Artworks
The Falconer

Contributor

The Falconer epitomizes that awkward moment when bad people have good taste.  

This painting is doomed to notoriety because of its Nazi connections. It was a birthday present from Hitler to Hermann Goering, and there’s a famous photograph of them admiring it together.  Goering was Hitler’s right hand man, and the mastermind behind the “Rape of Europa,” the mass plundering of artistic treasures under the Nazi regime. He collected $200 million worth of art, much of it stolen from Jews.

Hitler appears to have purchased this legitimately from art dealer Karl Haberstock, who was part of the committee to dispose of so-called “degenerate art” - modernist masterpieces deemed morally or psychologically depraved by the Nazis. Unlike Hitler, Goering understood the commercial value of degenerate art, though he preferred realism. He used expressionist pieces as currency to obtain old master paintings, but at least that’s better than incinerating them as Hitler would have done.  

Goering, being the charmer he was, had a particular fondness for paintings of naked ladies, so this is the rare female in his collection who appears clothed (and quite stylishly, we might add). Hitler, on the other hand, was a bit of a prude. Though he was obsessed with the vivid pubic hair of Adolf Ziegler’s Aryan propaganda nudes. Falcons were a symbol of Nazi power, and Goering kept live falcons at his hunting lodge and was an ameteur falconer himself. The Falconer was mislabeled “Brunhilde” after the famous Valkyrie of Germanic Mythology. Like this lady, Brunhilde was a voluptuous badass.

By a curious coincidence, the artist Hans Makart was an important influence on Gustav Klimt who painted Adele Bloch-Bauer I, popularly known as "The Woman in Gold," which is perhaps the most iconic Nazi-looted painting of all time.  Furthermore, Goering’s wife Emmy ended up with the dazzling diamond necklace that Adele Bloch-Bauer wore in the painting. The incident was the subject of a major motion picture starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.

Aside from the whole Holocaust thing, the Goerings might have been lovable, eccentric millionaires.  He had two pet lions, a private casino and liked to jingle emeralds in his pockets.  She was a glamorous actress and charming hostess. There’s no question they had an awesome collection of (other people’s) art.  If the Smithsonian’s recent scandal with Bill Cosby’s collection has taught us anything, it’s that terrible people can own awesome art.