Baron Heinrich Jakob von Häckel from Frankfurt wrote to Landgrave Wilhelm VIII of Hesse-Cassel on 3 February 1748 that he would send a small painting by Raphael and an old engraving ‘by post coach so that it would not travel empty. I beg for a gracious expert opinion whether the engraving was done after the painting or the painting after the engraving or whether neither followed the other’. On 6 February 1748 he repeated his request. ‘The Raphael was dispatched by yesterday’s post and will probably arrive together with this letter. I humbly beg for Your Serene Highness’s gracious opinion of it’. Landgrave Wilhelm VIII answered on 10 February 1748 as follows:
‘I have received your two letters and both the painting by Raphael and the engraving after it in good condition. The picture is charming and well made. I am as little able as Freese to decide whether it is done after the print or whether the print is produced after the picture or whether neither is the case. On the whole, they agree, but on close inspection one finds many details there which are missing in the print. However, I shall examine it even more closely and then return both to you at my risk’.
In a further letter by Wilhelm VIII dated 25 February 1748 he wrote: ‘I have further examined the Raphael with General Donop and Freese. But we cannot come to an agreement nor form a definitive judgement. You can however say that you own a very beautiful and fine picture. I have packed it with every care and returned it without the least damage, and do therefore not doubt that it will arrive in perfect condition. Meanwhile I thank you for the kindness which you showed me’1 (fig. 1)
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|Copy after Raphael, The Holy Family with the Lamb, Staatliche Museen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, GK 539
||Carlo Francesco Rusca (1696-1769), Portrait of Landgrave Wilhelm VIII., Staatliche Museen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, GK 971
The experts taking part in this examination, which did not yet lead at that time to the acquisition of the painting, were the passionate collector Wilhelm VIII (1682-1760), ruling Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel (fig. 2) and his close friend of the same age Baron Heinrich Jakob von Häckel, resident in Frankfurt (aslo 1682-1760) who sported the title of an Austrian ‘Obristwachtmeister’. As a wealthy bachelor he had formed a collection in Frankfurt which comprised more than 500 items at the time of his death. The young Goethe was present at the auction of this collection and bought several items2.
Johann Georg von Freese (1701-1775) was made court painter by Wilhelm VIII in 1744 and was the teacher of Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder, the ‘Kassel Tischbein’. He held the office of Inspector of the Gallery for many years3. Another artistic advisor of the Landgrave was the ‘Geheime Rat’ and Lieutenant General Moritz von Donop whom Wilhelm VIII called ‘Director of my eyes’ delight’4. After consultations with these, Landgrave Wilhelm VIII, whose collection of Italian paintings was limited at this time, sent the ‘Raphael’ and the print (by Raphael Sadeler II, Cat. No. C 1) back to Häckel. Häckel wrote a few days later: ‘As to the Raphael, I myself conseider it an original, but believe that much has been added’. Probably owing to his own assessment Häcken finally donated the painting to the Landgrave at New Year 17505. The Landgrave probably kept his new possession in his private chambers before he had it entered as No. 665 in September 1751 into his gallery inventory begun in 1749: ‘Raphael Urbino. The Holy Family, a small work in a brown locked casket for His Highness’ (without measurements) 6 (fig. 3). This entry coincided with those of other Italian paintings whose transfer to Kassel Baron Häckel had arranged. The entry for No. 667 in the inventory of 1749 records Antonio Belucci’s Antiochos and Stratonike (The Sick Prince) which Wilhelm VIII had acquired in September 1751 for 400 guilders from the collection of the Kurmainz Resident in Frankfurt, Adam Anton Pfeiff (died 1748)7. At that time Wilhelm VIII already owned some inportant Baroque paintings (by Palma Giovane, Guido Reni, Bernardo Cavallino, Alessandro Turchi, Antonio Belucci among others). On the other hand, High Renaissance Italien art was only represented by a few pictures, i.e. by a Holy Family ascribed to Leonardo (replica after Bernardino Luini’s picture in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan acquired by M. von Donop and G. von Freese in Paris in 1749)8, and works ascribed to Correggio, Titian or Bassano (inv. 1749 Nos. 225-227, 232, 238, 398, 399, 647). Apart from these, several paintings ascribed to Raphael already formed part of the Landgrave’s collection before 1749, i.e. inv. No. 261 Girolamo da Santacroce (fig. 4)9, with echoes of Raphael’s tapestry cartoons. Consequently he could return to its sender a Raphael whose authenticity he doubted without scruples.
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Inventory of 1749 of the picture gallery of Landgrave Wilhelm VIII., page 58
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Girolamo da Santacroce (1480/85-1556), The Raising of Lazarus,
Staatliche Museen Kassel, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, GK 862
However, things looked different a little later when Wilhelm VIII got news in the summer of 1753 that the Court of Saxony had purchased a work by Raphael, Christ in Dispute with the Doctors, from an English art dealer for 2500 ducats. He wrote on 12 June 1753: ‘I wish that the Englishman at Dresden had brought his work by Raphael here. True, the price is very high, but if it is so beautiful and good, the price could have been managed’10. This interest was voiced by the Landgrave at the time when the Prince Elector August III of Saxony had already concluded the negotiations with the monks of S. Sisto in Piacenza concerning the purchase of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. The purchase price was 25 000 scudi11.
Landgrave Wilhelm VIII could certainly not compete with the Prince Elector August III and King of Poland, whom Frederick II, the Great had accused of forcing up prices12, his purchasing power was too limited. Nor did he belong, up to the end of his collecting activities in 1756, to those whom Fortuna favoured with an authentic work by Raphael, as happened to the Prince Elector Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz, ‘Jan Wellem’ (1658-1716).Through his marriage in 1691 to Anna Maria Ludovica, daughter of Gand Duke Cosimo III. de’ Medici, he came into the possession of the Canigiani Holy Family. The painting remained in the Galerie Electorale, Düsseldorf, after Jan Wellem’s death in 1716 and the return to Florence of his widow. It was only transferred to Munich in 1806 13. The Madonna del Belvedere owned by Archduke Ferdinand Karl of Austria was already in Innsbruck in Habsburg territory by 1661/62. Ferdinand Karl had married his cousin Anna de’ Medici in 164214.
Going back in time one finds that the first owner of a Raphael on German soil was no less a person than Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the greatest German painter, draughtsman and engraver of the Renaissance. In 1510-15 he had sent his self-portrait to Raphael15 and received from him the famous red chalk drawing Study of Two Nude Men for the Battle of Ostia in the Sala dell’Incendio. Dürer proudly wrote on Raphael’s sheet: ‘Raphael of Urbino who has been praised so highly by the Pope has made this picture of the nudes. And has sent them to Albrecht Dürer in Nüremberg to prove to him his skill’ 16.
It is well known that Raphael’s other Madonna representations now in the museums of Berlin and Munich only arrived in Prussia and Bavaria in the 19th century. In 1819, Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria acquired the Madonna della Tenda; in 1821 the Solly Madonna joined Friedrich Wilhelm III’s collections in Berlin together with the Solly Collection. Further acquisitions followed: in 1827 the Colonna Madonna; in 1829 the Madonna with St. Jerome and St. Francis; in the same year Ludwig I acquired the Tempi Madonna; the Diotalevi Madonna from Rimini reached Berlin in 1842; the Terranuova Madonna from Naples in 1854. Thus, the princely passion for collecting Raphales was still in evidence in the 19th century, after Johann Joachim Winckelmann and Johann Wolfgang Goethe (that is to say after the acquisition of the Sistine Madonna), had bestowed on Raphael the accolade of setting the ultimate measure of artistic perfection. Berlin and Munich became places of pilgrimage for Raphael devotees. Kassel offered but a pale reflection of the art of the ‘Divine’ and that only thanks to Baron Häckel’s initiative, Landgrave Wilhelm VIII’s successors, Landgrave Friedrich II (ruled 1760-1785); Wilhelm IX. (ruled 1785-1821, since 1803 Elector Wilhelm I.) and Elector Wilhelm II. (ruled 1821-1831/1847) did acquire several paintings, but they were overshadowed by Wilhelm VIII’s outstanding merits as a collector. No interest in the acquisition of Italian Renaissance masters, let alone a Raphael, can be deduced from the extant papers and documents17.
A certain, albeit small, chance for the directorate of the Königliche Gemälde-Galerie at Cassel to acquire an important early altarpiece by Raphael existed perhaps between 1829 and 1909, or even beyond that until 1924. For in 1892 the industrialist and art collector Ludwig Mond (Kassel 1893-1990 London) acquired the Gavari Crucifixion (now in the National Gallery, London No. 3943) from the Earl of Dudley Collection18. Mond, who had made a fortune from his ammonia-soda factory founded in 1873 at Winnington (Northwich), had already donated to his birthplace, Kassel, the large sum of 100.000 Mark for social institutions. In his last will of 1909 he left Kassel 400.000 Mark. In 1905 he had donated to the Cassel Gallery Lucas Cranach’s small travelling altarpiece ‘Reisealtärchen’, a work with direct reference to Landgrave Wilhelm II of Hesse and his spouse Anna of Mecklenburg19. Raphael’s Gavari Crucifixion painted c.1503 for the church of S. Domenico in Città di Castello only came to the National Gallery, London in 1924. Unfortunately, Kassel and its Royal Picture Gallery missed this chance.
The legacy of the Holy Family with the Lamb in Frankfurt am Main
The Morgenstern miniature cabinet with the Holy Family with the Lamb in the centre was a special kind of shrine (Colour Plate I). In about 1800 three such small altarpieces were produced by the Frankfurt painter and picture restorer Johann Ludwig Ernst Morgenstern (1738-1819). They contained numerous small-scale prefabricated supports for painted copies of pictures which had passed through the restoration workshop of the Morgensterns. ‘The cabinets served the Morgenstern family as aide-memoirs for their works of art that passed through their hands, but also as a means of propaganda. They could be shown to potential clients as visible proof of their skills’20.
The copy after Raphael was painted in 1843 by Johann Friedrich Morgenstern (1777-1844), son of Johann Ludwig Ernst Morgenstern21. It renders quite faithfully Raphael’s composition of the group, the plants in the foreground and the landscape. Only the trees behind St. Joseph are painted very freely and do not correspond to the surviving prototypes. One may think first of all of the Kassel painting, which was in Frankfurt in 1748/49 and could have been copied by a painter like Justus Juncker (Mainz 1703-1767 Frankfurt), whom Baron Häckel had recommended to the Landgrave in 1753 as a copyist22. However, the absence of the tree at the back of Joseph refutes such an assumption.
The date 1843 at the back of the Morgenstern copy suggests that his knowledge of the composition was derived from the publication in 1842 of the version in the Count Castelbarco Collection in Milan23. This, however, does not explain how the colouristic similarity with the known exemplars was achieved. A sojourn in Milan or Paris, where versions of the composition with a tree at the back of Joseph existed at that time, cannot be traced. At any rate, the delicate colouring of this miniature suggests that an older or more recent copy of the well-known pictorial theme existed at the Frankfurt art market (or among the Frankfurt collectors)24, which Morgenstern might have restored in circa 1843. Morgenstern painted his copy as a ‘ricordo’, a record of his professional acumen and placed it centrally in the Morgenstern Miniature Cabinet I. ‘He wanted to identify with the venerated artists Raphael and Dürer (central picture of Cabinet III) and thus with the artistic theories of the Nazarenes and their examples’. In 1843 ‘the movement was no longer avant-garde but had long since become accepted by the educated bourgeoisie’25.
As we have seen, Raphael’s composition, of which numerous copies were made in Italy between the 16th and 18th centuries, had also been known in Germany since the middle of the 18th century through the Kassel copy, and in Frankfurt since the middle of the 19th century through the copy of an older version. What Raphael’s composition, the source of all these versions, looked like will be discussed in the following part.
Colour Plate I
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J. L. E. Morgenstern and J. E. Morgenstern, The Morgenstern Miniature
Cabinet I (central part) Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, B 81:12