A painting that was banned by the Nazis and then lost for 80 years has sold for almost €7million (£6m) at auction.

Tanz im Varieté was painted by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, an artist who was included on the Nazis’ “degenerate art” list, which resulted in hundreds of pieces of art being seized.


The painting, which is dated to 1911, shows a black man and a white woman dancing at a party. The pair are thought to be doing the cakewalk, a dance popularised by African-American dancers at the beginning of the century.

It was last exhibited in 1923, before it shortly disappeared from the scheme.

A painting that was believed lost for 80 years after it was banned by the Nazis has been sold at auction for €7m Ketterer Kunst auction house

Until now, the piece of art had only been seen in black-and-white photographs taken by Kirchner. Its whereabouts was unknown until its owners put it up for sale at Munich auction house Ketterer Kunst.

In what art historians are describing as a “sensation”, the 120cm by 145cm canvas, has been revealed to have been owned by a jewellery designer in Nazi Germany, who kept it hidden in a crate.

When French troops took the village the following year, the painting was damaged by a bullet which hit the head of the female dancers in the back. Stab marks from a bayonet were made on the canvas.

The soldiers left the painting behind and it was later rescued and restored.

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Its owners put it up for sale at Munich auction house Ketterer Kunst

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Over 30 years later, the owner gave it to their children on his 75th birthday, telling them to return it to the public in the future.

A spokesperson for Ketterer Kunst auction house said: “More than 100 years have passed since the painting was last published. Now it is back.

“Tanz im Varieté can finally take its rightful place in art history.”

Despite the visible damage to the painting, it still sold for an eye-watering sum at Ketterer Kunst last week.

Another of Kirchner's paintings - Sertig Valley in Autumn

Another of Kirchner’s paintings – Sertig Valley in Autumn

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner,

Kirchner died in 1938 in what was believed to be suicide at the time, however, historians speculate if this is true

Wikipedia

The sale exceeded the auction house’s expectations by fetching €6,958,000 (£5,875,509) – more than double than the €2m estimated.

“The work has literally been waiting in the wings of art history for a century to step into the limelight,” the auction house said.

Tanz im Varieté is a “is a homage to the golden age of entertainers who, before the First World War, sent audiences into ecstasy with their show dances”.

Kirchner died in 1938 in what was believed to be suicide at the time, however, historians believe that someone – with theories ranging from a neighbour or a local Nazi – shot him in the head.