A Tour of Nuremberg in the Footsteps of Johann Andreas Graff - Part 1: The Sebalder Altstadt
Johann Andreas Graff (1636-1701) – painter, draftsman, engraver and publisher – was married for over 20 years to famed naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian. Today, he himself seems forgotten, his achievements unappreciated. Yet his extremely precise views of the city are among the best his era ever produced. This exhibition is intended to bring Johann Andreas Graff the attention he has long deserved. It offers views of Nuremberg with an enchantingly meticulous reproduction of details. Quite apart from their intrinsic aesthetic value, for a moment they also let us recapture the atmosphere of Old Nuremberg.
A view of Nuremberg in the mid of the 17th century.
Egidienplatz in the year 1682
In spite of all the changes over time, the layout of this square is much the same today.
It is dominated by the façade of the Pellerhaus, which Graff already portrays as one of Germany's finest Renaissance mansions.
The Pellerhaus as ist looked at the end of the 19th century, it was destroyed in World War II.
The present house was rebuilt in the 1950s using materials from the original structure.
The square is similarly defined by the Egidienkirche: at this date it was still the Romanesque structure that burned down in 1696 and was replaced by the Baroque church completed in 1718. Johann Andreas Graff recorded the Romanesque church here for posterity.
The fire of 1696 almost completely destroyed the Egidienkirche and the adjacent secondary school.
Graff's view portrays the aftermath of the catastrophic fire not just in the picture itself, but in an extensive legend from A to Z above the illustration.
King Konrad III endowed a foundation for Scottish Monks from Regensburg, who began building a Romanesque basilica here in 1150 with an adjacent monastery, including a monastery school. After the Reformation, the school was secularized in 1526, as the first school to follow the humanistic principles of Philipp Melanchthon. Johann Andreas Graff's father, a native of Thuringia, was the rector of this school, and Graff himself was probably born in the "Rectoris Hauß" (the "Rector’s House," item "r" in the legend).
From 1711 to 1718, a new Baroque church was built on the remains of the medieval abbey church.
The Egidienkirche was reconsecrated on September 4, 1718. The splendid stucco work in the interior is considered the masterpiece of the Italian-born artist Donato Polli.
Nuremberg merchant and city councilor Konrad Gross – one of the richest men in the Empire of his day, who even made large loans to two Emperors, Ludwig the Bavarian and his successor Karl IV – distinguished himself with his numerous pious endowments and foundations. The most important of these was the Heilig-Geist-Spital, or Hospital of the Holy Spirit, founded in 1339; it gave refuge to the infirm, to chronically ill patients with noncontagious diseases, and to impoverished disabled Nurembergers. Originally conceived for 200 occupants, further donations expanded the Spital to a considerable size. As a pious foundation, it also had a capacious Gothic church.
This view of the Baroque-decorated church shows in great detail what is known as the "Heiltumsschrein," a casket, suspended from the vault of the choir, containing the tip of the Holy Lance and a fragment of the Cross (see detail of the engraving). These were part of the Reichskleinodien, or imperial regalia of the Holy Roman Empire; the rest of the regalia, as well as further coronation vestments, were kept safe from theft behind a massive iron door on the uppermost floor of the sacristy to the left of the choir. They were stored here from 1424 to 1796. The church was entirely destroyed in World War II; rebuilt as a shell, it now serves as a multi-purpose meeting room.
A replica of the Heiltumsschrein is now on view at the City Museum at Fembo House. The original can be seen at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, on loan from the Heilig-Geist religious foundation.
This hall church is portrayed in "super-wide angle." The very high vantage point offers a good view of the galleries that were installed at a later date in the Gothic church but are no longer there today.
Although the organ in the right gallery is somewhat hidden by one of the four massive columns, Graff drew it with special care, because church music played a major role in the Nuremberg of his day.
The Gothic Frauenkirche on the east side of the Market Square is one of the three most significant churches in the city. No trace of that church remains; it was almost completely destroyed in World War II.
Photo credit: Gregor Peda, Kunstverlag Peda, Passau
This view looks down the nave, adorned with statues of apostles, memorial plaques and epitaphs, toward the "hall" choir that was completed in 1379. The lavish accouterments bear witness to Nuremberg's refusal to participate in the iconoclasm of the Reformation. The city's patrician-sponsored regiment spared the churches' artworks – largely endowed by wealthy Nurembergers – as mementos of the family forebears.
The casket with the bones of St. Sebald was especially honored; the Vischer family of metalworkers had made a Renaissance reliquary for it in 1519, shortly before the Reformation reached the city. Construction of a late-Romanesque church over the saint's grave had begun in 1230, although the church was originally consecrated to St. Peter in 1274. In the second half of the 14th century, this important sanctuary was rededicated to the city's patron Sebald, a legendary miracle-working hermit.
The Gothic baptismal font is still shown here in its original location, between the western pillars of the central nave; today it is in the western choir. The galleries and Baroque fittings, including the altarpiece, were removed in the 19th century.
Nuremberg's oldest parish church was severely damaged in World War II. But most of the priceless interior decorations had been moved to shelter in time, and survived.
Photo credit: St. Sebald Parish
At the time this was a popular new residential quarter known as the "Neuer Bau," or "New Construction." Graff gives a highly precise view of the area with superb perspective. Each building can be identified.
The engraving centers on the three fountains at the center – today, the two utilitarian fountains for drawing water are gone. Only the Baroque Tritonbrunnen of 1687, with its decorative Triton based on Bernini’s famous fountain of 1642-43 in Rome, is still in its original location.
Although the square still has the same dimensions, the visual effect has changed substantially. The buildings suffered massive damage in World War II. The dense trees give it an entirely different look today.
Milestones in the life of Johann Andreas Graff
1636: Born in Nuremberg, son of a respected headmaster at the Egidiengymnasium school
1653-58: Training in Frankfurt am Main as a painter, draftsman and engraver, in the studio of Jakob Marrell, Maria Sibylla Merian's stepfather
1658-64: Travels in Italy for study and work; sojourns in Venice, Genoa, Florence and Rome as a member of a painters' guild there
1665: Return to Frankfurt, marriage to Maria Sibylla Merian
1668: Relocation to Nuremberg. Lives and works with his wife, the "Gräffin," at the "House of the Golden Sun"; vigorous support of her work on books about flowers and caterpillars; own engravings.
1682: Return to Frankfurt with family, to assist widowed and needy mother-in-law.
1686: Return to Nuremberg, leaving his family. The separation is permanent.
Many years of hard work on extensive groups of works: "Grosse Stadtprospecte" (large cityscapes) and "Kleine Landtschäfftlein" (small landscapes) jointly with Johann Ulrich Kraus and his engraving studio in Augsburg, where Graff's master drawings were reproduced as precise engravings; other important work: drawings commissioned by Nuremberg families.
1694: Second marriage, after protracted divorce proceedings.
1701: Death in Nuremberg while still active as a "respected and gifted painter."
Commemorations of the 300th anniversary of Maria Sibylla Merian's death were an occasion for Förderverein Kulturhistorisches Museum e.V. – an organization dedicated to promoting the city's cultural heritage – and its cooperating partners to devote an exhibition to draftsman and engraver Johann Andreas Graff. Merian was a famed naturalist and artist, and Graff was married to her for 20 years; but he himself had been forgotten, his achievements underappreciated. The exhibition would at last bring him the attention he deserved.
The Förderverein Kulturhistorisches Museum Nürnberg e.V. is a sponsoring organization founded in January 2009 to preserve and display the cultural heritage of the former Imperial City of Nuremberg.
It has taken on the task of promoting research and understanding of Nuremberg's history with lectures, guided art tours and publications.
Its ultimate goal is to promote and create a Museum of Art History as an expansion of the Nuremberg Municipal Museums.
This exhibition is based on the "Johann Andreas Graff, Pionier Nürnberger Stadtansichten" (Johannes Andreas Graff, a Nuremberg Cityscape Pioneer) exhibition catalog published by Förderverein Kulturhistorisches Museum Nürnberg e.V.
Texts and Design: Dr. Silke Colditz-Heusl, Margot Lölhöffel, Theo Noll, Pablo de Ia Riestra, Dr. Werner Schultheiß, Bertold Frhr. von Haller, Helge Weingärtner
Implementation: Brigitte List