The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has added two distinct busts to its collection.
The first is a 16th century Renaissance terracotta bust of St. John the Baptist by Italian sculptor Benedetto da Rovezzano.
The bust has a particularly colorful history; it was one of the works the Nazis intended to be a part of Hitler’s never-realized Führermuseum, a collection of the most important masterpieces in Western art.
According to a release from the MIA, the bust was close to being destroyed by the Nazis at the end of World War Two if it were not for some heroic efforts by the U.S. Army, and some Austrian art lovers.
The bust was ultimately hidden in a cache of Nazi-looted masterpieces…in the Altaussee salt mines in Austria, one of several Nazi storage sites. When Hitler’s second-in-command August Eigruber realized the Axis powers would lose the war, he ordered the mine destroyed. The mine director, the mine foreman, and the miners–whose families had earned their livelihoods from the mines for generations–created an elaborate plan to save the mines and the precious art inside. They removed inactivated Nazi bombs and set off their own carefully controlled explosions that sealed 137 tunnels in the mine, rendering the salt and the art protected yet inaccessible. The Rovezzano bust was saved and, ultimately, returned to the Netherlands.
In addition, the MIA has purchased a more modern work – a 1902 bust of composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Created by Franz von Stuck, the bust is one of many portraits made at the height of his popularity.
According to the MIA, the bust is remarkable for its visual representation of the mood of Beethoven’s music, evoked by both the expression on Beethoven’s face and the intense colors.
Images courtesy the MIA