This beautiful, lavishly produced book of the twenty-seven drawings by Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) does not accompany an exhibition; rather it pays homage to this artist from Frankfurt, who died young in Rome. Although rather small – 45 paintings besides the drawings – Elsheimer’s oeuvre was quite influential. While most of his paintings, accompanied by a scholarly catalogue in English and German, were exhibited in 2006 in an extensive travelling exhibition (Frankfurt, Edinburgh, and Dulwich; this Journal, April 2007, by the present reviewer), the drawings were largely absent and only sparingly included as text illustrations. Joachim Jacoby’s scholarly catalogue of the drawings, published by the Städel, now completes in exemplary fashion the overview of Elsheimer’s small oeuvre.
This publication was made possible thanks to financial support from the Gabriele Busch-Hauck Stiftung in Frankfurt and its curator, Maria Busch. In 2005, the Stiftung even enabled the Städel to acquire one of the last Elsheimer’s drawings in private hands, The Denial of St. Peter (cat. 18) in celebration of Gabriele Busch-Hauck’s eightieth birthday. This catalogue provides a worthy tribute to all these endeavors.
Jacoby begins with a lengthy introduction discussing the history of the study of Elsheimer’s drawings that goes back to 1880, when Wilhelm Bode counted about 300, while Keith Andrews’s Elsheimer monograph of 1977 (German edition 1985) catalogued slightly more than twenty. A large part of this reduced number was due to the exclusion of the so-called “Klebeband” in Frankfurt, a compilation of close to 178 drawings in a special album that earlier were believed to be by Elsheimer. Research by J.G. van Gelder and Ingrid Jost on Elsheimer’s estate (Simiolus, I, 1966-67, pp. 136-152) revealed that those drawings were primarily the work of Hendrick Goudt (1583-1648), closely linked with Elsheimer in Rome and inheritor of his studio. Andrews and later authors all accepted this revised attribution to Goudt.
Jacoby compares Elsheimer’s drawings to studies by artists from his immediate circle: above all Goudt, but also David Teniers the Elder (1582-1649), Jan (1581/82-1631) and Jacob Pynas (1592/93-1650), Pieter de With (1650/60, d. Amsterdam after 1689), Gerrit Battem (ca. 1636-1684) and Pieter Lastman (1583-1633). His general observations, comparisons, and arguments on attributions will serve as a valuable introduction to anyone interested in learning about drawings connoisseurship. In an Appendix the author defines gouache (versus watercolor) in Elsheimer’s work, especially in his last five drawings (cat. 23-27).
Jacoby discusses Elsheimer’s drawings in chronological order; all are reproduced in color and in their original sizes. The reader is often surprised just how small some of them are, e.g. the Pietà in Weimar, a mere 68 x 54mm. Most drawings date from the artist’s years in Rome, 1600-1610. Only five drawings and one dedication show Elsheimer’s signature, handwriting, and sometimes a date, so that they can be securely attributed: a design for stained glass of 1596 in Düsseldorf (cat. 1), the Fama on an album amicorum sheet, Karlsruhe (cat. 2), the King of Bali with His Retinue, Copenhagen (cat. 3) and the Artist’s Encounter with Mercury, Braunschweig (cat. 4), all 1598. The last dated drawing, Neptune and Triton in Dresden (cat. 6; 1600), is signed in Roma. They form the touchstone for the remaining attributions.
With few exceptions, Elsheimer’s drawings are self contained and not tied to any painting. The lone landscape drawing of the Roman Campagna in Berlin (cat. 16) served as a study for Elsheimer’s Aurorain Braunschweig, which Goudt engraved in 1613. Exceptional are three finished compositional drawings for Il Contento (Edinburgh, before 1605-06, cat. 20-22). In 2007 Christian Tico Seifert recognized in the Sheet with Figure Studies in the Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw, Elsheimer’s preliminary study for the Embarkation of the Empress Helena, one of the small copper panels in his altar, the Finding and Exaltation of the True Cross (1603-05, Städel, which also preserves the most Elsheimer paintings, 10). Two impressive sheets of figure and head studies in Berlin (cat. 9, 10) from his early years in Rome, however, cannot be associated with other works, nor can a recent addition, The Artist in Despair in Munich (cat. 13).
Of special significance is Elsheimer’s Mein Vertrauenn Stet In ChristoAllein, his written dedication in the album of Abel Prasch the Younger (1573-1630), Munich, dated Rome, April 21, 1600 (Appendix II), thus signaling the artist’s approximate arrival in Rome. Jacoby accepts the inscription as Elsheimer’s, in contrast to Müller Hofstede (in Essays in Northern European Art Presented to Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann1983, pp. 183-189). However, Jacoby rejects the inscription on Rottenhammer’s Commodus drawing in Copenhagen that Müller Hofstede accepted, considering not only the handwriting but even part of the German wording as foreign to Elsheimer.
A quick comparison with Keith Andrews’s 1977 monograph on Elsheimer (German ed. 1985) shows that Jacoby has added five drawings (cat. 12-14, 19, 26), discovered recently; however, three drawings that Andrews accepted are now rejected by Jacoby: two in his list of rejected works (cat. A2-3) and The Digging of the Cross in Frankfurt, considered to be a copy (2006 exh. cat., p. 106, fig. 85; present catalogue, GK 7b; already published by Seifert, 2007, as “Hendrick Goudt?”).
Jacoby lists eleven drawings as rejected attributions, including two that were included as originals in the 2006 exhibition: Tobias and the Angel, Berlin (cat. A3) and the Arms of the Accademia dei Lincei, Rome (cat. 11A). Further rejected drawings are the Flight into Egypt (cat. A5); Aeneas Saving Anchises (cat. A9), and A Temple in a Courtyard (Pool of Bethesda) in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (cat. A7, reattributed to Teniers the Elder). Jacoby also associates Seated Young Woman in New York with the Rembrandt School (cat. A6).
A special section of the catalogue is reserved for fifteen drawn copies after Elsheimer compositions, among them no fewer than six after Il Contento (cat. GK 5a-f) and seven after the small Tobias and the Angelin Frankfurt (cat. GK 6a-g). Included again is the Oriental Prince and his Retinue in the British Museum (cat. GK 4, as Rubens). Kerry N. Barrett, who kindly allowed me to read her recent PhD thesis on Pieter Soutman (IFA, New York, 2009), supports attribution to Soutman instead (her Cat. II, Drawings, no. 9, inscribed with Rubens’s name only in the fifth state of Soutman’s etching; her Cat. I, Prints Catalogue, no. 49).
A long list of Elsheimer drawings mentioned in collections and auctions dating from December 30, 1653 to November 14, 2006 follows the catalogue proper (pp. 317-348). The publication ends with two concordances: A) of the 178 drawings in the so-called Frankfurt “Klebeband” (based on Weiszäcker’s 1923 catalogue) with the corresponding inventory numbers; and B) Drawings published as Adam Elsheimer, beginning alphabetically with the inventories of the individual collections from Amsterdam to Wolfegg and including the “Klebeband.” The concordance itemizes earlier catalogues by Willi Drost (1933 and 1957), Heinrich Weiszäcker (1936), and Hans Möhle (1966), plus the article by van Gelder/Jost (1967), the catalogue by Andrews (1977; 1985), and concludes with additions from other sources and the references in the present catalogue. A bibliography and index conclude this exemplary catalogue.