Gerson Digital : Germany I


5.5 Mainz, Pommersfelden and Ansbach

The ecclesiastical princes along the Rhine and Main preferred to employ Italian and Flemish masters. Local artists from this region more often went for their training to Antwerp rather than to Amsterdam. Johann Baptist de Ruel (c. 1634-1685) was taught by the Rubens pupil Jan Thomas (1617-1678) in Mainz [1].

Every now and then we encounter a Dutchman in the service of the Electors of Mainz. A certain Adriaen Boogaert (c. 1587-after 1631), who lived over 30 years in Amsterdam, settled down in Mainz in 1631 or earlier [2].1

Johann Baptist de Ruel
Portrait of Hugo von Orsbeck (1634-1711), Elector of Trier, 1676
canvas, oil paint 117 x 99 cm
Koblenz (Germany), Mittelrhein-Museum, inv./ M309

Adriaen Boogaert
Still life of dead birds with a living owl, c. 1620
canvas, oil paint 72,4 x 103,5 cm
lower right : ADriaen. guertsen. Boogaert.ƒ
London, art dealer Rafael Valls Limited

Ottomar Elliger (II)
Dido's death
canvas, oil paint 59 x 72 cm
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen

Under the government of Lothar Franz von Schönborn (1655-1729) [5], who surpassed his predecessors particularly as a builder, there were plenty commissions for artists. Although he mainly was attracted to Italian art, he did not ignore the Dutch painters completely, and among them he again preferred the Flemings and the Dutch history and finepainters. Ottomar Elliger II (1666-1732) was called to his court in 1716. He refused to become his official court painter, but painted several history paintings for him anyway [3-4].2 Arnold Boonen (1669-1729) was in 1694-1695 in Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt and would surely have painted something for the Bishop [5-7]. An exception among all these academic-Flemish artists was the local painter and engraver Jodokus Bickart (active 1660-1684), who made a print after Gerard Dou [8].3

Ottomar Elliger (II)
Antiochos and Stratonice, c. 1717
canvas, oil paint 53 x 64,5 cm
lower right : O: Elliger. fecit
Darmstadt (Germany), Hessisches Landesmuseum (Darmstadt), inv./ GK 326

Arnold Boonen
Old woman, placing a burning candle in a lantern, dated 1697
canvas, oil paint 41 x 27,5 cm
below, right of the middle : A. Boonen 1697
Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein der Grafen von Schönborn, inv./ 47

Arnold Boonen
Portrait of Lothar Franz von Schönborn (1654-1729), Elector of Mainz, c. 1694-1695
canvas, oil paint 31,5 x 27 cm
left center : A. Boonen f.
Mainz, Landesmuseum Mainz, inv./ 305

Arnold Boonen
Young man with pipe and brazier sitting at a burning candle, c. 1697
canvas, oil paint 41 x 27,5 cm
Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein der Grafen von Schönborn, inv./ 48

Jodokus Bickart after Jan Thomas after Gerard Dou
Young woman with candle and lantern in a window opening, dated 1663
paper, mezzotint 460 x 320 mm
lower right : Jodocus Bickart pictor et sculptor Anno 1663
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina

Lothar Franz von Schönborn also was the founder of the well-known painting gallery in Pommersfelden, a collection that is particularly noteworthy for the contemporary Italian masters. He had a Dutch and a Swiss painter as gallery inspectors. One was Jan Joost van Cossiau (c. 1664-c. 1732), born in Breda and trained in Paris. Cossiau painted landscapes in the style of and after Nicolaes Poussin, whose severity is softened by some motifs derived from Nicolaes Berchem [9]. While he had to take care of the paintings that were kept in Gaibach, the treasures in Pommerfelden were entrusted to the care of Johann Rudolf Bys (1660-1738) from Solothurn.4 Bys devoted himself to painting flowers that he turned into decorative garlands [10-11]. In the manner of Jan Brueghel and Daniel Seghers he adorned all kinds of alcoves, that sometimes left open the view on a landscape.

Jan Joost van Cossiau
Mountanous landscape with women fetching water from the fountain, dated 1724
panel, oil paint 81,5 x 120 cm
lower left : JJD:Cossiau / 1724
Poznań, Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu, inv./ Mo 858

Johann Rudolf Bys
Vase with flowers, dated 1702
panel, oil paint 50 x 34 cm
lower center : J. R. Bys fc. Ao 1702
Kassel (Hessen), Museum Schloss Wilhelmshöhe

Johann Rudolf Bys
Allegory, Chronos in a garland, dated 1717
panel, oil paint 110 x 75 cm
Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein der Grafen von Schönborn, inv./ 76

The collection in Pommersfelden was not at all solely confined to Italian and Flemish artists. When we learnthat the contents of the gallery including the 150 Dutch paintings that were auctioned off in Paris in 1867, it is clear that artists from the Northern Netherlands were quantitatively not badly represented. Lothar Franz owned paintings of Rembrandt [12], of the Rembrandt school, of Dutch portrait [13] and landscape painters and of course of by finepainters such as Godefridus Schalcken [14] and Frans van Mieris II.5

The apostle Paul in prison, dated 1627
panel (oak) 72,8 x 60,3 cm
center : R f 1627
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv./ 746

Bartholomeus van der Helst
Portrait of an unknown man, 1665 (dated)
canvas, oil paint 117 x 98 cm
lower left : [B. vander] helst 1665
London, art dealer Johnny Van Haeften (London), inv./ cat.874

Godefridus Schalcken
Woman Weaving a Crown of Flowers, 1670-1680
panel, oil paint 26 x 20 cm
lower left : G.Schalcken.
Washington (D.C.), National Gallery of Art (Washington), inv./ 2005.26.1

The small principality of Ansbach was connected to the House of Brandenburg by family ties.6 Therefore we are not surprised to meet some of the Berlin court painters there again. Jan de Baen, although he never wanted to come to Berlin and painted the Great Elector in Holland, was also highly appreciated in Ansbach. Houbraken recounted that the Prince of Ansbach-Brandenburg went at full speed to the Netherlands when he heard the (false) rumour that the artist had become blind. To illustrate this happy fact, he immediately had himself portrayed by him once more! 7 Also Michiel van Musscher painted him once, as well as his wife.8 The Prince of Ansbach received painting lessons from Mattheus Terwesten in The Hague in 1688. The artist however did not accompany the prince on his trip to Italy, but went to Berlin.9

Johann Christian Sperling (1690/1-1746), who was born in Halle and trained in Leipzig, was appointed as a court painter in Anspach in 1710. But first he was sent to Rotterdam to the famous Adriaen van der Werff, whose works he imitated remarkably [15]. Maybe the Prince of Ansbach was of the opinion that it was better to have one Sperling [=is sparrow]here in the land, than an Adriaen van der Werff in Rotterdam [16-17].10

Johann Christian Sperling
The sacrifice of Abraham (Genesis 22:10-12), c. 1712-1746
panel, oil paint 44 x 33 cm
Ansbach, Staatsgalerie in der Residenz Ansbach, inv./ 7229

Johann Christian Sperling
Portrait of Karl Wilhelm Friedrich of Brandenburg-Anspach (1712-1757), 1725
canvas, oil paint 84 x 68 cm
Ansbach, Staatsgalerie in der Residenz Ansbach, inv./ 7181

Johann Christian Sperling
Still life of flowers in a metal vase
canvas, oil paint 50 x 40 cm
Ansbach, Staatsgalerie in der Residenz Ansbach, inv./ 7292


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Bredius 1915-1921, vol. 6 (1919), p. 2030-2034. [Van Leeuwen 2017] When his wife died in January 1628, he was already living abroad; in October 1631 documented as living in Mainz (Bredius 1915-1921, p. 2030, 2034).The illustrated painting is similar to a painting described in the estate of his wife in 1628. Boogaert migrated with his father to the Netherlands in 1593. Between 1604 and 1622 he also had commissions in Münster (see f.i. RKDimages 284895).

2 [Gerson 1942/1983] Paintings in Pommersfelden, Darmstadt and Munich. [Van Leeuwen 2017] No image of the painting in Pommersfelden could be retrieved (RKDimages 284902).

3 [Gerson 1942/1983] F.i. Le Blanc 1854-1890, vol. 1, p. 336, no. 5. [Van Leeuwen 2017] Gerson seems to be confused and states ‘in the manner of Rembrandt’; however, his reference to Le Blanc concerns the illustrated print after Dou, via a mezzotint by Jan Thomas.

4 [Van Leeuwen 2017] In more recent literature it is stated that he was not from Solothurn (although his family did), but that he was born in Chur (Switzerland).

5 [Gerson 1942/1983] Fischer 1927. The Mainz canon Count von Eltz also had a large collection of Dutch masters. On Frans van Mieris II, see Weyerman 1729-1769, vol. 3, p.393.  [Van Leeuwen 2017] 52 paintings from the collection of Franz Lothar van Schönborn are now in RKDexplore (connected to his record in RKDartists&). The collection of Hugo Franz Graf von Eltz (1701-1799) was added to the collection of paintings of the Elector of Mainz in Aschaffenburg in 1809 by the Grand Duke of Frankfurt, Karl Theodor von Dalberg. This collection became the property of the Bavarian Crown in 1814 (Dekiert 2006).

6 [Gerson 1942/83] Ansbach-Bayreuth was Hohenzollern property since a long time. After the reigning line had died out, two younger sons of Elector Johann Georg of Brandenburg were chosen again as markgraves in 1603.

7 [Gerson 1942/1983] Houbraken 1718-1721, vol. 2, p. 323.

8 [Gerson 1942/1983] Bredius 1915-1921, vol. 3, p. 987.

9 [Gerson 1942/1982] Weyerman 1729-1769, vol. 6, p. 159

10 [Gerson 1942/1983] Images in Biermann 1914, no. 151 and 158.

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