The Reich Chancellery, 1939 (Image: German Federal Archives/Wikimedia)
The last time anyone saw Josef Thorak’s “Walking Horses,” in 1989, they were outside of Berlin, in the middle of a sports field at a Soviet barracks in Eberswalde. Whereas once the two sculptures had stood guarding Adolf Hilter’s chancellery, now they had been painted gold and riddled with bullets.
More than a quarter-century later, the horse sculptures turned up again, in southwestern Germany, in the Rhineland Palatinate. They were recently found in a warehouse during a raid looking for black market art. The two sculptures were reportedly being offered for sale at around $5.6 million.
Thorak, who was born in Austria but had a German father, was an official sculptor of the Third Reich—in 1944, the most expensive item Hitler bought was a bust of Nietzsche made by Thorak, historian Jonathan Petropoulos writes in The Faustian Bargain. It’s not clear to what extent Thorak actually believed in Nazism: the SS thought him an “outspoken careerist,” Petropoulous reports. Thorak died in 1952, not so long after the Nazi state fell, but he did succeed in creating art that’s still notable—though not for its artistic merits.
Missing: A selection of rare art—including a Rembrandt etching and a Durer engraving—worth $600,000 all together, from the Boston Public Library’s special collection
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