Gerson Digital : Germany II


3.6 The Zick Dynasty

More important for our work are the two Zicks, Johann, the father, and Januarius, the son.1 They originated from Southern Germany, but their professional activity extended mainly over the areas of Würzburg and Mainz as well as Trier. Johann Zick (1702-1762) is supposed to have been in Venice and to have studied with Giambattista Piazetta. This is quite possible, as the Italian schooling is clearly noticeable in his work, especially in the fresco technique.2 But the cabinet paintings of his later years, especially the lighting effects and even the figure types in his biblical representations, demonstrate that he took Rembrandt and his dramatic compositions as a model.3 He copied Rembrandt’s Blinding of Samson, then in the collection Schönborn [1-2], whose lighting effects he took as the basis for one of his own compositions of a Judith and Holofernes painting [3-4]!4

The blinding of Samson (Judges 16:21), dated 1636
canvas, oil paint 206 x 276 cm
bottom left of the middle : Rembrandt.f.1636.
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ 1383

attributed to Johann Zick or attributed to Januarius Zick after Rembrandt
The blinding of Samson, probably 1749-1751
canvas, oil paint 38,5 x 49,5 cm
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, inv./ WRM 2387

Johann Zick
Judith beheading Holofernes and concealing the head in a sack (Judith 8-16), dated 1754
canvas, oil paint 73 x 100,5 cm
lower left : Johann Zick inv. et pinx. 1754
Koblenz (Germany), Mittelrhein-Museum

Johann Zick
The good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), dated 1753
canvas, oil paint 70 x 100 cm
lower right : Joca... Zick inv: et pinxit 1753
Dorotheum (Vienna) 2011-04-13, nr. 431

A Descent from the Cross (art market) [5]5 makes use of motifs from Rembrandt’s etchings. A Flagellation of Christ [6],6 Seneca’s Death in Karlsruhe [7], and many more paintings and ‘character heads’ testify to the same. He loved the early Rembrandt, his sharp light, fanciful architecture and effective composition. The cellar light also reminds us of the painters from Utrecht (Nikolaus Knüpfer and Jacob Duck), the ghostly movement of Leonart Bramer and the yellow-green color of Adriaen Verdoel. Did Rembrandt followers of Frankfurt influence him? Trautmann’s ‘Rembrandt’ is also a bizarre transformation in the sense of Bramer. Apart from an Italian-Southern German component in the works of Zick, one can clearly point out borrowings from Van Dyck. He uses his Christ-type in the above mentioned Flagellation of Christ, furthermore, even the Seneca looks like a Van Dyck’s Christ. In spite of all this we do not want to infer that Zick has nothing personal; on the contrary, the several elements have been woven into a unity with great flair.

Johann Zick
The descent of the cross
canvas, oil paint 98,5 x 64,5 cm
lower right : Jo : Zick inv.e ..p...(?)
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, inv./ 2236

Johann Zick
The Flagelation of Christ
canvas, oil paint 57,5 x 41,5 cm
Frankfurt am Main, private collection Generalkonsul C. von Weiberg

Johann Zick
The death of philosopher Seneca
canvas, oil paint 56 x 45 cm
lower left : Jo. Zick inv. / et Pinx
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, inv./ 948

This is even more applicable to his son Januarius Zick (1732-1797). Initially he was taught by his father, was then in Paris (1757) and a year later in Rome with Raphael Mengs. From 1760 he settled in Ehrenbreitstein, where he flourished as a court painter in Trier. Like Seekatz and Brinckmann he created suppraportes in the French manner (Boucher) for several castles. But even these works are not purely French, for like the painters from Frankfurt, everything is shifted to the coarse and rustic. In his cabinet paintings the French element is even more of an exception. Already in the early paintings with biblical content [8], made under the eyes of his father, he delighted in Rembrandt-like, spooky chiaroscuro, which cuts across a concentrated beam of light. To strengthen the uncannily impression, he dressed his figures with preference in fanciful, Oriental costumes. David before Saul (Trier) [9]7 and the Arrest of Christ (Church of Our Lady, Coblenz) [10] are telling examples of this.8 His style formed itself on the early Rembrandt and on the works of the pupils or imitators of the young Rembrandt, like Leonaert Bramer and Adriaen Verdoel, whose green grey colors he also preferred.

Januarius Zick
The Entombement of Christ
canvas, oil paint 55 x 72 cm
Bukowski (Stockholm) 1948-04-14 - 1948-04-16, nr. 210

Januarius Zick
David playing the harp for Saul (1 Samuel 19:9-10), 1752-1753
canvas, oil paint 68 x 85 cm
Whereabouts unknown

Januarius Zick
Christ before Pontius Pilate who washes his hands in innocence, 1736
canvas, oil paint 160 x 238 cm
bottom left of the middle : Zick inv: et pinx
Koblenz, Liebfrauenkirche (Koblenz)

The Christ on the Mount of Olives [11] distinguishes itself from this group only in the fact, that the main character has been modelled after an elegantly moving figure of Rubens;9 the soldiers are again in Bramer’s style. His stipple technique also is reminiscent of Bramer and Egbert van Heemskerck. Especially the Old Testament themes are understood in Rembrandt´s spirit: Abraham Receives the Three Angels (Munich) [12], The Sacrifice of Isaac (multiple compositions) [13-14], Saul and the Witch of Endor (Würzburg; 1752) [15] are such paintings, the last one again completely in Bramer’s manner. A Crucifixion [16]10 unites Rubens’s Coup de Lance with Rembrandt’s light and painterly technique.

Januarius Zick
Christ and the Agony in the Garden: an Angel comes to comfort Him, 1760s
canvas, oil paint 51 x 40 cm
Whereabouts unknown

Januarius Zick
Abraham waiting on the three angels (Genesis 18:8-12)
canvas, oil paint 43,7 x 58,9 cm
left center : Ja:Zick f.
Aschaffenburg, Staatsgalerie im Schloß Johannisburg, inv./ 9002

Januarius Zick
The ghost of Samuel appears to the witch of Endor; Saul falls prostrate to the ground(1 Samuel 28:1-25), dated 1752
canvas, oil paint 35 x 45 cm
lower right : Jan. Zick junior inv. et pinxit 1752
Würzburg, Martin-von-Wagner-Museum der Universität Würzburg, inv./ F 501

Januarius Zick
An Angel prevents Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:11)
canvas, oil paint 43,5 x 58,5 cm
Aschaffenburg, Staatsgalerie im Schloß Johannisburg, inv./ 9001

Januarius Zick
An Angel prevents Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:11), dated 1775
canvas, oil paint 91,5 x 122 cm
location unknown : ............. 1775
Bremen (Germany), Galerie Neuse

Januarius Zick
The crucifixion, Longinus pierces Christ's side with a lance
canvas on cardboard, oil paint 88,9 x 62,2 cm
lower right : Janu. Zick inv. ...
Butterfield & Butterfield (San Francisco) 1999-11-18, nr. 3014

manner of Januarius Zick
Saints Peter and John healing a lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple (Acts 3-4), 1730-1760
canvas, oil paint 51 x 61 cm
Würzburg, Martin-von-Wagner-Museum der Universität Würzburg, inv./ F 396

The Healing of the Cripple in Würzburg [17] still recalls of the Samson and Delilah compositions by Rembrandt, which his father copied.11 A Raising of Lazarus (Collection Werne) [18]12 is a ‘free translation’ of Rembrandt’s etching of 1642 [19]. A copy by Zick after Rembrandt’s etching B. 19 (Oranienbaum Castle) was perhaps made earlier [20-21].13 Zick now and again stuck to Rembrandt compositions of the middle period, but he dramatized them anew through a fantastic lighting and restless movements.

The raising of Lazarus (small plate), dated 1642
paper, etching, 1st state 149 x 114 mm
lower left : Rembrandt / f 1642
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-1961-1027

Januarius Zick
The Raising of Lazarus, 1770s
canvas, oil paint 56,5 x 71 cm
Whereabouts unknown

attributed to Januarius Zick after Rembrandt
Double portrait of Rembrandt and Saskia
panel, oil paint 33 x 25 cm
Dessau (Saksen-Anhalt), Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie - Schloss Georgium

Self portrait with Saskia, dated 1636
paper, etching, 1st state 105 x 95 mm
upper left : Rembrandt.f / 1636
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ RP-P-OB-34

His genre paintings with dancing maids are however Flemish in the sense of Pieter Angellis [22-24]. Zick’s late works are classically calmed down, the colors brighter and the modelling smoother. He drew closer again to Adriaen van der Werff, he even painted together with Angelika Kaufmann! The portraits now only look ‘Dutch’ insofar as they are not French. A group portrait like that of the Remy family of 1776 (collection Ernst von Claer)14 [25] can best be compared with the work of Johann (John) Zoffany. Free from reveling in Dutch light, they stand as realistically captured and greatly conceived figures at the beginning of the new Classicsm.

Januarius Zick
Dancing farmers in front of the inn, c. 1756-1757
canvas, oil paint 70 x 96,5 cm
Augsburg, Städtische Kunstsammlungen Augsburg, inv./ L 783

Januarius Zick
Peasants dancing in a tavern, c. 1752
canvas, oil paint 49 x 78 cm
lower right : ja:Zick iunior inv: et pinc
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./ 1479

Januarius Zick
Merry company with dansing peasants, c. 1753
canvas, oil paint 80,3 x 121,5 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ 1567

The Dutch schooling had not been in vain, but at the end of his life he had attained the style of his era. Without doubt Januarius Zick owed the acquaintance with Rembrandt in the first place to the teaching of his father. As Johannes Zick had been Tiepolo’s pupil in Venice, Feulner defended the thesis that the complete Rembrandt orientation came to him by way of Venice.15 This explanation seems far-fetched to Leber and to me.16 Venetian easel painting was by no means an offshoot of Rembrandt’s art, and yet the Zick’s choose to follow the Dutch masters precisely in this way. They copied paintings and etchings by Rembrandt and indeed they wanted to imitate the impetuous, dramatic painting of the young Rembrandt and his school, that was unknown in Venice. Why should we assume a different source of Rembrandt inspiration for the Zicks than for Brinckmann and Trautmann of Frankfurt?

The influence of Rembrandt is by no means limited to the two personalities of father and son Zick. Anonymous paintings like the Liberation of Saint Peter and the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist in Frankfurt [26-27] show a similar style, in this case clearly following the Rembrandt pupil Aert Jansz. Marienhof.17

The Mannheim collection offered the artists of this circle a rich choice of pictures by Rembrandt, Rubens and other Netherlandish and Venetian painters. Especially the etchers, such as Andreas Ludwig Bissel (1773-1847), Johannes Pieter de Frey (1770-1834),18 Heinrich Sintzenich (1752–1812) and others, got their inspiration here.

Januarius Zick
Portrait of the Remy Family from Bensdorf near Koblenz, dated 1776
canvas, oil paint 200 x 276 cm
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, inv./ 1557

Johann Georg Trautmann
The beheading of Saint John the Baptist, c. 1750
panel (oak), oil paint 30,7 x 38,4 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ ES 6

Johann Georg Trautmann
The Liberation of Saint Peter
panel, oil paint 30,7 x 38,5 cm
Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, inv./ ES 5

Also in this area we find, apart from Rembrandt imitators, landscapists, who continued the Nicolaes Berchem and Jan Both tradition, like Daniel Hien (1725-1773) [28-29] and his pupil Georg Friedrich Meyer (1733/35-1779) [30-31].19 Hien also painted still-lifes in the Dutch and Flemish taste [32-35]. Catharina Treu (1743-1811), the still-life painter from Bamberg, was a court painter in Mannheim, before she went to Düsseldorf as a professor.20

Daniel Hien
Idealized Landscape, dated 1768
canvas, oil paint 119,7 x 169,6 cm
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, inv./ Gm481

Daniel Hien
Landscape with ruins and cattle
unknown, oil paint ? x ? cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 6111

Georg Friedrich Meyer
Landscape with shepherds, resting, dated 1764
paper, aquarel paint (watercolor), gouache (material/technique) 121 x 179 mm
lower right : Meyer 1764
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, inv./ 1955-10

Georg Friedrich Meyer
Landscape with a robbery, c. 1765-1769
canvas, oil paint 38 x 46 mm
Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, inv./ 390

Daniel Hien
Still life with woodcock, dated 1754
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
lower right : D. Hin fecit / 1754.
Drouot Richelieu (Paris) 1997-07-08 - 1997-07-09, nr. 139

Daniel Hien
Still life with wild duck, dated 1754
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
lower right : D. Hin fecit / 1754.
Drouot Richelieu (Paris) 1997-07-08 - 1997-07-09, nr. 139

Daniel Hien
Still life with dead rabbit and oranges, dated 1754
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
lower right : D. Hin fecit / 1754.
Drouot Richelieu (Paris) 1997-07-08 - 1997-07-09, nr. 139

Daniel Hien
Still life with white duck, dated 1754
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
lower right : D. Hin fecit / 1754.
Drouot Richelieu (Paris) 1997-07-08 - 1997-07-09, nr. 139

Gottlieb Welté (1748/49-1792) from Mainz focused more on the peasant painting à la Teniers and Ostade, which is conceived in a French way [36-37].21 Friedrich Müller (1749-1825), called Maler Müller [Müller the Painter] drew in all kinds of ways: wild Rembrandt drawings and also sheets with landscapes in the style of the Italianate Dutch masters [38-39].22 Lorenz Schönberger (1768-1846), who belonged to a later generation, harked back rather to Ruisdael compositions, when he occasionally wanted to paint something Dutch for a change.23

Gottlieb Welté
Two women with a drunk man at a gate, dated 1777
panel, oil paint 34 x 25 cm
Felix Fleischhauer (Stuttgart) 1928-04-24 - 1928-04-25, nr. 111

Gottlieb Welté
Impertinent drunk before an inn, dated 1777
panel, oil paint 34 x 25 cm
Felix Fleischhauer (Stuttgart) 1928-04-24 - 1928-04-25, nr. 112

Friedrich Müller
Serenade at an inn, dated 1776
paper, sepia ink ? x ? mm
lower right : Müller f 1776
Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München

Friedrich Müller
Landscape with figures on horseback, dated 1775
paper, black ink, pen and brush in black, black wash, brown wash 256 x 263 mm
upper left : F. Müller del. / 1775.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./ 723


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Feulner 1920; Feulner 1922; Feulner 1929, p. 186 and 241; Feulner 1936 (and on that: Goering 1938, p. 99-100); Leber 1924, p. 124, 145; Benesch 1924, 159-168. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Strieder 1990; Roth/Strasser et al. 1993; Strasser 1994; Bank/Fachbach et al. 2018.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Although his biographer Oefele mentioned a stay with Piazetta in Venice, this is considered unlikely (Feulner 1920, p. 3, Strieder 1990, p. 9-11, J. Fachbach in Bank/Fachbach et al. 2018, p. 18).

3 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Januarius Zick and Rembrandt: Manuth 1993 and G. Kölsch in Bank/Fachbach et al. 2018, p. 57-62

4 [Gerson 1942/1983] Painting of 1754, collection Weinberg, Frankfurt; Biermann 1914, ill. 123. [Van Leeuwen 2018] According to Strasser, the copy is neither by Johann, nor by Januarius Zick (Strasser 1994, p. 462, no. Gc10). Johann Zick also used the same grotto setting for the more peaceful scene of The good Samaritan (RKDimages 234505). Januarius Zick used Rembrandt’s composition for his own version of the subject as well (RKDimages 285715).

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] Cologne 1934, no. 2.

6 [Gerson 1942/1983] Collection Weinberg, Frankfurt; Biermann 1914, ill. 122.

7 [Gerson 1942/1983] On the back a notice: ‘ .. in the taste of Rembrandt and the melting together of the colours is better’ (!). [Van Leeuwen 2018] According to Feulner 1920 and Förster 1936; according to the exhibition catalogue 'Januarius Zick' typoscript) in Cologne 1934 the painting was kept in the Schlossmuseum in Coblenz: the painting is presently missing.

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] Förster 1936.

9 [Gerson 1942/1983] Förster 1936, p. 227.

10 [Gerson 1942/1983] Auction Vienna, 22-11-1927, no. 43.

11 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Not considered anymore as a work by Januarius Zick (Strasser 1994, p. 465, no. Gc67).

12 [Gerson 1942/1983] Feulner 1922, ill. 25a.

13 [Gerson 1942/1983] 578.

14 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Sold to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg in 1938.

15 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Gerson meant Piazetta, not Tiepolo. Feulner already rejected the hypothesis that Johann Zick was in Venice (Feulner 1920, p. 3). See also above, note 50.

16 [Gerson 1942/1983] Leber 1924, p. 143.

17 [Gerson 1942/19983] Feulner 1922, ill. 29.

18 [Van Leeuwen 2018] J.P. de Frey was born in Amsterdam and worked in Paris from 1802. Gerson obviously assumed that he also worked in Mannheim, which is quite possible. His sister Aletta (Anna) de Freij (1768-1808) moved to Mannheim after her marriage in 1804 and lived and worked there until her death in 1808; maybe her brother visited her there in those years. It would have been appropriate if Gerson had mentioned her instead of her brother. Several works in RKDimages.

19 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Hien and Meyer: Roland 1959, p. 32-64.

20 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Treu became an honorary professor of the academy in Düsseldorf in 1776, but remained in Mannheim for the rest of her life (Schmidt-Liebich 2005, p. 477-478). On Treu: § 2.1.

21 [Gerson 1942/1983] Auction Stuttgart (Fleischhauer) 24 April 1928, nos. 111-112.[Van Leeuwen 2018] Welté never worked in Mainz and belonged to the circle of the Schütz family in Frankfurt, before he left for Estonia.

22 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Maler Müller: Denk 1930, Roland 1959, p. 65-75. So far we have not found a ‘wild Rembrandt drawing’ by his hand.

23 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Although Schönberger died in Mainz and travelled a lot, he was principally a Viennese artist and should have been treated by Gerson in his chapter on Austria. He was in Amsterdam in 1826 and became a member of the Koninklijk Academie van Beeldende Kunsten and exhibited at the ‘Levende Meesters’ since (many records in the Hofstede de Groot index cards, RKDexerpts). However, so far we have not found any Ruisdael-like work by him.

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