WEDNESDAY, 24 MARCH 1997
All sales subject to the Conditions of Business printed in this catalogue
Estimates. Please see under Information for Buyers.
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MORNING SESSION AT 10.30 A.M. PRECISELY
(Lots 1 - 188)
Old Master Pictures from the Collection of the Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
The collection of portraits from the Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, offered in this catalogue as the lots 1-37, is of great historic interest. Most were directly commissioned by the various Dukes and have never been offered on the market. They have adorned the walls of the Castle Ludwigslust and they illustrate the era from the reign of Christian Ludwig II (1683-1756) until that of Friedrich Franz I (1756-1837).
A special section within the collection is of the portraits of members of the Württemberg family (lots 5, 7, 12 and 13), which probably entered the Mecklenburg collection on the occasion of the marriage of Friedrich der Fromme, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1717-1785) and Luise Friederike, Duchess of Württemberg-Stuttgart (1722-1791) in 1746.
The collection is of historical interest in more than one respect. It brings to the attention the work of the now almost forgotten masters Georg David Matthieu (lots 14, 17-19 and 25) and Daniel Woge (lots 23 and 31-33), whose oeuvres deserve reassessment. Furthermore, the collection throws light on the relations between the different courts in Germany, and Matthieu's own family is part of this interconnecting network: his grandfather Georg Lisiewski (lot 7), his father David Matthieu and his aunt Anna Dorothea Therbusch-Lisiewski (lot 35) were active as court painters in Berlin, while his stepmother Anna Rosina Lisiewksi (lot 38, from another collection) worked at the Dresden court. His uncle Christian Friedrich Reinhold Lisiewski (lot 16) was court painter in Dessau and became Georg David Matthieu's successor as court painter in Ludwigslust after his premature death in 1778.
All the pictures bear inventory numbers on the reverse, confirming their ducal provenance: numbers on labels marked with a crown and numbers consisting of four digits in red, blue and yellow chalk. The numbers on labels are likely to correspond with an inventory drawn up at the beginning of the 19th Century (inventory now untraced), whereas the four digit numbers date from the 20th Century inventories drawn up by the Staatliches Museum, Schwerin. During the communist régime, the collection was stored at the Staatliches Museum, Schwerin, which undertook the first attempt to make a systematic catalogue. This led to the exhibition in the Schwerin Museum in 1954, accompanied with a catalogue by H. Mansfeld, Katalog Malerei des 18. Jahrhunderts im Staatlichen Museum Schwerin, 1954. In the following catalogue entries, the title of this exhibition is referred to as "Schwerin, 1954".
As was the practice in European courts in the 18th Century, portraiture was one of the major means by which the status of members of the ruling families was described and glorified. Portraits were painted in numerous versions, to adorn the family's castles and to offer as gift to contacts all over the world. Matthieu's portrait of Ulrike Sophie (lot 19) must have been used in this manner.
The importance of portraiture as a political tool was greatly stimulated in France in the second half of the 17th Century, when King Louis XIV provided the decorative programme for his Palace at Versailles, under the directorship of Charles Lebrun. The state portraits of the King by Hyacinthe Rigaud broadcast the monarch's power and prestige.
French art and culture was the dominant influence in Europe in the 18th Century. Catherine the Great appointed Italian and French painters in the Saint Petersburg court, the French artist Antoine Pesne was called to Berlin by Friedrich II, King of Prussia and Louis de Silvestre set up his studio in Dresden, where he was employed by the King of Saxony. The Dukes of Mecklenburg followed the fashionable taste, starting with Christian Ludwig II, who commissioned works from Charles Maucourt (see lot 2), and who formed the collection of paintings by Jean-Baptist Oudry, still in situ at Ludwigslust.
His successor, Friedrich der Fromme, appointed Georg David Matthieu, whose style reflects the French Rococo, as his court painter in 1764.
Not only did French painters go to Germany to work as court painters, German painters also adopted the French idiom. Daniel Woge, trained under Antoine Pesne in Berlin, worked as a court painter in Mecklenburg-Strelitz for Adolf Friedrich IV.
Ludwig Meyer of the Archiv für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, and Matthias Schott have been of great help in preparing the catalogue descriptions.
Schwerin, 1954, n0426, where dated to circa 1745.