The painting, looted from the National Museum in Warsaw during the Second World War, was returned to Poland after it was discovered at auction in Germany in 2010. Now fully restored, it is on show as part of the National Museum's permanent collection.
Aleksander Gierymski, "Jewish Woman Selling Oranges", 1880-1881, photograph from the internet site of the Kunst & Auktionshaus Eva Aldag in Buxtehude, Germany
The painting by Aleksander Gierymski, looted from the National Museum in Warsaw during the Second World War, was discovered at auction in Germany in 2010 and returned. Now fully restored, it is now on display in the National Gallery's permanent collection
According to the dealers who recovered the painting, the current owner inherited it from his grandmother, who had married an industrialist and collector from Düsseldorf in 1948 who owned the painting. An agreement was signed on the 15th of July 2011 releasing the painting to Polish authorities and it was taken to the National Museum in Warsaw. Restoration was completed in autumn 2012 and the painting is on display in the permanent exhibition.
Gierymski's Orange Vendor was probably stolen from the National Museum in 1944 as the Germans prepared to retreat after crushing the Warsaw Uprising, and was considered lost. It was discovered at auction in November 2010 at the Eva Aldag Kunst und Auktionshaus, in Buxtehude near Hamburg. The auction catalog described the painting as "probably by Gierymski" and set the opening price at €4,400.
The painting was withdrawn from auction after the intervention of the Polish Culture Ministry and the District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw. Experts declared the painting to be an original Gierymski, and negotiations to return Pomarańczarka / The Orange Vendor (also known as Jewish Woman Selling Oranges) to Poland began in December 2010. The insurer PZU paid an undisclosed sum to compensation the painting's German citizen owner. During a press conference announcing the return of the work, Polish Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski said that "during those long months, my main concern was to have this picture returned to Poland".
National Museum director Agnieszka Morawinska called The Orange Vendor a "priceless masterpiece" and it is one of a few which Gierymski was pleased with, as the artists was rarely content with his works. Its return was a "very special day and a true gift for the museum," she added.
Giermyski painted The Orange Vendor around 1881, one of several works in which he depicted Jewish life in Warsaw. It portrays an old woman in a heavy shawl and cap, her back against a railing, before a hazy, distant panorama of Warsaw. It appears to be set near the present University of Warsaw, with characteristic steeples of the Church of the Holy Cross and the Casimir Palace towers. The woman is busy knitting, and holds two wicker baskets with oranges at her elbows. The painter signed the canvas at the bottom left: A. Gierymski |Warsaw.
The Orange Vendor required thorough, long-term conservation. Numerous cracks were the result of the canvas being rolled up (presumably when it was looted). Other damage had been retouched at some point during its history, and it was covered with a layer of wax, an outdated preservation process that the National Museum restorers removed.
The painting will be a showpiece of the museum's Alexander Gierymski exhibition in 2014.
Source: PAP, www.mkidn.gov.pl, National Museum in Warsaw, Associated Press.