Gerson Digital : Germany I


3.5 Johann Wilhelm as a Collector

Like most patrons of his time, Johann Wilhelm loved the Dutch finepainters and decorative still-lifes most of all (Grupello and the Italians at his court are not discussed here). He tried to engage the best and ‘most expensive’ artists, whereas the Brandenburg court had to settle for second-rate. But we would not do justice to his artistic aspirations if we would not pay attention to his activity as a collector as well. In this, his taste is certainly superior to all his contemporaries. ‘I don’t know’, writes Frans von Reber, ‘if ever there was put together a collection of such a small number as the one in Düsseldorf, which lists only 348 paintings, in a similar choice and prominence. Not in Germany anyway’.1 Here we do not talk about the 40 Rubens paintings and the 17 Van Dycks, nor of other Flemings and Italians. We only allude to the collection of Dutch finepainters because it precisely fits our idea of court art in general: seven paintings of Gerard Dou [1-5], five by Godefridus Schalcken,2 of Frans Mieris I also no less than seven pictures [6-11], Twelfth night by Gabriel Metsu [12], three small paintings by Cornelis van Poelenburch [13-15] etc.3

Gerard Dou
The quack, dated 1652
panel, oil paint 112,4 x 83,4 cm
lower right : GDov 1652 [GD aaneen]
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, inv./ St.4

Gerard Dou
Old woman cutting bread for two boys by the light of an oil lamp, c. 1655 or later
panel, oil paint 28 x 22 cm
left center : GDOV
Boston (Massachusetts), Museum of Fine Arts Boston, inv./ 2003.71

Gerard Dou
Woman praying before her meal, c. 1645-1650
panel, oil paint 27,7 x 28,3 cm
right : GDOV
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 588

Gerard Dou
Old woman selling herrings and vegetables with customer and beggar, the Blauwpoort in Leiden in the background, dated 1654
panel, oil paint 46 x 59 cm
lower right : G DoV 1654
Aschaffenburg, Staatsgalerie im Schloß Johannisburg, inv./ 552

Caspar Netscher
Young woman in a window feeding a parrot, dated 1666
panel, oil paint 46 x 37 cm
lower left : CNetscher. Ao. / 16.66.
Washington (D.C.), National Gallery of Art (Washington)

Frans van Mieris (I)
Soldier with a pipe blowing out smoke, dated 1662
panel, oil paint 14 x 11 cm
lower right : F van Mieris - Anno 1662
Worcester (Massachusetts), Worcester Art Museum (Massachusetts), inv./ 2003.51

Frans van Mieris (I)
Self portrait, dated 1662
panel, oil paint 11,30 x 8,40 cm
lower right : F. van Mieris / Ao 1662
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 627

Frans van Mieris (I)
Woman teasing her lap dog, dated 1662
panel, oil paint 14 x 11 cm
center right : F van Mieris / A° i662
Worcester (Massachusetts), Worcester Art Museum (Massachusetts), inv./ 2003.50

Frans van Mieris (I)
Portrait of Cunera van der Cock (1630-1681), dated 1662
panel, oil paint 11,2 x 8,6 cm
lower right : F. van Mieris / Ao i662
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 615

Frans van Mieris (I)
The doctor's visit, dated 1667
panel, oil paint 44 x 33 cm
location unknown : Fvan Mieris / A° 1667.
Los Angeles/Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum, inv./ 86.PB.634

Frans van Mieris (I)
Still life with boot, in the background two figures, dated 1666
panel, oil paint 27,7 x 23,6 cm
lower left : F van Mieris fcit Ao 1666
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 586

Gabriel Metsu
Twelfth Night, c. 1653-1655
canvas, oil paint 80,9 x 97,9 cm
lower right : GMetsú [GM combined]
Munich, Alte Pinakothek

Cornelis van Poelenburch
Landscape with Lot made drunk by his daughters; in the background the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:21-34)
panel, oil paint 25 x 34 cm
lower right : C Pole fe (?)
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 2750

Cornelis van Poelenburch
The adoration of the shepherds
copper, oil paint 28,2 x 35,4 cm
lower right : C.P.F
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 221

Cornelis van Poelenburch
The adoration of the shepherds
copper, oil paint 9,7 x 7,1 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 1082

Johann Wilhelm also owned the Passion series by Rembrandt, consisting of six panels [16-21] that were painted by the artist for Frederik Hendrik.4 Part of the group was also a seventh painting (now only known in the form of a copy) representing the Circumcision [22],5 a self-portrait of the artist Flinck and Gerbrand van den Eeckhout [23] were represented in his collection as well.

The adoration of the shepherds, dated 1646
canvas, oil paint 97 x 71,3 cm
lower left : [...]dt f 1646
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 393

The Descent from the Cross, 1632/33
panel, oil paint 89,4 x 65,2 cm
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 395

The raising of the cross, c. 1633
canvas, oil paint 96,2 x 72,2 cm
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 394

The Entombment, c. 1635-1639
canvas, oil paint 92,5 x 68,9 cm
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 396

The Resurrection, c. 1635-1639
canvas on panel 91,9 x 67 cm
bottom left of the middle : Rembr[...]t 163[.]
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 397

The Ascension, dated 1636
canvas, oil paint 92,7 x 68,3 cm
below, right of the middle : Remb[...]dt f [.]636
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 398

after Rembrandt
The circumcision of Christ, in or after 1646
canvas, oil paint 97,8 x 72 cm
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ GG 241

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout
The twelve year old Christ in the temple with the doctors, dated 1662
canvas, oil paint 67 x 83 cm
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 184

Jan Steen
Love sickness, c. 1659-1663
canvas, oil paint 61 x 52,1 cm
center right : JSteen [JS ineen]
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 158

Jan Steen’s Love-sick lady [24] and seven paintings by Adriaen Brouwer [25-27] demonstrate that Johann Wilhelm’s understanding of art went further than Johann Wilhelm’s love for the finepainting of Adriaen van der Werff.6

Adriaen Brouwer
A landlord and landlady in a tavern
panel (oak), oil paint 39,8 x 52,5 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 1281

Adriaen Brouwer
The village surgeon
panel (oak), oil paint 23,5 x 20,3 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 581

Adriaen Brouwer
Two smoking peasants at a fire
panel (oak), oil paint 21,4 x 19,1 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 2095

The Italian landscapes were more appreciated than those of the national school, that was not represented with a single painting! Jan Both’s painting Mercury and Argus [28], a painting that was mentioned in the painter’s will, ended up in his collection, together with some other works, and Nicolaes Berchem is well represented with six paintings [29-32]. Adriaen van der Velde [33-34], Jan Asselyn [35], Willem Romeyn, Theodoor Helmbreker, Willem de Heusch and Pieter van Laer [36] complete this group. Philips Wouwerman [37-39] and Jan Baptist Weenix were not lacking. And so we can enumerate many other things, as the curious reader can explore in the old catalogues of the collection or in the new ones of the Pinakothek of Munich.7

Jan Both and Nicolaes Knüpfer and Jan Baptist Weenix
Italianate landscape with Mercury and Argus, dated 1650
canvas, oil paint 169 x 129 cm
lower left : JBoth / 1650
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 140

Nicolaes Berchem
Evening landscape with cattle and shepherds
canvas, oil paint 48,2 x 64 cm
lower left : N. Berghem
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 2106

Nicolaes Berchem
Italianate landscape with donkey cart, dated 1655
panel, oil paint 26 x 34 cm
lower right : Berchem fec / 1655
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 272

Nicolaes Berchem
The upbringing of Jupiter, 1680s
panel, oil paint 17,8 x 27,9 cm
lower center : B
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 2110

Nicolaes Berchem
Rocky landscape with ancient ruins
canvas, oil paint 83 x 104 cm
Munich, Alte Pinakothek, inv./ 380

Adriaen van de Velde
River landscape with ferry, dated 1667
canvas, oil paint 62 x 75 cm
center : A. v. Velde f. 1667
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 1853

Adriaen van de Velde
Landscapes with cattle and shepherds, dated 1669
canvas, oil paint 31 x 41 cm
center : 1669
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 214

Jan Asselijn
Mountainous landscape with horsemen
canvas, oil paint 69 x 93 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 431

Pieter van Laer
Blind beggar
canvas on panel, oil paint 42,3 x 32,7 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 3005

Philips Wouwerman
The falconry
panel, oil paint 39 x 55 cm
lower right : PHLS W.
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 5292

Philips Wouwerman
The riding school
panel, oil paint 37 x 39 cm
lower left : PHLS W
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv./ 885

Philips Wouwerman
The falconry
canvas, oil paint 68 x 82 cm
Berlin/Cologne, art dealer Eduard Plietzsch

Under Johann Wilhelm the gallery was maintained by Jan Frans van Douven.8 He surely bought many things himself, as is suggested from the large amounts of money that were paid to him (see above). If this indeed was the case, Van Douven deserves more attention than he has received to so far. In the Netherlands Johann Wilhelm had Jan Baptist Tijssens II (1657-after 1723)9 as an agent, who was also authorized to buy paintings. Later Douven was accompanied by Gerhard Joseph Karsch (active 1700-1719), who was appointed as gallery inspector by Karl Philipp [40]. For the rest, Karl Philipp did not contribute to the increase of the collection. A part of the collection he had conveyed to Mannheim, where he had relocated his residence.

attributed to Jan Frans van Douven
Portrait of Elector Karl III Philipp of the Palatine, after 1716
canvas, oil paint 222 x 148 cm
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, inv./ Gm 800


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Von Reber 1922, p. XXII. [Van Leeuwen 2017] On Johann Wilhelm’s collection: Baumstark/Dekiert/Quaeitzsch 2009.

2 [Van Leeuwen 2017] See § 3.3. We counted seven paintings by Schalcken in Johann Wilhelm’s collection, six that are now in the Alte Pinakothek and one that ended up in the Leiden Collection, New York City.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2017] On Dutch paintings in the Alte Pinakothek: Dekiert 2006. A fourth painting by Poelenburch was already in Johann Wlhelm’s collection by inheritance (RKDimages 184312).

4 [Van Leeuwen 2017] See also § 2.12. The Rembrandt database; McNamara 2015.

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] It is unknown how these paintings, that were in the possession of the Orange family until 1702 (when King-Stadholder Willem III died), came to Düsseldorf.

6 [Gerson 1942/1983] Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 1, p. 323-324; Hofstede de Groot 1893, p. 104. [Van Leeuwen 2017] Not all seven paintings are attributed to Brouwer anymore.

7 [Gerson 1942/1983] Old catalogue: Karsch 1719; Van Gool 1750-1751, vol. 2, p. 529-567. Through inheritance the collection fell to the Wittelsbach family and thence in Munich. [Van Leeuwen 2017] Dekiert 2006. In RKDexplore over 220 paintings from Johann Wilhelm’s collection can be retrieved. In 1937 one painting by Wouwermans (RKDimages 261781) was exchanged by the Alte Pinakothek with a painting from the collection of Eduard Plietzsch.

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach visited the collection in 1711 and was shown around by ‘Mr. Frederici, a painter’ (Von Uffenbach 1753-1754, vol. 3, p. 742-744).

9 [Van Leeuwen 2017] In Gerson wrongly as N. Tijssens. On Jan Baptist Tijssens: Duverger/Maufort 1996, p. 160-186.Tijssens probably sold Johann Wilhelm also one or two of his own works, f.e. RKDimages 283756.

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