Gerson Digital : Germany II


3.1 Frankfurt : the Rembrandt Followers

Frankfurt already established a lively relationship with Dutch art in the 17th century. Also the 18th century offers many interesting aspects that we have to go into. Here Rembrandt imitators worked side by side with landscapists in the Dutch style. Many painters from Frankfurt went to the electoral court in Mannheim, where they had the opportunity to study the Dutch paintings from the former gallery of Düsseldorf. The first Rembrandt imitator we have to speak about, Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann (1709-1760) from Speyer, worked first as court painter in Mannheim, where he was at the same time head of the gallery. He didn’t limit himself to studying the Dutch paintings, as a piece of paper on the back of Rembrandt’s Resurrection (now in Munich) [1] makes clear: ‘Rimbrandt Creavit me / PHBrinckmann resuscitavit Te/1755’. Rembrandt’s impact is quite evident in Brinckmann’s work, especially in his etchings. Head studies, Orientals [2] and depictions of biblical history are replicated after Rembrandt. His etching of The Raising of Lazarus [3] is inconceivable without Rembrandt’s example. He used his chiaroscuro and tried to heighten the movement even more with theatrical gestures.1

The Resurrection, c. 1635-1639
canvas on panel 91,9 x 67 cm
bottom left of the middle : Rembr[...]t 163[.]
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 397

Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
Bust of an oriental with a turban with three feathers, c. 1740
paper, etching 112 x 98 mm
upper left : PH Brinckm. fct.
Frankfurt am Main, art dealer Helmut H. Rumbler

Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
The raising of Lazarus ('Lazarus, come out')
paper, engraving 124 x 98 mm
lower left : ....
Auktionen und Galerie Winterberg Kunst (Heidelberg) 2016-04-23, nr. 148

Naturally, Brinckmann’s complete oeuvre is not exclusively derived from Rembrandt. His landscapes are connected with the Dutch Italianate masters and their German imitators [4], such as Christian Hilfgott Brand (1694-1756). Another painting (in 1778 engraved by Giuseppe dall’Acqua) shows a moonlight effect in the manner of Aert van der Neer [5-6].2 Also the grotto paintings [7-8] in the manner of Rombout van Troyen, Abraham van Cuylenborch et al., which George Heinrich Hergenröder (1736-c. 1794) later would make his speciality, were already known to him. There are still-lifes in the style of Jan Weenix [9], whose paintings from Düsseldorf he surely would have seen in Mannheim. The fact that he also worked after Gerard Dou, shows his relationship to the late fine painters, who were still active in the Rhineland in the beginning of the century.

Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
Landscape with man and woman fishing
panel, oil paint 30 x 37 cm
lower right : PHBrinckmann fec
Van Ham Kunstauktionen (Keulen) 2010-11-19, nr. 588

Christian von Mechel after Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
View of the River Rhine, dated 1758
paper, etching, engraving 245 x 272 mm
lower right : Gravé à Paris par Ch. de Mechel 1758
London (England), British Museum, inv./ 1982, U. 2672

Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
River landscape at night with travellers gathered around a camp fire
panel, oil paint 21,2 x 291,1 cm
on the back : fec: Phil. Hieron.Brinckmann / lebtevon 1709-1761
Sotheby's (London (England)) 1999-10-28, nr. 362

Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
Landscape with cavern scene with brigants and their booty
canvas, oil paint 46 x 65 cm
lower right : PHBrinckmann
Dorotheum (Vienna) 2008-10-15, nr. 363

Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
Landscape with cavern scene with brigants and their booty
canvas, oil paint 46 x 65 cm
Dorotheum (Vienna) 2008-10-15, nr. 363

When we look back on Brinckmann’s beginnings, it becomes clear that he only gradually took to this Dutch orientation in Frankfurt; one therefore cannot view him as an immediate follower of the ‘School of Düsseldorf’ of Eglon van der Neer and Adriaen van der Werff. As palatine court painter he made some overdoor paintings in the palace in Mannheim, which are completely in the French style of the day.3 His landscapes are also very strongly Flemish-French in composition. Besides we notice influences of the Southern-German baroque painting (the Asam family), which need not concern us here.

With Johann Georg Trautmann (1713-1769) we reach the most important ‘Rembrandt pupil’ of the Main area, a generational peer of Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712-1774), with whom he had a number of traits in common.4 Trautmann is more lively and more imaginative than Dietrich, but both venerated the young Rembrandt and the artists, who wanted to outshine him in imaginative finery and light effects, e.g. Leonaert Bramer and Adriaen van de Venne. Trautmann even achieved a certain literary celebrity as Goethe referred to him as an artist ‘who had adopted Rembrandt as his model, and had attained great perfection in enclosed lights and reflections, as well as in effective conflagrations, so that he was once ordered to paint a companion piece to a Rembrandt (From my Life: Poetry and Truth, 1811).5 Or elsewhere: ‘Trautmann Rembrandtized some resurrection miracles from the New Testament, and alongside them set fire to villages and mills’.6 There are several painted and etched representations by Trautmann of the scene The Raising of Lazarus [10-12].

Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann
Dead hare
canvas, oil paint 81 x 64 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 5496

Johann Georg Trautmann
The raising of Lazarus (Johannes 11,38-44), b
paper, etching 211 x 169 mm
bottom left of the middle : TM fec.
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ JGTrautmann AB 3.1

Johann Georg Trautmann
The raising of Lazarus (Johannes 11,38-44), c. 1750-1765
canvas, oil paint 81 x 66,5 cm
center : Trautmann
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ SG 634

Johann Georg Trautmann
The raising of Lazarus, after 1750
canvas, oil paint 34 x 29 cm
Amsterdam, Schlichte Bergen Gallery

He was also a collaborator in the decoration of the corner drawing room in the Goethehaus in Frankfurt (1759-1763) for François de Théas Count of Thoranc (1719-1794),7 where he installed superb night scenes with fires in the style of Aert van der Neer, Egbert van der Poel and Adam de Colonia [13-15].8 Goethe had thus seen them every day in his youth.9 Trautmann liked to paint such fire scenes his whole life [16-18]. The representation of Troy Burning (fig. 91) [19], that was painted so often in Frankfurt in the 17th and 18th century, perhaps harked back to a painting of Marten van Valckenborch I, as such a painting did exist in Frankfurt.10

Johann Georg Trautmann
Winter landscape with bridge and buildings burning, ca. 1759-1763
canvas, oil paint 34,3 x 56,4 cm
lower left : TM f.
Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Goethe-Haus mit Goethe-Museum, inv./ IV-1980-009

Johann Georg Trautmann
Nocturnal conflagration
panel (nut), oil paint 37,4 x 57 cm
lower left : JG Trautman fc
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ 1339

Johann Georg Trautmann
Nocturnal conflagration
panel (nut), oil paint 37,4 x 57,1 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ 633

Johann Georg Trautmann
Nightly fire on the banks of a river, ca. 1759-1763
canvas, oil paint 27,1 x 33,9 cm
on the stretcher : 6818/3
Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Goethe-Haus mit Goethe-Museum, inv./ IV-1980-007

Johann Georg Trautmann
Nightly fire, ca. 1759-1763
canvas, oil paint 27,1 x 33,9 cm
on the stretcher : Trautma[nn] / BRx 6 18 / 3
Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Goethe-Haus mit Goethe-Museum, inv./ IV-1980-008

Johann Georg Trautmann
Burning city at night
panel, oil paint 30 x 36 cm
location unknown : TR
Dorotheum (Vienna) 2013-04-17, nr. 826

Johann Georg Trautmann
Troy burning, c. 1759-1763
canvas, oil paint 221,5 x 144 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Goethe-Haus mit Goethe-Museum, inv./ IV-01067

If we include the customary heads of old men with fanciful headgear, ‘têtes accablées d’ une coiffure plus bizarre que pittoresque’ [Heads overwhelmed with a more weird than picturesque headdress] (Hagedorn) [20-22], we have his repertoire à la Rembrandt more or less together. As with Dietrich, it is slightly beautified, made more lovely or turned into the fantastic. The Raising of Lazarus became more intimate and sentimental.11 Of course he took over all the naturalistic details and the light effects. We also find all this in his old men’s heads: the realism in the face of old age, the bizarre in the turban and the painterly effectiveness, the chiaroscuro with the strong contrasts in the lighting. At the time, one didn´t aspire to render the expression of the faces or the composition. Apart from the painters of light - in as much as Trautmann understood them - he also used other Dutch masters examples, when it suited him. In the composition of his Joseph in Egypt, that belongs to the paintings for the Count de Thoranc [23], he fell back on an engraving after Bartholomeus Breenbergh [24].12

Johann Georg Trautmann
Old man in oriental costume, between 1759-1762
panel (oak), oil paint 25,2 x 21,2 cm
lower center : TM
Kassel (Hessen), Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, inv./ GK 1213

Johann Georg Trautmann
Head of a man in oriental clothing to the left
paper, pen in black ink 570 x 480 mm
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ 1701

Johann Georg Trautmann
Man with headdress in Oriental style, between 1732-1769
paper, etching 90 x 80 mm
lower left : TM
Schloss Ehrenburg (Coburg), Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, inv./ III.506.2

Johann Georg Trautmann
Joseph opens the storehouse and sells corn (Genesis 41:55-57)
canvas, oil paint 225,7 x 135,2 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Goethe-Haus mit Goethe-Museum, inv./ IV-00502

Bartholomeus Breenbergh
Joseph opens the storehouse and sells corn (Genesis 41:55-57)
paper, etching 695 x 509 mm
lower center : Rijksprentenkabinet
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./ RP-P-BI-4847

His tavern scenes on occasion show smoothness and lighting effects like Cornelis van Poelenburch or Gerard van Honthorst [25],13 or at other times possess Egbert van Heemskerck I’s flakiness and Jan Baptist Lambrechts’s (1680-after 1731) figure style [26-27].14 It would be possible to give many more examples, especially from his drawings, that testify to the influence of Dutch art and foremost to the emulation of Rembrandt. Only one more example though: in his drawn self-portrait (Frankfurt) [28] the signature of the artist appears on the windowsill as in Rembrandt’s Faust etching [29], a magical sign of the charm.15 A drawing in Vienna [30] of street musicians is completely in the style of Adriaen van Ostade. Trautmann’s activity was not limited to Frankfurt. He visited Darmstadt, Mannheim, Kassel and became ̶ like Brinckmann, with whom he occasionally worked ̶ court painter in the Palatine in 1769.

Johann Georg Trautmann
Merry company
panel (oak), oil paint 18,8 x 25 cm
lower right : Trautmann f.
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, inv./ WRM 2504

Johann Georg Trautmann
A young man lighting an oil lamp while a child is watching, c. 1732-1769
panel, oil paint 21 x 18 cm
lower right : TM
Frankfurt am Main, Historisches Museum Frankfurt, inv./ Pr533

Johann Georg Trautmann
A man making fire while a woman is watching, c. 1732-1769
panel, oil paint 21 x 18 cm
lower right : TM
Frankfurt am Main, Historisches Museum Frankfurt, inv./ Pr532

Johann Georg Trautmann
An artist in his studio
paper, pen, brush 158 x 226 mm
upper left : TM
Frankfurt am Main, Graphische Sammlung im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, inv./ 1703Z

Dr. Faustus, c. 1652
paper, etching 206 x 238 mm
on the back : Carl Schlösser
New York City, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Cloisters), inv./ 41.1.19

His son Johann Peter Trautmann (1745-1792) and other Frankfurter painters like Johann Gabriel Lentzner (1737-1800) [31],16 Franz Hochecker (1730-1782) and Johann Carl Kessler (1763-after 1800) imitated Trautmann senior and therefore Dutch art.17

In Trautmann’s work we perceive the style of his own time, the Rococo, only as an undercurrent which translates the Dutch examples into the lovely and the comfortably familiar. In the work of Johann Conrad Seekatz (1719-1768), however, who belonged to the same circle, the relation to contemporary art is much more positive.18 He is totally a Rococo painter and we can only sense his predilection for the Dutch masters from his unofficial works, like drawings and some genre paintings. He was a pupil of Johann Ludwig Seekatz in Frankfurt and of Philip Hieronymus Brinckmann in Mannheim. From 1753 he was a court painter in Darmstadt and as such he had to paint many decorative works in the established style. In Frankfurt, where he often stayed, he was more the civil painter, who together with Trautmann, Nothnagel and others worked on the De Thoranc drawing room.

As a 28-year-old, Seekatz started modestly enough by decorating the galler of the church in Osthofen with biblical pictures after engravings by Matthäus Merian I. In the Mannheim Picture Gallery and Print room his eyes were opened to Great Art. Adriaen van der Werff’s works were still held in high esteem here, so much so that Carl Philipp, the successor of the artistic Johann Wilhelm, was especially concerned that these paintings should be transferred from Dusseldorf to Mannheim.

Seekatz’s teacher, the aforementioned court-painter Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann, took care that his protégé also practiced in the style of other masters. He showed him how to reconcile Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro with the requirements of a decorative, slick style of painting. Brinckmann also pointed him towards the study of Rubens, whose engravings after the Medici-cycle and other creations Seekatz had diligently copied. Furthermore, the young artist copied the paintings of Adriaen Brouwer and representations of David Teniers II, Adriaen van Ostade, Philips Wouwerman and Jacques Courtois (Printroom, Darmstadt). In the first biblical paintings [32-33]19 from his time in Frankfurt the reminiscences of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro and repoussoirs and of Rubens’s beautifully formed figures are alive, and sometimes also references to the slick and elegant compositions of Frans van Mieris I and his school.

Johann Georg Trautmann
Night scene with street musicians at the door of a house
paper, brush in grey, grey wash 129 x 105 mm
lower right : Trautman f
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, inv./ 4263

Johann Gabriel Lentzner
Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dreams (Genesis 41:14), dated 1765
canvas, oil paint 109 x 147 cm
: J.G. Lentzner 1765
Frankfurt am Main, Historisches Museum Frankfurt

Johann Conrad Seekatz
Ecce Homo, c. 1754-1755
panel, oil paint 47,2 x 57 cm
Darmstadt (Germany), Hessisches Landesmuseum (Darmstadt), inv./ GK 351

Johann Conrad Seekatz
The annunciation to the shepherds
panel (oak), oil paint 38 x 44 cm
Dessau (Saksen-Anhalt), Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie - Schloss Georgium, inv./ 168

Johann Conrad Seekatz after Adriaen van Ostade
The street musicians
canvas, oil paint 104 x 91 mm
Offenbach am Main, private collection L.A. Mayer

He had to paint allegories and portraits for the prince of Hesse, in which the motifs derived from Rubens overshadow the Dutch elements. In the same period he had more success with the Frankfurt public with his ‘natural and innocent pictures’ (Goethe) in the manner of Adriaen van Ostade. Sometimes his small paintings are just colorful variants of Van Ostade´s etchings [34-35].20 The lighting effects of Egbert van der Poel will have come to him by way of Trautmann (The Flight into Egypt, Cologne) [36]. Slowly however he freed himself of too precise imitation of the Dutch genre art. In a number of paintings the French-Flemish character even predominates, so that one might almost think that he had studied the works of Jan Baptist Lambrechts (1680-after 1731) and his contemporaries. The court portraits look like those of Adriaen van der Werff and Balthasar Denner [37] and the suppraportes and some large figure history paintings could be compared with French decorative art. We would however wrong the painter, if we overlooked his own inventions and the personal technique in his works.

Adriaen van Ostade
The street musicians, 1654-1655
paper, etching 104 x 91 mm
lower left : Av.ostade
Amsterdam, Museum Het Rembrandthuis

Johann Conrad Seekatz
The Flight to Egypt, c. 1755
panel, oil paint 25,5 x 32,2 cm
lower left : CS
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, inv./ WRM 2489

Johann Conrad Seekatz
Portrait of a man, c. 1755
canvas, oil paint 59,5 x 45,5 cm
Darmstadt (Germany), Hessisches Landesmuseum (Darmstadt), inv./ GK 348

We only have to briefly mention Johann Andreas Benjamin von Nothnagel (1729-1804). He came to Frankfurt in 1747 and became the owner of a wallpaper factory, whose products are not relevant to us. His etchings, especially his men’s heads, are very Rembrandt-like in the types as well as in the technique and the artificial light effects [38-40]. Nothnagel etched a phony Rembrandt from a Frankfurt private collection (Man with Monkey) [41-42].21 The first state denotes Rembrandt as the painter. Paintings by him are little known, except for an old man in the style of Rembrandt and of Rubens, now Bavarian state property [43]. He is the last one in the series of Rembrandt imitators in Frankfurt, that had started with Brinckmann and Trautmann. Nothnagel also had a small personal collection of Dutch graphic art, that was known to Goethe.

Johann Andreas Benjamin Nothnagel after Rembrandt
Rembrandt's 'Self portrait with a velvet beret'
paper, inkt, etching ? x ? mm
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina

Johann Andreas Benjamin Nothnagel
Portrait of an unknown artist, dated 1771
paper, etching 119 x 100 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-1997-182

Johann Andreas Benjamin Nothnagel
Portrait of an old man in fantasy clothing
paper, etching 109 x 107 mm
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ JANothnagel AB 3.23

follower of Rembrandt
Portrait of a man in fancy dress with an ax and a monkey, before 1772
panel, oil paint 83 x 60 cm
Private collection

Johann Andreas Benjamin Nothnagel after follower of Rembrandt
Portrait of a man in fancy dress with an ax and a monkey, dated 1772
paper, etching, drypoint 155 x 119 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-OB-53.469

Johann Andreas Benjamin Nothnagel
Bust of an old man in fancy dress
copper, oil paint 55,5 x 42,5 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 1601


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Münz 1934, p. 42, also refers to borrowings from Castiglione and Jan Lievens.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2018] The only reference to this print by Giuseppe dall’Aqua (1760-1829?) is in the auction catalogue of Stephan Christian Baron von Stengel (Munich, 7 March 1825), under no. 1810: ‘Prospectus Rheni: Mit Ded. an Repetta. P.C. Brinckmann pinxit. Joseph ab Aqua Jnc. 1778. Gr. qu. 4.’. No image is known to us. (communication Stefan Bartilla, July 2018).

3 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Many images in the Bildindex.

4 [Gerson 1942/1983] Bangel 1914. [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Trautmann: Kölsch 1999. On Dietrich: § 1.5.

5 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Goethe/Oxenford 1848, vol. 1, p. 17.

6 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Goethe/Oxenford 1848, vol. 1, p. 69.

7 [Van Leeuwen 2018] François de Théas Count of Thoranc was a French officer and art collector. During the occupation of the imperial city Frankfurt am Main by French troops in the Seven Years' War he was from 1759 to 1763 as Lieutenant de Roi head of the municipal civil administration. From 1759 to 1761 he lived in the household of Johann Caspar Goethe in the Grosse Hirschgraben. The young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe experienced this billeting in his father's house and put the French royal lieutenant later in his autobiography From my Life: Poetry and Truth. François of Thoranc commissioned artworks by Frankfurt artists, including Trautmann, for the house of his brother Albert in Grasse. Many were acquired later by the Goethe-Haus and the Goethe-Museum. Emmerling/Rechberg/Wilhelm 1991, p. 21-25, Maisak/Kölsch 2011, p. p. 107-108, 265-271, Kölsch 2005A.

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] Bangel 1914A. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Maisak/Kölsch 1991, p. 322, no. 388, 402, 403 and 404.

9 [Van Leeuwen 2018] This is a curious misinterpretation by Gerson. Although the paintings were made in Frankfurt, they were installed Grasse (see previous note) it was not until 1907 that some of the paintings involved were installed in the Goethehaus in Frankfurt.i

10 [Gerson 1942/1983] Hüsgen 1780, p. 19, Gwinner 1862, p. 78. [Van Leeuwen 2018] There are paintings known of the subject attributed to Frederik and Gillis van Valckenborch I, who also worked in Frankfurt.

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] Münz also points to mediators like Giovanni Benedetto and Castiglione (Münz 1934, p. 25-39).

12 [Gerson 1942/1983] Gerstenberg 1914.

13 [Gerson 1942/1983] Museum Cologne, no. 2504.

14 [Gerson 1942/1983] Historisches Museum Frankfurt.

15 [Gerson 1942/1983] Illustration Stift und Feder 1927, no. 5.

16 [Van Leeuwen 2018] His father Johann Nikolaus Lentzner was Trautmann’s brother-in-law. When his widowed mother married Nothnagel, this painter became his step-father. Lentzner became a pupil of Trautmann and completely took over his style. On J.N. Lentzner: Kölsch 1999, p. 33, 227-229.

17 [Gerson 1942/1983] According to Gwinner 1862, p. 261-263, 274, 280, although I have not seen any painting of these three. [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Hocheker: § 3.3.

18 [Gerson 1942/1983] Bamberger 1916; Leber 1924, p. 121-130. [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Seekatz: Emmerling/Rechberg/Wilhelm 1991.

19 [Gerson 1942/1983] Ecce Homo, Darmstadt; Adoration of the shepherds, Dessau.

20 [Gerson 1942/1983} Collection L.A. Mayer, Offenbach; Bamberger 1916, p. 78, ill. 10.

21 [Gerson 1942/1983] Gwinner 1862, p. 356-361.

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