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Gestapo founder claimed portrait of Welsh noblewoman for art collection

17/01/2014

Ffion Hague unearths story on S4C documentary

It has been confirmed by Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales that Hermann Wilhelm Göring, Hilter's right hand man and founder of the Gestapo had an acclaimed portrait of Welsh noblewoman Catrin o Ferain, (Kathryn of Berain) in his possession at the end of the Second World War.

The portrait’s amazing story is revealed in the S4C documentary Mamwlad gyda Ffion Hague to be shown by the Welsh broadcaster this Sunday 19 January at 8.30pm (English Subtitles available). Presented by Ffion Hague, the series looks at the lives of Wales's most pioneering women throughout history.

Whilst filming the six-part series Ffion Hague spoke to Helen Williams-Ellis, who's related to Catrin through marriage and is currently working on a biography of the figure who was one of the most influential women in Wales during the Tudor period.

Helen Williams-Ellis had heard that Catrin o Ferain's portrait had once been part of Göring's art collection. Ffion Hague and the production team at Tinopolis then wasted no time in getting in touch with Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales to see if the story could be confirmed.

Oliver Fairclough said, “The portrait of Catrin was bought by the Museum through a London art dealer in 1957. The Göring story first appeared in the press in the 1960s, and although there was evidence that the painting had been for sale in Amsterdam at the time of the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, we were not then able to establish what had happened to it afterwards.

“Given concern today over Nazi-era looting of works of art and also the greater availability of archives on-line we recently reinvestigated the story. We have established that it was indeed bought from an Amsterdam art dealer on Göring’s behalf in November 1940, and that it was returned by the Occupation authorities to the same Dutch dealer in December 1945.

“Göring assembled a massive art collection – sometimes with at least a semblance of legality as in this case – and paintings he once owned are in a number of museums across the world. It was nevertheless astonishing to find that this Welsh icon was one of these.”

The portrait is attributed to Adriaen Van Cronenburgh and was painted in 1568 during Catrin's marriage to Richard Clwch, the second of her four husbands.

The story of Catrin's portrait is only one in a plethora of fascinating tales about the Welsh vixen, who was said to be of royal descent. Siren, murderer, connections to Shakespeare and devout papist – to list just a few of the tales spread about Catrin for over five centuries, but what historical evidence remains to prove or disprove the theories?

Join Ffion Hague for the answers on Mamwlad gyda Ffion Hague – English Subtitles available – on Sunday 19 January (8.30pm) on S4C.

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