This idealized posthumous portrait depicts Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who is credited with the reevaluation of ancient Greek art through his work as an archaeologist and a pioneer in writing art history. His History of Ancient Art, published in 1764, became a bedrock of neoclassical thinking about the idealized European body as well as a key reference for travelers. In his portrait, Winckelmann holds a Greek edition of Homer’s Iliad, an allusion to his knowledge of classical poetry. The portraitist, Mengs, was a friend in Winkelmann’s often homoerotically charged social circle in Rome, but he worked throughout Europe.
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Title:Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768)
Artist:Anton Raphael Mengs (German, Ústi nad Labem (Aussig) 1728–1779 Rome)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:25 x 19 3/8 in. (63.5 x 49.2 cm)
Credit Line:Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1948
Anton Raphael Mengs, born in Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic), spent his childhood in Dresden where his father, Ismael Mengs (1688–1764), was court painter to Friedrich August II (1696–1763) of Saxony, King of Poland. The aptly named youth was schooled principally in Rome, where he spent the greater part of his life from 1740 onward. Mengs was well known to his contemporaries as a practitioner and theorist of Neoclassicism; he has been less admired since, and it could perhaps even be argued that he was too much influenced by Raphael (1483–1520). Among Mengs's most famous works are the ballroom ceiling depicting Parnassus in Cardinal Albani's villa in Rome, completed in 1761, and the fresco decorations undertaken immediately thereafter in the royal palace in Madrid.
Mengs was a disciple of the archeologist and writer Johann Joseph Winckelmann (1717–1768), who is credited with the rediscovery of ancient Greek art. Winckelmann, from Brandenburg, was educated in Latin, Greek, and theology at the universities of Halle and Jena; in 1748 he secured employment as a librarian at Nöthnitz, near Dresden, which allowed him to make himself known to members of the electoral court of Saxony. He converted to Roman Catholicism and through connections in the church hierarchy found his way to Italy, where he was to report back on recent archaeological discoveries at Herculaneum. Mengs and Winckelmann met within days of Winckelmann's arrival in Rome in 1755. Their backgrounds were similar. Each admired the other and they shared a variety of interests and a wide acquaintance, especially among artists and foreign visitors. Winckelmann published his most important work, a history of ancient art (in its original language, Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums), in 1764. Having intended to visit Germany in 1768, he found himself in Trieste, where he was brutally murdered in what may have been a homosexual encounter.
This elegiac, idealized portrait was painted as a memorial in about 1777, several years after the sitter's death and not long before the death of the painter. José Nicolás de Azara (died 1804), the Spanish ambassador to Rome, was the first owner of Mengs's portrait of Winckelmann, which he described as "handsomer than he, and yet like him." The sitter wears a white linen shirt, open at the neck, with a lace ruffle. The title of the open book he holds is inscribed in Greek on the spine: Iliad.
Katharine Baetjer 2011
Inscription: Inscribed (on spine of book, in Greek): ILIAD
José Nicolás de Azara, marques de Nibbiano, Spanish ambassador to Rome (by 1794–d. 1804); his nephew, Cardinal Don Dionisio Bardaji y Azara, Rome (1804–1807/8; sold to LeBrun); [Jean Baptiste Pierre LeBrun, Paris, 1807/8–1810; LeBrun, Notice 1809, no. 217; sale, LeBrun, Paris, March 23, 1810, no. 186, as Le portrait de Vilkelmann, gravé à la tête de ses oeuvres, de la collection d'Azara, for Fr 660 to Leroche for Arteria]; [Arteria, Vienna, 1810]; Princess Isabella Lubomirska, Vienna (1810–d. 1816); by descent to the Princes Lubomirski, Lemberg and Cracow (from 1816); by descent to Prince Casimir Lubomirski, Cracow (by 1905–d. 1930); his son, Prince Sebastian Lubomirski, Cracow and Zurich (1930–47; sold through Walter Hugelshofer to The Met)
Florence. Palazzo Vecchio. "Mostra del ritratto italiano dalla fine del sec. XVI all'anno 1861," March–July 1911, no. 66 (as "L'archeologo Winckelmann [?]," lent by Prince Casimir Lubomirski, Cracow).
Hartford, Conn. Wadsworth Atheneum. "Homage to Mozart," March 22–April 29, 1956, no. 40.
Bregenz. Vorarlberger Landesmuseum. "Angelika Kauffmann und ihre Zeitgenossen," July 23–October 13, 1968, no. 342.
Vienna. Osterreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst. "Angelika Kauffmann und ihre Zeitgenossen," November 8, 1968–February 1, 1969, no. 342.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "The Age of Neo-classicism," September 9–November 19, 1972, no. 192 [shown at Royal Academy].
Storrs, Conn. William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut. "The Academy of Europe: Rome in the 18th Century," October 13–November 21, 1973, no. 98.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Eye of Thomas Jefferson," June 5–September 6, 1976, no. 155.
Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit," September 24–December 31, 1979, no. 58.
Madrid. Museo del Prado. "Antonio Rafael Mengs, 1728–1779," June–July 1980, no. 29.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome," March 16–May 28, 2000, no. 259.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome," June 25–September 17, 2000, no. 259.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 25.
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 20.
Neues Museum Weimar. "Winckelmann: Moderne Antike," April 7–July 2, 2017, no. 40.
Milan. Gallerie d’Italia. "Grand Tour: Sogno d'Italia da Venezia a Pompei," November 19, 2021–March 27, 2022, no. VI.2.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Histoire de l'Art chez les Anciens. Paris, 1794, vol. 1, ill. (frontispiece) [1802–3 ed., 2 vols. in 3, vol. 1, ill. (frontispiece)], illustrates an engraving titled J. WINKELMANN and inscribed "Gravé d'après le Déssin de Salésa fait sur le tableau d'Antoine Raphaël Mengs qui est dans le Cabinet de M. le Chev. d'Azara, Ministre Plen. du Roi d'Espagne à Rome".
[Jean Baptiste Pierre] LeBrun. Recueil de gravures au trait, à l'eau forte, et ombrées, d'après un choix de tableaux de toutes les écoles, recueillis dans un voyage fait en Espagne, au Midi de la France et en Italie, dans les années 1807 et 1808. Paris, 1809, vol. 2, p. 95, mentions buying six paintings including the portrait of Winckelmann and several drawings by Mengs from Monseigneur Bardaki, M. d'Azara's heir in Rome.
Domenico Rossetti. Il sepolcro di Winckelmann in Trieste. Venice, 1823, pp. 17, 160, mentions in addition to the engraving after Salesa an engraving by Senff of 1804; lists also a drawing in profile by Giovanni Casanova, and an engraving after it published in 1766; a painting by the Danish artist Hals; a painting by Kauffmann of 1764, and various engravings; a painting by Maron of 1767, and various engravings; and works by Oeser, Hancarville, Reifenstein, Doel, and Antonio Bosa.
Otto Jahn. "Die Bildnisse Winckelmanns." Allgemeine Monatsschrift für Wissenschaft und Literatur 4 (June 1854), pp. 428–29, 432, 434, 436–37, as in the Lubomirska collection, Vienna, in 1815; dates it before autumn 1761 and finds it strange that Winckelmann does not mention it in his letters; lists an engraving after it by Blot.
Charles Blanc. Le trésor de la curiosité. Vol. 2, Paris, 1858, p. 275.
Otto Jahn. "Die Bildnisse Winckelmann's." Biographische Aufsätze. 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1866, pp. 71–72, 75, 77–78, 86–87.
G. Henry Lodge, ed. The History of Ancient Art, Translated from the German of John Winckelmann. Boston, 1872, vol. 1, p. 138 [1880 ed., p. 98], dates it about 1763, noting that it is "handsomer than he, and yet like him, as the possessor of it [Azara] affirmed".
Julius Vogel. "Zu den Bildnissen Winckelmann's." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 6 (1898–99), p. 155, ill. (Senff engraving), identifies as Winckelmann the sitter for a portrait in the Leipzig Universitätsbibliothek.
Julius Brann. "Das Winckelmann-Porträt von Anton Raphael Mengs." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s. 16, 7 (April 1905), pp. 173–75, ill. opp. p. 173, as in the collection of Casimir Lubomirski, Cracow; dates it about 1756, noting that it was relined by Hauser in Berlin.
O. von Boenigk. "Winckelmann im Bilde." Wissenschaftliche Beilage der Magdeburger Zeitung 58 (1906) [see Ref. Roettgen 1999, vol. 1, p. 306], rejects the attribution to Mengs.
Miss A. R. Evans. Palazzo Vecchio and the Portrait Exhibition. Florence, 1911, p. 36.
Hermann Uhde-Bernays. "Zu den Bildnissen Winckelmanns." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 6 (1913), pp. 55–59, as in the Lubomirski collection, Cracow; dates it about 1761 and states that the portrait Vogel published probably represents Mengs himself.
Hermann Thiersch. Winckelmann und seine Bildnisse. Munich, 1918, pp. 21–28, 30, 48, fig. 3, dates it tentatively to 1761.
Hermann Voss. Die Malerei des Barock in Rom. Berlin, , p. 659, as in the collection of the Princes Lubomirski, Lemberg; dates it in the second half of the 1750s.
Kurt Gerstenberg. Johann Joachim Winckelmann und Anton Raphael Mengs. Halle, 1929, pp. 19–20, as in the collection of the Princes Lubomirski, Cracow; dates it 1761–62.
Hans Wolfgang Singer. Neuer Bildniskatalog. Leipzig, 1938, vol. 5, p. 126, no. 39004.
Josephine L. Allen. "Johann Joachim Winckelmann Classicist." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 7 (April 1949), pp. 229–32, ill., dates it soon after 1755, mentions an old label on the frame inscribed R[ome]. 1756.
"Erwebungen amerikanischer Museen." Weltkunst 10 (July 15, 1949), p. 9.
Walther Rehm and Hans Diepolder, ed. Briefe.. By Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Berlin, 1952–57, vol. 3, 1956, p. 264, no. 856; vol. 4, 1957, pp. 232, 502–3, no. 125b, demonstrate that Mengs must have painted it after 27 May 1767.
Arthur Schulz. Die Bildnisse Johann Joachim Winckelmanns. Berlin, 1953, pp. 6–8, 54–55, fig. 2.
Walther Rehm. Letter to the Museum. May 11, 1953, proposes that it may be by Peder Als.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 67.
Hans Zeller. "Zur Entstehung der Winckelmann-Büsten von Friedrich Wilhelm Doell, I. Die Beiden Entwürfe von 1777 und die Kasseler Bronze." Jahresgabe der Winckelmann-Gesellschaft Stendal 1954/55. Berlin, 1956, pp. 21–23.
Arthur Schulz. "Winckelmann und seine Welt." Jahresgabe der Winckelmann-Gesellschaft Stendal 1961. 1962, pp. 151–53, fig. 147.
Denys Sutton. "The Neo-Classic Ideal." Apollo 78 (November 1963), pp. 337–38, fig. 6.
Dieter Honisch. Anton Raphael Mengs und die Bildform des Frühklassizismus. Recklinghausen, 1965, p. 70, no. 13, dates it 1761/62.
Anthony M. Clark inAngelika Kauffmann und ihre Zeitgenossen. Exh. cat., Vorarlberger Landesmuseum. Bregenz, 1968, p. 121, no. 342, fig. 169.
Herbert von Einem. "Review of Winckelmann, Johann Joachim: Kleine Schriften." Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunst Wissenschaft 15 (1970), p. 120.
Steffi Röttgen. "'Antonius de Maron faciebat Romae': Intorno all'opera di Anton von Maron a Roma." Artisti austriaci a Roma dal barocco alla secessione. Exh. cat., Museo di Roma. Rome, 1972, p. 5.
Ross Watson inThe Eye of Thomas Jefferson. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1976, pp. 97–98, 365, no. 155, ill.
Bozenna Majewska-Maszkowska. Mecenat artystyczny Izabelli z Czartoryskich Lubomirskiej (1736–1816). Wroclaw, 1976, pp. 310, 631, no. 233, fig. 233, as in the collections of Princess Isabella Lubomirska and Prince Casimir Lubomirski, Cracow.
Harold Acton. "The Bourbons of Naples as Patrons of the Arts." Connoisseur 196 (October 1977), p. 90, fig. 17.
James David Draper and Joan R. Mertens. Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit. Exh. cat., National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1979, pp. 30, 174, no. 58, ill. (color), as "the basis for a monument erected to [Winckelmann] in the Pantheon".
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 378, 384–85, fig. 682 (color).
Xavier de Salas. Antonio Rafael Mengs 1728–1779. Exh. cat., Museo del Prado. Madrid, 1980, pp. 84–85, no. 29, ill., dates it 1755–61.
Rosanna Cioffi Martinelli. La ragione dell' arte. Naples, 1981, fig. 12.
Christian Pescheck. "Ausschnittskopie eines Vermissten Bildes von Winckelmann Entdeckt?" Archäologischer Anzeiger 4 (1983), p. 673, no. 2, questions the attribution to Mengs.
Nikolai N. Nikulin. German and Austrian Painting: Fifteenth to Eighteenth Centuries. Florence, 1987, p. 308.
Brockhaus Enzyklopädie. Vol. 14, 19th ed. Mannheim, 1991, p. 458.
Roland Kanz. Dichter und Denker im Porträt: Spurengänge zur deutschen Porträtkultur des 18. Jahrhunderts. Munich, 1993, pp. 94–96, 220–21 n. 375, fig. 36, dates it 1758–62.
Claudia Tutsch. "Man muß mit ihnen, wie mit seinem Freund, bekannt geworden seyn . . . ": Zum Bildnis Johann Joachim Winckelmanns von Anton von Maron. Mainz, 1995, pp. 22, 38, 53 n. 229, p. 54 n. 236, dates it earlier than the Maron portrait of 1767–68; mentions the posthumous bronze bust by Friedrich Wilhelm Eugen Doell [1777/78, Kassel; see fig. 7].
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 231, ill.
Barbara Steindl inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 21, New York, 1996, p. 132, dates it 1761–62.
Alex Potts inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 33, New York, 1996, p. 241, dates it 1756–61.
Michele Cometa, ed. Anton Raphael Mengs: Pensieri sulla Pittura nella traduzione di José Nicolas de Azara (1780). Palermo, 1996, p. 77, dates it after Mengs's return to Rome in 1777.
Hermann Voss. Baroque Painting in Rome. Ed. Thomas Pelzel. Vol. 2, The High and Late Baroque, Rococo and Early Neoclassicism, 1620–1790. rev. and trans. ed. San Francisco, 1997, p. 182.
Bettina Baumgärtel inAngelika Kauffmann. Ed. Bettina Baumgärtel. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany, 1998, pp. 130–31, as finished in 1761; publishes a drawing by Kauffmann of Winckelmann of about 1767/68 from the Valardi sketchbook in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London [fig. 97].
Steffi Roettgen. "Das malerische und zeichnerische Werk." Anton Raphael Mengs, 1728–1779. Vol. 1, Munich, 1999, pp. 306–7, 322, no. 237, ill., associates it with Alexander Doell's 1777 portrait bust of Winckelmann, which was in turn based on von Maron's drawing; notes the influence on this posthumous portrait of a cast of a classical bust of Cicero in Mengs's possession; lists an engraving after the painting by Carl Paul Landon.
Steffi Roettgen inArt in Rome in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron and Joseph J. Rishel. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 2000, pp. 411–12, no. 259, ill. (color), explains how it can only have been painted in or after 1777.
Steffi Roettgen. Mengs: La scoperta del neoclassico. Exh. cat., Palazzo Zabarella. Padua, 2001, p. 298, reaffirms that Mengs did not paint Winckelmann within his friend's lifetime but was inspired by Eugen Wilhelm Doell, who in 1777 was commissioned to make a posthumous bust intended for the Pantheon [Protomoteca Capitolina, Rome].
Steffi Roettgen. Anton Raphael Mengs, 1728–1779. Vol. 2, Leben und Wirken. Munich, 2003, pp. 159, 370, figs. III-1, VI-34.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 142–46, no. 25, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 80–83, no. 20, ill. (color, overall and detail)].
Michele Dolz in Timothy Verdon. L'arte cristiana in italia. Vol. 3, Età moderna e contemporanea. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2008, p. 126, fig. 135 (color).
José Beltrán Fortes and Juan Fernández Lacomba inEl rescate de la antigüedad clásica en Andalucía. Exh. cat., Hospital de los Venerables. Seville, , p. 185, 216, fig. 80 (color).
Francesco Petrucci. Pittura di Ritratto a Roma: il Settecento. Rome, 2010, vol. 1, pp. 301, 304, fig. 239 (color); vol. 3, pl. 952.
Almudena Negrete Plano inAnton Raphael Mengs y la Antiqüedad. Ed. Almudena Negrete Plano. Exh. cat., Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Madrid, 2013, p. 27, fig. 1 (color).
Robin Simon inRichard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting. Ed. Martin Postle and Robin Simon. Exh. cat., Yale Center for British Art. New Haven, 2014, pp. 16, 215, no. 14, ill. (color).
John Marciari. Italian, Spanish, and French Paintings Before 1850 in the San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, 2015, pp. 298–99 n. 2.
Bettina Werche inWinckelmann: Moderne Antike. Ed. Elisabeth Décultot et al. Exh. cat., Neues Museum Weimar. Weimar, 2017, pp. 206–7, no. 40, ill. (color).
Elisabeth Décultot inWinckelmann: Moderne Antike. Ed. Elisabeth Décultot et al. Exh. cat., Neues Museum Weimar. Weimar, 2017, p. 189.
Rüdiger Splitter inWinckelmann: Moderne Antike. Ed. Elisabeth Décultot et al. Exh. cat., Neues Museum Weimar. Weimar, 2017, p. 209, under nos. 41–42.
Elisabeth Décultot and Martin Dönike inWinckelmann: Moderne Antike. Ed. Elisabeth Décultot et al. Exh. cat., Neues Museum Weimar. Weimar, 2017, p. 301, under no. 108.
Eloisa Dodero inGrand Tour: Sogno d'Italia da Venezia a Pompei. Ed. Fernando Mazzocca et al. Exh. cat., Gallerie d’Italia. Milan, 2021, pp. 327–28, no. VI.2, ill. p. 163 (color).
By 1787 Don José de Azara owned Mengs's portrait of Winckelmann. Azara provided a drawing after the portrait by Bonaventura Salesa (1756–1819), Mengs's follower, which was engraved by Jacques Louis Copia (1764–1799) as the frontispiece to Jansen's 1794 edition of Winckelmann's Histoire de l'Art chez les Anciens.
While in Rome, Winckelmann was also painted by Peder Als (Danish, 1725–1776), in 1760 (presumed lost); by Angelica Kauffmann (Swiss, 1741–1807), in 1764 (Kunsthaus Zürich); and by Anton von Maron (Austrian, 1733–1808), in 1767 (Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar, Schlossmuseum).
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