8. Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael
Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, or Raphael, would form the holy trinity of great masters in what would be known as the High Renaissance period in the late 13th to early 14th century.
The Portrait of a Young Man is believed to have been created around 1513 and is often thought to be a self-portrait as the facial features are similar to those depicted in his self-portrait in the fresco The School of Athens.
When the Nazi’s invaded Poland on the on 1st of September 1939, their conquest was not just for land and people but for great works of art. Hitler was a failed artist in his youth, so if he couldn’t create masterpieces, he could certainly steal them.
That same year the family patriarch Prince Augustyn Józef Czartoryski rescued a number of pieces from the Czartoryski Museum, including Portrait of a Young Man, Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine and a Rembrandt masterpiece. Despite his efforts to rescue great works of art from Nazi hands, the collection was unfortunately discovered by the Gestapo with the help of Hans Frank, the puppet governor of the General Government installed by the Nazi’s in Poland.
These three paintings would adorn the walls of Frank’s residence in Kraków before being sent to Berlin and then on to Dresden, finally finding its way to Linz to become part of Hitler’s own collection. The last time any of these paintings would be seen would be in January 1945, when Frank brought the paintings back from Germany to Kraków for his own use at the royal Wawel Castle.
As the Germans retreated from Poland ahead of the Soviet Unions invasion of the country, it is widely believed that Frank took the paintings with him to Silesia and then to his own villa in Neuhaus am Schliersee. Upon Frank’s arrest by the Americans on May 3, 1945, a Polish representative at the Allies Commission for the Retrieval of Works of Art located some of the paintings stolen by him, and claimed them on behalf of the Czartoryski Museum.
Unfortunately, along with 843 other artifacts, the Portrait of a Young Man was nowehere to be found. Valued at more than $100 million, there would be a small glimmer of hope in 2012 when it was widely reported to be hidden in a bank vault of an unidentified location. However, this turned out to be a hoax by a Polish newspaper who perpetrated the false report in order to increase its readership.
The original empty frame of the painting currently hangs in the National Museum of Krakow where the royal collection of works holds openings. The museum offers a reward of $100 million for its safe return to its rightful home.
Enjoy the complete works of Raphael here