Gerson Digital : Germany II


1.2 Emulators of Rembrandt in Berlin

In the same way as the Great Elector preferably appointed Dutchmen as court painters, Frederick the Great favoured France’s artists with similar exclusivity. To him we owe the small but choice collection of French paintings, especially by Antoine Watteau, Jean Baptist Pater and Nicolas Lancret, which we can still admire in the Prussian castles and in the Berlin museum. His court painter was the Frenchman Antoine Pesne (1683-1757), who almost became a native in the nearly forty years of activity in Prussia. His portraits and depictions of elegant festivities do not deny a context with his homeland, with Watteau, Pater and Lancret. However, his contemporaries couldn’t but notice, that he found Rembrandt’s art as a source of inspiration. Matthias Oesterreich is of the opinion, that Pesne only started to imitate Rembrandt’s manner of painting in his later years and ‘that he can be equaled without qualms with Rembrandt’.1 The marquis d’ Argens even went so far as to claim, that his likeness of Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff ‘efface un Rembrandt!’ (outweighs a Rembrandt) [1].2

Antoine Pesne
Portrait of the architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff (1699-1753), dated 1737
canvas, oil paint 98 x 82 cm
upper right : Ant.Pesne / fecit /1738
Doorn (Utrechtse Heuvelrug), Kasteel Huis Doorn, inv./ HuD 1717

When we reduce these sentimental exaggerations to normal proportions, we can really say that Pesne did paint some genre-like portraits in the manner of Rembrandt. The portrait of Nicolas Vleughels in the Louvre (of 1723, so in no way a late work) [2] belongs to this group, as also do works in the Neues Palais in Potsdam [3] and in Schwerin [4], which adjusted Rembrandt’s Saskia portraits to the smooth taste of the 18th century [5-6].3 In his manner of Rembrandt imitation he adjoined his compatriot Raoux, i.e. he took a flamboyant composition from Rem5brandt, polished the surface in the manner of Dou and lighted it like Schalcken. Pesne’s pupil Bernhard Rode (1725-1797) from Berlin painted mainly historical scenes and decorations for the Prussian castles in the French manner. But in his cabinet paintings he sometimes fell back on the compositions and techniques of the young Rembrandt, in the same way as the Zicks did, both father and son [7-10].4

Antoine Pesne
Portrait of the painter Nicolas Vleughels (1668-1737), dated 1723
canvas, oil paint 131 x 99 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv./ 7173

Antoine Pesne
Girl in the window-sill with a birdcage, dated 1706
canvas, oil paint 107,5 x 84,5 cm
Potsdam (Germany), Neues Palais

Antoine Pesne
Portrait of Ursula-Anne Pesne, daughter of the painter, c. 1729
canvas, oil paint 79 x 64 cm
lower left : A. Pesne
Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, inv./ 3454

Antoine Pesne
Portrait of a young girl with a turban, dated 1728
canvas, oil paint 72 x 54,5 cm
lower left : Pesne fecit 1728
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, inv./ 773

Antoine Pesne
Shephardess with pigeons, dated 1728
canvas, oil paint 76 x 61 cm
lower left : A. Pesne fecit 1728
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, inv./ 773

Bernhard Rode
Christ in the storm on the Sea of Galilee, before 1771
paper, etching 291 x 220 mm
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ CBRode AB 3.16

Bernhard Rode
Christ on the sea of Galilee (Mark 4: 35-41, Matthew 8: 23-27, Luke 8: 22-25), before 1771
canvas, oil paint 241 x 103 cm
Heinrich Lempertz (Jr.) (Keulen) 1904-05-10, nr. 37

Bernhard Rode
The sacrifice of Isaac, in or shortly before 1776
paper, etching 223 x 228 mm
Kiel (Germany), Kunsthalle zu Kiel, inv./ AB 2856

Bernhard Rode
Tobit accusing Anna of stealing the kid, dated 1769
paper, etching 174 x 199 mm
lower left : B. Rode
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ CBRode AB 3.8

Furthermore we also have to look for ‘Hollandisms’ in the smaller arts. The engraver Georg Friedrich Schmidt (1712-1775) is a good example in this respect: we only need to compare his self-portrait of 1758 [12] with Rembrandt’s etching of 1648 (B. 22) [13]! After his return from Paris and Russia (1762) he engraved many Rembrandt paintings and paintings of his school,5 whereas before 1753 he worked almost exclusively after French examples. He did not disdain to take Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich as an example and thus a Rembrandt imitation in the third hand arose [11].

Georg Friedrich Schmidt after Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich
The presentation of the Christ-child in the temple, dated 1769
paper, copper engraving, 3rd state 235 x 277 mm
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, inv./ A 24085

Georg Friedrich Schmidt
Self portrait of Georg Friedrich Schmidt (1712-1775), dated 1758
paper, etching, 3rd state 233 x 177 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-OB-47.297

Self portrait, dated 1648
paper, etching, drypoint, 2nd state 156 x 130 mm
upper left : Rembrandt f 1648
Chicago (Illinois), The Art Institute of Chicago, inv./ 2004.88

Schmidt also possessed an etching plate of Rembrandt which he reworked in his own taste [14].6 For him Rembrandt wasn’t the great, magic artist, but rather a representative of Dutch, bourgeois realism. This spirit he found in pupils and imitators alike.7 Paintings by him are unknown nowadays, just like those of his pupils Johann Gottlieb Glume (1711-1778) [15]8 and Joachim Martin Falbe (1709-1782) [16-18], of whom we do have, however, drawings in the manner of Jan Josef Horemans [19].9

Rembrandt and Georg Friedrich Schmidt
Old man shading his eyes with his hand, c. 1639 and 1770
paper, etching, drypoint, 3rd state 138 x 114 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-1961-1133

Johann Gottlieb Glume
Portrait of the artist Joachim Martin Falbe (1709-1782), drawing, dated 1747
paper, etching 180 x 158 mm
upper left : Glume Fe / 1747
Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Philadelphia Museum of Art - John G. Johnson Collection, inv./ 1985-52-17398

Joachim Martin Falbe
Female half-length figure wit a hat and rode, dated 1769
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
upper right : J.M. Falbe / fec. 1769
Private collection

Joachim Martin Falbe
Portrait of a man with a feathered beret, 1752 gedateerd
paper, etching 153 x 119 mm
upper right : falbe / f. 1752
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./ RP-P-2011-66-5

Joachim Martin Falbe
Male portrait
paper, red chalk, heightened with chalk 141 x 123 mm
Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, inv./ 7201

Daniel Chodowiecki (1726-1801), a real narrator of the bourgeois, everyday life of his time [20-21], was in Berlin a pupil of the Englishman Haid,10 who seems to have introduced him to the graphics of Rembrandt. Small works in oils and in enamels from his early days with Rembrandt-like light effects and Dutch costumes can confirm this. In addition, some etchings, which are explicitly described as ‘after Rembrandt’ [22]. Orientals, Turks, candle-light effects in the Dutch taste frequently appear in his early works, although he did not try to imitate Rembrandt’s etching technique. As a prolific draughtsman and illustrator of the Berlin bourgeoisie, Chodowiecki is altogether independent, but it is charming to see how the new style slowly developed under the shelter of the Dutch realism. For Chodowiecki, as for many others of his time, Rembrandt doesn’t stand out as a genius among talents. Dutch minor masters such as Adriaen van Ostade, Aert van der Neer and Godfried Schalcken in their turn offered a wealth of stimulating motifs, that one could use.11

Joachim Martin Falbe after Rembrandt
A scholar in his study
paper, etching, brush in grey 225 x 249 mm
Haarlem, Teylers Museum, inv./ KG 01155

Daniel Chodowiecki
Lying-in room, dated 1759
panel (pine), oil paint 30,3 x 24,3 cm
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), inv./ 2008

Daniel Chodowiecki
Lying-in Room, dated 1759
panel (pine), oil paint 30,4 x 24,4 cm
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), inv./ 2006

Although the area of graphics is only lightly touched upon in our study, the hobby of the great Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) must be mentioned here. In his leisure time he made some very rare etchings after Rembrandt and after Schmidt-Rembrandt [23].12 Another royal amateur, Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia (1688-1740), even painted after Dutch examples. When Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein came to Berlin around 1778, he saw some beautiful pictures by him, ‘especially a few old heads after Abraham Bloemaert’.13 In the hunting lodge Grunewald hangs a Bathseba of 1737, ‘free after G. Flinck’ [24].14

Daniel Chodowiecki after Rembrandt
Landscape with buildings on a hill-top, dated 1759
paper, etching, mezzotint 970 x 890 mm
lower right : par D. Chodowiecki.
Private collection

Alexander von Humboldt after Georg Friedrich Schmidt after Rembrandt
Man in oriental costume, 1788 gedateerd
paper, etching ? x ? mm
location unknown : Remb. pinx. A. v. Humbold fec. aqua forti 1788
Whereabouts unknown

Friedrich Wilhelm I von Preußen possibly after Govert Flinck possibly after Gerard Dou
Bathsheba alone with David's letter (2 Samuël 11:3), dated 1737
canvas, oil paint 155 x 133 cm
upper left : F:W: Pinx. / 1737
Berlin (Grunewald), Jagdschloss Grunewald


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Oesterreich 1761, p. 43-49

2 [Gerson 1942/1983] On Pesne: P. de Colombier in Dimier et al. 1928-1930, vol. 2, p. 291-325.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Besides the comparison with Rembrandt’s Saskia in Dresden, Marx observed a similarity with Gerard van Honthorst’s Shepherdess with pigeons (Utrecht, RKDimages 1153) which Pesne could have known through a print (Marx et al. 2003-2004, p. 267).

4 [Gerson 1942/1983] See e.g. Christ and his disciples in the storm on Lake Galilee, Auction Rincklake, Cologne 10 May 1905, no. 37. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Rode especially made various etchings inspired by Rembrandt (Jensen et al. 1986-1987, e.g.. nos. 3, 9 and 11).

5 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Over 20 of these prints are online in RKDexplore.

6 [Gerson 1942/1983] Wessely 1887, no. 145.

7 [Gerson 1942/1983] Schmidt was great friends with the printmaker Johann Georg Wille (1715-1808), who wrote of him : ‘he became … perfect in the imitation of the style of Rembrandt, of whom no other artist before him caught the learned and picturesque manner in the same way as he (!)’ [‘il... devient …. parfait dans l’imitation du genre de Rembrandt, dont jamais artiste n’avoit aussi bien saisi la savante et pittoresque manière [sic!)] que lui’] (Duplessis 1857, vol. 1, p. 48).

8 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Glume and Falbe were friends of Schmidt, not his pupils. Glume also was active as a collector: in 1774 he owned a painting by Abraham van Dijck, at the time attributed to Rembrandt, now in Leipzig (RKDimages 241937). It was engraved by Georg Friedrich Schmidt (RKDimages 118111).

9 [Van Leeuwen 2018] For an oeuvre catalogue on Falbe: Berckenhagen 1989. His etched work is largely after or related to Rembrandt; his painted portraits are not related to Dutch art. In 1769 he also painted a Saskia-like figure (illustrated here).

10 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Chodowiecki possibly was taught by Johann Jakob Haid (1704-1767), member of a family of engravers in Augsburg (Bauer 1987, p. 329; Desel/Fuhrich-Grubert 2001, p. 180, 185, note 16). This is also suggested by Helmut Börsch-Supan in Saur 1992-, vol. 18 (1998), p. 605. Others have suggested that it was Johann Lorenz Haid who taught Chodowiecki enamel painting during his stay in Berlin (Turner et al. 1996, vol. 7, p. 183).

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] According to Leber 1924, p. 74-79 with a note of Professor Brinkmann on the Dutch borrowings in Chodowiecki’s drawings for Blaise Gaulard in Weimar.

12 [Gerson 1942/1983] Schiekévitch 1904, p. 422.

13 [Gerson 1942/1983] Tischbein/Brieger 1922, p. 108. According to Gero Seelig the model must have been Gerard Dou: RKDimages 38203 or even closer but in mirror image: RKDimages 38194 (communication October 2018).

14 [Van Leeuwen 2018] The original of the artwork is no longer known today and is mentioned in a Berlin inventory of 1841; the copy by Friedrich Wilhelm got lost in 1945 (Bartoschek/Vogtherr 2004, p. 177).

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