Nude Woman with a StaffEnlarge image

Nude Woman with a Staff, c. 1500

Albrecht Dürer
German, 1471 - 1528
pen and brown ink with brown wash on laid paper
23.5 x 9.6 cm
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn and a group of his friends and associates, 1956
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6652)

A prelude to the engraving "Adam and Eve", this is one of the artist's first studies of the proportions of the human body. Thus the ruled reference points, together with the compass and stylus lines, reveal the exacting search for a harmony of forms based on predetermined geometrical schema. Notwithstanding the date (1508) inscribed on the upper part of the image - it was, in all likelihood, inscribed "a posteriori" - this study was part of a first series of figures of the same type done between 1500 and 1504.


by 1834 – 1866/07/10
Prince Henryk Lubomirski (1777–1850), Lemberg, Austro–Hungarian Empire [1]

1866/07/10 – 1939/08
Ossilinski National Institute, Lvov (formerly Lemberg), Poland, bequest of Prince Henryk Lubomirski [2]

1939/08 – 1941/07/02
Library of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv, Ukraine, USSR (formerly Lvov, Poland) [3]

1941/07/02 – 1945/04
Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), Berlin, Germany, confiscated from Library of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv [4]

1945/05 – 1950/05/26
Munich Central Collecting Point of the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section (MFA&A), Munich, Germany, recovered from Nazi art deposit in Alt Aussee, Austria [5]

1950/05/26 – 1954/11/30
Prince George Lubomirski (1887–1978), Switzerland, restituted from Central Collecting Point, Munich [6]

1954/11/30 – 1955/05/12
P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, England, purchased from Prince George Lubomirski [7]

1955/11/03 –
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from P. & D. Colnaghi, London, England with funds raised by Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899–1981), Toronto, Canada and a group of his friends and associates [8]


[1] The very early provenance of Nude Woman with a Staff is unclear. By the early 17th century, the work likely was part of the collection of Dürer drawings assembled by the German Emperor Rudolf II. By the end of the 18th century this collection found its way to the Albertina in Vienna, Austria. During the Napoleonic wars they were removed from the Albertina and appeared on the Vienna art market. Nude Woman with a Staff was part a collection of 27 Dürer drawings on 24 sheets (three sheets have drawings on both sides), acquired by Prince Henryk (Heinrich) Lubomirski by 1834 [Dobbs, Michael. “Stolen Beauty.” The Washington Post Magazine, March 2, 1999, p.15]. In 1823, the prince came to an agreement with Count Jozef Maksymlian Ossilinski, to donate the family collection to the Ossolinski Institute in Lemberg (Lvov, Poland, now Lviv, Ukraine) for the benefit of the Polish Nation. The Lubomirski Museum was created and housed the Dürer drawings. The formal bequest, however, was not made until 1866, and included the clause, that if the terms of the bequest were breached in any way, the collection would revert to the oldest male heir of the Lubomirski family [“Foundation Charter of the Impartible Estate Tail at Przeworsk of Princes Lubomirski”, Vienna, July 10, 1866, Art. 10 and 11; translation from the Polish and German original, provided by the Ossilinski Institute, Wroclaw, Poland, NGC curatorial file].

[2] See note [1]. After World War I, Lemberg became part of the independent Polish Nation and was renamed Lvov. The Ossilinski National Institute (known as the Ossolineum), established under Austro–Hungarian Law, remained intact. In August 1939, under the Hitler–Stalin Alliance, Nazi Germany and the USSR divided Poland between them. Lvov became part of the Ukraine Republic in the Soviet Union. The Ossilinski Intitute and the Lubomirski Museum were dissolved and their collections transferred to the newly established Library of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Lvov, which was renamed “Lviv”. [Akinsha, Konstantin and Sylvia Hochfield. “Who owns the Lubomirski Dürers?” Art News, vol. 100, no. 9, October 2001, p. 160].

[3] See note [2]. On June 22, 1941 the Germans invaded the USSR and occupied Lviv. On July 2, Kajetan Mühlmann, Hitler's officer in charge of seizing art treasures in Poland, confiscated the Dürer drawings, and handed them over to the “Führer” [confiscation receipt of the Dürer drawings from the Lubomirski Collection, signed by Mühlmann on July 2, 1941; photocopy of the original, provided by the Ossilinski Institute, Wroclaw, Poland; NGC curatorial file].

[4] Hitler had been interested in the drawings for some time. In November 1939, Hans Posse, an art-historian who was responsible for assembling Hitler's personal art collection and acquiring works of art for the “Führermuseum” in Linz, wrote to Martin Bormann, Hitler's personal assistant: “I further beg to point out that together with the Lvov Museum, a series of beautiful drawings by Dürer and other German masters fell into Russian hands. Perhaps it will be possible later on to salvage for Germany the twenty-seven sheets by Dürer.” [U.S. National Archives, RG 239/85 CIR, Linz, Attachment 5: cited in: Nicholas, Lynn. “The Rape of Europa”, New York: Knopf, 1994; p. 68] Hitler had a particular fondness of the Dürer drawings, that he kept them at hand throughout the war. He even took them to “Wolf's Lair”, his Eastern Front Headquaters in Rastenburg, East Prussia. There, Kajetan Mühlmann expressed his concern about the safety of the drawings, but Hitler replied: “I have personally relieved you of this responsibility. Here… they are as safe as they would be in Cracow, and besides, I can see them more often.”[Mühlmann testimony, U.S. National Archives, RG 260/ 394; cited in: Nicholas, p. 69]. In early 1945, as the allied troops advanced to Berlin, the Dürer drawings were packed up and sent for safekeeping to a salt mine in Alt Aussee in the Austrian Alps. The mine, filled with thousands of artworks, was discovered by American troops in May 1945.

[5] From the mine in Alt Aussee, the Dürer drawings were brought to the Munich Central Collecting Point of the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section (MFA&A), where they were kept until its closure in 1949. The drawings remained in custody of the U.S. Army until their restitution to Prince George Lubomirski on May 26, 1950. [Dobbs, p. 18]

[6] At the Potsdam Peace Conference of 1946, the Allies agreed on returning looted art to the countries of origin, rather than to individual owners. At the same conference, the Polish borders had been redefined. Lvov was now part of Soviet–controlled Ukraine. Under the Allied restitution policy, both Poland and Ukraine were eligible for claiming the Dürer drawings from the Lubomirski collection, but did not make claims. In May 1947, Prince George Lubomirski, grandson of Prince Henryk, who had fled Poland to Switzerland, inquired about the Dürer drawings. In July 1948, he submitted a formal claim to the U.S. government, promising to donate the drawings to the National Gallery in Washington. Lubomirski's claim was first rejected. By 1948 though, many claims were being received from people who had fled countries under the control of the USSR, whose governments were unlikely to return property to individuals. With the political climate changing in the advent of the Cold War, the United States changed their restitution policy and started to return items to individual claimants who had fled the USSR or its satellites for religious, racial or political reasons. In this context, Prince George Lubomirski's claim on the Dürer drawings became legal. The prince stated, that since the Ossilinski Institute no longer existed, the terms of the 1866 bequest [see note 1] had been breached and the collection should revert to him. Earlier, he had urged his father Prince Andrew Lubomirski, who was the oldest heir of the Lubomirski clan at that time, to waive his rights to the property in favour of himself. Over protests from members of the Lubomirski family, the Dürer drawings were finally handed over by the U.S. State Department to Prince George Lubomirski on May 26, 1950 [Vause, Brandy. “Disputed Dürers. The Lubomirski drawings and the complexities of restitution.“ Seminar on Stolen and illegally exported Art and Cultural Property, George Washington University, Washington D.C., December 2002, p. 13; accessed on Nov.8, 2007,].

Prince George Lubomirski did not keep his promise to donate the Dürer drawings to the National Gallery in Washington but asked its director John Walker to buy them. When Walker turned him down, the Prince put the drawings up for sale through dealers in London and New York. Together with seven other Dürer drawings of the Lubomirski estate Nude Woman with a Staff was acquired by the London art dealer P& D. Colnaghi & Co. in London on November 30, 1954 [list of Colnaghi acquisitions; NGC curatorial file].

[7] See note [6]. In spring 1955, Colnaghi had acquired six more Dürer drawings from the Lubomirski estate. In April/May the firm staged an exhibition for the drawings [“Old Master Drawings.” P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London, April 21– May 25, 1955]. Nude Woman with a Staff was included in the sales catalogue as no. 28. The National Gallery of Canada purchased the drawing at Colnaghi's on May 12, 1955 [Invoice, NGC curatorial file].

[8]Nude Woman with a Staff officially entered the National Gallery's collection on November 3, 1955 [Accession Log, NGC curatorial file]. The funds for its purchase were raised by Joseph H. Hirshhorn and a group of his friends and associates [NGC curatorial file].

Provenance completed

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