Van Gogh Watercolor, Seized by Nazis During World War II, Could Sell for Up to $30 Million

Van Gogh's A View of the Asylum and the Chapel at Saint-Remy, owned by Elizabeth Taylor, failed to reach an undisclosed reserve price at Christies in London
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Should the painting sell for the high estimate, it would set an auction record for works on paper by Vincent Van Gogh. The proceeds from the sale will be divided between the current owner and the heirs to two Jewish families who once owned the piece.

Christie’s Auction House in London will be auctioning a painting by Vincent van Gogh that is expected to sell between $20 and $30 million.

The watercolor, which hasn’t been exhibited since 1905, was seized by the Nazis during World War II, according to the New York Times.

“Meules de Blé,” a bright-colored image of a French farm, was created by the famous painter in 1888.

In 1913, Max Meirowsky, a Jewish, Berlin-based manufacturer, purchased it. In 1938, when the Nazis seized power in Germany, Meirowsky fled and entrusted it to Paul Graupe, a German Jewish art dealer in Paris.

From there, Alexandrine de Rothschild purchased it. When World War II began, he fled to Switzerland, and the painting was confiscated by Nazis after the German invasion of France, the New York Times adds.

The piece then went to the Jeu de Paume, a Nazi sorting house, and the Schloss Kogl castle.

The following decades of the watercolor’s path is unclear, but in 1978, Texan oil businessman Edwin Cox purchased it from the gallery of Wildenstein & Co. in New York.

Part of the proceeds from the forthcoming sale is going to the Cox family. The rest will go to the heirs of two Jewish families whose predecessors once owned the work.

Christie’s vice chairman of 20th and 21st-century art, Giovanna Bertazzoni, describes the watercolor as “tour de force of exceptional quality.” 

They add that this sale could set an auction record for work on paper by Vincent van Gogh. Currently, the highest price for an item is $14.7 million for “La Moisson en Provence,” sold in 1997.

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