ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– If the man and woman in these paintings could talk, the tale they might tell of an incredible journey to St. Louis.
“These are painted on panels so they’re pieces of wood that are painted,” explains Judy Mann the curator of European Art to 1800 at the St. Louis Art Museum.
While their origins begin in the 16th century, their adventure began in the 1940’s when Nazi soldiers stole them.
“They were taken and then stored as many 1000’s of artworks were in these salt mines in Austria,” says Mann.
The new film, The Monuments Men, is based on the true story of a great treasure hunt.
A group of museum directors, artists, architects, curators and art historians worked to save artwork like these portraits by Hans Mielich.
“Who was arguably the most important portrait painter from Munich in the first half of the 16th century,” says Mann. “The 16th century after all was the time in which the Mona Lisa was created, arguably the most well-known portrait. But it’s a beautiful painting that was also in the salt mines of Austria.”
After the paintings were restored to descendants of the original Austrian owners, they were later bequeathed to the St. Louis Art Museum.
“So many portraits of this period were double portraits often commissioned to celebrate a marriage or anniversary or important event,” says Mann. “It’s very likely they were a married couple.”
And now they sit side by side, thanks to an allied effort in world war two.
“I guess as an art historian I love the idea that we have a situation where art historians were the heroes,” says Mann. “They really did a great service in the preservation of so many cultural artifacts.”
Chances are this gentleman and lady would agree.