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Der Fuhrer's Fine Art

Adolf Hitler is one of the most reviled human beings in history. There are probably few people about whom more words have been written. The Library of Congress has helped add to the visual dimension surrounding the Nazi dictator. Britain’s National Gallery announced that the 1525 painting “Cupid Complaining to Venus,” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, was once part of Hitler’s private collection. And the Library provided the proof.

Photographic copy of “Cupid Complaining to Venus” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1525, Katalog der Privat-Gallerie Adolf Hitlers. 1936 Students watching television in a

The Library’s Prints and Photographs Division supplied the National Gallery with a copy of a photo of the Cranach oil-on-wood painting contained in an album called “Katalog der Privat-Gallerie Adolf Hitlers” or “The Private Gallery of Adolf Hitler.” The photos in the album depict 74 paintings and two tapestries in Hitler’s private art collection.

The album is one of nearly 2,000 items included in the Library’s Third Reich Collection, which is housed in both the Prints and Photographs and the Rare Books and Special Collections divisions. The total number of photo albums in the collection is 548.

The division has posted online images from the entire album. On page 58 you can see the Cranach image in question.

The National Gallery knew the photo of the painting existed, thanks to researcher Birgit Schwartz, who had been studying Hitler’s art collecting and spotted the painting’s photo at the Library. After getting the tip from Schwartz, the National Gallery approached the Library. Archivist Alan Crookham corresponded via e-mail with Prints and Photographs Division reference assistant Kristi Finefield, who tracked down the album, found the photo and confirmed with Crookham that the images matched. Finefield then photographed the photo and sent it off to the National Gallery.

Thanks to researchers and the staff of the Library, discoveries such as these don’t go unnoticed. Another entity that is aiding in an effort to bring the Library’s treasures to light is History™. This multimedia partnership will showcase the Library’s collections to the vast audience of the History brands including the History channel, and other television properties. The partnership will also bring historical content to more than 200,000 teachers across the country who use the channel’s branded educational materials in their classrooms. The non-exclusive partnership will include co-branded content on, as well as original specials and short- and long-form historical documentary programming on the History channel. The goal of the partnership is to bring the unparalleled collections of the Library of Congress to broader audiences on the platform of their choice—whether that is mobile, broadband or in high definition on History HD.

A. Photographic copy of “Cupid Complaining to Venus” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1525, Katalog der Privat-Gallerie Adolf Hitlers. 1936. Prints and Photographs Division. SUMMARY: Painting shows bees stinging Cupid, who is holding a stolen honeycomb and complaining to a nude Venus about his plight. A Latin verse, top right, identifies the moral depicted: "life's pleasure is mixed with pain." (Source: National Gallery, London, which owns the painting, number NG6344); Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-18495 (digital file from original); Call No.: LOT 11373 [item] [P&P]

B. Students watching television in a "TV class" in a Rushville, Indiana school. 1952. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-114562 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: SSF - Television in education--1952 <item> [P&P]