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Culture

High Hopes for "Swabian Mona Lisa" in Stuttgart

Hoping to attract tourists to his hometown, a Stuttgart businessman has given an early Renoir painting to a museum. But not everyone is convinced that displaying the "Swabian Mona Lisa" will kick off a visitor boom.

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Will the "Swabian Mona Lisa" draw tourists like the one in Paris?

Deyhle started out working for the internal revenue service and later made billions as a real estate developer and musical producer. In the late 1990s, he lost most of his fortune and sold large parts of his massive art collection that included works by Georg Baselitz, Otto Dix and Käthe Kollwitz.

Die Dame im Pelz in der Stuttgarter Staatsgalerie

Staatsgalerie director Christian von Holst (left) thanked Deyhle for the painting

One painting he did keep, however, was by the young Pierre Auguste Renoir. It depicts an anonymous woman in a coat with fur trim. Her facial expression is hard to determine -- she seems on the verge of smiling, prompting Deyhle to dub her the "Swabian Mona Lisa."

Deyhle has owned the painting from 1866 for a quarter century, but he's only now decided to share it with the public by loaning it permanently to Stuttgart's renowned Staatsgalerie museum.

Museum officials more cautious

Neue Staatsgalerie Stuttgart Kalenderblatt

An outside view of Stuttgart's Staatsgalerie

But while the 67-year-old reportedly hopes that the painting will serve as a magnet for tourists, Staatsgalerie officials seem a little less enthusiastic.

"When I first saw the painting, I could hardly believe that it was really a painting by this artist," Christofer Conrad, a curator at the museum, told the dpa news service. Renoir was only 25 when he created "Lady in Fur," which is much darker than many of his later works.

Die Quelle

Renoir "Lying Nude" from 1902 looks quite different

The painting has since been checked by experts and deemed authentic, but Conrad nevertheless told reporters that he doesn't believe the portrait will single-handedly turn Stuttgart into a tourist destination.

Deyhle's decision to hand over the painting and boost its significance has brought some to believe that he's trying to create enough hype to boost the work's value -- a charge Deyhle emphatically denies.

"In that case, I would have given the picture to a museum much earlier," he told dpa.

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