ANN: Annotated catalogues of Helbing auctions (Munich, 1885-1937) now available online at (Heidelberg University)

Annotated catalogues of Helbing auctions (Munich, 1885-1937) now available online at (Heidelberg University)

In recent years, hundreds of catalogues of Hugo Helbing’s auction house have come to light. One set is in the Zentralinstitut in Munich, another one is in the Kunsthaus Zurich, while additional, smaller sets are in private hands.

These catalogues were annotated by Helbing and his staff and include information on consignors, written bids, reserves, hammer prices, buyers, etc. Given Helbing’s standing as art auctioneer, these catalogues have become known to specialists as an important source for provenance research. So far, they had to be searched by hand, but the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) has recently provided much-needed funds for a full digitization in the context of a research project jointly directed by the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (which also hosts the Helbing Lectures), Heidelberg University, and Berlin’s Technische Universität.

Heidelberg University already hosts the German Sales database, providing searchable scans of thousands of auction catalogues from German-speaking countries, 1900-1945. The database is now being supplemented step by step with the annotated Helbing catalogues which frequently provide vital information on the actual ownership history of an artwork.

Operating from his headquarters in Munich, Helbing also ran branch offices in Frankfurt and Berlin and occasionally organized auctions abroad. With more than 800 auctions on record, many of them offering highly prestigious ensembles and collections, Helbing was by far the most important art auctioneer in the German speaking countries between c. 1900 and the mid-1930s. He was murdered during the “November Pogroms“ in 1938 and the remainder of his firm was subsequently „aryanized“.

For more information and a link to the database see

For an online exhibition on Hugo Helbing and his firm, curated by Meike Hopp and Melida Steinke, see