Gerson Digital : Germany I


3.2 Collecting in Cologne and Bonn

The Cologne Elector Joseph Clemens (1671-1723) employed Flemish artists, and in particular artists from Liège in the Rhineland, which is only natural considering the fact that he also was the Archbishop of Liège. His successor, Elector Clemens August (1700-1761) [1] who became so well-known as a builder, did not govern this diocese anymore, but still was prince-bishop of Paderborn and Münster as well as bishop of Hildesheim and Osnabrück.

We can gain an understanding of his activity as a collector from the numerous auctions that took place after his death to cash in his property as soon as possible. The financial results seriously lagged expectations. Clemens August did not look at paintings with the eyes of a demanding collector, but rather whether they were suitable to adorn the rooms in his large castles in Brühl, Poppelsdorf and other places. As a hunter, he favoured hunting still-lifes of Joannes Fijt (1611-1661) [2-5],1 Jan Weenix, Melchior d’Hondecoeter and the Flemish masters, as well as decorative still-lifes of Jan van Huijsum, Jan Davidsz de Heem, Willem Kalf, Rachel Ruysch and others. Works by Nicolaes Berchem, Willem de Heusch and a picture by Adriaen van der Werff were nothing extraordinary at the time. However, he must have owned some paintings by Rembrandt, among others one of the most touching late works, The return of the prodigal son [6]. Maybe The man with the golden helmet (Berlin) [7] belonged to him as well; it fetched only 17 Thaler, while the other Rembrandt realized no less than 733, which was still modest enough, compared to the money that was spent on Van der Werff and the like.2

Jan Frans van Douven
Portrait of Clemens August of Bavaria, archbischop of Cologne (1671-1723), dated 1723
canvas, oil paint 156 x 128 cm
: J.F. Douven Pinxit Aº 1723
Kassel (Hessen), Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, inv./ GK322

Joannes Fijt
Still-life with foxhounds
canvas, oil paint 195 x 307 cm
lower right : Joannes FYT
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 199

Joannes Fijt
Dogs and a bear fighting
canvas, oil paint 195 x 308 cm
lower center : Joann(es) Fyt F.
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 255

Joannes Fijt
A deer chased by foxhounds
canvas, oil paint 195 x 307 cm
lower left : Joannes FYT
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 203 (cat. 1957)

Joannes Fijt
Boar hunting
canvas, oil paint 193 x 305 cm
lower right : Joannes FYT
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 259 (cat. 1957)

Rembrandt or studio of Rembrandt
Return of the prodigal son, 1660s
canvas, oil paint 262 x 205 cm
lower left : Rv Rynf
Saint Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage, inv./ ГЭ-742

circle of Rembrandt
The man with the golden helmet, c. 1650-1660
canvas, oil paint 67,5 x 50,7 cm
Berlin, Gemäldegalerie (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), inv./ 811 A

Anthony van Dyck
Portrait of the banker Everhard Jabach (1618-1695), with in the background the Ypres Tower in Rye, c. 1636-1637
canvas, oil paint 113 x 91,5 cm
Saint Petersburg (Russia), Hermitage, inv./ 555

The art collections in Cologne were ill-fated: they were all sold abroad.3 The great Everhard Jabach (1618-1695) [8] had to hand over his possessions to Louis XIV. Absolutely nothing of his activity as a collector benefitted to his hometown, because he lived in Paris from 1638 onwards. We don’t have to enumerate the art collections that were created here in the second half of the 18th century, since they do not differ from the usual collections in other towns at the time. Moreover, already in the 16th century Cologne was a place where Netherlandish printmakers and publishers found a market for their products. Buchelius (1565-1641) [9], who was there several times at the end of the 16th century, bought many prints, be it almost exclusively Flemish ones.4 With the collector Johannes Meerman he even saw works by Hendrick Goltzius.5

Paulus Moreelse
Portrait of Arnout van Buchell (1565-1641), dated 1610
panel, oil paint 67 x 48,7 cm
Utrecht, Centraal Museum, inv./ 12355


1 [Van Leeuwen 2017] Renard 1927, p. 93, fig. 101, 102; Renger/Denk 2002, p. 207-212, nos. 199, 203, 255, 259, ill.

2 [Gerson 1942/1983] Renard 1927, p. 92-97.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2017] The history of the Cologne art collections has been extensively worked on in: Kier/Zehnder 1995 and Kier/Zehnder 1998.

4 [Van Leeuwen 2017] On 22 September 1599, when Buchelius visited Cologne for the third time, he bought prints in the print shop of Crispijn de Passe I, which was run by his wife, Magdalena de Bock (Veldman 1993, p. 49 and note 99). See Schöller 1999.

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] Förster 1931, p. 36-65.

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