The composition of the first drawing in this lot is recorded in a woodcut likewise in the collection of Richter's friend Arnold Otto Meyer (1825-1913). The note in the Meyer sale catalogue suggests while the drawing may indeed date from 1874, the unsteady handwriting of the inscription is almost certainly from the last years of Richter's life. After 1875 failing sight forced the artist to abandon painting and begin dictating his autobiography. The subject seems particularly apt for Richter's 'letzte Zeichnung' ('last drawing'), with its wistful shepherds seated in an arcadian landscape. The scene seems to be set in the Roman Campagna, with the three-peak profile of the Volsci Mountains near Olevano in the distance, harking back to the years that Richter spent in Italy between 1823 and 1826.
The second drawing in the lot is, by contrast, the earliest recorded drawing by Richter, a free copy after an engraving by Jan Both (Bartsch 8) drawn by the fifteen-year-old artist while living in his father's house. The Meyer sale catalogue tells that when the painter Adrian Zingg saw the drawing he exclaimed 'By Gott, aus dem bue kann wäb werde!' ('By God, out of this boy will come great things!'). Meyer was given the drawing by Richter's biographer Johan Friedrich Hoff, and hung it as a pendant to the first drawing in this lot.
These two drawings have remained together since the sale of Meyer's collection in 1914. The collection was built on the group formed by Arnold Otto's grandfather Johann Valentin Meyer, who was a friend of Chodowiecki. The younger Meyer also formed close friendships with the leading German artists of his day, notably Richter, Schwind, Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Steinle and Veit, and a great many of his drawings came directly from their studios. Frits Lugt described the collection as 'l'une des plus importantes en dessins modernes de l'école allemande' (F. Lugt, Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes, Amsterdam, 1921, under no. 1994).
We are grateful to Dr. Hinrich Sieveking for his kind help in preparing this note.