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Biccherna Cover: The Tribute Offering

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About 1364 until at least 1724, the Commune of Siena (original commission). By 1862, Johann Anton Ramboux (b. 1790 - d. 1866), Cologne; May 23, 1867, Ramboux sale, Heberle, Cologne, lot 354. 1931, Carl Anton Reichel (b. 1874 - d. 1944), Munich [see note 1]; between 1931 and 1934, sold by Reichel to Max Neunzert (b. 1892 - d. 1982), Munich and Flims Waldhaus, Switzerland [see note 2]; May 25-29, 1943, sale, Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, lot 1692, not sold [see note 3]; consigned by Neunzert to Walter Schatzki (b. 1899 - d. 1983), New York; 1950, sold by Schatzki to the MFA for $1750. (Accession Date: January 2, 1950) NOTES: [1] In 1949, when the MFA first considered acquiring the panel, its owner wrote to Walter Schatzki, the dealer through whom it was offered (November 14, 1949). According to a transcript of this letter (which is unsigned, but must have been written by Max Neunzert, as discussed below), "this painting formerly belonged to my good friend Karl Anton Reichel. I obtained the painting from him in Munich in 1931 upon my return from China, since he then found himself in financial difficulties." An authentication of the painting by Georg Swarzenski of February 28, 1933 is, however, addressed to Reichel, which suggests that it was still in his possession at that time. The painting was probably in Reichel's possession in February 1931, as well, when it was authenticated in Munich by Wilhelm Suida. [2] As discussed above (n. 1), despite the letter attesting that the sale took place in 1931, the authentication of the painting by Swarzenski in 1933 suggests that it was in Reichel's possession at that time. It was certainly in Max Neunzert's possession by July 24, 1934, when it was authenticated by Hanna Gräff on behalf of her husband, Dr. Walter Gräff, and Neunzert was named as the owner. Neunzert later attested that he took the panel to Switzerland in 1934 (see below, Additional Information). [3] According to his letter to Walter Schatzki (as above, n. 1), Neunzert "deposited the painting -- when I was forced to flee Munich on account of my anti-Nazi activities -- in Switzerland, and in 1943 put it up for sale at the Galerie Fischer in Lucerne. It is listed in the Fischer catalogue for that year. I did not sell it because of the low price it made." Correspondence from Kuno Fischer, Galerie Fischer, to the MFA (February 18, 2004) indicates that the consignor of the painting was Mrs. Dr. Zellweger of Zurich. Whether Neunzert consigned it to Fischer under a pseudonym, or whether he had entrusted the panel to a Mrs. Zellweger, is not known. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Max Neunzert was a member of the Nazi party in the 1920s. The statements that he made to Walter Schatzki in 1949 (see above, n. 1) can be corroborated with what is known of his life. In 1929 Neunzert traveled to China to help spread National Socialism; he returned to Munich in 1931. Like Carl Anton Reichel, he fought for the restoration of the monarchy in Germany. Upon his return from China in 1931, he realized this would not be possible under Hitler, and he left the party. Thereafter he fought actively against the Nazis. He assumed names including "Max Keck" and "Mr. Donau" and was exiled in Switzerland during the 1940s. For more on Neunzert, see Carlos Collado Seidel, "In geheimer Mission für Hitler und die bayerische Staatsregierung. Der politische Abenteurer Max Neunzert zwischen Fememorden, Hitler-Pusch und Berlin-Krise," Vierteljarshefte für Zeitgeschichte 50, no. 2 (April, 2002): 201-236. In a signed statement of January 20, 1948, written from Flims-Waldhaus, Max Neunzert attested that the painting was not Nazi loot: "I herewith declare on oath that the Biccherna panel was legally acquired by me at that time and, therefore, is not Nazi looted property. In order to deny the Nazis access to it, as early as 1934 I was able to bring the panel into Switzerland." The MFA has no indication that the panel was improperly transferred or stolen during the Nazi era.

Credit Line

Charles Potter Kling Fund

about 1364


44.5 x 33 cm (17 1/2 x 13 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Tempera on panel