Installed in a sterling silver and hardwood construction cigar case marked "46" and "STERLING 925 JP" (likely the mark of Josef Pauser) on the underside, 6 3/4 inches long, 3 3/8 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches deep, the watercolor is set beneath a 4 5/8 inch long and 3 inch wide glass panel in the lid. Bearing the signature "A.Hitler/'10" in the lower left hand corner, the painting is a European street scene in spring or summer, with a set of wispy white clouds in a light blue sky and a tall church steeple in the background. In a first for Hitler art at Rock Island Auction actual people, specifically a woman with a basket and apron walking down the street towards the viewer, a man in a blue coat standing off to the left, and a man and woman atop a staircase to the right. Overall the scene favors browns and greens in its palette, with additional purple and blue accents and some black ink detailing. Though the precise location is not verified, this scene appears to be one of Vienna, Austria, Hitler's home from around 1905 to 1913. Originally an aspirant to the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, Hitler was shot down twice, being told that while his work with people was not up to snuff, his structural work was good, and suggested that he pursue a career in architecture. Unfortunately for Adolf (and several million other Europeans), he had abandoned his schooling to pursue fine art and would not have the academic foundation to make it into an architectural school. Hanging on in Vienna for several years afterward he continued to paint, mostly small and crude works jotted off quickly to be traded for goods and services. After World War I, Hitler's entry into national politics resulted in a sharp increase in public interest in Hitler art, not to mention encouraging less reputable artists to start grinding out "Unknown Hitler Originals" for a quick and unethical buck. In 1935, he put together a team of academics to run down and reclaim his art, purge the fakes, and bring the legitimate pieces to him for judgement. Looking at his old works, many of them were condemned as embarrassments and destroyed, but the ones he approved of were destined to be presented as gifts to subordinates and comrades. Among the items included with the lot is a letter on the letterhead of Ilsebill Todt, daughter of Nazi production chief Fritz Todt. This undated letter, addressed to a "Thomas" who was working with the Todt family on a film project, informing him that she intended to present this box and painting to him next they met as a token of thanks. Describing the art as a scene from the "Early Time in Vienna", she calls out the vague, unclear nature of the two figures on the stairs. An engineer by training, Fritz Todt came to Hitler's attention in 1932, advocating a national highway system to re-energize the German economy. When Hitler took supreme power shortly afterwards, he tapped Todt to put his plan into action, resulting in the world famous Autobahn. The network of industries and organizations Todt brought together to make the Autobahn happen would be dubbed Organization Todt by Hitler, and shift their focus to military projects, most famously the Siegfried Line on the French border and the Atlantic Wall along the English Channel. As well as the rebuilding of infrastructure destroyed in Russia's "scorched earth" retreat on the Eastern Front. At the same time, he was also responsible for overall war production as the Reichs Minister for Armaments and Ammunition. In 1942, following a meeting with Hitler at the "Wolf's Lair" command center, Todt was killed in a plane crash, leaving Albert Speer in charge of both war production and his namesake outfit. Also included with the case and watercolor are the following items. 1) A leather-bound binder containing a copy of the book "Fritz Todt: Der Mensch, Der Ingenieur, Der Nationalsozialist (The Man, The Engineer, The Nazi)" bearing a stamp from Todt's family library inside the cover, a photo of the watercolor and case, the letter from Ms. Todt with translation, photographs of Todt and his family, and a postcard, calling card and envelope from Ms. Todt. 2) A custom hard case fitted to the cigar box, with thick padding and a cloth cover for the glass. 3) a large black folio containing the February 1942 edition of "Frontarbeiter OT", the Org. Todt newsletter, covering the events of Todt's death and state funeral, a copy of a vintage wood block print of the inner court of the castle Plassenburg, and a photograph of Todt in the same courtyard.
The case is good, with a mixed aged color on the silver and some mild staining of the wood. The magazine shows some light tears and creasing, and the other paper items with the lot are very good. The painting is very good*, showing strong color and little evidence of wear and handling. As there is no readily obvious method to dismount the watercolor from the case, no inspection of the edges or backside has been made, and for the safety of the items in the lot no such inspection will be attempted. *NOTE: This is purely a statement on the physical condition of the item, not an assessment of its technical, artistic, aesthetic, or moral elements. Whether this is a "very good" painting by any other standard of measurement is entirely up to the individual viewer.
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