Gerson Digital : Germany II


5.1 Rembrandt's Example For Portraitists and History Painters

One might think that Dutch trained, professional portraitists like Samuel van Hoogstraten and Christopher Paudiss, who had worked in Vienna, would have left a lasting impression on the next generation of artists. But that is not the case. This is by no means surprising, when one thinks of the courtly portraiture in Vienna, in which these robust Dutch artists do not fit. Admittedly, the most important local portraitist, the Hungarian Johann Kupezky (1665/1666-1740) [1-3],1 was not altogether insensitive to Dutch conceptions of portraiture, but during his long stay in Italy - he was 17 years abroad - he became acquainted with other artistic ideas.2 Kupezky was mainly in Venice, before prince Johann Adam Andreas von Liechtenstein (1657-1712) summoned him to Vienna, where he worked until 1720.

Johann Kupezky
Self-portrait of Kupezky as a pilgrim, c. 1700
canvas, oil paint 82,5 x 65,5 cm
Prague, Národní Galerie v Praze, inv./ 1100

Johann Kupezky
Self-portrait of Johann Kupezky with his wife and son, c. 1719
canvas, oil paint 113 x 91,2 cm
Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, inv./ 3922

Johann Kupezky
Self-portrait of Kupecky in a melancholy mood, 1700-1707
canvas, oil paint 113 x 93 cm
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, inv./ 3374

The chiaroscuro-painting of Venice was akin to that of the North, so that in his work various elements come together, which evoke a Rembrandt-like impression. He loved the same lighting as Rembrandt did: a picturesque-lateral light, from time to time an artificial light, which leaves other parts of the picture in the dark. Like Rembrandt, he painted many Orientals and ‘Poles’ [4].3 With Rembrandt he shared the preference to depict himself over and over again with a brooding expression. Flute playing boys and other children’s portraits [5-6]4 immediately reawaken memories of Haarlem masters such as Hendrick Pot and Pieter de Grebber. This went hand in hand with an Italian elegance or a pose that could have been taken from Van Dyck. His works are not created with grandiose brushstrokes but rather tend towards a kind of fine painting as practiced by the younger Balthasar Denner in Northern Germany. In the taste of these fine painters, he sometimes surrounded his portrait with a stone windowsill [7].5

possibly Johann Kupezky
Portrait of Gustav Adolf Reichsgraf von Gotter (1692-1762), wearing a turban, c. 1731-1732
canvas, oil paint 69 x 56 cm
Boedapest, Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, inv./ 85.1M

Johann Kupezky
Portrait of a flautist, possibly the Imperial Court flautist Ferdinand Josef Lemberger, c. 1709
canvas, oil paint 94,8 x 73,5 cm
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum

Johann Kupezky
Portrait of a boy in a blue coat, c. 1728
canvas, oil paint 81,5 x 63 cm
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, inv./ GM 454

However, in combining so many heterogeneous elements, his art did not suffer. Quite the reverse: he is the type of the modern ‘eclectic’, that makes use of the achievements of the old masters. Füssli wrote in 1758: ’In Kupezky’s heads [….] one envisions the strength of Rubens, the delicateness of Van Dyck and the shadows and the magic of Rembrandt’ (in translation).6 He seems to have said self-confidently, that apart from himself, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vivian, there were no portraitists at all. Let’s be glad at least, that he didn’t forget to mention Rembrandt among the good portraitists!

In the work of Christian Seybold (1695-1768) [8-9] from Mainz,7 who lived in Vienna since 1740, one sometimes notices reminiscences of Dutch fine painters, especially when he renounced official portraiture for once and dedicated himself to genre painting, for which he sought inspiration in the masters of Haarlem [10].8

Johann Jacob Haid after Johann Kupezky
Self-portrait of Johann Kupezky (1666/66-1740), dated 1740
paper, mezzotint 400 x 264 mm
lower right : J.J. Haid sculpsit
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./ RP-P-1889-A-14837

Christian Seybold
Self portrait of the artist Christian Seybold (1695-1768), c. 1720
canvas, oil paint 53,5 x 44,5 cm
Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, inv./ 53.429

Christian Seybold
Selfportrait with the 'Wienerisches Diarium' [Viennese newspaper] of 1745, after 26 May 1745
canvas, oil paint 93,5 x 73 cm
left :
Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, inv./ 53406

Christian Seybold
Laughing man with a brawn (porkcheese), dated 1760
canvas, oil paint 70,3 x 60,3 cm
left center : C.Seibold.fe.1760
Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, inv./ 433

Martin van Meytens (II)
Joseph de France (1691-1761) with his family, dated 1748
canvas, oil paint 118 x 155 cm
location unknown :
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum Stockholm, inv./ 2186

But before we pursue genre painting, a few words more about portraitists. Martin van Meytens II (1695-1770), the well-travelled portraitist of Dutch descent, had lost all connection with the art of his countrymen.9 His style is totally French [11].

Furthermore, his knowledge of Dutch painting seems to have been minimal. From Von Hagedorn we learn, that he also was a collector of paintings. One of his treasures was a Rembrandt that Haid had engraved in 1768. This so-called Rembrandt was nothing more than a copy after Gerard ter Borch II [12], which their Imperial Majesties didn’t know when they acquired the painting from their court painter.10

As odd as it sounds, there are works of decidedly ‘ideal’ history painters and portraitists, which relate to the art of the ‘baroque’ Rembrandt. Heinrich Friedrich Füger (1751-1818) etched a Judas after Rembrandt’s example in 1767, when he was 16 [13].11

This would not be worth mentioning, if we didn’t observe the Dutch example clearly in his earliest portraits, such as his Self-Portrait in Kiel [14-15].12 The large hat shadowing his eyes and the turn of the body are not just random external appearances, but rather elements in the construction of a portrait type which Rembrandt had introduced and which was deliberately used by posterity.13

after Gerard ter Borch (II)
Woman writing a letter, after c. 1655
panel (oak), oil paint 44 x 34 cm
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv./ 621

Heinrich Friedrich Füger
An old man carrying a burden, dated 1767
paper, etching 68 x 53 mm
lower right : Füger fec: / 1767.
Galerie Gerda Bassenge (Berlin) 2000-05-26 - 2000-05-27, nr. 5630

Heinrich Friedrich Füger
Self-portrait of Heinrich Friedrich Füger (1751-1818), c. 1788-1789
paper, pencil 23,8 x 19,8 cm
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, inv./ 26482

Heinrich Friedrich Füger
Self portrait of Heinrich Friedrich Füger (1751-1818) as a young man, c. 1788-1789
canvas, oil paint 110,5 x 87,5 cm
Kiel (Germany), Kunsthalle zu Kiel, inv./ 15

The Portrait of the Sculptor Anton Grassi, painted by his brother Josef Grassi (1757-1838) in 1791 [16], is composed according to the same principles. For the rest, the regular production of portraits of Grassi and Füger did not deviate from the contemporary classicist conception. During the whole of the 18th century head studies in baroque style remained indebted to early Rembrandt heads [17-18].14

Josef Grassi
Portrait of the sculptor Anton Grassi (1755-1807), dated 1791
canvas, oil paint 68 x 53 cm
location unknown : 1791
Vienna, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

Matthäus Loder
A young man with a plumed hat
canvas, oil paint 55 x 31 cm
upper left :
Antik-Kompaniet (Stockholm) 1921-12-01 - 1921-12-02, nr. 51

Matthäus Loder
A young man with a plumed hat
canvas, oil paint 112 x 80 cm
upper left : Loder fecit / ....
Tajan (Paris) 2001-12-19, nr. 44


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Šafařik 1928. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Šafařik 2001.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2018] He spent 22 or 23 years in Italy, from 1684 until 1706 or 1707.

3 [van Leeuwen 2018] This painting is unconvincingly attributed to Ádám Mányoki since 1988 (Buzási 2003, p. 336, no. B261, fig. 68), but it was traditionally attributed to Kupezky.

4 [Gerson 1942/1983] Nuremberg nos. 454-455.

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] Šafařik 1928, pl. 2.

6 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Füssli 1758, p. 41; Füssli 1779/1806-1820, vol. 2, p. 655.

7 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Seybold did not come from Mainz, as has been thought, but in Neuenhain (Bad Soden am Taunus) (Ruhe 2008). On Seybold: dissertation in preparation by Lilian Ruhe, Radboud University Nijmegen.

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] Laughing Man, signed and dated 1760, in Budapest, no. 750; Man with a Wine Jug, Auction Frankfurt am Main, 3-4 June 1937, no. 119. [Van Leeuwen 2018] The latter painting mentioned by Gerson, RKDimages 287784, has little to do with Seybold.

9 [Van Leeuwen 2018] On Meytens: Husslein-Arco/Lechner et al. 2014-2015.

10 [Gerson 1942/1983] Frimmel 1899-1901, vol. 1/3, p. 144-146. [Van Leeuwen 2018] The copy of Ter Borch’s Woman writing a letter in Vienna is closer to the copy in Potsdam (RKDimages 218177) than to the prototype in The Hague (RKDimages 24701), in particular in the colour of the jacket, the sleeves, chair and other details.

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] Wilczek 1928, p. 330. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Wilczek wrongly supposes that the old man represents Judas. He refers to a print in the Kupferstichkabinet in Berlin. Another copy in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acquisition 2008). On Füger: Gundel/Eiber et al. 2011.

12 [Gerson 1942/1983] Wilczek 1928, fig. 338; Biermann 1914, no. 430.

13 [Van Leeuwen 2018] Some of Füger’s works also clearly refer to Rubens and Van Dyck (i.e. RKDimages 236749 and 291199). He also owned a collection of paintings. In 1807 he had to sell some of his paintings to the imperial gallery, i.e. a portrait by Van Dyck and another portrait by Van Dyck or Rubens (Gundel/Eiber et al. 2011, p. 190).

14 [Gerson 1942/1983] Matthäus Loder (1781-1828); Auction Stockholm, 1 December 1921, no. 51. [Van Leeuwen 2018] Fig. 17, with an image retrieved from the microfiches of the Witt Library, London. Very similar to the painting auctioned in Paris (Tajan), 19 December 2001, no. 44. The works look very different from the usual landscapes from the artists: maybe theey are made by another artist with the same name.

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