Rüdiger Klessmann, Im Detail die Welt entdecken: Adam Elsheimer 1578-1610. With contributions by Emilie E.S. Gordenker and Christian Tico Seifert, edited by Michael Maek-Gérard. [Cat. exh. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt/M, March 17 – June 5, 2006; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 23 June 23 – September 3, 2006; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, September 29 – December 3, 2006]. German edition: Wolfratshausen: Edition Minerva, 2006. 302 pp, many color plates. ISBN 3-938832-06-1.
Michael Zuch, Discovering the World in Detail. Adam Elsheimer 1578-1610. Visitor’s guide to the exhibition, translated by Judith Rosenthal.
Rüdiger Klessmann, Adam Elsheimer 1578-1610. With contributions from Emilie E.S. Gordenker and Christian Tico Seifert. [Cat. exh. Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt/M, March 17 – June 5, 2006; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 23 June 23 – September 3, 2006; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, September 29 – December 3, 2006]. London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2006. 246 pp, 240 illus., 130 in color. ISBN 1-903470-47-1 (hardback); 1-903278-78-3 (paperback)
Emilie E.S. Gordenker, Adam Elsheimer 1578-1610. Devil in the Detail. Visitor’s guide to the exhibition.
Reinhold Baumstark, ed. Von Neuen Sternen. Adam Elsheimers “Flucht nach Ägypten”. Catalogue by Marcus Dekiert with contributions by various authors. [Cat. exh. Alte Pinakothek, Munich, December 17, 2005 – February 26, 2006]. Munich and Cologne: Pinakothek-Dumont, 2005. 226 pp, 110 color, 10 b&w illus. ISBN 3-832175-83-0.
English translations of the various Lives of Adam Elsheimer by Carel van Mander (1604), Giulio Mancini (c. 1614-21), Giovanni Baglione (1642), Joachim von Sandrart (1675), and Jean-Baptiste Le Brun (1792), as well as recollections of Jusepe Martinez (c. 1670) and Johann Faber (c. 1628) are published by Pallas Athene, London (ISBN 978-1-84368-029-1; ₤3.99). Based on Keith Andrews’s Elsheimer monograph, with an introduction by Claire Pace and 12 b&w illus. (apparently also available with color illus.)
This jewel of an exhibition was dedicated to the memory of Keith Andrews (1920-89), curator of Drawings and Prints at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh from 1958-85. His 1977 monograph on Adam Elsheimer laid the groundwork for all subsequent research and scholarship on the artist and forms the basis for the present exhibition catalogue. (An updated edition but in German appeared in 1985.) Keith Andrews reduced the core of Elsheimer’s works to thirty-four, or about half the number that Heinrich Weiszäcker catalogued in his first monograph on the artist in 1936. Thirty-two, all painted within about twelve years, are included in the present exhibition that opened in Frankfurt, traveled to Edinburgh, and ended in Dulwich. Two works in the exhibition were unknown to Andrews since they came to light only in 1989: Aeneas Saving Anchises from Burning Troy, a gouache from an album amicorum (no. 12) and the painting of St. Jerome in the Wilderness (no. 17, but not exhibited), both in a private collection. Of interest as well was the copy after Elsheimer’s lost Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (no. 28, Mr. and Mrs. Edward D. Baker) that appeared on the Vienna art market in 2005. Christian Tico Seifert has kindly informed me about a new Elsheimer drawing he discovered in the printroom of the Muzeum Narodowe (National Museum) in Warsaw, where T. Gerszi had attributed it to Jan or Jacob Pynas. Seifert recognized it as Elsheimer’s study for the Embarkation of the Empress Helena, a plate in the True Cross altarpiece of 1603-05 in the Städel, Frankfurt (no. 20b). (To be published in Master Drawings, no. 2, 2007).
Rüdiger Klessmann, today’s authority on the artist and the guiding organizer of the exhibition, discusses Adam Elsheimer’s life and art in an excellent, richly and beautifully illustrated essay, followed by his most detailed catalogue entries. The author emphasizes the artist’s Roman years, his contacts with Paul Bril as well as his acquaintance with works by Jan Brueghel the Elder, Pieter Schoubroeck and Caravaggio. The likely year of Elsheimer’s encounter with Rubens is 1601, according to Klessmann, possibly through Caesar Baronius. An interesting, novel suggestion is the attribution to Elsheimer of the lynx, the heraldic animal of the Accademia dei Lincei, drawn in gouache on the title page of the academy’s first bound official documents (fig. 26; AE in ligature is inscribed on the verso). Probably thanks to his patron Johann Faber, Elsheimer seems to have been well aware of the newest, especially scientific research at the academy.
A small, most interesting exhibition that focused on this very aspect of Elsheimer’s work and was based on his Flight into Egypt (Munich, no. 36) took place in early 2005 in Munich under the title Von Neuen Sternen. Adam Elsheimers “Flucht nach Ägypten” (see above for full description.) In this picture, considered the first true moonlit night scene in European painting, Elsheimer reproduced the starry night sky with the Milky Way. Unresolved remains the question whether the artist was aware of Galileo’s research published in 1610 and whether he recorded an actual Roman night sky. (G. Hartl and C. Sicka who investigated this question in their essay concluded that Elsheimer likely recorded here a series of individual observations, possibly partly obtained with the help of a telescope, but not an actual starry Roman night.) The Munich catalogue further discusses how Elsheimer’s painting influenced artists such as Rubens, reflected in his Flight into Egypt in Kassel. (Rubens was also the subject of Reinhold Baumstark’s contribution “Römische Weggefährten: Rubens und Elsheimer”.)
The most comprehensive Elsheimer exhibition was the venue in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt, the city where the artist was born. The Städel owns the largest number of his works. Here, besides paintings one also found six gouaches and four pen sketches (one loan from the Louvre did not come) that relate directly to works in the exhibition. Noteworthy was The Denial of St. Peter drawing of c. 1600-05 that the Städel acquired in 2005 (not discussed in the catalogue.) The works on paper traveled only partly to Edinburgh and were omitted in Dulwich. The Frankfurt venue further included a section devoted to Elsheimer’s circle in Rome with paintings by Paul Bril, Johann König, Pieter Lastman, Jacob and Jan Pynas, Hans Rotenhammer, Carlo Saraceni, David Teniers the Elder, and Jakob Ernst Thomann von Hagelstein. These artists and their relationship with Elsheimer are discussed in Christian Tico Seifert’s excellent essay, ‘Adam Elsheimer’s Artistic Circle in Rome’ (‘Adam Elsheimers “mit-Compagnen”. Sein künstlerischer Umkreis in Rom’) supplemented with brief artists’ biographies. (The expanded discussion on these works shown only in Frankfurt is found in the German edition of the catalogue.) In his text Seifert furthermore discusses Elsheimer’s contacts with Johann Faber and Rubens as well as his complicated relationship with Hendrick Goudt. Unlike Klessmann, Seifert believes either Johann Faber or Paul Bril likely introduced Elsheimer to Rubens. Rubens’s letter of 1611 to Faber expressing his deep grief about Elsheimer’s untimely death is well known.
New is Seifert’s suggestion that Claes Lastman may have accompanied his older brother Pieter to Italy. On the other hand, the assumption that Jacob Pynas traveled with his brother Jan to Italy in 1605 has been proven wrong thanks to Dudok van Heel, who established that Jacob was born only in 1592/93. Instead, it was Pieter Lastman who likely accompanied Jan Pynas to Italy. Furthermore, Jakob Ernst Thomann von Hagelstein’s arrival in Rome in 1605, as Sandrart claims, has been confirmed by the new reading of 1605 on his signed Judith Showing the Head of Holofernes (Friedrichshafen). The artist might possibly even be an Elsheimer copyist. Thomann von Hagelstein is recorded back in Lindau already in 1614 rather than 1620. Unanswered is the question whether these artists only worked with Elsheimer or whether they possibly were in his workshop. The only one who worked in Elsheimer’s studio for certain was Hendrick Goudt.
Of note as well is Seifert’s reading the date on Thomann von Hagelstein’s copy after Elsheimer’s Mocking of Ceres as 1605, thus providing a terminus ante quem for Elsheimer’s original. Furthermore, a close examination of the two known versions of the composition in the Bader Collection (no. 26) and in the Prado (no. 27) resulted in demoting the one in Madrid, once owned by Rubens, to a copy, since pentimenti were discovered in the example in the Bader collection (illustrated in a diagram, fig. 97). Of interest too is A Sultan and his Retinue in the British Museum, a drawing based on Elsheimer’s Stoning of Saint Stephen in Ediburgh, traditionally attributed to Rubens (under no. 19, fig. 82a). The drawing was engraved by Pieter Soutman. In his entry, Klessmann retains the attribution to Rubens (also retained by Baumstark in the Munich catalogue) though the caption to the British Museum drawing, somewhat confusingly, suggests that it is by Soutman after a lost drawing by Rubens. The present reviewer is more convinced than ever that it is indeed by Pieter Soutman (without Rubens’s intervention). For one, the drawing does not reflect Rubens’s approach to copying after a painting: the completeness of the composition and the mixing of pen with a heavy application of wash that indicates dark and light areas for the printmaker are alien to Rubens’s working method. The fact that the drawing corresponds so closely to Soutman’s print in reverse is another reason to see in it the latter’s design for his engraving. Although the Edinburgh painting remained in Rome until the early eighteenth century, there exists a copy on silvered copper that Soutman could have seen and copied in the Netherlands (listed in Andrews 1977 and 1985; sold at Christie’s, London in 1976 and later in Zurich in 1978 as copy or circle of Elsheimer; its present location is unknown. Not mentioned in the present catalogue).
Devil in the Detail, the subtitle of the exhibition in Edinburgh and Dulwich, is taken from a quote by the artist Edward Norgate who remembered Italians referring to Elsheimer as “il diavolo per glie cose picole”. To aid the viewer enjoying these miniature-like paintings on copper, the visitor at Dulwich actually was given a small plastic magnifying glass. The luminosity of Elsheimers works, at times on copper with a silvered surface, was enhanced by the darkened exhibition galleries with strong light illuminating the individual paintings. (Only once did the artist paint on canvas, namely his self-portrait in the Uffizi, Florence.)
In her essay Hidden Treasures: Collecting Elsheimer’s Paintings in Britain, Emilie E.S. Gordenker traces the artist’s works in England and Scotland. Foremost among the earliest collectors were Charles I, the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Arundel. Fifteen of Elsheimer’s surviving works are still in Britain today (listed in an Appendix with their provenances and current locations.) As mentioned earlier, the English edition of the catalogue publishes Christian Tico Seifert’s essay, Adam Elsheimer’s Artistic Circle in Rome without the catalogue to the eighteen paintings from Elsheimer’s circle that were shown in Frankfurt.
All the exhibited works are reproduced in color, although often larger than the originals, which is especially true of the many details. The catalogue begins with a chronology and ends with the biographies of painters in Elsheimer’s circle (Christian Tico Seifert), the bibliography, lenders to the exhibition, and an index.
Finally, the proceedings of the two-day conference on Adam Elsheimer und sein römischer Kreis (February 26-27, 2004, Bibliotheca Hertziana-Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Rome), organized by Stefan Gronert (Bonn) and Andreas Thielemann (Rome) and referred to often in the catalogue as “Elsheimer 2006,” have yet to be published.