Gerson Digital : Germany I


2.9 Decorative Painters in Berlin

The Great Elector really could not have been afraid that his effigy would remain unknown to his own and future generations. For a small court with limited means he employed a remarkable number of Dutch artists, incidentally with a preference for painters from The Hague, a town adjusted to court life. But the needs of the Berlin court, like everywhere else, went further. Particularly in the second half of the 17th century there was a demand for histories, allegories and decorative pieces. Friedrich III (1657-1713) showed a predilection for decorative ensembles, ceiling paintings and similar works. From the just mentioned Wieling, Duval and Jacques Vaillant there are such history paintings. However, as early as 1646 Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert (1613/14-1654), who certainly belongs to the Flemish art circle, had created an Allegory on the marriage of the Great Elector and Louise Henriette of Orange [1].1 Perhaps in this context we also should mention Jan Lievens’ (1607-1674) representation of Mars and Venus (Sanssouci [now Oranienburg, ed.]) [2], although it is not to be considered as an allegory of this marriage.2

Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert
Double portrait of a man and a woman, possibly Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg (1620-1688) and Louise Henriette van Oranje-Nassau (1627-1667) as Dido and Aeneas, dated 1646
canvas, oil paint 297 x 255 cm
Potsdam (Germany), Bildergalerie am Schloss Sanssouci, inv./ GK I 6291

Jan Lievens
Mars and Venus, dated 1653
canvas, oil paint 146 x 136 cm
lower right : IL 1653
Oranienburg, Schlossmuseum Oranienburg

The mythological paintings of Gerard de Lairesse were highly appreciated at the court in Berlin. It is however very unlikely that the artist came to Berlin, as Nagler surmises.3 His Polish pupil Teodor Lubieniecki (c. 1653-in or after 1729) on the other hand did stay at this court later, to which we will come back.

In 1660 we meet Michael Willmann (1630-1706) from Königsberg for the first time in Berlin. He received his training in the circle of Rembrandt and Jacob Backer.4 Nothing of what he must have painted in Berlin at the time, has been preserved. But during his second stay in the residence his Apotheosis of the Great Electress [3] of 1682 originated, a painting that betrays the solid painterly culture of Holland, despite its Flemish airs.5 From the same year stems an altarpiece for Königsberg. However, Willmann displayed his main activity in Silesia, where we will meet him again and speak more about his work.6

Michael Willmann
Allegorical portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm, Elector of Brandenburg (1620-1688), dated 1682
canvas, oil paint 162 x 200 cm
Berlin (Grunewald), Jagdschloss Grunewald

Unfortunately the decorative paintings of Johannes Marinus († before 1692) from The Hague have not been preserved. In 1666 he was appointed as a court painter to the Elector in Cleves and from 1669 on he was working in Potsdam.7 In 1675 the Elector sent him to Amsterdam to collect some boxes with newly bought paintings.8

We get a better idea of the academic works of Rutger van Langevelt (1635-1695),9 who came to Berlin as a court painter in 1678. Both in Berlin as in Holland [4] decorative paintings have been preserved.10 Langevelt was very versatile: he painted portraits [5] and church interiors [6-7] and made designs for tapestries (together with Abraham Begheyn?). Furthermore he built the pleasure castle Köpenick.11 His influence as a teacher was significant. He taught the princes Ludwig and Philip Wilhelm, the German architect Christian Elterster (1671-1700), the painters Samuel Theodor Gericke (1669-1729) and Friedrich Wilhelm Weidemann (1668-1750). His son Willem van Langevelt († after 1721) was a painter in Berlin as well.

Rutger van Langevelt
Godfey of Bouillon sells his fief called Veluwe to Duke Otto II of Gueldres, dated 1670
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
Nijmegen, Stadhuis Nijmegen

Rutger van Langevelt
Portrait of a woman with a lemon in her hand, dated 1680
canvas, oil paint 95,3 x 80 cm
lower left : AEtatis 42, 1680 / RV Langevelt ƒ.
Sotheby's (New York City) 1996-01-17, nr. 120

Rutger van Langevelt
Interior of a classical building with a marriage ceremony
canvas, oil paint 57,8 x 77,3 cm
lower left : R. van Langevelt fe.
Gateshead (England), The Shipley Art Gallery, inv./ TWCMS : B4238

Augustinus Terwesten (I)
Painting portraits Beauty, led by Wisdom, dated 1689
canvas, oil paint 118 x 178 cm
lower center : A.Tterwesten fec. Aº 1689
Moscow, Russian Academy of Science

Rutger van Langevelt
Church interior, dated 1669
canvas, oil paint 86,5 x 72 cm
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMS3733

The dominating style of classical history painting at the court is best understood by the work of Augustinus Terwesten I (1649-1711).12 His training is already indicative. First he learned in The Hague with Nicolaes Willlingh, who however soon acquired the position of court painter in Berlin. Then he undertook a three-year trip to Italy and looked around another three years in France and England before he arrived in Berlin in 1690. He painted many things for the castles there, such as Charlottenburg, Oranienbaum and Potsdam, where his works still can be seen [8-11].13 Together with Andreas Schlüter (1659/60-1714) he founded the Academy in 1695 [12]. The next year his brother Mattheus Terwesten (1670-1757) became a pupil at this Berlin academy [13].14 But soon the latter travelled on to Rome and Vienna to complete his education. In 1710 this Mattheus was summoned to Berlin as a court painter and a professor at the academy.

Augustinus Terwesten (I)
Jupiter, Apollo and Abundantia, 1698-1711
limestone, tempera ? x ? cm
Berlin (Charlottenburg), Schloss Charlottenburg

Augustinus Terwesten (I)
Europa, one of the four continents, dated 1694
canvas, oil paint 289 x 205 cm
: A. Terwesten fec. A.1694 / Europa
Berlin (Charlottenburg), Schloss Charlottenburg, inv./ GK I 5179

Augustinus Terwesten (I)
Asia, one of the four continents, dated 1694
canvas, oil paint 289 x 203 cm
: Asya 1694 / A. Terwesten
Berlin (Charlottenburg), Schloss Charlottenburg, inv./ GK I 5176

Augustinus Terwesten (I)
Study of male nude, dated 1699
paper, red chalk, heightened in white 600 x 444 mm
lower left : A Terwesten / fec. A°1699 den 19 mey
Berlin/Potsdam, Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, inv./ SPSG - Plansammlung ZK-5214

Mattheus Terwesten
Theseus liberating Andromeda from her chains, dated 1697
canvas, oil paint 79 x 66 cm
bottom left of the middle : Matteus ...Terwesten 1697 in Berlin
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ 296

The Pole Teodor Lubieniecki (1654-1716/8), who had been a pupil both of Johan Georg Stuhr in Hamburg and Gerard de Lairesse in Amsterdam, was active in Berlin from 1696 onwards, first as a royal court painter and later temporarily as director of the academy.15 His portraits [14] are of the same quality as the late portraits of Nicolaes Maes and Caspar Netscher. In Berlin he worked at the castle and was also engaged himself as a landscape painter. To these ‘fleminate‘ painters of the end of the century also belongs Jan Anthonie Coxie (after 1650-1720). He was from Mechelen, but also worked in Amsterdam. In the years from 1705 to 1713 he created altarpieces and ceiling decorations in Berlin [15],16 where he also taught figure drawing from the nude.

Teodor Lubieniecki
Family portrait in a park, before 1700
canvas, oil paint 101 x 125,5 cm
Warsaw, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie

Jan Anthonie de Coxie
Allegorical representation, Aurora, goddess of the Morning, dated 1706
limestone, oil paint ? x ? cm
Berlin (Charlottenburg), Schloss Charlottenburg

It may indicate a the change in taste that the Elector no longer preferred to send his own people anymore preferably to the Netherlands for their training, but rather to France and Italy. The German history painter Johann Jakob Rollos († c. 1699) still had been in Holland, but only in transit. From there he quickly went on to Paris, where he painted several portraits around 1670. Incidentally the Elector never experienced much joy from his expenditure, since Rollos never returned to Berlin. The very last artist we have to mention and who already belongs to the 18th century, is the Dutchman Arnout Rentinck (1712-1774/5), a pupil of Arnold Boonen [16]. 17 We have an idea about his oeuvre from some mezzotint engravings [17].

Arnout Rentinck after Nicolaas Verkolje
Portrait of Nicolaas Verkolje (1673-1746), 1758 ?
paper, mezzotint 220 x 179 mm
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis (Collectie Iconografisch Bureau)

Arnout Rentinck
Diana changes her attendant Arethusa into a fountain, after first having hidden her in a cloud to escape Alpheus
paper, colored wash, gouache (material/technique) 261 x 225 mm
lower right : ARentinck f.
Frankfurt am Main, Graphische Sammlung im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, inv./ 3849


1 [Van Leeuwen 2017] At first the painting was in the collections of the family in the Netherlands in the 17th century; after the death of King-Stadholder William III it was probably taken to Berlin by Friedrich I. Windt/Hartmann/Jagodziski 2015, p. 111-112, fig. 9.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Wheelock/Dickey 2008, p. 176-177, no. 50, ill., as an allegorical depiction referring to the end of the Thirty Years' War and as a portrait historié of Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg and Louise Henriette van Oranje-Nassau. Coutré 2013.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Nagler 1835-1852/1904-1914, vol. 8 (1906), p.157.

4 [Van Leeuwen 2017] It is supposed that Willmann spent two years in the Low Countries and also was in Amsterdam. As far as we know he was not a pupil in a studio but got very well acquainted with the work of the Rembrandt circle as well as Rubens and Van Dyck (Klessmann/Steinborn et al. 1994, p. 9-10, 55-76).

5 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Probably Willmann did not come to Berlin but painted the work in Königsberg for the Königsberger Castle, which was the residence of the German imperial family until 1918. Klessmann/Steinborn et al. 1994, p. 11-13, ill.

6 [Van Leeuwen 1917] Gerson 1942/1983, p. 292-293 in the section on Austria and Silesia and § 2.13.

7 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Buijsen/Dumas et al. 1998, p. 327.

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] Bredius 1915-1921, vol. 3, p. 933.

9 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Pantus 2006.

10 [Van Leeuwen 2017] His ceiling paintings in the Stadtschloss of 1680 have been destroyed in 1945. No images are known.

11 [Gerson 1942/1983] See also his drawings in the print room in Berlin. [Van Leeuwen 2017] Schade 1964. Since 1963 used by the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

12 [Van Leeuwen 2017) Colella/Baer 1995.

13 [Van Leeuwen 2017] The first illustrated painting in Charlottenburg was looted by Russia and is now in the Russian Academy of Science, Moscow on loan from the Pushkin Museum. A series from the Stadtschloss Berlin was transported to the USSR in 1945, from where it was returned to the GDR in 1958. Many other works were lost. Bartoschek/Vogtherr 2004 and .

14 [Van Leeuwen 2017) Buijsen/Dumas et al. 1998, p. 243-249, 351.

15 [Van Leeuwen 2017] On Lubienicki: Przypkowski 1939 and Gerson/Van Leeuwen/Tylicki et al. 2013/2014, § 3.4.

16 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Kühn 1955, p. 44, 48, & pl. 25.

17 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Also wrongly listed as Arnout Bentinck (Thieme/Becker 1907-1953, Scheen 1981, Saur 1992-). According to Scheen, Rentinck left for Berlin in 1758, where he died in 1774 (Scheen 1981, p. 423). According to Niemeijer Rentinck must have been in Berlin before 1757 (Laurentius/Niemeijer/Ploos van Amstel 1980, p. 172). His works in Germany are hardly documented. Gernsheim photo, RKD. Several works in the Rijksmuseum (online).

Cookies disclaimer

Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device.
I agree