A Branch with Shrivelled Leaves was a finely executed pen and ink over pencil made while the artist was in Vienna in 1817. It was previously part of the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett’s collection before it was restored to the heirs of Dr Marianne Schmidl (1890-1942) in August this year.
Since 2013, museums have returned over a dozen artworks to the family.
The 4 x 11in (9 x 26cm) signed sketch of decaying leaves was one of several of the celebrated drawings on vellum drawn by the Nazarene group of artist’s that Schmidl had sold under duress in 1939.
As part of the restitution agreement, a similar drawing from the series – Friedrich Oliver’s (1791-1859) Shrivelled Leaves – will remain in the Kupferstichkabinett’s gallery.
At the sale held at Bassenge auction house in Berlin on November 25, A Branch with Shrivelled Leaves drew strong competition against an estimate of €450,000. Attracting multiple bidders, it came down to a battle between two private collectors from the US and was eventually knocked down at €1.7m (£1.44m). The price was an auction record for the artist.
Auctioneer David Bassenge said the buyer is a specialist collector of 19th century German Romantic drawings.
In 2014 Bassenge sold two other Schmidl family drawings that had been in the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett for decades prior to restitution. One was Schnorr’s pencil portrait of Friedrich Olivier, aged 25 that sold at €650,000 (£515,875) and held the previous record for the artist.
The buyer’s premium was 23%.
£1 = €1.18