Anton Raphael Mengs

Anton Raphael Mengs ( born March 12, 1728 in Usti nad Labem, Bohemia, † June 29, 1779 in Rome ) was a German painter.

  • 5.1 fonts
  • 5.2 secondary literature


Mengs was born the son of the Saxon court painter Ismael Mengs. He received his first lessons in drawing and his sister Theresa Concordia from the father. From 1741 to 1744 he lived with his father on to Ancient Studies and the study of old masters in Rome. After his return he was appointed at age seventeen to Cabinet painter in Dresden.

1746 Mengs traveled a second time to Rome. He converted to Catholicism and married the Roman Margherita Guazzi. 1749, he returned to Dresden, where he was in 1751 appointed Oberhof -Saxon painter, with an annual salary of 1000 thalers. In 1751 he returned to stations in Venice and Florence back to Rome. Mengs learned in 1755 the archaeologist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann know that soon became one of his closest friends and great influence on the art-theoretical notions Mengs ' took. He received special support from the friends of his Spanish diplomat and arts patron José Nicolás de Azara, who supported Mengs in the publication of his works.

1755 Mengs was called by Pope Clement XIII. appointed Cavaliere di SPERoN d' oro ( " Knight of the Order of the Golden Spur "). Late 1759 he traveled to Naples to portray the royal family. In the same year Charles IV left Naples to to succeed his father as king of Spain in Madrid. Mengs returned to Rome. In the spring he started the ceiling fresco Parnassus at Villa Albani, which is considered a key work of German classicism. 1761, he traveled once more to Madrid. Along with Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, he worked on the design of the royal palace. The fees for both artists were equal, a sign of appreciation enjoyed Mengs at the Spanish court. In October 1766 there were between Winckelmann and Mengs a disagreement, the contact between the two former friends stopped completely.

From 1772 to 1773 Mengs held in Naples on to portray the members of the royal family. 1773 his self-portrait was hung at the Uffizi under the picture of Raphael. In 1774 he returned once more to Spain. He learned there know the young Goya, whose talent he recognized clearly, and gave him upon the recommendation Francisco Bayeus, the future brother- Goya, a place in the royal carpet factory. Due to illness - the cold winter in Madrid not got accustomed to the Roman temperatures painter - he returned permanently to Rome in 1777. Meng died on June 16, 1779 after a long illness. He was buried in the Roman church of Santi Michele e Magno.

Mengs was friends with many artists and writers of his time, such as Margravine Wilhelmine of Bayreuth, Johann Joachim Winckelmann and Giacomo Casanova, who mentions him several times in his memoirs ( "Histoire de ma vie" ).

The international fame, the Mengs enjoyed in his time, is reflected in its gradual inclusion in the academies of Bologna, Rome, Florence, Genoa, Venice, Augsburg and Madrid. He was court painter to the King of Saxony and Poland, and the court painter of King Charles IV of Naples and Sicily. The book written by him thinking about the beauty and taste of 1762 has been used in many academies as a textbook.

He was considered the greatest painter of his time, his fame has not survived him.

The Palatine court painter Johann Wilhelm Hoffnas (1727-1795) was one of his students.

The pictorial work


Mengs was a brilliant portrait painter. His portraits are of metallic clarity and precision. He has the powers of his time painted by Pope Clement XIII. up to Frederick the Great, the kings of Saxony and of Spain and the Russian Empress Catherine II


Mengs mastered brilliantly developed and practiced in Baroque illusionistic ceiling painting. His ceiling frescoes glorification of St. Eusebius in Rome, the glorification of Hercules at the Palacio Real in Madrid and the Allegory of History at the Vatican are painted in the tradition of the Baroque illusionism committed manner.

Under the influence of Winckelmann he painted for the Villa Albani in Rome, the ceiling fresco Parnassus, the thoroughly different from those mentioned. In the manner of a framed blackboard image, the image shows Apollo in the circles of the Muses with their mother Mnemosyne. The addition of a person allows the painter a strictly symmetrical arrangement of the figures. The picture stars, of course, to the famous Parnassbild his great model Raphael Mengs with the number of characters endows drastically reduced and clothes the figures after the then state of knowledge of ancient art and. The composition of the image is created in the tradition of Poussin: Flat ranking of people, statuesque figures, waiver of chiaroscuro effects, no fusion of colors. The image is a glorification of Cardinal Albani as a patron of the arts.

Parnassus is considered exemplary realization of the theory of art Winckelmann, as he had set out in the 1755 published in Dresden thoughts on the imitation of Greek works in painting and sculpture. It is considered the founding work of German classicism. On this picture, then divorced the spirits when it comes to the assessment of the position Mengs ' in art history. The snide remarks by art historians of the 19th century about him so less likely to refer to his portraits as the fresco painting.

One of the curiosities of the history of art is his fresco kisses Jupiter Ganymede, painted around 1758/59, which can be seen today in the Galleria Nazionale in Rome. This image was the occasion for a deep rift between Winckelmann and Mengs. Mengs painted an antique theme, which until now, was no authentic source. He plays in the fresco virtuoso with the stylistic devices of the newly excavated in Pompeii murals. The image was promptly accepted as original antique if there were some doubters here and there. Goethe initially praised the picture and thought it was an original. From Winckelmann it was premature appreciated in his History of Ancient Art. Proof of forgery was embarrassing for the antiques expert, and he should never forgive his friend. According to Goethe Mengs said to have admitted only on his deathbed his authorship of the image. What Mengs has moved to this action, will be probably never find out.

The performance of Mengs ' in this picture is that he has met the expectations of his audience to the point.


" The epitome of all beauties described in the figures of the old can be found in the immortal works Hernn Anton Raphael Mengs, Court Painter of the first kings of Spain and Pohlen, the greatest artist of his, and perhaps the following time. He has been raised as a phoenix from the ashes as it were the first Raphael to teach the world in art, beauty, and achieve the highest flight of human powers in the same. " JJ Winckelmann, History of Ancient Art, in 1764.

Works (selection)

  • King August III, 1745, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie
  • Judgement of Paris, 1756, St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum
  • Fame of St. Eusebius. 1757th Rome, ceiling fresco in the Eusebius Church.
  • Pope Clement XIII. 1758, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nationale
  • Johann Joachim Winckelmann, 1758-1762, New York, Metropolitan Museum
  • Ferdinand IV, King of Spain. 1760, Madrid, Museo del Prado
  • Parnassus, 1760-1761, ceiling fresco in the Villa Albani, Rome
  • Glorification of Heracles, 1762-1775, Madrid, ceiling fresco at the Palacio Real
  • Maria Luisa of Parma. 1765, Paris, Louvre
  • Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 1765, St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum
  • Adoration of the Shepherds. 1770, Madrid, Museo del Prado
  • Self-portrait. after 1770, Berlin, Staatliche Gemäldegalerie
  • Madonna and Child with two angels. 1770, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
  • Allegory of History. 1772-1773, Rome, ceiling fresco in the Camera Papyri in the Vatican