Rediscovery of National Gallery's marble sculpture, “Albrecht Dürer as a Boy”, thought lost in the war


A piece of 19th-century sculpture that had been missing since the end of the war has been found on the grounds of the American Academy in the Berlin district of Wannsee. It is the property of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and had previously formed part of the National Gallery's collection. In 2012 it will go on public display as a loan to the forthcoming Dürer exhibition at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg.

The statue was identified by the art historian Jeffrey Chipps Smith from the University of Texas as he came across it by chance. As a fellow of the American Academy, the expert in Dürer is involved in research currently being conducted by the Germanisches Nationalmuseum into Dürer's early work. The sculpture had stood unidentified since the end of the war on grounds that are now used by the American Academy for their Hans Arnhold Center. The land belongs to the state of Berlin and the sculpture stood in the gardens.

The marble sculpture, created in the early 1870s by Friedrich Salomon Beer (1846-1912), bore the title 'Albrecht Dürer as a Boy' and was acquired in 1887 by the National Gallery. It was subsequently placed on display as part of the collection of what is now the Old National Gallery on the Museum Island. In 1940 it was lent to the ministry of finance of the German Reich and displayed in the finance minister's official residence, at Sandwerder 17-19 in Berlin-Wannsee. The sculpture had been believed missing since the end of the war. It was listed in the Lost Art online database, compiled by the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, Germany's central office for the documentation of lost cultural property, as well as being cited in volume II of the National Museums' own catalogue of lost artworks: 'Documentation of the Losses.'

After comprehensive restoration, the sculpture is set to feature in the major show 'The Early Dürer' at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, which will run from 23 May to 2 September 2012, after which the loan will return to Berlin.