The Lost Paintings – The Schloss Art Collection

A few years ago the Still Picture Branch accessioned two 19th century French gold tooled albums that contain photographs of a portion of the Schloss art collection. Regarded as one of the last great Dutch art collections to be assembled in 19th century France, the Schloss Collection was curated by internationally renowned French art collector, Adolphe Schloss and contained many paintings from Dutch and Flemish masters including Rubens, Rembrandt, and Ruysdael. It also became known as one of the best examples of acquisition for Hitler’s Führermuseum by forced sale during World War II.

After his death in 1911, the painting collection was bequeathed to Schloss’s widow, Lucie, and upon her death the 333 piece collection was jointly inherited by their four sons. At the outbreak of WWII in 1939, the family relocated the paintings to the Château de Chambon in Corrèze, France for fear of bombing. This was the last time the collection was intact before it was looted by German and French officials.

The collection was so significant that German units began searching for the collection immediately after the invasion of France, but it wasn’t until 1943 that the French Vichy officials in collaboration with German SS officers located and seized the collection. Of the 333 paintings, 262 were selected for the  Führermuseum, 49 paintings went to the Louvre, and the remaining were, unfortunately, disposed of. The Schloss heirs never received payment for the collection. To date, there are approximately 171 paintings that remain lost.

The bound volumes (the bindings were also looted) only contain photographs of the Northern Renaissance paintings that were selected for Hitler as well as those that were chosen for the Louvre. The division and list of painters can be found at the end of the second album. These albums are an example of the deluxe presentation albums that were prepared for Hitler during World War II and subsequently provide an excellent reference point for research on Dutch and Flemish painters.

The reproduction slides are available for request in the Still Picture Research Room at College Park, MD and show the 308 black-and-white images from the albums.

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