News Poland

Poland's long-lost Raphael found

Portrait of a Young Man, missing since 1945, reported to be in bank vault

Portrait of a Young Man, around 1513-14, attributed to Raphael

Poland's long-lost masterpiece, attributed to Raphael and feared by many to have been destroyed, has been re-discovered in a bank vault in an undisclosed location.

Portrait of a Young Man, around 1513-1514, from the Czartoryski family collection in Crakow, was confiscated by the Nazis in 1939 for Hitler's Führermuseum, Linz. It disappeared in 1945 shortly before the end of the Second World War.

A spokesman for Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Office for the Restitution of Cultural Goods told the Polish media today (1 August) that he is confident the painting will be returned to Poland. “Most importantly, the work was not lost in the turmoil of the war. It has not been burnt or destroyed. It exists. It is safely waiting in a region of the world where the law favours us,” he said, declining to disclose in which country.

Portrait of a Young Man is Poland's most important work that has been missing since the war. Attempts by the Czartoryski family to find the painting after 1945 were hampered by the fact that Poland was behind the Iron Curtain. In 1991, the family renewed its efforts to find the painting. Although unverified, many art historians believe the subject of the painting is Raphael himself. Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski bought the portrait in 1798 along with Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine, around 1489-90.

UPDATE: In a subsequent statement on its website the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has tried to calm expectations, saying: "We have no information as to where exactly the image is... however, we can confirm that [the ministry] continues to monitor all signals reaching us about the image's location."

UPDATE, 2 AUGUST: Wojciech Kowalski, the Polish foreign minister's plenipotentiary for the restitution of cultural goods, who is an expert on the subject, told The Art Newspaper on 2 August: “Through a reliable source, we have known for some time that the [portrait] is in a bank vault in a certain country. But we do not know the exact location.”

More from The Art Newspaper


7 Aug 12
15:20 CET


Hopefuly it will be another successful return for another important painting stolen from Polish collection. How many of them are 'waiting' in the bank vaults for return to the owners? Solidarity movement finished the communism era isolation of Poland in 1989. Since that time a few paintings, which came back to Poland must be paid off. They never have been return freely, which is a shame. All the best with negotiations, Barbara

6 Aug 12
16:24 CET


Unfortunately, location unknown does not constitute "found". Those who spend any amount of time studying Raphael will invariably hear the bank vault story, the name of a certain family mentioned, and the tales of the European art historians who say they've seen it. Until the object can be produced, its authenticity (as the Czartoryski piece) verified, then contemporary scholars and technicians can begin the process of evaluating its merit as a Raphael work. This must be based on what they see across its layers and support, not just relying on the limited descriptions of previous authors. It is somewhat disconcerting to read [some] modern scholars who continue to gladly verify the work as autograph having only ever seen the extant photographs. Many kind regards H

3 Aug 12
21:59 CET


A very strangely-shaped young man.

3 Aug 12
15:19 CET


This is absolutely fantastic to hear. I had the pleasure to live with the Czartoryski family for a year, and was given a copy of The Lady With An Ermine which we proudly display today. I am still in touch with the family by email and facebook and will share this with them, the fact that I also know, as I assume they must know. I will be anticipating with interest the paintings's safe return to the Czartoryski's museum in Krakow! Thank you for such wonderful news.

3 Aug 12
15:17 CET


I'm intrigued: if the painting has been missing since before the War, how do you have a colour photograph of it? It looks very handsome, but is this a re-creation?

2 Aug 12
20:30 CET


Thanks for your grammatically correct comment Jeffrey, we've updated the text.

2 Aug 12
16:52 CET


I don't believe it was "feared destroyed by many". It was feared, by many, to have been destroyed. ...Although the image of the entire village, carrying torches and storming the castle, motivated by art, is interesting....

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