Beckmann painted several cityscapes during his time in Frankfurt. In this one, he portrayed the characteristic Main panorama on a quiet winter morning under a crescent moon. The view extends from the Untermain Bridge upstream to the Old Town with the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew and the Iron Bridge; the Sachsenhausen bank is on the right. It is not an entirely faithful representation of reality. Beckmann painted the cathedral tower as it looked before the great fire of 1867. His main focus, however, was the river itself and the large sheets of ice floating on it. It lies between the two banks like a dark ribbon.
The painting was once in the collection of the Jewish textile manufacturer Fritz Neuberger (1877–1943), who purchased it from Beckmann in the 1920s. Neuberger and his wife Hedwig (1895–1943), both Jews, were persecuted, deported and, in 1943, murdered by the Nazis in the Majdanek extermination camp. Their only son managed to flee in May 1939; via the Netherlands and the United Kingdom he eventually made his way to the USA. With funds from the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States, the Marga und Kurt Möllgaard-Stiftung and many private donors, the Städelscher Museums-Verein purchased the painting from a private collection in 1994, unaware of the fate of its original Jewish owners. In 2017, within the context of systematic provenance research efforts, the museum association came to a goodwill agreement with the heirs of the Neuberger family, making it possible for the work to remain in Frankfurt. Financial support for the endeavour came from the Federal Republic of Germany's Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.
The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.
Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:
The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.
Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.
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