Adolph von Menzel – Diplomatic passport 1842

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Adolph Menzel Diplomatic Passport
Adolph von Menzel age end 40s „Self-portrait“ (1853) Foto: Stadtmuseum Berlin | Foto: Oliver Ziebe

Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel (8 December 1815 – 9 February 1905) was a German Realist painter and etchings artist. He is regarded as one of the two most influential German painters of the nineteenth century, alongside Caspar David Friedrich, and was the most prolific artist of his period in Germany. He was born Adolph Menzel and changed his name to Adolph von Menzel after being knighted in 1898. Adolph Menzel Diplomatic Passport

To spot travel documents of such significant figures of German (passport) history is truly rare. The city museum of Berlin has this document in its archive. The document you see here is his diplomatic passport issued on

Few of his major paintings left Germany, as many were quickly acquired by museums in Berlin, owing to his popularity in his native country, owing particularly to his history paintings. Menzel’s graphic work (particularly his drawings) was more widely distributed, and these, along with informal paintings not intended for public display, have largely contributed to his posthumous fame. Adolph Menzel Diplomatic Passport

Menzel spent the majority of his life in Berlin, despite several friendships, and was, by his own admission, distant from others. He traveled to find subjects for his paintings, to attend galleries, and to meet with other artists. Menzel had a big head and stood about four foot six inches tall, so it’s possible he felt socially isolated for physical reasons alone. Adolph Menzel Diplomatic Passport

Adolph Menzel Diplomatic Passport
Adolph Menzel, Diplomatic passport 1852, Stadtmuseum Berlin, Inventory XII 1561

During the Nazi era, many important works by Menzel were confiscated, sold forcibly, or under duress. In the twenty-first century, some of these have been restored. The pastel “Lady with a Red Blouse” by Menzel was returned to Erna Felicia and Hans Lachmann-heirs Mosse’s in 2015. Others have been claimed but not returned to their rightful owners. A restitution appeal for the Menzel painting “A Weekday in Paris,” which had belonged to Jewish banker Georges Behrens, was also denied by the Dutch Limbach Commission in 2015. On its website, the German Lost Art Foundation lists a number of Menzel works. Adolph Menzel Diplomatic Passport



FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...