Fritz Gutmann (1886-1944) was the son of the founder of the private Dresdner Bank. He went on establishing the bank in Amsterdam where he lived with his family. During the 1920s, Gutmann’s collection of art grew considerably, with art ranging from early 15th century to the late 19th century - containing everything from Membling to Degas.

Gutmann had a special interest in the German Renaissance and male portraits in particular. The work in question is the Portrait of John Frederich I, Elector of Saxony Painted in the 1530s, it depicts John Frederich I (1503-1554), electoral prince and Head of the Schmalkaldic League of Germany, in a luxurious attire. John Frederich supported Martin Luther and The Reformation. He is one of the founders of University of Wittenberg. In September 1526, he married Sibylle of Cleves, whom Cranach also painted more than once. This is one of the artist’s most refined portraits of John Frederich, who at the time was one of Cranach’s greatest patrons and a close friend.

During the political turbulence of the 1930s, the Gutmann collection was of high interest for the Nazi leaders. After the German occupation of the Netherlands in May 1943, the Gutmanns were put in house arrest, and the collection was stripped along with the rest of the family’s possessions. Fritz and his wife, Louise, were arrested in 1943 and lost their lives in the camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz the following year.

What happened to the Cranach-portrait after the war is unknown. To track the painting, along with the rest of the lost collection, has been a quest for the following generations of Gutmanns - starting with Fritz and Louise’s children and continued by their heirs.

When the current owner of the portrait came forward, Christie’s played an important part in reuniting the artwork with the heirs of Fritz Gutmann. Simon Goodman, grandson to Fritz, says “I have spent years hunting for this marvellous painting. Among those pieces still missing, from my grandfather Fritz Gutmann’s collection, this was the piece I was the most doubtful of ever recovering. My family are thrilled by its discovery. We are also extremely grateful to the people who brought it forward and to Christie’s for facilitating its return”.

The Portrait of John Frederich I, Elector of Saxony is to be auctioned on Christie’s Old Masters auction April 19th. Simon Goodman has spent many years researching the lost art and successfully recovering many works. He will continue to seek significant artworks belonging to his grandfather’s collection.
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