Made in history

By The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

In their "Showpiece of the Month," the Nuremberg Municipal Museums have presented a selected exhibit from their various institutions each month. Many of these objects have come from the Art Collections, where concerns for security or conservation would otherwise have kept them slumbering in storage. They demonstrate the diversity of a municipal collection that has grown up over several centuries.

Albrecht Dürer's House at the Tiergärtnertor in Nuremberg (ca. 1828) by Johann Heinrich HintzeThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

From about 1820, traveling artists began disseminating drawings and watercolors of Dürer's house to places far from Nuremberg. Well-known Berlin landscape and architecture painter Johann Heinrich Hintze (1800-1861) presented this this painting in September 1828, on the occasion of the city's commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the painter's death. It shows the home of "Germany’s greatest artist" within the contemporary cityscape. The Albrecht Dürer House Foundation acquired the painting from a private owner in Belgium in 2001.

Life of the Virgin (1501/1505) by Albrecht DürerThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Along with the "Apocalypse of St. John" and the "Large Passion," the 20 pages of the "Life of the Virgin" represent one of Albrecht Dürer's most significant woodcuts. Initially published only on single sheets, the "Life of the Virgin" appeared in book form in 1511. Dürer expressively portrays Mary's life with calm, folk-like, almost humorous overtones. His impressive achievement in developing techniques for woodcuts and their interpretation as a medium is especially evident in this work. Here Dürer also aimed to apply the knowledge of perspective he had gained during his travels in Italy. The compositions are rationally conceived, and usually show frieze-like groupings of figures in grand architectural settings.

Temple of Honor for Albrecht Dürer (1617/1617) by Lucas KilianThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

It's certainly a somewhat surreal scene: the Master stands opposite himself, on either side of a table whose foot is a frightening mask. Above, the artist's coat of arms hangs in splendor, together with his epitaph from the Johannes Cemetery in Nuremberg, while the edge of the table bears Dürer's alleged motto, "Through work and constancy." Yet this etching by Lucas Kilian doesn't content itself with merely demonstrating admiration for a great predecessor: if we look carefully, we find that only the palette at the right edge of the picture is a reference to Dürer as a painter, while all the other items are drawn from the subjects covered by his three textbooks. And why is the portrait on the right dated 1517, even though the painting it's based on is clearly dated 1511 and has an entirely different inscription? The list of questions is as long as it is intriguing.

The Miser and the Miscarriage (ca. 1520/30) by Barthel BehamThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

An elaborate inscribed panel helps somewhat to decipher this enigmatic image, but it doesn't include a usable title. "The Miser and the Miscarriage" is an invention of art historians to name this tiny engraving. It's a curious scene. A toad sits on the shoulder of a muscular nude man, who carries two sacks of money. In front of him an equally nude woman reclines on the ground, looking at a baby lying in front of her. Could this be a blasphemous reinterpretation of the Nativity? Barthel Beham might have been capable of such a thing, because the Nuremberg painter and engraver was not only famous for his high-quality work, but also notorious for the scandal of the "Three Godless Painters of Nuremberg": in 1525, he, his brother Sebald, and Georg Pencz were accused of heresy and expelled from the city. He settled in Munich, where he became painter to the Catholic court of the Duke of Bavaria.

Dürer's "Self-Portrait with a Fur-Trimmed Robe," 1500, in an 18th Century Copy (ca. 1785) by Unsigned (Abraham Wolfgang Küfner?)The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Albrecht Dürer's last painting of himself alone, the "Self-Portrait in a Fur-Trimmed Robe," is not only a painting of unique artistic value, but a masterpiece of world art in general. This copy, ascribed to engraver and miniaturist Abraham Küfner, is full of riddles. It is fairly certain that the directorate of the Elector's art gallery in Munich bought Dürer's original from Küfner in 1805, and Küfner gave a receipt for the agreed payment of 600 gulden. But why did Nuremberg demand the return of the work in 1822? Why do the records of the City Council – of what was still a free imperial city at the time – contain no mention whatever of the sale of such an important work? And why does the copy – in a highly unusual twist – also copy the reverse side of the Munich original? The picture raises questions that even modern x-ray and infrared studies have left unanswered.

The Sketchbook of Johann Christoph Haller von Hallerstein (ca. 1800) by Johann Christoph Haller von HallersteinThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The important Nuremberg graphic artist Haller, born in Hiltpolstein in 1771 into one of the city’s most highly respected patrician families, soon discovered his talent for the graphic arts and sought appropriate training. His 58-sheet sketchbook, very well preserved, was acquired from a private owner. The work has hitherto been entirely unpublished, and contains a total of 76 separate drawings and sketches, some of which were pasted later onto blank pages in the book. They present an informative cross-section of Haller’s diverse work, including anatomical studies, copies of works by the Old Masters, memorandum pages and preliminary studies for his etchings and bookplates.

English Travelers (1857/1859) by Carl Ludwig SchubartThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Travel was a major pictorial theme in the mid-19th century – particularly meaning the "Grand Tour" taken by the nobility and other wealthy people. This was also when "educational travel" first became common among a broader segment of the public. The present work by painter-lithographer Carl Ludwig Schubart shows a tour group taking their rest in a craggy landscape. Despite the summery, carefree ambience, everyone but the guide and the little girl in the foreground is grumpily absorbed in a red book. None pays any attention to the view of the landscape or their nearby environs. The red book is not hard to recognize as a "Baedeker," the era's most popular guide book. In 1857, Schubart's witty painting was already anticipating a later phenomenon: travel as a prestigious consumer product in which any real interest in foreign cultures plays only a minor role.

Leaders of the Reformation with Nuremberg in Background (1559/1559) by unknownThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

This giant woodcut centers on one of the key scenes of the New Testament: Christ's baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. But in this 1559 portrayal, the event from the Biblical narrative of salvation has been relocated, with the Pegnitz standing in for the Jordan and Nuremberg portraying Jerusalem. The baptism takes place as though in a vision, witnessed by the principal political and military patrons of the Reformation (on the left), with Jan Hus, Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon facing them on the right. Above the whole scene, the heavens open to reveal God the Father. Shortly after the historic Peace of Augsburg of 1555, Nuremberg is shown here as a home of Protestantism. Surrounded by its famed walls, protected by the powerful rulers of Brandenburg and Saxony, and watched over by the most significant figures of the Reformation, the free imperial city seems safely girded for a splendid Protestant future.

Nuremberg Triptych (1900/1900) by Wilhelm RitterThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Wilhelm Ritter's Nuremberg Triptych was painted on commission from the City of Nuremberg for the Paris World's Fair of 1900. The central subject of the giant-sized three-part watercolor is a partial bird's-eye view of Nuremberg's Main Market Square. The side panels are a kind of cross-section with interior views of two popular Nuremberg structures, the Henkersteg bridge with the water tower, and the courtyard of the "Golden Goose" inn. These three views of Nuremberg served as a backdrop for the real exhibit: a 1:20 model of a hospital complex planned by the city's construction office. The walls of the individual model buildings were open for better viewing – which explains the choice of the triptych's illustrative treatment.

Girl at the Christmas Tree (1846/1846) by Johann Dietrich Carl KreulThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

In 1846, the artist Johann Dietrich Carl Kreul (1803-1867), who had trained in Nuremberg with Academy director Albert Reindel, created this, one of his most charming paintings. In the 1820s, Kreul initially worked as a portraitist of the wealthy middle class. One of his best-known and most appealing portraits is "The Beautiful Girl of Nuremberg" (1827), a young woman of unknown identity wearing Biedermeier period folk dress. A few years later, Kreul turned to genre painting – the form that would bring him his greatest fame.

Tulipa Gesneriana with Butterfly and Bee (ca. 1760) by Barbara Regina DietzschThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

World-famous painter Maria Sibylla Merian lived in Nuremberg for twelve years, and her artistry introduced Nuremberg to a new art tradition whose influence survived for generations afterwards. It is considered the inspiration for the natural-history "cabinet paintings" of the 18th century. In Nuremberg, it was the Dietzsch family of artists who specialized in this kind of painting. All seven children trained in the studio of their father, Johann Israel Dietzsch. While the boys concentrated on landscape painting, Barbara Regina and her sister Margaretha Barbara concentrated on individual items of local flora and fauna. Barbara Regina, the eldest daughter, is now considered the family's most talented and productive member. Her masterfully painted flowers and insects are reflections of divine creation. These closely observed, highly detailed still lifes are decorative cabinet works that stand on their own merits.

Portrait of Bartholomäus Viatis (1614/1614) by Johann Philipp KreutzfelderThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Bartholomäus (Bartolomeo) Viatis was born in Venice in 1538, the son of a shopkeeper, and was sent to Nuremberg for training at the age of 12. It was the first step in an unparalleled career, for by the time of his death in 1624 he was the richest merchant north of the Alps. Viatis's daughter married Nuremberg merchant Martin Peller. Peller, in his turn, was the builder of the "Pellerhaus" around 1600, with its impressive baroque public rooms displaying carefully selected works of art. A historical photo from a far later era shows beyond a doubt that this extremely fine portrait of Bartholomäus Viatis once graced the "Beautiful Room" of the Pellerhaus, which was almost certainly the portrait’s original setting. The Pellerhaus was almost completely destroyed toward the end of the Second World War, but not before the wood paneling from the "Beautiful Room" had been taken to safety. In 1957 it was incorporated into the permanent exhibition at the Fembohaus Municipal Museum, where Kreutzfelder's painting can still be seen today.

Torquetum, or "Turkish apparatus" (1568/1568) by Design: Johannes PraetoriusThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Nuremberg had an outstanding reputation in the 15th and 16th centuries as a maker of scientific instruments that were sold all over Europe. One outstanding masterpiece of this instrument-maker's art is the superbly designed and crafted "Torquetum" by Johannes Praetorius (1537-1616). Developing and making a complex design like this called for the ultimate in skill and precision. It was used to calculate the position of the sun and stars, to measure altitudes on earth, and for astrological work. The Torquetum came into the possession of the city of Nuremberg in 1675, as part of a collection of scientific instruments formerly owned by the Ayrer family.

Model of Nuremberg Old Town (1935/1939) by Gustav Fischer et al.The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

In 1935, the Nuremberg City Construction Office was asked to commission a model of the Old Town. The preparations alone took months: drawings of façades had to be organized, blueprints obtained, and the Ohm Polytechnic School had its students make drawings of the entire city walls and the Castle. It took four experienced wood carvers more than four years to complete the 1:500-scale linden wood model. It documents in impressive detail the late-medieval texture of Nuremberg as it appeared shortly before the city was destroyed in the Second World War. Safely stored in the "Art Bunker" below the Castle, this model survived to commemorate how the best-preserved large medieval city in Germany once looked, while the real Nuremberg was reduced to ruins.

Portrait of Susanna Maria von Sandrart (1700/1700) by Johann Leonhard HirschmannThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

In 1700, Wolfgang Moritz Endter commissioned a portrait of his wife from painter Johann Leonhard Hirschmann. The lady was a member of one of Germany's best-known artistic families of the 17th century. Her great-uncle, Joachim von Sandrart, was the only German artist of his day to enjoy an international reputation. Susanna's father, Jacob von Sandrart, was also famous. He settled in Regensburg as an engraver, and in 1654 married Regina Christina Eimmart, the sister of the major engraver and mathematician Georg Christoph Eimmart. In 1656, Jacob von Sandrart moved to Nuremberg, where he founded Germany's first academy of painting in 1662. In 1683, Susanna Maria von Sandrart married painter Johann Paul Auer, who left her a widow after only four years of marriage. After his death, she engraved reproductions for her father's publishing house, and in 1695 she married Endter, a Nuremberg publisher and book dealer.

Confessional Painting (ca. 1650/ 1660) by unknownThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Martin Luther took a comparatively positive view of the significance of pictorial decorations in churches: "images, bells, Eucharistic vestments, church ornaments, altar lights, and the like I regard as things indifferent. (...) I have no sympathy with the iconoclasts" (Luther, 1528). Nuremberg was the first free German imperial city to turn firmly to the Lutheran form of Protestantism, in March 1526 after the Nuremberg religious debates, and there was little destruction of church décor here. Among this auspicious environment, the genre of the "confessional picture" developed in the Franconian region during the mid-16th century, as a form of narrative Protestant graphic art. This is an especially fine and interesting example of the type, with remarkable portraits of the two reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, along with a large number of scenic images.

Illustration for the poem "To Nuremberg" by King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1839/1839) by Carl Alexander HeideloffThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

King Ludwig I of Bavaria was an ultra-modernist when it came to the redesign of his capital of Munich, and a great fan of Italian and classical art. But it was in Nuremberg that he discovered a passion for the German Middle Ages. In fifteen strophes he gave enthusiastic voice to his deep admiration for the old imperial city. So the city council engaged architect-painter Carl Alexander Heideloff to decorate a copy of the text with a splendid pictorial border in the style of a medieval book of hours. Above the apex of the arch, a Nuremberg soldier in 15th-century Landsknecht uniform and a Bavarian infantryman support the royal coat of arms. The pious imagery framing the poem shows costumes from Nuremberg's golden age in the days of Albrecht Dürer and the Reformation. Gothic design, which enjoyed a great popular revival in the 19th century, dominates the architectural decor.

Model of the Imperial City of Nuremberg (1540/1540) by Hans BaierThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The model of the free and imperial city of Nuremberg made by painter-woodcarver Hans Baier in 1540 is considered the oldest urban model from anywhere in German-speaking Europe. The exhibit in the Fembohaus is only a copy; the original is in the Bavarian National Museum in Munich. On an area measuring just 58 x 68 cm (23 x 27 inches), the model contains a complete reproduction of mid-sixteenth-century Nuremberg. You can get a three-dimensional impression of the city's size and imposing defense installations. The city gates, the detailed castle in the north of town, the city's mighty churches and the Pegnitz with its many bridges, cutting the city into two almost equal-sized parts – the model shows all of Nuremberg's most important landmarks.

The Apotheosis of Aeneas (1731/1732) by Johann Justin PreißlerThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Johann Justin Preissler was engaged in 1731 to make a ceiling painting for Count Christian zu Wied-Runkel. As a theme, he chose the apotheosis of Aeneas, from Ovid's "Metamorphoses." The painting shows the scene in which Venus asks her father Jupiter to elevate her son, the warrior hero Aeneas, to divine status. On the left, Aeneas kneels in vaguely classical armor. Beside him stands his mother Venus, commending him to her own father, Jupiter, who sits off to the right. To Jupiter's right sits his wife Juno, accompanied by her symbol, the peacock. This bird, prominently placed in the upper center of the painting, is a reference to the painting's owner – for it also happens to be the heraldic animal of the von Wied family. At the lower center kneels Cupid, aiming his arrow toward an imaginary viewer. Thus he establishes a connection between the portrayed world of the gods and the real world looking up at the ceiling.

The "Meistersingers" Cabinet from St. Catherine's Church, Nuremberg (1621/1621) by Adrian Stam(m)ler et al.The City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

This work seems almost like a little winged altarpiece – which is no real surprise. After all, it was made for a church (which no longer survives). In the upper field of the main painting we see King David experiencing a heavenly vision of the Trinity. Since David was virtually the patron saint of singers, the two cherubs over his head hold both a royal crown and the honorary crown of the Meistersingers – the late medieval German guild for poetry and song. The twelve men in the gathering of course mirror the twelve apostles, but there's an extra man at the left margin: Hans Sachs. The perennial preservation of his extensive body of work seems to have made him a kind of "honorary chairman." When both doors are closed, the four Evangelists appear. Although not a masterpiece of painting, this cabinet remains one of the most significant items of physical evidence of the Meistersinger tradition in Nuremberg.

Emperor Matthias Enters Nuremberg in 1612 (1890/1890) by Johann Paul RitterThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

The visit of Holy Roman Emperor Matthias I in 1612 was an opportunity for Nuremberg's City Council to show off its best side. Three years earlier, the city had joined the Protestant Union, and now it had to make up for that affront to the Catholic emperor. The painting shows the emperor's jubilant entry at the moment when he has just come through the magnificent triumphal arch specially built for the occasion below the city's Imperial Castle. Slightly behind follows his wife, the Empress Anna, in a splendid coach. A crowd of citizens hail the imperial couple from both sides of their path. To enhance the painting's drama, Paul Ritter has indulged in a rather noticeable bit of poetic license: everyone is shown coming down from the castle, even though when the emperor "entered" Nuremberg he would of course have been traveling in exactly the opposite direction.

Portrait of Nuremberg Merchant Wolfgang Tobias Huth (ca. 1735) by Johann KupetzkyThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

Bohemian-born painter Johann Kupetzky counts as one of Europe's master baroque portraitists. As members of the Bohemian Brothers, a religious community persecuted by the Counter-Reformation, he and his family were driven out of their homeland while he was still a very young child. Although Kupetzky presumably never quite mastered the German language, he was very well integrated into Nuremberg society from the time of his arrival in 1723. In addition to other artists, his Nuremberg friends also included merchant Wolfgang Tobias Huth, whose portrait Kupetzky painted no less than three times. One of these portraits provides a glimpse of the famed painter's living circumstances and artistry during his years in Nuremberg. A curious fact is that both the painter and his subject were immigrants to the city.

Bavarian Postal Coach before the New Gate in Nuremberg (1823/1823) by Johann Adam KleinThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

This 1823 work by Johann Adam Klein shows no trace of the many hardships that traveling involved in the nineteenth century. A coach, subtly modeled with light and shadow, passes the viewer by, heading in the direction of Bamberg. In the center is the whip-wielding postilion, and through the coach window we catch sight of a young woman. Dressed in a red mantle with a lace collar, she gazes toward a rider who is deep in conversation with a peasant. The men, together with a calf and a dog, are set away in the shadowy right corner of the picture – a trick to enhance the sense of depth. In the background, we see the city of Nuremberg from the northwest. Klein made a number of preparatory watercolors and drawings of the landscape and the harness fittings. The result is a work typical of the painter, developed from precisely prepared studies, and still readily decipherable by the viewer today.

The Great Hall of the Nuremberg Rathaus (1626/1629) by Lorenz HessThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

In 1626, the ambitious young painter Lorenz Hess submitted a "trial work" to the Nuremberg City Council as part of his application for the status of master painter. One of the oldest interior views of the Rathaus hall, the painting shows in careful detail how the structure, dating from 1332/1340, looked in the first third of the 17th century. Hess's skill here certainly made an impression – the city fathers claimed the work for the Rathaus art gallery. Yet notwithstanding that success, they denied Hess his master status on the grounds that he could not document the requisite number of years as an apprentice and journeyman. So one year later, Hess submitted another entry – this time a portrait of the Virgin. Since the City Fathers liked the view of the Rathaus hall better, they simply kept the first "trial work" for good, and handed the second painting back to the artist.

Casting Model for the Gooseherd Fountain (ca. 1550) by Hans PeisserThe City of Nuremberg's Art Collections, Nuremberg Municipal Museums

This figure carved in linden wood is one of the few surviving Renaissance wood models for bronze castings. Made around 1550, it is attributed to sculptor Hans Peisser. Peisser became a citizen of Nuremberg in 1526 and probably studied here under Veit Stoss. The model for the fountain's famed Gooseherd is a superb example of collaboration between the artist and the craftsman, between designer and caster. The figure cast from this model for the fountain was produced by the major Nuremberg metalworker Pankraz Labenwolf (1492-1563).

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