Skip to Content

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-1884), Ferdinand Schubert Posing as David Giving Thanks for his Victory over Goliath. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-1884) and Ferdinand Schubert (Vienna 1824-1853)


Various media and sizes

I have been pleased to offer these drawings from an album of Nazarene and Biedermeier drawings and watercolors, compiled by the Viennese artist Heinrich Schwemminger as a memento of his long career. All sheets are listed below with their present location. Those with Michael Miller, Williamstown, or Lucy Vivante, Rome,  are still available for purchase. Please inquire for prices.

Heinrich Schwemminger, born into a family of decorative artists, established a reputation as a painter of portraits and narrative scenes. He studied in Vienna (at the Akademie der bildenden Künste), committed himself to history painting in 1823, where he was awarded the Gundel Prize in 1829 and the Reichel Prize in 1833. In the early 1830s he went to Munich, where he befriended Moritz von Schwind and worked in his circle. 1837 he went to Rome on a government stipend and remained there until 1842. The following year he became Kustos at the Vienna Academy, and, in 1849, Professor. Between 1857 and 1874 he was Leiter (Director). As Kustos he won recognition for his reinstallation of the collection, and in 1866 he published a catalogue (Verzeichnis der Gemälde-Sammlung der k. k. Akademie der bildenden Künste in Wien).

Learned in the classical and Italian masters and a strong draughtsman, his development followed lines similar to Joseph Führich’s. The early work of both artists showed the influence of their Nazarene models, Overbeck, Koch, Cornelius, and Scheffer von Leonhardshoff. Führich retained his allegiance to the style of the early nineteenth century, but Schwemminger’s optical propensities led him more towards realism. In this way he became a typical and outstanding proponent of the Biedermeier style in Vienna.

A relation by marriage of Franz Schubert, Schwemminger was a fixture in the artistic world of mid-century Vienna. His drawings in the album represent the typical Nazarene and Biedermeier thematic material which occupied him: illustrations of German legend (The Nibelungenlied: fol. 11v12r27v B; and loose sheet) and poetry [Schiller’s Die Kraniche des Ibykus (fol. 14v, 15v, 18r), and Uhland’s Des Sänger’s Fluch (23r A & B). The numerous drawings from his seven years in Rome show many of the principle preoccupations of the resident German artists: studies of Italian peasants and their costumes, copies of masterworks of the Italian Renaissance, academic studies of models in poses inspired by Renaissance models, etc. Schwemminger worked on murals in the Vienna State Opera and the chapel of the regional insane asylum (Landesirrenanstalt) in Vienna. He also prepared lithographs for Rudolph Weigel’s Die Werke der Meister in ihren Handzeichnungen (Leipzig, 1865).

Ferdinand Schubert (Vienna, 1824-1853), the nephew of both the composer and Schwemminger, became a painter and a student of his uncle. He accompanied Schwemminger to Rome, where the two collaborated on a monumental eight foot tall oil of David Giving Thanks for his Victory over Goliath, which was awarded the Reichel Prize in 1842 and was acquired by the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, where it remained until the deaccessioning of all European works in the 1990s. The album contains several drawings by both artists for the painting. The album also includes a sensitive study by Ferdinand for his oil illustrating Goethe’s Der Fischer, (fol. 27v) now in the Kunsthaus Zürich. His uncle Franz had previously set the poem to music.

Three of the drawings for this painting are still available (July 1, 2012). Click here to see them

To survey the entire album and to see further unsold drawings, click here.


Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815-1950 Online-Edition und Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon ab 1815 (2. überarbeitete Auflage – online, © 2003-2011), s.v. Heinrich Schwemminger, Ferdinand Schubert

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

Friedrich von Boetticher, Malerwerke Des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Beitrag Zur Kunstgeschichte, Dresden: F. v. Boetticher, 1891.

Several of these drawings are now in major museum collections in Great Britain and the United States, among the the Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Florida.