Tasteless Hitler painting auction is spectacular flop

An auction house in Nuremberg failed to sell a collection of paintings attributed to Adolf Hitler on Saturday (10 February 2019).

Five landscapes allegedly painted by the late Nazi dictator were offered by the Weidler auction house for between €19,000 (£16,628) and €45,000 (£39,381). A wicker armchair bearing a swastika thought to have belonged to Hitler was also on offer. The auction house held the “special sale” in the city in which Nazi war criminals were tried in 1945.

Neither the paintings nor the chair sold although a Meissen vase and a tablecloth, which are also thought to have belonged to Hitler went under the hammer for €5,500 (£4,814) and €630 (£551) respectively. Originally 23 works were to be auctioned on Saturday. Doubts over their authenticity in the days before the auction led prosecutors to seize the works.

Before his political rise, a young Hitler attempted to pursue a career as an artist in Vienna. He is thought to have created around 2000 works but experts consider their quality mediocre and unexceptional, which makes authentication even more difficult.

Sales of artworks allegedly by Hitler and the high prices they command are controversial. “There’s a long tradition of this trade in devotional objects linked to Nazism”, Stephan Klingen of Munich’s Central Institute for Art History explained, “the prices they’re bringing in have been rising constantly… that’s something that quite annoys me”. Nuremberg Mayor Ulrich Maly said Saturday’s auction was “lacking in style and taste”.

Weidler defended the outcome of Saturday’s sale by saying that even though the paintings were withdrawn did “not automatically mean they are fakes”. Chief prosecutor Antje Gabriels-Gorsolke of the Nuremberg-Fuerth’s prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation against persons unknown “on suspicion of falsifying documents and attempted fraud”.

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