A Triple Portrait of the Meyer Family
Inscribed 'Johannes Mayer, gemald im Monat December im Jahr 1836' (lower left) and inscribed 'Malley Meyer, war gemald im Monat December -- 1836' (lower right)
watercolor and ink on paper
Sidney McIlvain Kutz, Reading Pennsylvania
Sotheby's New York, June 30, 1984
German-born Jacob Maentel engaged in several professions during his lifetime: according to tradition, one being secretary to Napoleon, physician, and farmer and painter. He portrayed members of the tightly-knit German communities of Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Harmony, Indiana. He painted frank and detailed depictions of friends and family in full-length profile or frontal poses set in elaborate interiors or in landscapes.
The family of Johannes and Malley Meyer shown here, dated 1836, is most likely among the Maentel's early portraits in New Harmony, Posey County, Indiana. The obituary of his daughter Louisa mentions her arrival in Posey County with her parents in 1836. Like other examples of Indiana subjects, such as Young Mr. Faul (see Lipman et al, American Folk Painters of Three Centuries, New York, 1980, pp. 116) the Meyer family is depicted in a landscape with a split rail fence in the background and distinctive foliage.