Poland’s Famed Renaissance Masterpiece, Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man; Found After Half a Century

Poland’s long-lost “Portrait of a Young Man,” missing for over half a century and widely considered to be the most important painting missing since World War II, has been discovered in a bank vault in an undisclosed location. A spokesman for the country’s Office for the Restitution of Cultural Goods, a division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Polish media outlets that he is confident the painting will be returned to Poland. “Most importantly, the work was not lost in the turmoil of the war. It has not been burnt or destroyed. It exists. It is safely waiting in a region of the world where the law favors us.” He declined to reveal the country in which the painting was found.

The oil painting, completed around 1513-1514, is attributed to the High Renaissance Master Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, or Raphael. Many art historians believe that the painting is actually a self-portrait of the artist, as the facial features of the youth in the painting resemble those of Raphael’s only other self-portrait–the fresco “The School of Athens” at the Vatican.
The painting was purchased by Poland’s Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski in 1789, together with Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine,” painted around 1489-90, and several other Roman antiquities. It was confiscated from the Czartoryski family’s collection in Krakow by the Nazis in 1939 for Hitler’s Fuhrermuseum, his personal museum in Linz. The painting was last seen in 1945, when Hans Frank, governor of the General Government, took the painting to Wawel Castle for his own personal use. It has been missing ever since.

The Czartoryski family has made consistent attempts to find the painting since the end of World War II but were hampered by the fact that Poland was behind the Iron Curtain. The family renewed its efforts in 1991. Historians, art scholars, and many in the international community await new developments as the exciting story unfolds.

5 thoughts on “Poland’s Famed Renaissance Masterpiece, Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man; Found After Half a Century

  1. Has this painting be viewed since it’s “discovery” in a August 2012? If not what is the World waiting on to produce this stolen piece of Art?

    • Very good question. No, the painting has not been seen following its “discovery” in 2012. If you review updates to the Art Newspaper article cited, the exact whereabouts of masterwork are unknown. “http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Poland’s-long-lost-Raphael-found/26991”
      However, you can see that Poland is being very active in monitoring and recovery of its stolen cultural heritage. See ICE Press Release: http://m.ice.gov/news/releases/1402/140206newyork.htm?f=m regarding the recovered “Saint Philip Baptizing a Servant of Queen Kandaki” by German painter Johann Conrad Seekatz.

      • Thanks for the information. I read many articles yesterday and they were all 2012 with “claim” “discovered” “undisclosed country” with friendly laws, but if they have that much information Poland should be able to recover this painting. Put more pressure on the elected leaders of the country and let the world know where it is located and public pressure will make them return the painting. I live in North Carolina, USA and have served in the State Legislature. I know that it can be done if they reach the right people it will happen.

        I watched the film yesterday that discusses the art treasures and is maybe the prequill to the Monument Men. My fathers family immigrated to this country in 1870 from Cracow and so I had an attachment to the horror that was done to the people that lived there and these paintings should be returned. The art work in Munich was recently disclosed and we have seen others that are being returned from Russia and located behind false wall during construction of tubes in Berlin.

    • There is no additional information about this painting and we agree that its location is still unknown. Perhaps the statement that the painting was found was an attempt to try and solicit information from the public.

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