Exceptional Karl Friedrich Lessing (German, 1808-1880) Painting of John Huss(603 views)
KARL FRIEDRICH LESSING (GERMAN, 1808-1880) PAINTING IN OIL ON CANVAS
“John Huss before the Council at Constance” and “F. Lessing, Musee de la ville de Francford" on label verso
Item # 604SCQ23Z
A painting of unreal detail and precise quality, this scene is one of the most vibrant and technically complex scenes in the collection right now. The intricate nature of each brush stroke results in an exceptionally rich scene, complete with detailed paintings of the saints on the garments of church leaders, almost discernible lettering on the binding of books, deep expression and distrust evident in varying degrees on the faces of the council members, individuality and photographic rendering of each character and their garments as well as a perfect depiction of the architecture and building elements. The history of John Huss is well known, a visionary in the church excommunicated for his outspoken views of the church both doctrinally and as a political institution. Guaranteed safe passage by the Emporer, he was arrested immediately upon joining the council, offered a chance to recant his blasphemes and subsequently burned at the stake. The work was painted in several sizes by Lessing - the present example is unsigned, but retains a 19th century finely hand inscribed note verso attributing the painting. It was a somewhat controversial work in it’s time and when “John Huss before the Council” was acquired by the Städel Museum in 1843, the director of the museum at the time, Philipp Veit, stepped down in protest of a scene that heroized John Huss while depicting church officials as being hostile and disgruntled. The quality of the present example is self evident, the colors and detail simply extraordinary. For the serious collector of exceptional historical scenes, this is a most fine work.
Karl Friedrich Lessing was born in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) in 1808 and much to his parent’s dismay he pursued the career of a painter, studying under Dähling, Rosel and Shadow at the Kunstakademie in Berlin. A romantic painter of the Düsseldorf School, he sought to capture exacting realism in his works. He became director of the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe in 1858 and was a member of both Berlin and Dresden’s Kunstakademies. He drew critical attention with the series of studies he completed on the life of John Huss, polarizing works that in some ways captured his own violent and combative nature. His work was presented at many exhibitions both during his life as well as post, much of his work held in museums throughout Germany.
Literature: E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, vol. VIII, Gründ, 2006, p. 902-3 [noting “John Huss in Constance” currently held in the collection of the Frankfurt Am Main museum as well as a sale of Huss before the Council of Constance measuring 25 x 43 inches in 1993]
Measurements: [frame] 19 3/8” H x 22 7/8” W x 2 1/2” D; [canvas] 13 5/8” H x 17” W
Surface with craquelure, the original lining with some fragility and ripple. Tiny spots of paint loss throughout the scene, these shown with close ups in the images. Replaced frame in good condition. Some speck touch ups under UV.
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