Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Baron Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859)

Artist:
Julius Schrader (German, Berlin 1815–1900 Große-Lichterfelde)
Date:
1859
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
62 1/2 x 54 3/8 in. (158.8 x 138.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of H. O. Havemeyer, 1889
Accession Number:
89.20
Not on view
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Julius Schrader. 1859.
Albert Havemeyer, New York (1859–d. 1874; commissioned from the artist in 1859; his estate, 1874–89; his estate sale, Ortgies, New York, April 12, 1889, for $2,250 to Havemeyer); H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1889)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of the Seventies," April 2–September 10, 1946, no. 152.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A475.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Church's Great Picture, "The Heart of the Andes"," October 5, 1993–January 30, 1994, unnumbered cat. (fig. 4).

New York. Americas Society. "Unity of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt and the Americas," April 29–July 26, 2014, no. 7.

Toronto. Art Gallery of Ontario. "Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic," June 20–September 20, 2015, not in catalogue.

Bentonville, Ark. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. "Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic," November 7, 2015–January 18, 2016, not in catalogue.

Independent (May 24, 1860), p. 2, states that this picture is a copy of an original commissioned by [William] Auferman [sic for Aufermann] for the International Art Gallery in New York; quotes a May 9, 1859 letter from Schrader stating that the [original] portrait was in Humboldt's bedroom at the time of the sitter's death; according to Aufermann "'Schrader observed in the same letter, that several amateurs were desirous of buying this portrait, and among these Mr. Havemeyer, from New York, but that as I had ordered it first, he would give me the preference'".

"Humboldt Anniversary." New York Times (September 1, 1869), p. 2, states that Albert Havemeyer will lend this picture to a Humboldt centenary celebration in New York.

Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur (May 1889), p. 123, states that this work was sold on April 12 at Ortgies for $2,250 to H. O. Havemeyer, who presented it to the MMA; notes that a replica was sold at the A. T. Stewart sale for $925; relates that the MMA picture was painted from life in 1859 for Albert Havemeyer and that the artist promised not to replicate it, adding "on being taken to task for having broken his promise, he wrote an abject letter of apology to Mr. Havemeyer" [see Ref. Independent 1860 and "Catalogue of the A. T. Stewart Collection," Chickering Hall, New York, March 23–25, 1887, no. 202, which publishes documents stating that the Stewart version was painted from life and has never been copied].

Catalogue of the Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1898, p. 161, no. 537, states that while in Berlin in 1857, Albert Havemeyer asked Baron von Humboldt to sit for this picture; notes that Humboldt himself selected the background of Chimborazo; relates that Schrader "commenced the picture at once, and at its completion the Baron expressed himself delighted with it"; remarks that it is the last portrait from life of Humboldt.

Albert Ten Eyck Gardner. "Scientific Sources of the Full-Length Landscape: 1850." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 4 (October 1945), p. 63, ill., notes that the Chimborazo mountain depicted in the background of this picture also appears in "Heart of the Andes" (1859; MMA 09.95) by Frederic Edwin Church, who was greatly influenced by Humboldt's writings on landscape painting.

Halina Nelken. Alexander von Humboldt: His Portraits and Their Artists, a Documentary Iconography. Berlin, 1980, pp. 163–69, ill. (color, overall and detail), notes that Schrader painted three portraits of Humboldt: a bust portrait (1856; Nationalgalerie, Berlin), a full-length portrait (1859; Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin), and the MMA painting; identifies the background as the mountains of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Frances Weitzenhoffer. "The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection, 1875–1900." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982, pp. 102–3, erroneously suggests that this picture was a gift to H. O. Havemeyer from his father.

Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, p. 55.

Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 208.

Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 377, no. A475, ill., states that it was acquired by H. O. Havemeyer by descent [see Ref. Montezuma 1889].



The sitter was a renowned German naturalist and explorer. Humboldt himself chose the mountains of Chimborazo and Cotopaxi in Ecuador as the background of this picture. Apparently, Schrader received Humboldt portrait commissions from both William Aufermann and Albert Havemeyer and executed two, nearly identical paintings. There is some confusion as to which came first (see Independent 1860, Montezuma 1889, MMA 1898). The version in the Aufermann collection was sold to A. T. Stewart in 1863 and subsequently to Knoedler in 1887. Additionally, there may be several copies. A version with the same dimensions as The Met's, also signed and dated 1859, is in the collection of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach.

Schrader painted two other portraits of Humboldt, one a full-length portrait standing before his desk (1859; Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin) and the other a bust portrait, possibly a study for the full-length painting (1856; Nationalgalerie, Berlin).
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