Missing painting spotted in the background of fashion photographs

Two pictures taken by fashion photographer Helmut Newton might contain a clue to the whereabouts of a looted masterpiece. According to Andrea Linnebach, an Arnold Böcklin specialist at the University of Kassel, the 1977 photograph, Jenny Kapitan, Pension Dorian, Berlin, appears to have the Böcklin painting Tritonenfamilie (1880-81). The painting has also been spotted in the background of a photograph of the model Yvonne Honsa, taken in Newton’s Monte Carlo apartment in 1999.

The work was among the 400 hundred works looted from the Kulturhistorisches Museum in Magdeburg, Germany, at the end of the Second World War. Although Linnebach made the discovery in 2004, but the museum only became aware of it four years later. Since then, the Magdeburg museum, assisted by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, have attempted to find out more from Newton’s widow, June, who is now aged 91.

It has not been confirmed, however, that the painting in the photograph is the original. Matthias Harder, the curator of the Berlin-based Helmut Newton Foundation, told The Art Newspaper: “We don’t know anything exactly about this painting [the one used in Newton’s photographs], but we know that it cannot be the original Böcklin.”

But experts remain positive that the work is the same, as Böcklin does not seem to have made full-size replicas of his paintings. Furthermore, a copy by another artist would have been difficult to produce after the war, as no colour photographs of the original work were taken.

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