Kurfürst Johann Wilhelms Bilder. Vol. I: Sammler und Mäzen. Edited by Reinhold Baumstark with contributions by Reinhold Baumstark, Marcus Dekiert, Hubert Glaser, Oliver Kase and Christian Quaeitzsch. Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2009. 422 pp, 360 color illus., 7 b&w. ISBN 978-3-7774-6075-8.
Kurfürst Johann Wilhelms Bilder: Vol. II: Galerie und Kabinette. Edited by Reinhold Baumstark, catalogues by Christian Quaeitzsch (Düsseldorfer Galerie) and Oliver Kase (Gemäldekabinette). Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2009. 254 pp, 680 b&w illus. ISBN 978-3-7774-2051-6.
La Galerie Électorale de Dusseldorff. Die Gemäldegalerie des Kurfürsten Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz in Düsseldorf. Reprint of the Basel edition of 1778, published by the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, with an introduction by Reinhold Baumstark. Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2009. 118 pp, 55 b&w illus. ISBN 978-3-7774-7015-3.
These three publications accompanied an exhibition in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich (February 5 – May 17, 2009) to commemorate the 350th birthday of Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz (1658-1716) from the house of Wittelsbach, Duke Palatine of Neuburg, Jülich and Berg (1679), Elector Palatine (1690), Duke of Upper Palatine and Cham (1707-14), and one of the foremost collectors in Europe. Johann Wilhelm held court in Düsseldorf where he built one of the first galleries to exhibit his large collection of Flemish, Dutch, and Italian paintings, a so-called ‘Kunsthaus’, completed in 1714. This exhibition documenting Johann Wilhelm’s art collection in Munich followed the slightly earlier one held in Düsseldorf in late 2008-early 2009 – Himmlisch, Herrlich, Höfisch – which concentrated on the paintings formerly in the Elector’s collection that were still in Düsseldorf, among them Rubens’s large Assumption of the Virgin and Venus and Adonis.
The exhibition in the Alte Pinakothek with the well-written and lavishly illustrated catalogues follows the Elector’s collecting activities from the mid-1680s to the installation of around 350 works in the specially built art gallery or Kunsthaus in 1714. It continues with those of Johann Wilhelm’s younger brother and successor, Karl III Philipp (1661-1742) after the move of about 250 small paintings to Mannheim in 1730-31, and of the latter’s nephew and successor Karl Theodor (1724-99). After Karl Theodor became Elector of Bavaria in 1777 he settled in Munich. Upon his death, the collections of the Palatine and the Bavarian Electors were merged between 1799 and 1806 into the Royal Bavarian collections and integrated in 1836 into the holdings of the Alte Pinakothek.
The 46 paintings by Rubens and his studio formed the core of the collection and rivaled only the holdings of the Spanish Royal court. 29 of these works are still accepted as originals. It supposedly was Rubens’s Battle of the Amazons that inspired Johann Wilhelm to begin collecting art. Equally impressive are the more than 20 paintings by Van Dyck (14 are still accepted today). Rembrandt’s Passion cycle and Raphael’s Holy Family from the Canigiani collection (a gift from Johann Wilhelm’s father-in-law, Cosimo III de Medici), are other highlights. Among contemporary artists, Johann Wilhelm greatly admired the work of Adriaen van der Werff (1659-1722) from Rotterdam, his court painter for nearly twenty years, who is represented by close to 40 paintings. For decorations in his private apartments and the newly built castle Bensberg the Elector commissioned Antonio Bellucci (1654–1726) and Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1741) from Venice (today in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich). Instrumental in the paintings’ acquisition was the Dutch artist Jan Frans van Douven (1656-1727), since 1682 Johann Wilhelm’s court painter, who installed the collection in the Kunsthaus, unfortunately pulled down in the nineteenth century.
The Elector also involved his close relatives in securing works as well as his second wife, Maria Luisa, who was instrumental in the negotiations leading to the acquisition of Rubens’s Last Judgement, the enormous altar in the Neuburg Jesuit church that his grandfather, Wolfgang Wilhelm had commissioned from Rubens in 1616. Johann Wilhelm was among the first to collect altarpieces; in the process he was required to have a copy painted of the altar he was purchasing to replace the original in the church. For a detailed account on the formation of Johann Wilhelm’s collection see Susan Tipton, “’La Passion mia per la pittura’,” Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 3rd series, vol. LVII, 2006, pp. 71- 331, who publishes the documents regarding the acquisition and exchanges of the many works of art.
In 1719, three years after Johann Wilhelm’s death, appeared the first printed catalogue of the Elector’s art collection by Johann Georg Karsch (died 1753), the gallery’s director, dedicated to Elector Karl III Philipp. Besides the paintings, Karsch’s inventory also mentioned precious tables and small bronze and ivory sculptures (see Kornelia Möhlig, Die Gemäldegalerie des Kurfürsten Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz-Neuburg (1658-1716) in Düsseldorf, [Ph.D. diss. Bonn], Cologne, 1993). The second, a visual inventory of the art Johann Wilhelm collected, was a folio of engravings that reproduced all the paintings hanging in the Düsseldorf Kunsthaus and in the large staircase leading up to it from the castle: Estampes du catalogue raisonné et figuré des tableaux de la galerie électorale de Dusseldorff (Basel, 1778) with engravings by the Basel publisher and engraver Christian von Mechel (1737-1817) and a catalogue in French by Nicolas de Pigage (1723-1796). The publication, originally in a text and plate volume, was dedicated to Elector Karl Theodor von der Pfalz (1724-99).
The folio opens with an allegorical frontispiece honoring Karl Theodor, followed by the plan, façade and cross section of the Kunsthaus (plates A-D) and twenty-six plates of engravings, each reproducing mostly between 8 and 20 paintings in their original, rather spacious hanging, often arranged around a large center piece with smaller works placed more or less symmetrically along either side. The first two rooms included primarily Flemish paintings anchored by De Crayer’s high altar from the Augustinian church in Brussels, among Johann Wilhelm’s last acquisitions, surrounded by the more than twenty works by Van Dyck, among them Susanna and the Elders, a Lamentation, two Saint Sebastians, and several fine portraits. Additional works exhibited at the beginning were by Snyders, Fyt, Van Egmont, Van Thulden, and Jordaens. The Dutch school was represented by Jan Weenix, Bloemaert, and Honthorst with an occasional Italian painting (Titian, Giordano, Palma); the latter school was predominant in Room 3. Here we find paintings by Raphael, the Carracci, Tintoretto, Veronese, several by Luca Giordano and a lone work by Poussin. Among the eight Rembrandts in Room 4 were the Passion paintings, the Adoration of the Shepherds, and two portraits (now called Bol), together with no less than 23 works by Adriaen van der Werff, among them the fifteen for the Mysteries of the Rosary. In midst of these we find Titian’s Portrait of a Young Man, Jordaens’s Satyr Visiting the Peasant, Guido Reni’s Assumption of the Virgin, and Velazquez’s Young Nobleman, one of the few Spanish works in the Kunsthaus. In Room 5 at the end, all 46 Rubens paintings were shown, reproduced on five plates. The remaining four plates reproduce 70 small-scale paintings installed on panels that covered the windows.
Von Mechel recorded the 358 paintings exhibited in the Kunsthaus in small engravings on 26 large plates in accordance with their hanging, the Galerie Électorale de Dusseldorf. Each work is reproduced in fine detail in the order they were installed in the five rooms, identified with the artist’s name and a number that corresponded to the 1719 Karsch inventory. The present folio facsimile edition reproduces the hanging of 1763 after the collection was newly installed by the then gallery director and painter Lambert Krahe (1712-90). The first Düsseldorf installation, according to Karsch, showed Rubens’s enormous Last Judgement – his largest painting and one of five monumental works by the artist – in the centre hall with the Kunsthaus built around it. In the 1778 publication the hanging was rearranged so that the visitor was greeted in the first room by Van Douven’s large equestrian portrait of Johann Wilhelm above the door and then proceeded slowly to Room 5, the highpoint at the end where all the Rubens paintings were installed. The De Pigage-Von Mechel volume also includes engravings after seven allegorical paintings in grisaille by Johann Georg Karsh that decorated the gallery’s staircase.
The 2009 facsimile publication ends with a list of the 358 works arranged by inventory number with references to plates, artists, title, medium and size, and the present location (pp. 98-113). An alphabetical list of the artists with a brief mention if attributions differed from those found in De Pigage’s 1778 catalogue –primarily among the Italian works and some by Rubens – concludes the volume.
Christian Quaeitzsch catalogues these works fully in Kurfürst Johann WiIhelms Bilder. Vol. II: Galerie und Kabinette, recording 337 paintings seen there until 1719 (pp. 21-133). All are illustrated in black and white and listed alphabetically by artist, title, medium and size, current inventory numbers, and references beginning with the first catalogue by Gerhard Joseph Karsch of 1719 up to the recent Munich catalogues of 2005 (Neuburg), 2006-09. Paintings that were auctioned or lost were illustrated whenever possible from Von Mechel’s engravings. After the Elector’s death in 1716, some 160 paintings were added between 1719 and 1778 (pp. 135-55, nos. 338-398) and incorporated into the Düsseldorf gallery for a total of 398 works; all are again illustrated in black and white where possible or shown in Von Mechel’s 1778 engravings. During the preparation of the exhibition it could be established that only 76 paintings were missing; 17 are still known but no longer in the Alte Pinakothek, while nine were auctioned in 1851 and some were lost during the war or deaccessioned.
Another group of 253 small-scale paintings was installed in two private rooms in the Düsseldorf castle and transferred in 1730 to the newly built castle in Mannheim where they again were installed in similar rooms (Kabinette). Thanks to four pen drawings dated 1731, now generally attributed to Johann Philipp von der Schlichten (1681-1745), Karl Philipp’s court painter, that Everhard Korthals Altes discovered in the Doucet collection at the library of the Art History Institute (INHA), Paris (The Burlington Magazine, CXLV, March 2003, pp. 206-18), it was possible to reconstruct that part of the collection as well. The pen and ink drawings show us their original frame-to-frame hanging that likely reflected the earlier one in the Düsseldorf castle. Landscapes (66) and genre scenes (41) predominate besides religious subjects which were installed as a group on one wall (57).
Oliver Kase catalogues this collection of small-scale paintings in Kurfürst Johann WiIhelms Bilder. Vol. II: Galerie und Kabinette (pp. 157-251). The reconstruction shows that of the 253 works reproduced in the drawings in 1731, only 143 could be identified in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, fifteen in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, while 79 works are lost. Kase’s catalogue illustrates all the works and lists them alphabetically by artist with the relevant information to various collection catalogues and, if known, present-day locations. Here Von der Schlichten’s small pen sketches are used for illustration of missing works. A good many of these paintings are now exhibited in the Staatsgalerie Neuburg an der Donau which opened in 2005, published in Flämische Barockmalerei, a catalogue by Konrad Renger and Nina Schleif (reviewed earlier in the HNA Newsletter). Both the De Pigage-Von Mechel publication of 1778 and the four pen-and-ink drawings of 1731 provide an excellent visual record of the installation of art collections in the eighteenth century.
While Kurfürst Johann WiIhelms Bilder. Vol. II: Galerie und Kabinettedocuments the paintings in Johann Wilhelm’s collection proper, Vol. I: Sammler und Mäzen publishes five essays on the Elector’s art collecting and its appreciation: Hubert Glaser situates Johann Wilhelm and his collection in his time; Reinhold Baumstark discusses the Elector not only as an avid art collector but also as a patron of many Dutch and Italian artists, as for example Adriaen van der Werff who contributed more than forty works, among them fifteen for the Mysteries of the Rosary. The Elector also commissioned the Venetian artists Antonio Bellucci and Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini with extensive decorations in the private apartments of the Düsseldorf castle and the newly built hunting castle Bensberg (1705-10), including some twelve large hunting pieces and three ceiling decorations by Jan Weenix (ca. 1642-1719). All these paintings are today in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. Christian Quaeitzsch discusses how Johann Wilhelm – who was educated by Jesuits – and his art collection were received among the European courts and how it affected his standing. Furthermore he describes the extensive allegorical decorations by Pellegrini and Bellucci in the Düsseldorf castle and castle Bensberg. Marcus Dekiert recounts the move under Elector Karl III Philip von der Pfalz (died 1642) of some 250 small-scale paintings from the two Kabinette and Johann Wilhelm’s private rooms to the newly built castle in Mannheim, finished in 1730, while the collection in the Kunsthaus remained behind in Düsseldorf. Discussed as well are the four drawings by Von der Schlichten, mentioned above, which reproduce the paintings in their new installation in Mannheim. The pen sketches again include artists’ names (in red ink) and numbers which correspond more or less to the 1730 inventory drawn up during the move.
Among the ‘cabinet’ paintings were no fewer than twenty-six works called Jan Brueghel the Elder and ten painted in collaboration with other artists, seven by Adriaen Brouwer, several by Hans Rottenhammer, Adam Elsheimer (3), Gerard Dou (5), the elder Van Mieris (8), Van der Neer (15) and other Dutch fijnschilders. Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750), appointed in 1708 as Cabinetsmalerin, is represented by several fine still lifes. Korthals Altes furthermore discovered an early printed catalogue, Detail des Peintures du Cabinet Electoral de Dusseldorff in Wolfenbüttel with another similar one located in the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Munich, that seem to reflect this early Mannheim collection; this indicated that the paintings were opened to special visitors for viewing. (Also printed in vol. 2 of Jan van Gool’s De nieuwe Schouburg…, 1751).
Oliver Kase, finally, selected texts referring to paintings in the Düsseldorf Gallery, foremost the “Galeriebriefe” by Wilhelm Heinse, published in 1776-77 in the Teutscher Merkur, reprinting some excerpts. His essay ends with color plates of a selection of paintings by the court painters that lead to the catalogue proper of the 150 exhibits shown in Munich, drawn above all from the Mannheim ‘cabinets’ (pp. 339-89). A selection of 58 works by Düsseldorf court painters, among them Buys, Van Douven, Van der Werff, and Rachel Ruysch concludes the volume. References to the early collection catalogues up to 1838 and a general bibliography follow without an index; however a concordance of all the paintings listed in the catalogues from 1719 until today, their present attributions and locations, is published on the museum website as www.pinakothek.de/alte-pinakothek/information/publikationen/JW Listen.pdf.