Portrait of a Young Man [Raphael]

Clayton Schuster

Sr. Contributor

Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael is the most important artwork that remains missing in the wake of World War II.

The work is likely a self-portrait. If only they'd put out age-adjusted photos, people might be able to identify the young man today. 

It was purchased by the Czartoryski family in Venice in 1801. Once the Czartoryski collection evolved into a proper national museum, Portrait of a Young Man became one of Poland's prized possessions. Until it was stolen by the Nazis alongside 80 other works almost immediately after invasion. The work was hand-picked as personal booty by Hans Frank, the governor-general of Nazi occupied Poland. Frank happened to have stolen a castle to live in for the war's duration, and what's a stolen castle without some stolen masterpieces? However, Frank had a rival in Nazi Vice Chancellor Hermann Goering. Goering valued the Young Man as prized booty, too. Frank and Goering grabbed each other's booty often, trading Young Man throughout the war.

Raphael's displaced portrait has had quite the fictional life since the World War. Polish novelist Zygmunt Miloszewski wrote a bestselling novel titled "Priceless" in which a Polish diplomat secures the painting's return. The painting is featured in a classic Simpsons episode where Bart and his Grandpa try to win a tontine formed between the elder Simpson and Mr. Burns in the wake of WWII. Portrait of a Young Man is part of the cache of paintings that will go to the winner. Young Man is burned by the Nazis at the beginning of the movie "Monuments Men". It's like grandpa always said when we were kids, "If you can't learn about it from a cartoon or George Clooney, it just ain't worth learning."

Portrait of a Young Man [Raphael] is mentioned on Sartle Blog -