Johann Theodor Goldstein
(Warsaw 1798 - after 1871 Dresden)
View of a Gothic Cathedral, 1822
Oil on canvas, 83.5 x 89.5 cm
Signed and dated lower left J. Goldstein. / 1822.
Johann Gottlob von Quandt (1787-1859), purchased from the artist in 1822;
Possibly Clara Bianca von Quandt (1790-1862), wife of the above;
Gustav von Quandt, son of the above, until 1868;
Dresden, unidentified auction sale, 1868, lot 56;
Luigi Vaghi (1882-1967), photographer, Parma;
Thence by inheritance, Argentina;
Private collection, Parma, purchased from the above.
Kunstausstellung, Dresden, Königlich Sächsische Akademie der bildenden Künste, August 1822, no. 556 (‘Ansicht eines Gothischen Domes, inventirt und gemalt von Goldstein’).
‘Kunstausstellung in Dresden’, in Archiv für Geographie, Historie, Staats- und Kriegskunst, 13/2 and December 4, 1822, Vienna 1822, p. 775;
Verzeichnis von Gemälden und anderen Kunstgegenständen im Hause des J. G. v. Quandt zu Dresden, Dresden 1824, p. 29, no. 69 (listed on the inventory for room IX as: ‘Ein gotisches Gebäude, nach Schinkel, von Goldstein’);
‘Erinnerungen von einem Ausfluge nach Dresden. Des Hrn. v. Quandt Kunstsammlung (Fortsetzung),’ in Zeitung für die elegante Welt, Berlin 1825, no. 103, column 818;
Ludwig Gruner (ed.), Verzeichniss der von Herrn Johann Gottlob von Quandt hinterlassenen Gemälde-Sammlung alter und neuer Meister, Dresden 1868, p. V and p. 17, no. 56;
Ulrich Thieme and Felix Becker (eds.), Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, XIV, Leipzig 1921, p. 342;
Rudolf Bemmann, ‘Aus dem Leben Johann Gottlob von Quandts’, in Hubert Ermisch (ed.), Neues Archiv für Sächsische Geschichte und Altertumskunde, XLVI, Dresden 1925, p. 24;
Hans Joachim Neidhardt, Die Malerei der Romantik in Dresden, Leipzig 1976, p. 278;
Helmut Börsch-Supan, ‘Bild-Erfindungen’, in Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Lebenswerk, XX, Munich and Berlin 2007, p. 352;
Andreas Rüfenacht, Die Gemäldesammlung des Johann Gottlob von Quandt (1787-1859) in Dresden, Rekonstruktion und tabellarische Übersicht, 2018, p. 24, no. 68; see http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/artdok/volltexte/2018/6042 (accessed November 22, 2018).
We are grateful to Professor Jörg Trempler, Berlin, for this catalogue entry.
The central motif of the present painting recalls one of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s major works, Gotischer Dom am Wasser [Gothic Cathedral by a River], executed in 1813. The remarkably large number of replicas and variants of Schinkel’s painting are testimony to its extraordinary contemporary appeal. The debate over which of the replicas and variants are autograph works and which are by other hands continues.1 On Schinkel’s death in 1841, three of these paintings were known to be in Berlin. One of the three was later destroyed in the fire in the Munich Glaspalast in 1931. Another is in St. Petersburg and the third is today housed in the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Schinkel is believed to have commissioned replicas after his own paintings. Today, it is almost impossible to distinguish these from autograph works. One such example is the painting in the Alte Nationalgalerie. It was long considered to be a replica by Wilhelm Ahlborn but since 2012, it has come to be accepted as autograph.
In addition to the replicas, typologically related variants – paintings that can be regarded as ‘freer’ replicas – are also known. One of these hangs in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. It is neither signed nor dated. The quality of execution is such that it was previously accepted as autograph. Today, however, it is given to Eduard Biermann. This conjecture is based on source material rather than on evidence of inadequacy in the painterly quality. There are grounds to believe that Schinkel knew and even encouraged the production of faithful replicas, although this is not clearly documented. These are usually unsigned, and the same is true for the autograph work in the Alte Nationalgalerie.2
The compositional structure of Goldstein’s painting clearly sets it apart from the group discussed above. Although the central motif plainly draws on Schinkel’s Gothic Cathedral by a River, closer inspection shows that the painting is nevertheless a highly autonomous work. By dispensing with compositional elements such as the city view to the left and the figural group in the foreground he emphasizes the cathedral and the bridge depicted at the right.
The painting is not a simplified variant of the model that inspired it. In some areas of the composition – especially in his handling of the architecture – he outshines Schinkel in his meticulous attention to detail, for example in the inclusion of equestrian statues as elements of architectural decoration. This striking motif does not appear in Schinkel’s Gothic Cathedral by a River but it does figure prominently as a decorative element in his designs for the monumental project for a Memorial Cathedral to Commemorate the Wars of Liberation (1813-14).3 The ambitious scope of Goldstein’s approach is a demonstration of his artistic and intellectual engagement with Schinkel’s work.
When the painting was exhibited at the Dresden Academy in 1822, the year of its completion, the entry read: ‘inventirt und gemalt von Goldstein.’ [invented and painted by Goldstein]. He was then only twenty-four and at the start of his career, but his artistic objective was already clear. He intended not only to replicate another artist’s work but also to produce a variant and to ‘invent’ new pictorial elements. From Schinkel he adopted the cathedral’s massive substructure, the chaplet of trees and the mix of historical architecture at the right. But he modified other elements to create a composition of his own. He altered the figural decoration of the architecture in the way already described and created a perspectival view at the right showing a ramp-like structure beyond the arch of the bridge.
He was determined to display his prowess in other aspects too, namely in the overall architectural design and pictorial realization of the cathedral. His depiction of the towers is a remarkable achievement. One significant detail suggests that Goldstein knew the painting that is now in the Alte Nationalgalerie – in both paintings the towers of the cathedral radiate with light from a low sun. Later replicas lack this detail.
This point leads on to the dating of the present work. After 1806, under the French occupation of Prussia, all things Gothic were heavily politicized. The Gothic cathedral emerged as a symbol of a new departure in German art. It is often argued that after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 Schinkel and his circle lost interest in Gothic art and architecture in their role as symbols of a vision of a German nation state. And indeed, Schinkel is not known to have executed a painting of this type after 1815. Nevertheless, the absence of such paintings in his oeuvre is more likely to be attributable to his increasing workload as an architect after 1816, rather than to any change in his political views. The dates of the replicas known today confirm this. The St. Petersburg replica by Ahlborn was exhibited at the Berlin Academy in 1824 under the title Ein Deutscher Dom, Kopie nach Schinkel [A German Cathedral, Replica after Schinkel],4 while the freer replica by Biermann is probably dateable to 1830.5 The present painting, dated 1822, is thus the earliest known variant of Schinkel’s painting and the surviving (more faithful) replicas were executed later.
This being so, Goldstein ‘invented’ his painting before the replicas known today were made. His painting, dated 1822, therefore marks the beginning of a renaissance in the reception of Schinkel’s artistic oeuvre. The big difference between his imagery and, for example, Carl Georg Hasenpflug’s views of cathedral churches in medieval cities, is that the architecture depicted by Hasenpflug is exclusively medieval. In short, they evoke an imaginary medieval world. Schinkel’s Gothic Cathedral by a River takes a different line. It draws on a long historical heritage. The city that encircles his cathedral is composed of buildings in the style of classical antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The Gothic cathedral towers over a panorama of architectural history. It represents a vision of the future and remains an illusion – at least before the Wars of Liberation.
In Goldstein’s painting the cathedral is no longer encircled by a panorama of architectural history as it is in Schinkel’s painting. He has dispensed entirely with buildings on the left of the image but at the right, above a ramp-like structure of his own invention, he delicately outlines his interpretation of Schinkel’s city. Goldstein’s autonomous approach both complements and regenerates Schinkel’s heritage.
1 See Birgit Verwiebe, ‘Original und Kopie im Werk von Karl Friedrich Schinkel’, in Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Studienbuch, Berlin 2012, pp. 131-42.
2 See Ernst Riehn, Karl Friedrich Schinkel als Landschaftsmaler, Diss., 1940, pp. 163-7.
3 The motif also appears in the painting Medieval City on a River (1815), now in the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
4 See Helmut Börsch-Supan, ‘Bild-Erfindungen’, in Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Lebenswerk, XX, Munich and Berlin 2007, p. 355, no. 211 A.
5 Id., p. 356, no. 211 B.