Description & Technical information

This small drawing, which may be dated to 1865, is a view of the town of Freyburg in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, dominated by the 11th century castle of Schloss Neuenberg, perched on a hill in the background. The prominent church with two towers in the middle distance is the Romanesque-Gothic Sankt Marien Kirche, built in the 13th century and partially rebuilt in the 15th century. At the extreme upper left edge of the drawing may be seen a small part of the castle keep or fortified tower, known today as ‘Dicker Wilhelm’, which is part of the Neuenberg castle complex.

The present sheet may be compared stylistically with another pencil drawing by Menzel of the castle of Neuenburg seen from a different angle, of identical dimensions, from a small sketchbook of 1865 now in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin.

The first known owner of this drawing was the German industrialist and politician Walther Rathenau (1867-1922), who served as foreign minister during the Weimar Republic. After his assassination in 1922, his collection, including the present sheet, passed to his nephew, Ernst Rathenau (1897-1986), a director of the publishing house Euphorion Verlag in Berlin. Rathenau wrote and published catalogues of the prints and drawings of such German Expressionist artists as Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. He emigrated to America in 1938, leaving his collection in the care of his cousin F. J. Sedlmayr, and settled in New York. He became a naturalized American citizen, changing his first name to Ernest, and eventually returned to publishing. After the Second World War much of Rathenau’s collection, which had been seized by the Nazis from Sedlmayr in Amsterdam, was returned to him.

Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  Germany
Medium: Pencil, With stumping
Signature: Signed with the artist’s initials A. M. at the lower right. 

Dimensions: 9.5 x 15.4 cm (3³/₄ x 6¹/₈ inches)
Provenance: Walter Rathenau, Berlin, until 1922
By descent to his nephew, Ernst (later Ernest) G. Rathenau, Berlin and New York
Probably left by him for safekeeping with his cousin, Dr. F. J. Sedlmayr, in 1939
Probably seized from Sedlmayr by occupying German forces in Amsterdam
Returned in c.1947 to Ernest G. Rathenau, New York
By descent to his sister, Ellen Ettlinger Rathenau, Oxford
Purchased from her in c.1990 by Otto Naumann, New York
His sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 25 January 2007, lot 77
Private collection.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints