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Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-1884), St. Rosalia of Palermo Crowned by Angels, a Watercolor and a Drawing

 

Fol. 5v; Michael Miller

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-Vienna 1884). St. Rosalia of Palermo Crowned by Angels. Graphite, pen and brown ink, and watercolor on cream laid paper. 251 x 248 mm, 9 7/8 x 9 3/4.

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-Vienna 1884). St. Rosalia of Palermo Crowned by Angels. Graphite, pen and brown ink, and watercolor on cream laid paper. 251 x 248 mm, 9 7/8 x 9 3/4.

 

Fol. 29v; Michael Miller

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803 - Vienna 1884). Saint Rosalia of Palermo in her Cave. Pen and black ink over graphite on cream wove paper. 191 x 233 mm, 7 1/2 x 9 3/16 in.

2. Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803 – Vienna 1884). t. Rosalia of Palermo Crowned by Angels. Pen and black ink over graphite on cream wove paper. 191 x 233 mm, 7 1/2 x 9 3/16 in.

 

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-Vienna 1884)
St. Rosalia of Palermo Crowned by Angels

1. Graphite, pen and brown ink, and watercolor on cream laid paper
251 x 248 mm, 9 7/8 x 9 3/4 in.

2. Pen and black ink over graphite on cream wove paper
191 x 233 mm, 7 1/2 x 9 3/16 in.

These are preparatory studies for a finished drawing colored with wash, monogrammed and dated 1836 (24 x 24 cm.), listed by Boetticher as in the collection of Oberbaurat Bergmann, and exhibited in the Wiener historische Kunstausstellung (no. 77), present location unknown. We do not know whether this is the same person as the Johann Conrad Bergmann who sat for the portrait from our album, dated 1829 (wrong, 1823!, Artzt), now in the Ashmolean Museum.1

A version in oil on canvas was recently discovered by Grisebach in a private collection in Baden-Württemberg and is offered at auction on may 31, 2017, along with these two drawings. Click here to go to entry for the painting in the Grisebach online catalogue, and here for the watercolor and drawing.

Heinrich Schwemminger, The Death of St. Rosalia of Palermo. Oil on canvas.

Heinrich Schwemminger, The Death of St. Rosalia of Palermo. Oil on canvas.

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-1884). Portrait of Johann Conrad Bergmann. Graphite on cream wove paper. 184 x 131 mm, 7 1/4 x 5 1/8 in. Fol. 20r/Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-1884). Portrait of Johann Conrad Bergmann. Graphite on cream wove paper. 184 x 131 mm, 7 1/4 x 5 1/8 in. Fol. 20r/Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Schwemminger has based his composition on Johann Evangelist Scheffer von Leonardshoff’s (Vienna 1795-1822) masterpiece, The Death of St. Cecilia (1820-21). The twenty-seven-year-old Scheffer, who was in the advanced stages of tuberculosis, brought the painting to Vienna, where its was exhibited to great acclaim and purchased by the emperor. He also painted a second version at Vienna, before he died in the winter of 1822. Scheffer and Schwemminger became friends at some point, and Schwemminger, a student at the Akademie, where the Lukasbund originated, joined the group. This famous work served as a model for the fusion of the Nazarene manner with local Viennese tradition, exemplifying a style cultivated by Schwemminger’s most prominent contemporaries, for example, Kupelwieser, Steinle, and Führich, his colleague at the Akademie.

In creating this hommage to Scheffer’s seminal work, Schwemminger, who was still at an early stage of his career, chose as his subject, St. Rosalia of Palermo, who was relatively familiar as a plague saint in Vienna. Vienna adopted St. Rosalia as its principal protectress against the plague in 1646, and her chapel was first built in 1660, which, after periodic closings and deconsecrations, was finally destroyed by fire in 1968. Members of the Lukasbund were as keen to reinstate the simple devotion of times past as they were to restore the artistic integrity of Raphael and his predecessors. Closed in 1782 by the enlightened Emperor Joseph II, it was reopened in 1810, only a year after the founding of the Lukasbund, and surely attracted their pious interest. Scheffer, on the other hand, had been fascinated with the position in which St. Cecilia’s body had been found, rolled over on her wrist, a notoriously difficult attitude to render, made famous by Maderna’s sculpture of the saint in S. Maria in Trastevere – not to mention a complex of other attractions, including his love, Cäcilie Bontzak. Schwemminger had not reason or desire to imitate Scheffer’s virtuosic rendering, and showed St. Rosalia in the reclining position which is usual for her. Schwemminger reversed the direction of the figures from Scheffer’s model, and we see her in cave in Monte Pellegrino above Palermo, expiring in her cave.

 

Johann Evangelist Scheffer von Leonardshoff (Vienna 1795-1822), The Death of St. Cecilia (1820-21); Roman Version. Belvedere, Vienna.

Johann Evangelist Scheffer von Leonardshoff (Vienna 1795-1822), The Death of St. Cecilia (1820-21); Roman Version. Belvedere, Vienna.

These works are most likely preparatory drawings for the 1836 watercolor. Schwemminger most likely left Vienna for Rome the following year, to take up the stipendium awarded to him by the Akademie. Therefore, he must have executed the painting in Rome.

Provenance: Heinrich Schwemminger; antiquarian book market, Canada; North American art market; Michael Miller Lucy Vivante Fine Arts, Inc., 1995.

Related Literature: Friederich von Boetticher, Malerwerke des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, II.2, pp. 695f.

Bibliography: Ursula Mayr-Harting, “Three Drawings by Heinrich Schwemminger (1803-1884),” The Ashmolean, 31, Christmas 1996, pp. 13ff.

  1. There was a prominent citizen of Hittisau near Bregenz called Johann Conrad Bergmann (1795-1873), who was a painter, surgeon, and genealogist. The sitter in Schwemminger’s portrait could well have been the same age.

Isidoro Bianchi: Painter, Stuccatore, and Architect