Lothar Franz von Schönborn (1655-1729), Prince bishop of Bamberg, Elector and Archbishop of Mainz, and as such Chancellor of the Reich, was the second most powerful man after the German Emperor and hoped to rival other art collectors of his time. During the roughly twenty years of his collecting, he amassed some 1000 paintings which he exhibited in two castles: his official residence at Castle Weissenstein in Pommersfelden, where the more significant part was on view, and his more private residence, Castle Gaibach in Lower Franconia, where landscapes, seascapes, genre scenes, followed by mythological and historical scenes predominated. Despite Franz Lothar’s clerical positions, only about a third of the collection was of religious subject matter.
In 1997, Katharina Bott published the catalogue of 1719 by Rudolf Bys (1662-1738; since 1713 at Pommersfelden) of Lothar Franz von Schönborn’s premier collection in Pommersfelden, installed in Castle Weissenstein in 1721. (He inventoried 496 paintings, 337 of which remain in the Schönborn collection; some 75 paintings were auctioned in Paris in 1867; only 25 from Bys’s list are lost; reviewed by the present writer in this journal, May 2000, pp. 29-30). Here now follows the catalogue of Franz Lothar’s other collection of paintings, housed in Gaibach, compiled and published in 1721 by the painter and gallery director, Jan Joos van Cossiau (c.1664-1734; in the service of Lothar Franz since 1704). Salomon Kleiner’s series of engravings of 1728 includes a fine view of the castle and its extensive garden (reproduced on p. 100).
There were some 514 paintings exhibited at Gaibach in 1721 which eventually were merged into the collection in Pommersfelden. The purpose of this new publication is to try to reconstruct the original scope of the Schönborn collection at castle Gaibach. From correspondence we learn that besides paintings the count also collected miniatures, paintings on glass, pastels, and drawings. Although he tried to emulate the big contemporary collectors, such as the Elector Wilhelm from the Palatine and the Emperor’s collections in Prague and Vienna, his financial situation allowed him to only buy works by the less expensive contemporary artists, preferably those working at the Imperial court in Vienna, as well as copies after the great masters. His favou rite painter later became Francesco Trevisani. Cossiau himself is represented at Gaibach with no less than 23 works. The Netherlandish school with more than 200 paintings was by far the largest, followed by about 150 works by German artists, among them by the Roos family, Merian the Younger, Johann Carl Loth, as well as many painters who are little known today. In 1732, shortly after the death of Franz Lothar in 1729, an inventory was drawn up which showed that by then the collection had grown to close to 700 paintings, with Nether landish art still predominant, now totalling some 300 paintings. A printed catalogue was published in 1746 after the death of Friedrich Karl, Franz Lothar’s nephew, who had inherited the castles with their holdings. The painting collection in castle Gaibach was broken up for the first time in 1755, upon the death of Rudolf Franz Erwein von Schönborn. In 1786, Count Hugo Damian Erwein moved a sizeable number of works from Gaibach to Pommersfelden, which ends the usefulness of the Cossiau catalogue of 1721. By 1911, there remained a mere 90 paintings in Gaibach. Today the castle serves as a school.
Cossiau’s description of the installation shows that the hanging was dense, three to five rows on each wall, often grouped by themes and arranged in pairs. The religious cabinet, one of the three principal rooms leading to the large, great hall, contained 60 paintings, the majority representing Madonna and Child scenes, the mater dolorsa, or the Ecce Homo by Trevisani and Carlo Dolci, in addition to individual saints. The following, so-called ‘middle cabinet’ included 75 paintings, arranged in five rows, predominantly by Netherlandish and to a lesser extent German artists, representing genre scenes, landscapes, mythological subjects, and still lifes. The outer cabinet consisted of 81 paintings, where landscapes far outweighed other subject matter. The large great hall, the most magnificent room in the castle where the most precious works of art were installed, included 74 paintings, 54 of which were by Netherlandish artists (Jordaens’s Bean Eaters, some portraits supposedly by Rembrandt and Van Dyck), the remainder by German painters, among them Holbein and Cranach. Today, only 24 of these paintings can still be accounted for. The remaining rooms within castle Gaibach all contained paintings and at times also miniatures; an additional 52 paintings were distributed in the guest rooms, for example. Further apart, in the large hall in the Garden pavilion, no less than 105, mostly German paintings were installed with a few works by Italian artists.
In 1934, Ludwig Burchard wrote a long letter to Ernestine, Countess of Schönborn with additions and corrections to the unpublished dissertation by Hanns Fischer on the collection of Franz Lothar (Kurfürst Franz Lothar von Schönborn und seine Gemäldegalerie,Bamberg, 1927), which Bott cites (nos. 29, 55, 80, 97, 147, 176, 198, 210, 224, 226, 233, 253, 282, 298, 302 [possibly Quellinus], 339, 359, 441, 485, 509 among others). The often discussed copy after Mantegna’s Bacchanal, for example, Cossiau attributed in 1721 in his catalogue of Gaibach to Otto van Veen (cat. 485), an attribution re-confirmed by Burchard in 1934 but changed to Rubens in the Cologne exhibition in 1977 and published under Rubens’s name ever since (M. Jaffé, Rubens, Milan, 1989, no. 2, 1597-1600). The catalogue ends with a concordance between the Bott numbers and Frimmel ‘s 1894 inventory of the collection (Theodor van Frimmel, Verzeichnis der Gemälde in gräflich Schönborn-Wiesentheid’schem Besitze,Pommersfelden, 1894), and an index. The paintings, as far as they can be identified, are reproduced in small, but legible black and white images. As a sign of the times, the catalogue is also available on CD-ROM from the Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften, Weimar. I strongly recommend Katharina Bott’s further article on the Schönborn collection in the Städel-Jahrbuch, NF 16, 1997, pp. 257-88, “ ‘nur originalia von einem berühmten guten maister’, Kopie oder Original in der Kunstsammlung der Grafen von Schönborn,” where she discusses separately some 125 paintings and their prototypes.
Metropolitan Museum of Art