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Eugen Klimsch

Allegorie auf „Handel“ und „Kunst“ (Allegory of Trade and Art)

Watercolour and gouache on parchment

Signed at bottom right: Eugen Klimsch fec.

Allegorie auf „Handel“ und „Kunst“ (Allegory of Trade and Art)

Eugen Klimsch, who received his training as an artist under Jakob Becker at the Städelschule and Andreas Müller (“Composition Müller”) at the Munich Academy, is known as a painter of murals1 and as an illustrator of German fairy-tales and poems,2 among other things. That he was also a skilled miniaturist is confirmed by the comments of Ernst Ph. J. Hallenstein,3 who after comparing his works with the great decorative compositions of Hans Makart4 concluded, “to us it was as if we had viewed a great painting by Makart through a miniaturizing glass.”5 Makart and Klimsch were the same age and probably made each other’s acquaintance in Munich, where Makart was a student of Piloty. Klimsch apparently paid close attention to the inventions and painting style of his Austrian counterpart,6 and it was surely not by chance that our miniature for many years belonged to a private collection in Vienna: “Given the delight in colour that soon came to the fore in Klimsch’s work, the look of a Makart naturally could not remain without influence.”ibid. Despite the considerable difference in size, it is worth comparing the work with Makart’s decorative oeuvre, such as his paintings for the Dumba Room that included allegories of “Trade and Industry” and “Agriculture”7 – both of them scenes teeming with figures and putti, onto which the painter empties a veritable cornucopia of ideas and ornaments. Klimsch enclosed the miniature under discussion in a monochrome trompe-l’œil architecture, in whose niches he installed an allegory of Painting and Hermes. The brightly coloured composition intensifies towards the centre where Hermes, flanked by Pallas Athena (armed with a palette) and Fortuna with her Wheel of Fortune, sits in majesty, while the numerous putti at his feet bring him gifts from all over the world. The scene composed in Renaissance style combines the genres of mural and fairy-tale illustration.

Eugen Klimsch must have created countless miniatures on parchment and ivory – works that enjoyed international popularity. Hallenstein mentions allegories of the Four Seasons and of Tobacco, which the painter is said to have made for Frankfurt industrialists.8 This miniature might also have been a commission. Rather less likely is that it was intended merely as a design for a larger decoration.

  1. His works included a ceiling painting in the Great Hall of the Gesellschaftshaus in the Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main.

  2. Goethe’s Dichtung und Wahrheit is one example among many.

  3. Ernst Philipp Jakob Hallenstein (1836–1896) was a Frankfurt architect and art teacher, who wrote an essay about Eugen Klimsch: Hallenstein, Ernst Philipp Jakob, Professor Eugen Klimsch, in Die Kunst unserer Zeit VII 1896, pp. 45–61.

  4. Hans Makart (1840 Salzburg–1884 Vienna).

  5. Hallenstein 1896, p. 56.

  6. Ibid, p. 53.

  7. In 1871 Makart painted a total of seven allegorical paintings in oil on canvas for the Dumba family of Vienna. For an illustration, cf. Frodl, Gerbert, Hans Makart, Monographie und Werkverzeichnis, Salzburg 1974, No. 157/1

  8. Ibid., p. 57.

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