A Masked Ball in Bohemia

Attributed to Andreas Altomonte (Austrian, Warsaw or Vienna 1699–1780 Vienna)

ca. 1748
Oil on canvas
19 x 38 in. (48.3 x 96.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, 1934
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This is the only known study for the decoration of the ballroom at Ceský Krumlov, a castle in Bohemia that belonged to Prince Joseph Adam zu Schwarzenberg. The elaborate illusionism suggests that it may be by the prince's architect and designer, Andreas Altomonte. The wall paintings, which are less sophisticated, are signed by Josef Lederer and dated 1748.

  • Catalogue Entry

    The reconstruction of the ballroom at Ceský Krumlov, a medieval castle in Bohemia, was undertaken by the Viennese architect Andreas Altomonte (1699–1780) for Prince Joseph Adam zu Schwarzenberg (1722–1782), while the paintings are signed "Jos.Lederer" and dated 1748. Lederer was probably Viennese and according to one account he arrived in May and completed the decoration in 189 days. Several buildings and a few architectural drawings by Andreas Altomonte survive; no other work by Joseph Lederer is known.

    The windowed ballroom at Ceský Krumlov has musicians' balconies and alcoves, a rococo ceiling and cornice, a mirrored doorway, and projecting pilasters into which many mirrors have been set. The figures, mostly life-size, occupy arcades, balconies, and theater boxes, many of which are painted as if open to the landscape and the sky. In addition to aristocrats and soldiers in contemporary dress, and actors of the commedia dell'arte, there are men and women in a variety of national and regional costumes, mostly masked. The handling is broad and the colors are bright so that the paintings read well from a distance, which contributes to the illusionistic effect.

    The Museum's oil sketch shows a project for one of the end walls, in which a doorway (in the sketch it is closed) leads to a corridor and to the prince's box in the castle theater. It is thought that Prince Joseph Adam is shown here seated to the right, engaged in an exchange with Harlequin, who stands by his box. Harlequin is joined by Pantalone (middle register left) and Pierrot (middle right). The higher quality of the sketch and the elaborate illusionism suggest that this work may be by the architect, Altomonte, rather than by Lederer, with whom he may have collaborated on the design of the paintings.


  • Provenance

    Mariana Griswold (Mrs. Schuyler) Van Rensselaer (until d. 1934; as Italian, Venetian, 18th century)

  • Exhibition History

    David and Alfred Smart Gallery, University of Chicago. "German and Austrian Painting of the Eighteenth Century," April 20–June 11, 1978, no. 15 (as "A Masked Ball in Bohemia," by Johann Georg Lederer).

    Louisville. J. B. Speed Art Museum. "The Mask of Comedy: The Art of Italian Commedia," September 11–November 4, 1990, no. 15 (as "A Masked Ball in Bohemia," by Johann Georg Lederer).

    Prague. Art Gallery of Prague Castle, St. George's Convent, Wallenstein Riding School Gallery, and. Kinský Palace. "The Glory of the Baroque in Bohemia: Art, Culture, and Society in the 17th and 18th Centuries," April 27–October 28, 2001, no. I/2.104 (as "Design for the decoration of the Masquerade Hall in the chateau in Ceský Krumlov," by Josef Lederer).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Watteau, Music, and Theater," September 22–November 29, 2009, no. 23.

  • References

    Mortimer S. Brandt. Letter to Harry B. Wehle. December 10, 1934, attributes it to Giovanni Domenico Ferretti.

    Rosamond Gilder. "The Mirror of the Theatre." Theatre Arts Monthly 21 (August 1937), ill. p. 628, as a sketch by Giovanni Ferretti.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 291–92, ill., attributes it to Ferretti.

    Jirí Hilmera. Letter to Claus Virch. June 2, 1964, states that the paintings in the ballroom of Ceský Krumlov are signed "Jos.Lederer" and dated 1748, and are the only known works by the artist; believes that the quality of the present picture, which corresponds to the painting on one wall, is too high to be by Lederer; notes that if this is a model, by Ferretti or some other artist, it should be part of a set since the decoration is homogeneous.

    Edward A. Maser. Letter to Theodore Rousseau. June 18, 1965, calls it a sketch by the Augsburg artist Johan Georg Lederer.

    Jirí Hilmera. "Die Bühnenbildnerischen Beziehungen zwischen Böhmen und Österreich im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert." Maske und Kothurn 12 (1966), p. 164, pl. X, fig. 2, tentatively attributes it to the architect Andreas Altomonte, who may have been responsible for the design of both the ballroom and its decoration.

    Bruno Bushart. Deutsche Malerei des Rokoko. Königstein, 1967, p. 24, ill. p. 48, attributes it to Josef Lederer.

    Edward A. Maser. "A Masked Ball in Bohemia." Festschrift Ulrich Middeldorf. Berlin, 1968, text vol., pp. 506–9; plate vol., pl. CCXIX, fig. 1, attributes the painting and the frescoes at Ceský Krumlov to Johann Georg Lederer; cites a passage from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Die Geschwister" describing the frescoes.

    Jaromír Neumann. Ceský Barok. Prague, 1974, pp. 278–79, under no. 348.

    Edward A. Maser and Laura Nelke. German and Austrian Painting of the Eighteenth Century. Exh. cat., David and Alfred Smart Gallery, University of Chicago. Chicago, 1978, p. 28, no. 15, pl. 17.

    Denis Gontard. "Scènes de fête en Bohême." Connaissance des arts no. 367 (September 1982), p. 88 n. 1, attributes the frescoes to the Viennese artist Josef Lederer.

    Pavel Preiss. "Malírství pozdního baroka a rokoka v Cechách." Dejiny Ceského Výtvarného Umení. 2, part 2, Prague, 1989, p. 752, attributes it to Josef Lederer.

    Eleonora Luciano. The Mask of Comedy: The Art of Italian Commedia. Exh. cat., J. B. Speed Art Museum. Louisville, 1990, pp. 12, 79, no. 15, ill. p. 40 (color).

    Vít Vlnas in The Glory of the Baroque in Bohemia: Art, Culture, and Society in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of Prague Castle et al. Prague, 2001, p. 99, no. I/2.104, agrees that the sketch is of higher quality than the finished paintings; adds that the influence of Tiepolo "is far more convincing in Lederer's sketch than in the definitive fresco".

    Katharine Baetjer in Watteau, Music, and Theater. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2009, pp. 68–70, no. 23, ill. (color), catalogues the picture as "Attributed to Andreas Altomonte . . . or, possibly, to Josef Lederer (Czech, active in 1748)," but views the sketch as probably by Altomonte.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History