Johann Friedrich Overbeck (German, 1789-1869)
The Property of a European Nobleman
Johann Friedrich Overbeck (German, 1789-1869)

The Banishment of Hagar

Johann Friedrich Overbeck (German, 1789-1869)
The Banishment of Hagar
signed with monogram and dated 'FO/1841.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
39 x 44 ¾ in. (99.1 x 113.6 cm.)
Commissioned from the artist in 1841.
And thence by descent to the present owner.
M. Howitt and F. Binder, Friedrich Overbeck. Sein Leben und Schaffen, Bern, 1886, vol. 1, pp. 139-143 and vol. 2, p. 421.
K. Eberlein and C. Heise, Die Malerei der deutschen Romantiker und Nazarener: Im besonderen Overbecks und seines Kreises, Munich, 1928, no. 16.
Lubeck, Benhaus Estate, Overbeck und sein Kreis, 1926, no. 231.
Hamburg, Altonaer Museum (on loan, circa 1971).
Hamburg, Altonaer Museum, Die Gema¨ldesammlung des hamburgischen Senators Martin Johann Jenisch D.J. (1793-1857), 4 July-2 September 1973, no. 39.
Rome, Valle Giulia, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, I Nazareni a Roma, 22 January-22 March 1981, no. 83.

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Lot Essay

Fuelled by dissatisfaction with the direction of the Vienna Academy, a group of six German students founded the Brotherhood of St. Luke in 1809. Among them was Johann Friedrich Overbeck, son of a senator of the Hanseatic free city of Lübeck. The brotherhood was a direct reference to the old painter’s guilds of medieval times. Four of the artists, Overbeck, Franz Pforr, Ludwig Vogel and Johann Konrad Hottinger, settled in Rome in 1810. Later joined by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow, Peter von Cornelius, Philipp Veit and Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, they were mockingly referred to as the Nazarenes. The group advocated a renewed interest in religious art and monumental wall paintings. Their religious zeal most likely stemmed from the fact that almost all of them were Roman Catholic converts. Although the pursuit of spiritual and artistic simplicity and piety were typically romantic characteristics, the means by which they attempted to depict their dreams were classical. It has been suggested that the Nazarenes should be considered a special branch of German Romanticism. They strove for a new form of German religious-patriotic art fusing Dürer with Fra Angelico, Perugino and a young Raphael.
Although there was no revolutionary aspect to their work, the adoption of 'honest expression' in art and the inspiration of artists before Raphael was to exert considerable influence in Germany, and later in England, with the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. In their abandonment of the Academy and their rejection of much official and salon art, the Nazarenes can be seen as sharing the same anti-scholastic impulse that would give impetus to the avant-garde in the later nineteenth century.
The present painting tells the story of the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael by Abraham. The scene is suffused with subtle symbolism such as the vine tree in the centre, a reference to the line of Israel now passing through Isaac, and the large fig tree, a reference to the land of Israel from which Ishmael and his mother are forced to flee. The rich colouring and strongly composed groupings recall the monumental frescoes of Roman churches and the loose contour and intimate emotional relationship of the group of Sarah, seated upon the floor with Isaac, emulate Michelangelo’s Ancestors of Christ of the Sistine Chapel.
This picture was painted by Overbeck in 1841 as a commission from a German entrepreneur and has remained in private hands ever since. It's appearance at auction is a notable event.

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