George Clooney didn't actually show up at Sotheby's sales room in New York this week, but his debonair presence floated over the auction of Old Masters anyway. That's because The Monuments Men, his new film opening next Friday, tells the thrilling story of the small squad of art experts who spent the final months of the Second World War risking their lives to rescue thousands of art works and antiquities nabbed by the Nazis. On Thursday, four paintings rescued by the real-life Monuments Men sold at auction – most above their estimated prices. (All figures in U.S. dollars.)
Apollonio di Giovanni
Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus, a Cassone Panel
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
Sold for $701,000 (est. $150,000 to $200,000)This 15th-century work was confiscated from the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild's Château de Ferrières by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the notorious Nazi Party agency charged with plundering cultural treasures, which marked the back of the painting with "BoR 58" to indicate its provenance. It was discovered at the Buxheim Monastery in Bavaria and returned to the Rothschild family in 1946-47.
La Cueillette des Roses and Le Musicien
A pair, both oil on panel
Sold for $581,000 (est. $300,000 to $500,000)Acquired by Baron James Mayer de Rothschild in the 19th century, these 18th-century paintings were confiscated by the ERR and moved to the Jeu de Paume depot in Paris on Nov. 5, 1940, then taken by Hermann Goering for his personal collection. The Monuments Men rescued the pieces from Berchtesgaden and sent them to the Munich Central Collecting Point on Aug. 6, 1945. Later that year, they were returned to the Rothschilds.
Venice, A View of the Piazzetta Looking Towards San Giorgio Maggiore
Oil on canvas
Sold for $233,000 (est. $200,000 to $300,000)Acquired in 1912 by the French banker André Louis-Hirsch, this 18th-century painting was taken from him on Oct. 16, 1941 by the ERR, which wrote "Hirsch 8" on the back. The Monuments Men recovered the piece and sent it to the Munich Central Collecting Point on June 25, 1945. Hirsch reclaimed the piece after May 23, 1946.