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I'm neither a history buff not an artist, so I apologise in advance for my poor descriptions.

I have recently come into possession of a painting depicting some naval ships, perhaps 19th century, sailing towards a coastal settlement.

enter image description here

My late grandfather, through whom the painting came into our family, was a member of the German Luftwaffe, stationed in Bavaria and Italy for most of the war, until 1943. I suspect he would have acquired the painting before then, but I can't really be sure. I believe the painting was gifted to him some time in the 1930s-1940s, likely during the war.

I would like to be able to;

  1. Identify the scene being depicted
  2. Identify its painter, and
  3. Identify or guess at its origins, and return it to the decedents of its previous owners if it came into our family by unethical means.

The painting is inside a 100x70cm frame. I can't make out the signature, but have taken a photo of it:

enter image description here

The first word might be Rudi or Rud, but I can't identify the surname. After the name is a number that looks like XXII.

Can anyone identify this painting, or the scene or artist?

  • 4
    That painting looks hastily executed, a bit impressionist. The big three-deck man-of-war looks big, but its stern looks odd, like something from a one-deck fregate drawn at the wrong scale. Are these ships engaging each other? The smoke seems to indicate so, but no flags are being flown, and no damage can be seen. What's the rowing boat doing there? Maybe they just fired a salute for an admiral coming aboard (can't remember if an officer enters the ship on starboard). – David Tonhofer Nov 5 '16 at 21:04
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Based on your reading of the signature I did some googling and can offer the hypothesis (just a guess, really) that the artist might be Rudolf Claudus. He was a naval painter of note who was particularly active in Italy during WWII so the timeline fits well.

I am not any kind of expert on art so I cannot say with any degree of authority whether your picture matches Claudus's style but looking with layman's eyes I think it might.

Perhaps there is more information on Clauus in Italian.

Sources

Some information about Claudus

Google images search for Claudus

A tapestry sale add page which originally led me to Claudus (note that his name is misspelt there as Rudolph Clandus).

  • Your information link on Claudus shows a painting with a matching signature, so looks like a good match. – justCal Nov 5 '16 at 18:06
  • One of the most important European naval artists. Born in 1893 in Austria. At the end of the First World War, he becomes the official painter of Italian Navy. In 1935 Roosvelt commissions him multiple paintings, and so does Queen Elena di Savoia in 1941. A vaste collection of his naval canvas are situated in England too, where he works for the Royal Navy at the end of Second World War. His paintings sell for around $11,0000 – JMS Mar 29 at 23:30
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The painting is definitively from Rudolf Claudus, an Italian Navy officer and a great marine painter.

The number XXII refers to the year 22 of the Fascist Era (starting 29 October 1922), ie 1944.

Your ancestor surely got it when based in Italy, probably bought it from the painter. There are 3 books on him printed by the historical institute of the Italian navy. An article on Claudus was published by the US Naval Institute (magazine Naval history) in October 1993. It is not common to find his paintings as he painted mainly for the Italian Navy. I have a similar painting to yours (I love his paintings). The Italian Navy HQ in Rome has some amazing artworks from him. There are roughly 2200 known paintings from Claudus

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    If you could add a link or two to your sources, it would really improve your answer. – Lars Bosteen Nov 10 at 8:07

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