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Saturday 21 January 2017

Unique portrait of Nazi envoy's daughter grabs bidders' attention

Shane Hickey

Published 29/01/2011 | 05:00

HER father was one of the most notorious diplomats Ireland has ever had.

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But now that notoriety is expected to boost the price of a unique painting of a young Liv Hempel, the daughter of Eduard Hempel, who was the Nazi envoy to Dublin during World War Two.

Dr Hempel retains a unique and controversial place in Irish history.

After Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945, Eamon de Valera paid a visit to Dr Hempel to sign a book of condolence.

President Douglas Hyde's secretary Michael McDunphy also visited Dr Hempel following Hitler's death -- decisions that prompted the ire of the US representative in Ireland at the time and damaged Ireland's international reputation.

During his time in Ireland between 1937 and 1945, Dr Hempel's daughter Liv -- one of his five children -- was painted by the artist Patrick Hennessy at the German residence at De Vesci Terrace in Dun Laoghaire.

While the portrait of a young girl would not be expected to draw much interest normally, it is because of her family background that auctioneers Whyte's anticipate more attention from bidders.

Condolences

"If that was just an ordinary portrait of a girl, it wouldn't be worth a lot of money but the interest is that she was the daughter of probably the most famous German ambassador that we probably ever had, because he was appointed by Hitler," auctioneer Ian Whyte said.

"There is a fascination with what Ireland was at during the war and the neutrality issue and there was a lot of controversy that the taoiseach and the president presented their condolences to the German ambassador."

During his time in Ireland, Dr Hempel sent thousands of reports to Berlin by telegraph and shortwave radio, although he was later made to give up his radio by the Department of External Affairs following pressure from the Americans.

Liv Hempel was the third of his five children and returned to Germany with her parents in 1950.

After finishing school in Germany, she emigrated to the United States in 1957 where she worked in New York before retiring some years ago.

When Dr Hempel returned to Germany he was given a senior post in the civil service. He died in 1972.

The picture, which is being sold by a German collector, remained in the Hempel family until the 1990s when a large part of their art collection was sold at auction.

The picture will be sold at Whyte's spring auction on March 14 in the RDS. It is expected to fetch between €2,000 and €3,000.

Irish Independent

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