. Vincent van Gogh, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, 1888

One of van Gogh's most cherished works. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
One of van Gogh’s most cherished works. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)


This piece, placed as one of van Gogh’s most cherished works, is reported to have been burned when the Allies bombed Magdeburg, Germany setting the museum where it was installed in on fire.

4. Giovanni Bellini, Madonna with Child, c.1430

Bellini's Madonna and Child (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
Bellini’s Madonna and Child (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

This said art piece was moved from a Berlin museum to a Berlin-Friedrichshain flak tower which was located in an area under Russian control in the early 1940s. However, most of the objects in that said tower were either stolen or believed to be destroyed, including this particular Bellini piece.

5. Gustav Klimt, Portrait of Trude Steiner, 1900

Portrait of the daughter of a Viennese collector is one of WWII's most sought after missing artwork. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
Portrait of the daughter of a Viennese collector is one of WWII’s most sought after missing artwork. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

This is a portrait of the daughter of Viennese collector Jenny Steiner and was taken by the Nazis after Stenier’s escape from Austria in 1938. It was consequently sold to an unknown person in 1941 and was never seen since then.

6. Rembrandt van Rijn, An Angel with Titus’ Features

Rembrandt van Rijn, An Angel with Titus’ Features lost during WWII. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
Rembrandt van Rijn, An Angel with Titus’ Features lost during WWII. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

The said artwork was stored in a French countryside chateau before the Nazis took it with them to Paris in 1943. There, it was set aside to be installed in Hitler’s museum along with 332 other artworks . 162 of the pieces in this group were found since but no leads for this one.

7. Peter Paul Rubens, The Annunciation

Peter Paul Rubens' The Annunciation (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
Peter Paul Rubens’ The Annunciation (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

This Rubens’ creation went missing after it went into forcible auction in the hands of Paul Graupe in 1935 in Berlin.

8. Canaletto, Piazza Santa Margherita

The search is still on for this Canaletto landscape. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
The search is still on for this Canaletto landscape. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

This landscape painting by Canaletto was part of Jacques Goudstikker’s private collection which the Nazis seized and purged after he fled to the Netherlands in 1940. Some of the artworks from that collection had been returned to Goudstikker’s heirs though art investigators are still looking for this one.

9. Edgar Degas, Five Dancing Women (Ballerinas)

This Degas pastel art piece was part of a Jewish art collector's treasures before WWII. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
This Degas pastel art piece was part of a Jewish art collector’s treasures before WWII. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

The Nazis got hold of this pastel work by Degas when they took Baron Mór Lipót Herzog’s collection, a Jewish art collector. The Baron’s heirs have filed a lawsuit against Hungary which seeks the return of his collection, though, this work seems to be lost from the group.

10. Pissarro, The Boulevard Montmartre, Twilight, 1897

This particular masterpiece has shown up for almost every decade since it was sold by the Nazis in WWII but it's current location is unknown. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)
This particular masterpiece has shown up for almost every decade since it was sold by the Nazis in WWII but it’s current location is unknown. (Photo Courtesy of Art Loss Register)

Part of a collection that was taken by the Nazis  and sold to an art dealer from Switzerland in 1941, this landscape masterpiece had shown up almost every decade after the war but Hills pointed out that it’s current location is a mystery.

– The Time (World) reports