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Route, effet de neige, soleil couchant (Road, snow effect, sunset)

Claude Monet

(1840 - 1926)

Date : 1869 | Medium : Oil on canvas, 43 x 65 cm

This painting, completed in 1869, has changed hands often, but has belonged to passionate collectors such as the painter Amand Gautier, its first owner, a friend of Monet, François Depeaux, one of the first collectors of Impressionism, or Max Silberberg, an industrialist from Wrocław in Silesia, who had to sell the painting in 1932 for economic reasons. Between each of these owners, the painting passed through the doors of several of the most famous art dealers: Durand-Ruel, Bernheim-Jeune in Paris and Paul Cassirer in Berlin.

According to the sale records, in 1932 the painting was purchased by a “Mrs Benedict”, who purchased numerous other works; she is noted as “Benedict de Chollet” in other documents, but has never been identified. It is therefore difficult to determine whether she made the purchase in a personal capacity or as an intermediary for a third party.

We lose track of the painting after this last reference.

However, Monet’s work is part of a batch of 28 works that was returned from Germany to France in May 1994. During the occupation, this body of work had been entrusted by an unidentified German officer serving in Paris to an unknown soldier from the Wehrmacht so that the latter could take them to Germany in order to ensure that the works could be recovered at the end of the war. However, the officer never came forward and the soldier kept the paintings. He decided, nonetheless, to hand them over to Monseigneur Heinrich Solbach of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg (former German Democratic Republic) on the basis of a confession, in order for the works to be returned to their legitimate owners. Monseigneur Solbach entrusted the paintings to the National Gallery of East Berlin, and the government ordered them to be covered by absolute secrecy. A few years later, in 1974-1975, the works were included in broader and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations between the German Democratic Republic and France. It was not until the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification that the works were officially returned to France in May 1994. Then, research into the works’ provenance enabled seven of them to be restored to the families who were the victims of despoilment. The others were added to the inventory of MNR works. This is how the Monet from the old Depeaux collection now finds itself temporarily in the Rouen museum, works that were donated by the patron to the Rouen Musée des Beaux-Arts in 1909.