Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Friedrich I (1460–1536), Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach

Attributed to Franz Wolfgang Rohrich (German, 1787–1834)
Oil on canvas
30 1/4 x 22 3/8 in. (76.8 x 56.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Laura Wolcott Lowndes, in memory of her father, Lucius Tuckerman, 1907
Accession Number:
Not on view

The Artist: The painter Franz Wolfgang Rohrich (or Rorich), who was born in Nuremberg in 1787 and died there in 1834, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, from 1809–12. Restoration appears to have become his specialty. In 1826 he restored the extensive mural decoration (destroyed 1945) of the Nuremberg council chamber (Rathaussaal), and in 1829 he advertised himself in the city directory as "vorzüglich in Gemäldereparatur" (first-rate in the restoration of paintings). Aside from that work, he devoted his talent to painting portraits in the manner of German masters from the time of Albrecht Dürer. Rohrich’s best known invention is a double portrait of a princess and her son in the style of Lucas Cranach the Elder, which exists in about forty versions (see Elisabeth Foucart-Walter, "Un Cranach de l’époque troubadour ou Révoil abusé par Rohrich," in Pierre Rosenberg et al., eds., Hommage à Michel Laclotte, Paris, 1994, pp. 579–93). A head of Christ crowned with thorns in the manner of Dürer also proved successful (see Niels von Holst, "Nachahmungen und Fälschungen altdeutscher Kunst im Zeitalter der Romantik," Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 3 [1934], p. 44).

Although Rohrich’s works are often classified as forgeries, his precise intentions and conditions of sale are not known. The collector and art historian Atanazy Raczyński, who knew the artist personally and owned one of the pseudo-Cranachs, claimed that deception was never Rohrich’s aim. Instead, according to Raczyński, it was certain dishonest dealers who passed off the paintings as sixteenth-century originals (Raczyński, Histoire de l’art moderne en Allemagne, vol. 2, Paris, 1839, p. 500). Whether understood as forgeries or as honest homages to the old masters, Rohrich’s portraits clearly represent an outgrowth of the Romantic era’s burgeoning interest in early German art.

The Picture: The Metropolitan Museum’s portrait and its companion (07.245.2) were first attributed to Rohrich in 1937 by Ernst Holzinger (verbal opinion, noted in curatorial file). Consistent with the artist’s style and technique are, for example, the design and modeling of the facial features, the pinkish skin tone, the extensive use of gold overlaid with linear black ornaments in the costumes and jewelry, the brocade pattern in gray over gold in the female costume, and the general impression of rigidity and flatness, all of which are found in the many versions of the famous pseudo-Cranach double portrait noted above. Friedrich Winkler concurred with the attribution to Rohrich and pointed out that the Museum’s pictures copy portraits from the 1515 Margrave’s Window (Markgrafenfenster) in the church of Saint Sebald, Nuremberg, by the workshop of Veit Hirsvogel the Elder after a design by Hans Süss von Kulmbach (1956, noted in curatorial file; see Hartmut Scholz, St. Sebald in Nürnberg, Regensburg, 2007, ill. p. 28). The figures, reduced from full to three-quarter length, represent the window’s patron, Margrave Friedrich of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1460–1536), and his wife, Sophia of Poland (1464–1512). Both wear the badge of the Order of the Swan, a religious association founded by Friedrich’s uncle Elector Friedrich II of Brandenburg. Full-length versions of this portrait pair by Rohrich are found in the Anhaltische Gemäldegalerie, Dessau, and the Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee (the latter from the Mme C. Lelong collection, Paris), and a bust-length pair is in private ownership (see Phillips, London, July 4, 2000, no. 180). The location of the sixteenth-century prototypes in Nuremberg and the existence of multiple versions further support Rohrich’s authorship. That the Museum’s pair was planned and executed in three-quarter length, not cut down from full-length depictions, is clear from the skirt trim of Sophia of Poland, which here is positioned higher than in the full-length versions.

The certainty of the attribution is complicated only by Raczyński’s remark that Rohrich’s son, Karl Philipp (1817–90), continued the work of his father and was equally talented in portraiture reminiscent of early German masters (Raczyński, Histoire de l’art moderne en Allemagne, vol. 2, Paris, 1839, p. 500; for the son, see Manfred Grieb, ed., Nürnberger Künstlerlexikon, 4 vols., Munich, 2007, s.v. "Rorich, Karl Philipp"). Thus, it awaits further investigation whether certain paintings now associated with the elder Rohrich could possibly be by his son.

A monogram formerly on the Museum’s portrait of Friedrich, consisting of the ligated letters I H K with a superscript I and subscript A (now largely effaced; recorded in curatorial file), may have been meant as a reference to Hans von Kulmbach, whose authorship of the Markgrafenfenster design appears to have been known in Rohrich’s time (see G. K. Nagler, Neues allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon, vol. 6, Munich, 1838, p. 194). Fanciful monograms are found on other works by Rohrich.

[Joshua P. Waterman 2013]
Laura Wolcott Lowndes (until 1907)
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