Inna Rogatchi
War & Humanity Special Project

Tiepolo and the Nazis: Crime Without Punishment. Part III

Inna Rogatchi (C). Holocaust Travelling I. History Shadows series. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, lapice pastel, encre l'alcool, crayons Luminance on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 70 x 70 cm. 2019.
Inna Rogatchi (C). Holocaust Travelling I. 2019.

The Unexpected Story Behind 245-year-old Painting 

Historical Paradoxes in three parts.

Special publication in commemoration of Yom Ha-Shoah

Part I can be read here

Part II can be read here.

Part III.  The Legacy of Loot: Crimes Without Punishment

With special thanks to inspired and inspiring colleagues: director of Amos Res Museum, Dr Kai Kartio, director of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum-Finnish National Gallery Dr Kirsi Eskelinen, chief curator of the Sinebrychoff Art Museum-Finnish National Gallery Dr Ira Westergard, researcher at the University of Helsinki Kersti Tainio.

1942 – 1947, Paris-Berlin: the mystery of Domenico Tiepolo masterpiece’s  key-time location is still unsolved

In a serious break-through of their research, the art historians from the Sinebrychoff Art Museum – Finnish National Gallery were able to examine the work by the newest infra-red equipment recently. They saw there the detail of crucial importance – number 1942 very well seen under the infra-red examination but completely unseen by a regular eye. That fact has provided the experts with the ground for establishing the fact that Mario d’Atri has sold Tiepolo’s The Greeks Sacking Troy modello in 1942. Previously, it was established that well-seen on the frame (19)38 figure marks the time when the work travelled to Chicago for the exhibition. It is a known habit of art dealers to mark the dates of the works in their possession while shipping or changing hands. 

This ‘1942’ mark seen in infra-red most likely solves the issue with potential Jewish ownership of the work, according to all experts with whom I have discussed the matter. 

But it keeps opened the key-question in that almost a century-old, from 1930 onward, drama around a single art-piece: where has it been in the period between 1942, after Mario d’Atri sold it to some of the Germans,  and 1947 when it has been registered by Herbert Ulrich in his inventory, with changed description of the author to ‘an anonymous’ and tearing off the top of the note on the modello’s back with the name of the painter there? 

Domenico Tiepolo. The Greek Sacking Tory. 1773-1775. Oil on canvas. 41 x 55 cm. Finnish National Library – Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki. With kind permission of the Museum.

Who then bought the work from d’Atri in 1942? The more I am looking into this amazing story, the more I am interested in that crucial moment.   

In my view, after serious research has been undertaken, out of the circle of possible buyers, two of them look more potential than the others. On both of them, there are extensive reports prepared by the OSS ALIU, dedicated to them personally, separately, among just a dozen of this kind of personal reports produced by the OSS operatives on the selected major suspects. Those suspects were regarded as the most important ones to come with these reports, initially thought to be the background material for possible prosecution. Some of it had been used during the Nuremberg trial. 

One possible person to have the Domenico Tiepolo’s modello from d’Atri  would be notorious Austrian Nazi Kajetan Muhlmann. The report on him was prepared by the OSS ALIU intelligence unit as number 8 out of 15 personal reports. Three of the prepared reports, including the report on Muhlmann, were not published, and there is a good reason to investigate in detail why. Still, the material of the report does exist.  

Not only Dr Kajetan Muhlmann whose role in plotting the Anschluss from inside was major, benefited hugely being the first appointed Minister for Fine Arts in the post-Anschluss Austria, and having the leading role in total confiscation of art from Jews and anti-Nazi nobility – as Prince Schwarzenberg family was. Later on, he was appointed by Göering personally to be in charge with virtual looting of entire Poland, and later on, entire Holland where richness of art treasures required the establishing of a special Muhlmann Agency – of the loot, of course . 

That beast was in the position in the Third Reich that had allowed him to dispute with Hitler over the Hitler’s manner to travel with some of the looted Durer’s originals of which Adolf was fancy, insisting that it is his, Dr Muhlmann’s ultimate responsibility over the safety of the looted art treasures is, and that he was objecting herr fuhrer’s self-indulgent way of endangering the art treasures.  Hitler never liked the man.

It is established by the OSS documents that d’Atri has dealt with Muhlmann.  Additionally to that, my attention was attracted to the fact that Muhlmann and d’Atri both knew and dealt with and via Gottlieb Reber,  active and authorised by the Nazis German art dealer who during the war lived and operated in between Switzerland, France and Italy, and whose special mission was to organise buying for nothing and looting art from Italy to the Nazi Reich. I decided to have a closer look into Reber’s connections and activities. 

Reber was also a close working contact of art-dealer d’Atri and might help him to reroute illegal under the French law dealings with the Soviet representatives in the early 1930s. 

My attention was alerted by two things: during the war, Gottlieb Reber was on a special mission from the Reich to bring there Italian art treasures, so the work by Tiepolo-son would be very much in the centre of his interest, and he was the perfect person to stash the work with, as Muhlmann was doing with he works which were left in his possession. It was established by the OSS investigators that in the post-war chaos, Muhlmann succeeded to hide quite many of the looted art treasures that he appropriated in a typical gangster way, and then he was gradually selling them via trusted dealers to live on, to sustain himself and many of his girl-friends, including another Hitler’s hysterical but calculative acolyte Leni Riefenstahl. The system worked perfectly well for Muhlmann and his harem for several years, well into the 1950s.   

Muhlmann, in an almost exceptional way, did not cooperate with the OSS and ALIU, and have had a sore relationship with them. Co-operating for a very short time initially, he then changed his attitude and decided not to cooperate, not to disclose, but to confront and to disdain.

It is known to art historians that he was very careful with scheduling the appearance of the looted art in his possession that he  managed to hide. In theory, the time gap between 1944-45 and 1947 when the Tiepolo’s work re-surfaced at the Herbert Ulrich gallery could be explained as responding to the Muhlmann’s mode of slowly picking up and trading his hidden art treasures from the vaults like the one of Reber’s in neutral and so very convenient Switzerland. 

Inna Rogatchi(C). Insomnia. Homage to Primo Levi. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, encre a l’alcool, perle de jaune on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 50 x 70 cm. 2010-2016-2020.

However, there is another person among that despicable bunch of the Nazi art looters whom I tend to think about as the most plausible buyer of The Greeks Sacking Troy from Mario d’Atri in 1942 in Paris. I have researched this aspect in detail. 

Maria-Almas Dietrich was both an exceptional and typical character in the mixed realities of the Third Reich.  We know about her because of the detailed material gathered by the OSS and aimed for their special report dedicated to her exclusively. That report was numbered as 13th among 15 prepared personal reports. In her case, similarly to the case of the report on Muhlmann, it was not published, but the materials of it do exist. 

The importance of Dietrich is illustrated by the fact that among 2000 personalities collected by the ALIU investigators as being actively involved in the Nazi looting of art, only fifteen of them were selected as the important subjects to complete an individual reports about. 

That woman without proper art education managed to compensate for the luck of it by her connections. She who owned a rather unremarkable small antique shop in Munich has had a close relationship with Eva Braun and has managed to get as close to Hitler personally, as one can. 

She also has had a long liaison with Heinrich Hoffmann, official photographer and close personal friend of Hitler whom Hitler trusted personally so much that he did appoint him, the person without art education, to supervise the Reich art policy from its beginning in the mid-1930s. From that time on,  Hoffmann’s role in the Nazi mass art looting was huge. It was Hoffmann who introduced  his acquaintance Dietrich to his boss Hitler in 1936. 

As it often happened in the case of the individuals around Hitler, personal chemistry was a defining factor in many otherwise  irrational arrangements that he has maintained. When Hitler started to become an art collector, at that stage yet in a personal capacity, it was Dietrich who was shuttling between Munich and Berlin proposing the first subjects for his private collection to him. She tried hard and was always at hand.

It is important to understand the personal and psychological background of the monsters-in-action, otherwise humanity always would foolishly repeat its own mistakes. Hitler felt psychologically comfortable with both Hoffmann and Dietrich. To a certain degree,  it was because of the deficiency of their all’ proper art education, and the general education, too, for that matter. He felt at home with people like that, and with two those individuals, in particular. His trust in loyal them originated in this psychological comfortability, born out of  evenness of under-educated minds. And corresponding art tastes, not the least. 

Unlike many of my historians and writers colleagues, I never was surprised by the most known Hitler’s phrase regarding art, with what he has stamped the pride of human genius blatantly: “ I will not tolerate unfinished art!”  As pathetic as it is, he meant it. Because he was willing, but never an artist at all. He was a very limited copyist at very best. The same as press photographer Hoffmann was not a fine photographer at any stage, and the same as specialising in repaired Turkish rugs Dietrich was not an expert in antiques and art whatsoever.

Later on, Dietrich was authorised to buy the looted art for Hitler directly, being the only person who was permitted to act on her own, without otherwise mandatory approval of any purchase by either the director of the planned  Linz Art Museum Hans Posse  or Martin Bormann. She was also the person who managed to sell the highest number of artworks to the Hitler personal art collection. 

Inna Rogatchi (C). Moment V. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, lapice pastel, encre a l’alcool, Chinese red paste on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 70 x 50 cm. 2016-2020.

To understand the shock and enormous damage that the Nazis imposed on world culture, the damage that still lasts until this day, 80 years since this criminal assault has started, it is also important to see the process through its stages.  In my understanding, it can be divided into four characteristic stages: the first, initial assault of culture by the Third Reich machinery from 1933 to 1937, the second, domineering racial principle in art from 1937 to 1939, the third, mass art tooting from 1939 to 1945, and the fourth, hiding the art Assets from 1945 to 1950. I do think that there should be also the fifth stage, from 1950 onward, defined as post-Nazi assault of the looted art.  Frankly, it is mind-blowing that the process is still going on.  

The art looting by the Nazis was such a vast operation that it has to be compartmentalised, with implementing a rather inflexible system  of vetoing. There was the art looted for Hitler personal art collection, the art looted massively for his dreamed Linz Art Museum, the art looted for Göering personal art collection, the art looted for the Reich art depositary, and so on. All these destinations of looting, so to say, were conducted distinctively separately, with special funding for each of them. 

The special system by the officials too well known for their skills in applying a method to anything, from railways planning to transport a giant amount of their victims to counting golden teeth thorn from the mountains of still warm corps, was introduced also to deal with mountains of looted art. Special institutions, such as Fuhrer Art Deposit had had a priority in the process of sorting the amassed heist of world culture out. 

Inna Rogatchi (C). View From the Past II. History Shadows series. Watercolour, oil pastel, wax pastel, lapice pastel, crayons Luminance, encre l’alcool, Chinese red paste on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 50 x 70 cm. 2011-2020.

In the Nazi war against culture, all designated looted art middlemen had to provide their proposals to the certain Nazi officials in charge of vetoing the process which was conducted through fixed and inflexible machinery. The process was conducted on each of the directions, for each of the collections. In the case of Hitler, his personal art collection soon enough   was run closely in parallel with his maniac project for the Linz Art Museum, the designated officials for approval of any object were Posse and Bormann. For all the others, including educated gangster Dr Muhlmann, except a close fuhrer’s trustee, uneducated frau Dietrich.

Enjoying a special favour of the fuhrer, Dietrich also has had easily accessible funds for her frenetic shopping sprees.  Being far from an expert, she bought art based on her own taste and understanding of an owner of a second-class antique shop in Munich. 

When Nazis occupied France and celebrated their unbelievable luck of being the feared masters of Paris, for many of them just this thought alone was having a champagne-like effect psychologically. It is known that Dietrich was enjoying herself in Paris overwhelmingly, with all her Bavarian crudity. She just could not have enough of it, and has become the talk of the town in no time. 

Dietrich was shuttling between Germany and Paris non-stop, and lived there in a vulgar way of a self-appointed bossy celebrity overwhelmed by power and champagne. She also did  run through the art galleries in Paris regularly, emptying them efficiently. 

Two moments registered in the OSS documents regarding Dietrich got my special attention: in Paris, most frequently she visited the galleries located on rue la Boetie. And she bought quite many modelli – for the same reasons that they were popular from the time of Tiepolo and  thereafter – easy  to transport, of a manageable size, and still commanding high prices being original artworks executed in oil on canvas and by old masters. 

The map of Paris prepared for the Nazi Germany troops before the invasion. Commons Images Library.

Another important consideration is that it is also quite plausible  that d’Atri was able ‘to feed’ his false attribution of the work, with its switched authorship and date, to that under-educated art shopaholic much easier than to his other Nazi clients. Of many of those Germans who were hunting the art treasures in Paris and were more professional and better educated, Maria-Alma Dietrich was the type who would not know the difference neither between father and son Tiepolo’s manners, or between the distinctions of XVII and XVIII centuries in nuances of Venetian art . 

So, in theory, she could be easily deceived by d’Atri, bought The Greeks Sacking Troy from him and brought it to Berlin in 1942. Hitler might be not that impressed by rather dark work which needed a restoration, thus leaving frau Dietrich with the work in her hands before she passed it to Heinrich Ulrich, selling it to him or leaving it with him on commission for possible sale. Ulrich’s imposing gallery was in Berlin at least until 1944 when it was bombed, and was located just around the corner, eight minutes walk, from the Hitler’s Chancellery where Dietrich was a regular visitor.  

With regard to Nazi-registered art gallerist Ulrich, Dr Ira Westergard has noticed in our conversations: ‘ I found it clearly suspicious that Ulrich did register the work in his inventory quite late, in 1947, obviously just before he would send it off as the work of ‘an anonymous’ artist to Finland in 1948. There must be something ( suspicious) in this fact’. I quite agree. 

Analysing all pro and contra-s of the case, given the kind of art that has been in the possession of Muhlmann, and his professional awareness of periods and masters, I tend to think that in 1942 in the occupied Paris, it might be that it was rather uneducated and sporadic frau Dietrich whom d’Atri could fool over The Greeks Sacking Troy work’s date and its author, it well may be her who was  frequent at his gallery at 23, rue Boetie, and who bought modelli regularly. My bet is on Dietrich as a likely Nazi buyer of the Tiepolo’s work from d’Atri in Paris in 1942.

According to my line of thinking, when Ulrich resumed his business as early as in 1946, he was in need to clear his stock from problematic pieces. Authored by Tiepolo-son modello previously from the Hermitage collection, importantly, – about which Ulrich must knew due to the popularity of the German Pantheon magazine, it was a must reading among professionals – the work  that he possibly got from nobody else but the personal provider of looted art to Hitler, was undoubtedly a very undesirable asset to own under the circumstances. 

Berlin after the fall. May 1945. Commons Images Library.

The savvy German dealer active during a war-time sacrificed the work’s ownership, physically too, tearing the top of the note on the back of the frame off, and sent the work to Finland, where it was left unrecognised on a private wall for 48 years. 

Who would expect that a half of a century later, in a distant Finland 30-something Kai Kartio would possess a required intuition, professional curiosity, and expert approach to know where to check on the  provenance  of a dark obscure work? 

I am so glad that for all their nasty cunningness and shocking escape of justice, the Nazi artsy scoundrels were proven wrong in their arrogant calculations, does not matter that it happened decades later. With this kind of public knowledge on this kind of public crime, there are no time limitations. 

 Germany, Austria, 1945-1950s: crimes without punishment.  

Every time when I am coming in my studies to the period of 1945-1950, and a bit later, into the 1950th, in the connection with different aspects of the Second World War and Holocaust, would it be unspeakable crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis and their collaborators in the concentration camps, Holocaust planning and executing with such enthusiasm all over Europe, massive operation of  art looting at every possible and impossible corner, all those big and small, methodic and sporadic intimidations en masse, when I am researching in detail the situation after the war, with that unbelievable success of so many of the Nazis and their collaborators in escaping the punishment, I inevitably come to that powerfully distorted balance of good and evil. In that outcome, good was shrank terribly and evil was laughing big. Even after the defeat of the Third Reich. Namely, after that defeat. And to me, this question is still open. 

Inna Rogatchi (C). Broken Lives II. History Shadows series. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, lapice pastel, encre a l’alcool on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 50 x 70 cm. 2012-2020.

We know the facts and still I cannot accept it. The OSS special unit on the Nazi looted art ALIU was preparing the documentation for possible prosecution of the main Nazi officials who were tasked with the cultural war of an unprecedented scale. How many of them have been prosecuted? None. All of them were briefly detained, questioned, interrogated, and released. All of them were living the years after the war out of the stashes of the looted art that was left in their possession, with most recognisable artworks being hidden and dispersed among their trusted accomplices mainly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and some of it in Spain. 

Göering’s personal art provider Hofer, despite being convicted by the French military court in absentia to ten years of imprisonment, never spent a day behind the bars. Instead, he was  nicely and profitably keeping his art dealership business in Munich until his death in 1971.  He did not even need to bother to try the rat-line to escape to Latin America, as many of his Nazi colleagues did.  You see, Munich seemed to be too far from the French border, in the eyes of the post-war French authorities, in a giant distance of 350 km. 

France also did not look into the dealings of the one of the most close to the Nazis dealers Mario d’Atri, who was never charged with anything and who is believed to sell his business, its Parisian part,  at his pleasure in the 1960s. There are some indications that d’Atri was benefiting from his Italian citizenship and retreated there during the hot first period after the end of war, but then was able to maintain his business as he pleased well into the 1960s. 

D’Atri’s major client Marie-Almas Dietrich was similarly happily running her antique store in Munich as well, until her death at the same year as Hofer’s, 1971, with her daughter – who was that special connection of Dietrich to Eva Braun – continuing  the family business thereafter. They did it as practically all the families of the notorious Nazi art looters, middlemen and dealers did. Too many goods to handle, clearly – but the point here is that they all were allowed to do it. 

In a  jaw-dropping arrogance, Dietrich’s antique shop at Odeonplatz in Munich, that has become an art gallery of course, has been promoted by the art organisations and professional media in Germany as ‘the one of the leading art galleries in Munich’ in the 1970s, alongside with similar establishments owned by many of Dietrich’s pals and some rivals from their happy Nazi days. 

Dietrich’s patron who introduced her to Hitler, the close friend of the fuhrer, member of the NDSA  number 59 from its earliest days in 1920,  and a major figure in the Nazi art looting process, Heinrich Hoffmann was sentenced by the Allies to the devastating punishment of four years of imprisonment – after which, in 1956,  he did manage to return to himself and his family ‘his’ personal art collection by the decision of the Bavarian Financial Ministry. Hoffmann collection was not only known to be assembled of the looted art. It has been put into scrupulous inventory by the OSS ALIU officers in its entirety in preparation of its planned confiscation. That closest Hitler associate has been officially designated by the Allies  as ‘major offender’ regarding the Nazi art looting process. That designation had a legal meaning as well – implication for complete confiscation of his art looted collection.  

But Hoffmann, as many other senior Nazis, had an arrogance – and reasons, importantly – to fight for his rights in astonishing defiance. They all did it because they were provided with many reasons – legal, human, social – in the realities of post-war Germany to be allowed to do that, successfully. 

The decision of the Bavarian authorities came two years after Hoffmann was released from his terrible four-years imprisonment, in 1956. The most charming moment there is the disarming phrasing of the decision: “the all art objects (belonging to Hoffmann) under administration of the Bavarian State Paintings Collections to be turned over to Mr. Heinrich Hoffmann, Nazi Party photographer.” ( as cited in the Steffen Winter’s article on the topic in Der Spiegel magazine back in 2013). What is yet more charming is the fact that in black on white, the decision has been referred to as being conducted ‘in the process of (Hoffmann’s) denazification’. Should we invent some new term for ‘a total astoundment’, perhaps? If so, I know where to look. 

Inna Rogatchi (C). We Remember. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, lapice pastel, encre a l’alcool, Chinese red paste on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 50 x 70 cm. 2014-2016-2020.

The one of the most serious criminals of the Third Reich, Kajetan Muhlmann who was ranked Nazi officer, also died there in Munich in 1958 of natural causes escaping prosecution in a mind-blowing defiance of any remnant of any norms of civility of the German and international post-war establishment. This is despite him being tried in absentia by both Poland and Austria, and despite all active efforts by the both countries for his extradition, from also oh-so-very far from Vienna, South Bavaria. The escape of the punishment by Muhlmann in particular is qualified by leading art historians as ‘unbelievable failure of justice’ ( prof. John Petropoulus, 2016). 

I think there is more in that. It is also an unbelievable failure of the common sense, total perversion of fairness, and a qualified change of the qualities and sustainability of the nature of civility. And in this, the damage caused by the Nazism, the Nazis and their collaborators to mankind is of an existential character, to this very day.  

It is telling to see this screaming phenomenon by the inner look of the decent German journalist:  “No one likes to talk about this enormous cache of Nazi treasure, partly because of a feeling of guilt for possessing assets that are often of unclear provenance: Art objects acquired from Jewish collections that were sold off in a panic after 1933, or that were simply taken from their rightful owners before they disappeared into concentration camps” –  Steffen Werner wrote in his “A Nazi Legacy Hidden in German Museums” investigative report – no, not in 1956, but in 2013. 

Inna Rogatchi (C). Holocaust Travelling I. History Shadows series. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, lapice pastel, encre l’alcool, crayons Luminance on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 70 x 70 cm. 2019.

No wonder that when I found myself in Munich while working on some of my historical projects, in a few hours of landing at the place I developed a persistent and rapidly worsening medical condition: I could not breath. Instead of working there for a week, as it was planned,  overnight I had to relocate and continued to work from Zurich. I still remember how I ran from there, dreaming in agitation that the train to Zurich would have a double engine.  

Many years ago, as soon, as I have started to research Holocaust, I knew that the Second World War did not finish in May 1945, but instead it was going on with open wounds and unhealed scars for many millions people world-wide for at least 15 years after it. 

Simon Wiesenthal once said to me recalling his sentiments in the early 1960s: “We were sitting with a couple of friends, and I’ve said aloud that all of us knew and felt: “We won the war, but the Nazis won the post-war”

When I heard it from Wiesenthal for the first time in the early-1990s, I was so stricken that I do remember the episode from over 25 years ago as if it happened today. 

The more I learn from the post-WWII period on many of its aspects, the closer I get in my mind and feelings towards the small group of survivors sitting with Simon and Cyla Wiesenthal around the table in their modest apartment in Vienna in the early 1960s. 

The unspeakable horror of the Shoah and all the crimes committed during the six years of utter nightmare in 1939-1945 has been transformed into unspeakable inner pain of stunned people all over the world who were facing laughing Nazis  and their collaborators  living as nothing ever happened. I find this post-war period of the Second World War as an under-appreciated tragedy and massive abuse of humanity which lasted far too long and which had never been addressed properly – not legally, not socially, not culturally, not in any way, still today.

Among the heart-wrenching drawings made, still in a camp barracks, by miraculously surviving  37-old architect Simon Wiesenthal who was barely able to walk being a literal walking corps, there is  one especially poignant. During the whole 76-year post-war period, it has been published just twice, in 1945 in a very modestly published brochure, and then forty years later, in 1995, in a commemorative album, both publications of a very limited circulation. To the best of my knowledge, it had not been published in the media before. Now I am publishing it for the third time, entrusted by Simon during the years of our joint work and cordial friendship.  

Simon Wiesenthal (C). Welt, Gib Antwort! Drawing. 1945.

Wiesenthal has told me how he felt, still on the border of life and death, after the liberation of Mauthausen where he drew the collection of these screaming 25 pictures. After the years of horror of annihilation he lived through, as many millions, he had some questions to ask, he said to me, on behalf of his own 89 members of the family murdered by those admirers of ‘finished’ art, and all the millions of annihilated people, Jews and not. So he added short comments to his drawings. 

In the case of this drawing, the last in his collection, its title and comment was this: “Welt, gib Antwort! Vielleicht bist du auch mitschuldig?” ( World, give an answer! Maybe, you are also complicit?). I always wonder that Simon and all those people on behalf of whom he drew that scream and asked that question never got the real answer, in all its honesty. And this absence is the essence of post-war history. 

The matter of the staggering amount of the Nazis and their collaborators who enjoyed such an unbelievable, such successful and such blatant escape of punishment and who did mock the very term of justice to its core  is a separate and in my opinion, very important theme to continue to research and to publish the books, the studies, to produce films about. We ought to do it until the task of telling the truth on non-applied justice to the Nazi beasts will be  fulfilled in its full scale. Otherwise, humanity will never prevail.    

Helsinki & London, 2020-2021: reflections of the united triptych

Coming back to the word of art, the unification of all the parts of Domenico Tiepolo’s series on Trojan Horse that has happened at the Tiepolo exhibition in Helsinki in the autumn 2020-winter 2021 at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum does look different in the light of the restored saga of believed to be lost part of the series. To make it happen, it really needed so many factors to coincide: resurfaced work 25 years ago, its identification and re-discovery, ideas and possibilities of exhibiting all three parts together, multiplied circumstances related not only to the two main cultural institutions  in question, the UK National Gallery in London and the Finnish National Gallery, but also to plans and activities of several more leading and very busy international museums in Italy, Russia, Sweden and Denmark. 

Domenico Tiepolo. Three-part series on the theme of the Trojan Horse. 1773-1775. Shown together in public for the first time in 203 years at the Tiepolo: Venice in the North exhibition in Helsinki, Sinebrychoff Art Museum. With kind permission of the Museum. Photo: Hannu Pakarinen.

It needed that essentially important research of the work’s provenance – and when one embarks on the journey of this sort, it is extremely time consuming, especially if the case is the work which is 245-years-old. It also depends on resources, the will of your counterparts all over the world, existing – or not – documentation, and , very importantly, luck. And the most importantly, I would add inspiration and a team spirit to that. There are few natural forces in this world which are comparable with the drive of inspired art historians, take it from me. 

From this perspective, perhaps, it is not that surprising that the way of the Tiepolo’s re-discovered piece in Helsinki took almost 25 years to be united at the exhibition with the other two parts from the same series. It was a dizzy feeling to look on those works all together, in the way in which they were conceived by Domenico Tiepolo in Venice back in 1773-1775. 

Inna Rogatchi (C). Venetian Reflections X. Venice Diary series. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, encree a l’alcool, perle le blanc on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 110 x 80 cm. 2020.

The staggering fact of the display in Helsinki in 2020-2021 is that it was the very first museum exposition of the series since  Domenico Tiepolo created it 245 years ago. It is known that the three modelli were shown to various patrons of arts, privately, at the time. It is also known that the only public demonstration of the modelli together had occurred 42 years after the series creation, in St Petersburg, at that famous public auction of the Niccolo Leonelli’s possessions in 1817 conducted after his death. The series were demonstrated to the public during the day of auction sales then. 

For the following 203 years, the three parts of the series were never shown to the public again. Until the exhibition Tiepolo: Venice in the North at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum in Helsinki. 

In the mirror of 245-year old  artwork

The art curator who re-discovered the Domenico Tiepolo’s masterpiece in Helsinki in 1996, Kai Kartio has told me recently: “Ever since the moment when I knew for sure what the work was, and what it went through during all those years in the past century, since the Bolshevik revolution in Russia onward, I was thinking so very often that the case is incredible from the point of view of how the one not large work of art has reflected the tragedy of the whole  century, and what a tragic century that was”. 

Similar thoughts and reflections are shared by everyone among my colleagues art historians in Finland, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Austria, France, and the United States who were involved in tracing the destiny of this work at different times and in different contexts of their works. 

Inna Rogatchi (C). History Pages XII. History Pages series. Watercolour, wax pastel, oil pastel, lapice pastel, crayons Luminance, encre l’alcool, Chinese red paste, perle le blanc, perle d’or on authored original archival print on cotton paper. 50 x 70 cm. 2012-2020.

We all came out of this enriching and rewarding experience with the prevailing thought on how tightly our history is connected to art. How unexpectedly it could turn, how closely it does reflect. There is one thing to know about  it in theory, and it is quite another phenomenon to experience it in real life, step by step, putting together a complicated puzzle piece by piece, in what I call art historical detective, or cultural investigation, in practice. What can be more convincing than reconstructed history in faces and destinies? When the art is in question, there is nothing more real than the reflections in its mirror.

Both Domenico’s father Giambattista Tiepolo, his brother Lorenzo and himself were quite a travellers, unusually for the time they lived and created in. I was wondering what they would think of the adventures of the Domenico’s mid-size modelli which has encapsulated not only much of the history well beyond the time when it was  created, but most importantly, the pain and drama of it. 

Tiepolo: Venice in the North exhibition at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum – Finnish National Gallery. Helsinki. 2020-2021. Photo Hannu Pakarinen. With kind permission of the Museum.

The three parts of the original series on Trojan Horse created in Venice in 1775 had been reunited after more than 200 years in our days, in an elegant way. But it was so much more in this unexpected story. 

This Venetian modello depicting the Trojan Horse in the flamboyance and superb craft of Italian masters, has become a witness of unspeakable horrors and tragedies of a totally different period of time. Our  newly obtained knowledge on that  has come thanks to the work of the group of dedicated art historians. Their efforts and our perception of it has made this mid-sized Venetian artwork a bearer of our awakened conscience.  Not a small achievement at all.

About the Author
Inna Rogatchi is author of War & Humanity special project originated in the aftermath of the October 7th, 2023 massacre in Israel. Inna is internationally acclaimed public figure, writer, scholar, artist, art curator and film-maker, the author of widely prized film on Simon Wiesenthal: The Lessons of Survival and other important documentaries on modern history. She is an expert on public diplomacy and was a long-term international affairs adviser for the Members of the European Parliament. She lectures on the topics of international politics and public diplomacy widely. Her professional trade-mark is inter-weave of history, arts, culture and mentality. She is the author of the concept of the Outreach to Humanity cultural and educational projects conducted internationally by The Rogatchi Foundation of which Inna is the co-founder and President. She is also the author of Culture for Humanity concept of The Rogatchi Foundation global initiative that aims to provide psychological comfort to wide audiences by the means of high-class arts and culture in challenging times. Inna is the wife of the world renowned artist Michael Rogatchi. Her family is related to the famous Rose-Mahler musical dynasty. Together with her husband, Inna is a founding member of Music, Art and Memory international cultural educational and commemorative initiative with a multiply projects in several countries. Her professional interests are focused on Jewish heritage, arts and culture, history, Holocaust and post-Holocaust. She is author of several projects on artistic and intellectual studies on various aspect of the Torah and Jewish spiritual heritage. She is twice laureate of the Italian Il Volo di Pegaso Italian National Art, Literature and Music Award, the Patmos Solidarity Award, and the New York Jewish Children's Museum Award for Outstanding Contribution into the Arts and Culture (together with her husband). Inna Rogatchi was the member of the Board of the Finnish National Holocaust Remembrance Association and is member of the International Advisory Board of The Rumbula Memorial Project ( USA). Her art can be seen at Silver Strings: Inna Rogatchi Art site -
Related Topics
Related Posts