Museum of Western and Oriental Art in Kiev, also known as the Bogdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Art, has been searching for masterpieces that disappeared from the institution’s art collection during the Second World War for many years. The other day the museum has shared the good news: the Manhattan prosecutor announced his intention to return Pierre Louis Goudreaux painting titled “A Loving Glance” to its rightful owners. A family portrait created by Fragonard’s disciple was found in 2013 at the Doyle auction in New York. The sale was suspended, and the case was transferred to the FBI.
According to the Khanenko Museum of Art, in 1998 Goudreaux painting was included in the catalog of Western European paintings lost during the Second World War, and in 2003 it was added to the electronic version of the catalog. Judging by the provenance posted by the Doyle auctioneers in 2013, after the war the portrait got into a private art collection in London, and in 1953 it was acquired by a collector from Massachusetts. The institution believes that the original appearance of Goudreaux painting in London confirms its belonging to the Kiev museum. That is, because two other museum’s paintings that were lost during the war, also appeared in London. These were “Arcadian Landscape” by Cornelis van Poelenburgh and “Portrait of van der Meer family, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Italy,” painted by Isaac Paling.
Pierre Louis Goudreaux painting, which received the title “A Loving Glance,” was received by the Khanenko Museum in 1925 according to the will of the art collector Vasily Shchavinsky (1868-1923) along with other artworks. It was originally attributed as “A Family Portrait” by French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The museum’s Director for scientific work Sergey Gilyarov questioned the painting’s authorship. He contacted the Curator of the Collections of French Paintings at the State Hermitage Museum Valentin Miller. Miller confidently attributed the picture to Fragonard’s disciple, Pierre Louis Goudreaux (1694-1731), whose artworks are very rare. In 1931, the art piece was included in the new scientific catalog of the museum as Goudreaux painting and became a part of the excursion program. During the war, “A Loving Glance” was not evacuated and was stolen by the retreating Nazi troops in the last days of Kiev’s occupation.
In 2014, during a visit to New York, an employee of the Museum of Western and Oriental Art got access to the painting and detected the Khanenko Museum’s mark on it. Later, Patricia Kennedy Grimsted – a well-known researcher of the displaced fine objects of value – carried out the attribution. She compared the photo of the portrait from the museum archive with the images of the canvasback and the stretcher. Grimsted concluded that even though the canvas was slightly cropped, the photos depicted the same artwork from the Khanenko Museum’s art collection.