Double Portrait

Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950)


130.81 x 75.56 cm (51 1/2 x 29 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Corridor at Foot of Fenway Staircase (149)





This double portrait shows two of Beckmann’s close friends: Hanns Swarzenski, a scholar of medieval art (and curator at the Museum of Fine Arts), and Curt Valentin (holding a candle), the New York art dealer who did much to promote Beckmann’s reputation in the United States. Both visited Beckmann in Amsterdam during 1946, after the war’s long interruption; but they visited at different times and never posed together. Instead, this imagined scene is a testament to the power of friendship and those who tended the light of civilization and civility during the long dark years of the Nazis.


At lower right: FüR KURT VALENTIN by BECKMANN A 46


1946, gift of the artist to Curt Valentin (b. 1902 - d. 1954), New York; 1954, from Valentin to Hanns Swarzenski (b. 1903 - d. 1985), Cambridge, MA; 1989, gift of Hanns Swarzenski, through his estate, to the MFA [see note 1]. (Accession Date: November 29, 1989)

[1] In 1946, Max Beckmann painted this double portrait of his friends Curt Valentin, an art dealer who directed the Buchholz Gallery in New York, and Hanns Swarzenski, an art historian who became a curator at the MFA. Upon Valentin's death in 1954 it passed to Dr. Swarzenski. For more on the execution of the work, see Erhard Göpel and Barbara Göpel, eds., "Max Beckmann: Katalog der Gemälde" (Bern, 1976), vol. 1, pp. 438-39, cat. no. 731.

Credit Line

Gift of Dr. Hanns Swarzenski


© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.