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  • Robert M. Edsel

The paintings behind the Monuments Men cover

This is one of the most famous photos of the Monuments Men, and it just so happens to also be the cover photo of The Monuments Men. It was taken in May 1945, and shows Monuments Man Lt. James Rorimer with three soldiers of the Seventh Army carrying three paintings down the steps of the Castle of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany, where they had been hidden by the Nazis.

But have you ever wondered what the three paintings are?

From left to right on the photo above are: Chardin’s Reflected White cat on a black lacquer box with brick-red curtain (1749); Adriaen Brouwer’s Farmers Playing Cards in a Tavern; and Nicolas de Largillière’s Portrait of a Woman.

Both the Chardin and the Largillière belonged to the Rothschild family (their respective ERR numbers are R 1232 and R 437) while Brouwer’s oil painting belonged to the Max Wasserman collection (M.W. 45). All stolen by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) looting organization in France, they were processed through the Jeu de Paume where Rose Valland worked. At the end of the war, they were recovered by the Monuments Men within the walls of the 19th century German castle.

Interestingly, the first image seen in ERR Album 6 is this very Portrait of a Woman by Nicolas de Largillière. Album 6, one of four albums returned to the National Archives by the Monuments Men Foundation, includes images of 73 paintings which represented very early thefts carried out by the ERR. You can read more about Album 6 and and view the presentation here.

You can find more information about these three paintings at

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