Ambrosius Holbein (Augsburg, Germany, ca. 1494–ca. 1520), Portrait of a Girl, ca. 1518. Oil or tempera on fir panel. Gift of Merle J. and Emily N. Trees 1943-1-2

Portrait of a Girl was transferred twice amidst military and political turmoil. It was part of the Austrian imperial collection at Ambras Castle, near Innsbruck, as early as the eighteenth century. During the Napoleonic Wars of the nineteenth century, it was moved to Vienna for safekeeping from plundering soldiers. The painting remained in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum for more than a hundred years, until the advent of another acquisitive conqueror, Adolf Hitler.

Shortly before the 1938 annexation of Austria by Germany, the museum traded the painting to an Amsterdam art dealer. The painting then entered private hands in the United States before coming to the museum, completing its journey from illustrious imperial collection to state collection to university collection.   


Author: Nancy Karrels, doctoral candidate in Art History and guest curator of Provenance: A Forensic History of Art, 2017