Gerson Digital : Germany II


3.5 Mannheim and Darmstadt

We have already occasionally mentioned court painters from Mannheim and Darmstadt, who have worked in Frankfurt (Trautmann, Seekatz and Brinckmann). We would like to add two portraitists, who never left the court. Johann Christian Fiedler (1697-1765) [1], who had been in Paris, started painting the type of portrait developed by Nicolas de Largillière and ended with the Dutch genre painting after the examples of Gerard Dou and Frans van van Mieris.1 Such small scenes in the Dutch taste are to be found in Dessau (Amalienstift) [2-3] and in Koblenz.2 This development from French Rococo to ‘bourgeois pre-classicism’ was very characteristic for those days.

Johann Christian Fiedler
Self-Portrait of Johann Christian Fiedler, 1750-1755
parchment (animal material), pastel 327 x 253 mm
Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurter Goethe-Haus mit Goethe-Museum, inv./ IV-01643

Johann Christian Fiedler
The tinker, dated 1756
panel, oil paint 32 x 22 cm
: JCFiedler fec. 1756
Dessau (Saksen-Anhalt), Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie - Schloss Georgium

Johann Christian Fiedler
Old woman at her spinning wheel, dated 1756
panel, oil paint 32 x 21 cm
lower left : JCFiedler fec: 1756
Dessau (Saksen-Anhalt), Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie - Schloss Georgium, inv./ 838

Johann Georg Dathan (1701-1749) from Speyer, teacher of Philipp Hieronymus Brinckmann, painted portraits with a smooth surface like say Johann Kupetzky, but with a Rembrandtesque light, for instance in the Portrait of the Sculptor Paul Egell (1691-1752) in Cologne [4-5]. He must have been in Amsterdam around 1735, but most of his portraits are ‘French’.3 According to Gwinner, the Dutch animal piece in Darmstadt was represented by Heinrich August von Watzdorf (1760-1824), while the reproduction graphics after the works by Rembrandt and his pupils were taken care of by Carl Ernst Christoph Hess (1755-1828) [6-7].4 Mannheim was the home of many artists who we will encounter later on in Munich.

Johann Georg Dathan
Portrait of the sculptor Paul Egell (1691-1752), c. 1745
canvas, oil paint 86,2 x 66,1 cm
Mannheim (Germany), Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen

Johann Georg Dathan
Portrait of an old woman in a hussar tenue, between 1741 and 1749
canvas, oil paint 88 x 65,5 cm
on the back : Bildnis einer Frau, welche unerkannt den 7jährigen Krieg als gem. Husar mitgemacht hat, mit Pension entlassen, nach Speyer gezogen u. daselbst nach d. Leben gemalt worden von Dathan
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, inv./ 1470

Carl Ernst Christoph Hess after Ferdinand Bol
Woman with cap and veil, c. 1780
paper, etching, inkt 210 x 172 mm
lower right : Rembrandt f. / 1642
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Institute for Art History (Collection Old Netherlandish Art), inv./ BD/0676 - ONS/Original Prints (by inventor)

Carl Ernst Christoph Hess after Salomon Koninck
Christ's dispute with the doctors in the temple, dated 1786
paper, inkt 439 x 367 mm
lower left : Peint par Rembrandt
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

In the Gallery in Mannheim Ferdinand Kobell (1740-1799) and Wilhelm von Kobell (1766-1853) saw the works of Dutch artists, that would be of great importance for their artistic development. Johann Christian von Mannlich (1741-1822), the dynamic museum director of Munich, also originated from the Palatine. We will come to speak of him later in a different context.5


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] ‘Children drawing by the light of a lamp … in the manner of Scalken’, Stocklist L.F. Mettra, Berlin 1802, no. 41.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2018] The painting in Koblenz was destroyed during a bombing on 6 November 1944 (Kramp/Michaud et al. 2005, p. 114, no. V 16). The subject is described as ‘A night piece. Three figures. A boy with a lantern; behind him one with a fur cap, next to it a girl with an extinguished light’.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Dathan probably left Amsterdam in haste in 1736. At the request of his landlord Nicolaes van Limburgh, an inventory was made of things that Dathan had left behind in his house. The inventory was made by notary Tzeeuwen in Amsterdam on 12 March 1736. The place obviously had been Dathan's studio: there were i.e. 17 painting (mainly portraits), empty and half-worked canvasses, frames, 2 painter's boxes and a suitcase with drawings (Bredius 1915-1921, vol. 5, p. 1801).

4 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Hess worked only for a short time in Mannheim and made his engravings mainly in Düsseldorf and later in Munich. The artist should have been dealt with by Gerson as part of his text on one of those places.

5 [Van Leeuwen 2018] See § 4.2.

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