Gerson Digital : Germany I


2.10 Still-life Painting in Berlin

The Elector had a distinct and unusual preference for still-life. The portrait painter Broder Matthisen (died 1666) painted two still-lifes (now in Schwerin and Dresden) [1-2] during his stay in Berlin. He was appointed court painter in 1659, followed by a confirmation in 1665. However, he appears to have lived in Husum from 1661 on, where he died in 1666.1 A still-life by Pieter Nason, which very probably derives from the collection of the Great Elector, ended up in the museum in Berlin, together with other possessions of the Hohenzollern [3].2

Broder Matthisen
Vanitas still life with unfolded books, musical instruments, precious vessels and a globe, c. 1664
canvas, oil paint 138 x 119 cm
left : Mathisen fecit
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, inv./ 1996 A

Broder Matthisen
Still life with columbine cup, brandy bowl and fruit on a covered table, dated 1664
canvas, oil paint 66,5 x 62,5 cm
upper right : BRODERVS MATHISEN PIN 1664
Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, inv./ 391

Pieter Nason
Still-life with a goblet and oysters on a table, c. 1666
canvas, oil paint 84 x 70 cm
lower right : PNason:f.
Berlin, Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, inv./ 977

The well-travelled artist Franz de Hamilton (before 1640-after 1702) was in the service of the Elector in Cleves in 1661 and until 1671 in Potsdam [4-5].3 Willem Frederiksz. van Royen (c. 1645-1723) brought Hondecoeter’s style to Germany; he also copied Jan Weenix (f.e. Braunschweig, no. 443, dated 1706) [6].4 First, that is from 1669-1689, he was employed in Potsdam, then moved to Berlin and became professor and director of the academy. Several of his works are still preserved in the Prussian castles [7-8].5 He was not only required to paint ordinary still-lifes, but in particular to record the unusual, abnormal, such as for example in a painting in Potsdam [9], where lemons and oranges grow next to each other on the same branch, which could be marvelled at in the pleasure garden in ‘Cölln an der Spree’!6

Franz de Hamilton
Hunting trophies
canvas, oil paint 73,5 x 60,5 cm
lower right : F. De Hammilton
Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, inv./ G 425

Franz de Hamilton
Game piece, c. 1665-1670
canvas, oil paint 150,3 x 125,9 cm
lower right : F. De. Hammilton
Berlin/Potsdam, Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, inv./ GK 1 7178

Willem Frederiksz. van Royen after Jan Weenix
Young hunter with dog and game, dated 1706
canvas, oil paint 121 x 97 cm
lower right : Guiljelmo van Royen / f. 1706
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ 443

Willem Frederiksz. van Royen
The menagerie of Friedrich III Elector of Brandenburg (later Friedrich I King of Prussia), dated 1697
canvas, oil paint 232,5 x 190,5 cm
center : W.F. VRoye. fec / A° 1697. [VR in monogram}
Berlin (Grunewald), Jagdschloss Grunewald, inv./ GK I 6243

Willem Frederiksz. van Royen
Smew (Mergullus albellus), in the background Castle Caputh, after 1669
canvas, oil paint 75,5 x 61,3 cm
lower left :
Berlin (Grunewald), Jagdschloss Grunewald, inv./ GK I 7140

Willem Frederiksz. van Royen
Oranges, dated 1712
canvas, oil paint 37 x 29 cm
: W.F. VAN ROYE fecit. Ao 1712
Saint Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage

Henri de Fromantiou
Hunting still-life with dead partridge in a niche, dated 1666
canvas, oil paint 65 x 51 cm
lower left : HD fromantiou / fecit 1666
Berlin (Grunewald), Jagdschloss Grunewald

A year later, in 1670, Henri de Fromantiou (c. 1633/4-after 1693)7 who was called to Berlin, immediately managed to obtain a position of trust. First he became inspector of the collection of paintings, later he repeatedly made trips to purchase paintings. In 1682 he attended the auction of the estate of Sir Peter Lely in London and in 1684 he went to Amsterdam for business on behalf of his employer. Furthermore he traded paintings that were sent to him from the Netherlands on his own account. The Elector greatly valued his judgment, as appears from the lawsuit with the art dealer Gerrit Uylenburgh who evidently tried to sell inferior Italian paintings to the Berlin court for good money.8 Fromantiou went to Holland to advocate the interests of his Lord. After the death of the Great Elector Fromantiou’s position as court painter was ratified by his successor Friedrich III (the later King Friedrich I of Prussia). Not many of his works can be found in the Prussian castles [10-11].9 Maybe he was too much preoccupied with other activities, such as the restoration of paintings.

Henri de Fromantiou
Owl with a captured mouse, after 1670
canvas, oil paint 73 x 60 cm
Moscow, Pushkin Museum, inv./ ЗЖ-1406

At the same time as Fromantiou the still-life painter Ottomar Elliger I came to Berlin. The Elector brought him from Hamburg, because -- as Houbraken recounts10 -- Elliger painted so well in the manner of his teacher Daniël Seghers (1590-1661), whose still-lifes were greatly admired by the Great Elector. In 1646 the Elector saw a flower piece by Seghers in The Hague presented by the Jezuits in Antwerp. He admired it so much, that he informed the Jezuits he would like to acquire a similar painting.11 The next year the artist sent him The Virgin Mary in a flower wreath [12-14]. The Elector thanked him in a personal letter and added some relics from the cathedral in Berlin!12 Elliger worked in Berlin until his death and the flower garlands around portraits as well as other flower and fruit pieces in the manner of Seghers are not uncommon here [15-16].13 Elliger the Younger (1666-1732) learned from his father in Berlin, but returned to Holland to work later again at the southern German courts and for the Tsar.14

Daniël Seghers Erasmus Quellinus (II)
Sculpted cartouche adorned with flowers surrounding a bust of the Virgin Mary, c. 1650-1655
copper, oil paint 88 x 61 cm
bottom left of the middle : Daniel Seghers Soctis JESV
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum Stockholm, inv./ NM 1393

Daniël Seghers Erasmus Quellinus (II)
Sculpted cartouche adorned with flowers with a representation of the Virgin and Christ Child, c. 1650-1655
copper, oil paint 85,5 x 64,5 cm
lower right : Daniel Seghers Soctis JESV
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, inv./ 1206

Daniël Seghers Erasmus Quellinus (II)
Sculpted cartouche adorned with flowergarlands with a representation of the Virgin and Christ-child, c. 1650-1655
copper, oil paint 85 x 61 cm
lower left : Daniel Seghers Soctis JESV (tis in superscript)
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, inv./ 1205

Ottomar Elliger (I)
Portrait of Electress Dorothea of Brandenburg- née von Holstein Glücksburg (1636-1689) in a garland of fruit and flowers, c. 1670-1675
canvas, oil paint 140 x 114 cm
Potsdam (Germany), Bildergalerie am Schloss Sanssouci, inv./ GK I 5284

Ottomar Elliger (I)
Flowers and fruit pieces and a view of a garden, after 1669
canvas, oil paint 100 x 79 cm
Potsdam, Marmorpalais

Small hunting still-lifes with dead birds like those of Fromantiou belong to a genre that was loved and sought after by all European courts. In England it was William Gowe Ferguson (1632-in or after 1695), in Tuscany Willem van Aelst (1627-1683), in Düsseldorf Jan Weenix (1642-1719), who also painted large pieces, and in Vienna the more Flemish working Hamiltons. Melchior d’Hondecoeter’s (1636-1695) decorative art was carried into the world by many pupils. But in even greater measure the late Dutch flower piece dispersed over the whole of Europe. Even the frugal Friedrich II owned some paintings of Jan van Huijsum (1682-1749) [17]15 and the King had sent over some flower pieces Pieter Hardimé (1677-1748) painted at Honselaarsdijk Castle.16

attributed to Jan van Huijsum
Still life of flowers, first half 18th century
canvas, oil paint 127 x 104 cm
Potsdam (Germany), Bildergalerie am Schloss Sanssouci

At the time of the Great Elector Adriaen van der Spelt (c. 1630-1673) worked in Berlin, who worthily stood by Elliger’s side [18].17 Also paintings from Willem Kalf, Jurriaen van Streek, Otto Marseus von Schrieck [19-20] and Jan Weenix [21] (if these indeed stem from the collection of the Great Elector, which cannot be proven) are found in the royal castles in Berlin, which demonstrate that his taste was not directed to the decorative and rare alone. Two still-lifes of Pieter van den Bosch must have ended up in his possession before 1670, since the Amsterdam dealer Johannes de Renialme alludes to these when he offers two other paintings of the same artists.18 The local animal painter Peter Caulitz (1650-1719) [22] connected more to Flemish painters and to Carl Borromäus Andreas Ruthart (1630-1703).19

Adriaen van der Spelt and after Willem van Honthorst
Portrait of Karl Emil Kurprinz von Brandenburg (1655-1674) in a flower wreath, c. 1665
canvas, oil paint 118,5 x 95 cm
lower right : AVSpelt f [AVS in monogram]
Berlin (Grunewald), Jagdschloss Grunewald, inv./ GK I 30063

Otto Marseus van Schrieck
Still life with opium poppy, thistle, butterflies, snakes and a lizard, c. 1670
canvas, oil paint 82,8 x 64,9 cm
lower right : O: Marseus./ van schik./ fec.
Berlin/Potsdam, Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, inv./ GK I 2814

Otto Marseus van Schrieck
Still life with garden orache, mushrooms, snakes and butterflies, first half 1670s
canvas, oil paint 100,4 x 75,5 cm
lower right : Otho Marseus/ van Schrieck./ fec.
Berlin/Potsdam, Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, inv./ GK I 10051

Jan Weenix
Hunting still life with a hunting dog in a parkland
canvas, oil paint 78,3 x 139,7 cm
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), inv./ 962

Peter Caulitz
Chicken farm, after 1681
canvas, oil paint 130 x 153 cm
lower left : P. Caulitz. fecit.
Berlin (Charlottenburg), Schloss Charlottenburg


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] See p. 213 (=§ 2.1.2).

2 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Brusewicz 1978, esp. p. 17, ill.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2017] On Franz de Hamilton: Seifertová/Sevcík 1997, p. 98, no. 11; Van der Willigen/Meijer 2003, p. 99.

4 [Van Leeuwen 2017] According to Houbraken Van Royen had been a pupil of Hondecoeter (Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 3, p. 74). Buijsen/Dumas et al. 1998, p. 342; Van der Willigen/Meijer 2003, p. 172. The prototype of the painting in Braunschweig has not been traced, but there are several strongly related works by Jan Weenix, that however bare later dates, since Weenix varied on his own compositions for a long time.

5 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Several works (formerly) in Jagdschloss Grunewald (Börsch-Supan 1964, p. 116-188, nos. 156-161) and in Schloss Caputh (Sommer/Reichelt/Schurig 2009, p. 15, ill.).

6 [Van Leeuwen 2017] The painting was looted by Russia in 1945 and is now in the Hermitage (Bartoschek/Vogtherr 2004 , vol. 1, p. 418-419, no. GK I 1668).

7 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Hendrikman/Wuestman et al. 2015.

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] About this case see also Bredius 1886, Bredius 1916 and Lugt 1936 and Six 1925-1926. [Van Leeuwen 2017] On Uylenburg in Gottorf in 1655: § 2.1.2. On the Uylenburg case with the Elector and Fromentiou: Lammertse/Van der Veen 2006, p. 61-115.

9 [Van Leeuwen 2017] The first painting illustrated here from a Prussian castle dates from the time before Fromantiou was a court painter in Berlin. However, he may have brought the painting to Germany himself; it was documented for the first time in the Berliner Schloss in 1693 in the room below the gallery of paintings (Börsch-Supan 1964, p. 68). The second painting illustrated probably was painted in Potsdam, where it was documented in 1698; it was looted by Russia in 1946 from Charlottenburg Castle and since then in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow (Bartoschek/Vogtherr 2004, vol. 1, p. 180, no. GK I 3830).

10 [Gerson 1942/1983] Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 2, p. 293.

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] Papebrochio/Mertens/Buschmann 1847, p. 390-391. [Van Leeuwen 2017] Also published by Alexandre Pinchart in Messager des Sciences 1868, p. 342-344 ( ). See also Bieneck 1992, p. …

12 [Gerson 1942/1983] Seidel 1890, p. 121-122. [Van Leeuwen 2017] The illustrated works possibly come from the collection of Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg. De Bruyn 1988, p. 14, 62, 219-220, nos. 164-166, ill.

13 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Several works by Elliger from his Berlin period have been transported from Berlin or Potsdam to Russia in 1946. Bartoschek/Vogtherr 2004, p. 158-169, nos. GK 13995, GK 14057, GK 14452 and 14453.

14 [Van Leeuwen 2017] It was Ottomar Elliger III (1704-1735) who went to Russia to work for the Tsar. Data of Elliger II and III have been mixed up until recently (also in Saur 1992-, vol. 33 [2002], p. 305).

15 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Bartoschek et al. 1994, p. 96-97, ill.The painting traditionally is considered to be by Jan van Huijsum; according to Fred Meijer, former employee of the RKD, the painting is not by Jan van Huijsum but possibly German or Central European.

16 [Gerson 1942/1983] Weyerman 1729-1769, vol. 4 (1769), p. 372. [Van Leeuwen 2017] On the Van Huijsum: Weyerman states that Baron von Smettau, envoy of the King of Prussia, sent for Hardimé in Honselaarsdijk (near The Hague) to paint rare flowers, among others the ‘night flower’ which opens in the moonlight. He sent the painting over to Berlin, where the King gave it a place of honour at his court. No such painting could be traced, but there were two pendants by his brother Simon Hardimé (1672-1737), one of which dated 1694, documented in the Berliner Schloss in 1793 and in the Potsdamer Stadtschloss in 1883. The dated work was on loan to Hermann Göring in 1934-1943 and was looted by Russia in 1946 (Bartoschek/Vogtherr 2004, p. 210-211, no. GK I 4400, ill.).

17 [Van Leeuwen] Geselschap 1970; Van der Willigen/Meijer 2003, p. 187-188. Van der Spelt was probably active at the court of Brandenburg from c. 1664 until c. 1670 (Van der Willigen/Meijer 2003). Geselschap states his stay in Berlin before 1661, but given the age of Prince Karl Emil Brandenburg on the painted portrait (decidedly older than five or six) a stay after 1664 (the year his second wife died) is more plausible.

18 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Bode/Bredius 1893, p. 123; Van der Willigen/Meijer 2003, p. 44-45.

19 [Gerson 1942/1983] Auction London 18 December 1925 and Berlin castles.

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