LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

 
 
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GABRIEL CORNELIUS RITTER VON MAX (Sloup v Čechách, Bohemia 1840 – Munich 1915)

 The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla

signed G. MAX. and dated864. in the lower left, inscribed on the reverse W93170

oil on canvas

35 7/16 x 39 1/4 inches          (90.4 x 100.1 cm.) 

 

Sold to The Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York


PROVENANCE

William P. Wilstach (c. 1816 – 1870) by 1870, to his wife

Anna H. Wilstach (c. 1822 – 1892) who bequeathed it in 1892 to the

Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia, who established

The W.P. Wilstach Collection, Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, 1893 – 1928 (inventory no. W 93170) until incorporated into the collection of

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, deaccessioned 1954

Valuable Oil Paintings from the W.P. Wilstach Collection, October 29 – 30, 1954, Samuel T. Freeman & Co., Philadelphia, lot 128 where purchased by

Walter Stuempfig (1914-1970), Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania until 1970 and thus by descent in the family until 2013

 

EXHIBITED

Boston, Gallery, 1865

Dresden, Akademische Kunst Ausstellung, 1865

Prague, Krasoumné jednoty, 1865, no. 288

Munich, Kunstverein, 1867

Paris, Exposition Universelle, 1867, no. 116 (as property of the artist)

Pilsen, Gallery of West Bohemia, München – leuchtende Kunstmetropole 1870-1918, January 28, 2015 – April 6, 2015, no, 79

 

LITERATURE

Friedrich Pecht, “Korrespondenz: Aus München”, in Zeitschrift für bildenden Kunst, 2, 1867, pp. 97 – 98

Exposition Universelle de 1867 a Paris Catalogue Général – Oeuvres D’Art, La Commission Impériale, E. Dentu, Paris, 1867, p. 127, no. 116

Bavière – Catalogue de L’Exposition des Beaux-Arts, G. Kugelmann, Paris, 1867, p. 20, no. 116 (as property of the artist and for sale)

Complete Official Catalogue: Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867, J. M. Johnson and Sons, London, p. 62, no. 116

Bathild Bouniol, “Les Beaux-Arts a L’Exposition Universelle” in Revue du Monde Catholique, volume 19, Libraire Vor Palmé, Editeur, Paris, 1867, p. 92

“Paris International Exhibition: Pictures of the German School”, Art Journal, 1867, p. 208

Edouard Verdeil, “Etude Morale sur L’Exposition Universelle” in Le Disciple de Jésus – Christ Revue du Christianisme Libéral, volume 2, Joël Cherbuliez Libraire, Paris, 1867, p. 82

L’Abbé A. Hurel, L’Art Religieux Contemporain, Etude Critique, Didier et Cie, Libraires-Éditeurs, Paris, 1868, p. 423

J.J. Beber, “Die Malerei” in Illustrirter Kalender für 1869., Verlagsbuchhandlung, Leipzig, 1869, p. 108

T. Thore, “Exposition de 1867” in Salons de W. Bürger 1861 à 1868, Libraire de Ve Jules Renouard, Paris, 1870, p. 420

A. Seubert, ed., “Gabriel Max” in Die Künstler, Aller Zeiten und Völker oder Leben und Werke, volume 4, Verlag von Ebner & Seubert, Stuttgart, 1870, p. 292

Earl Shinn, “Private Art Collections of Philadelphia: The Wilstach Gallery” in Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, J.B. Lippincott and Co., Philadelphia, July 1872, p. 80

Franz von Reber, “Piloty und die Münchener Schulel” in Geschichte der Neueren Deutschen Kunst vom Ende des Vorigen Jahrhunderts bis zur Wiener Ausstellung 1873, Meyer & Zeller’s Verlag, Stuttgart, 1876, pp. 645 – 646

Peter Rosegger, Heimgarten, volume I, Graz, October 1876 – March 1877, p. 35

Adolf Rosenberg, “Drei Sensationsmaler, Gabriel Max” in Die Grenzboten Zeitschrift für Politik, Literatur und Kunst, volume 38, part 2, Verlag von Friedrich Ludwig Herbig, Leipzig, 1879, p. 21

Friedrich Pecht, “Gabriel Max” in Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, volume 14, Verlag von E.U. Seemann, Leipzig, 1879, p. 329

Dr. Franz Xaver Kraus, Synchronistische Tabellen zur Christlichen Kunstgeschichte, Ein Hülfsbuch Für Studierende, Herder’sche Verlagshandlung, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1880, p. 269 (mistakenly dated 1866)

Edward Strahan (pseudonym for Earl Shinn), “The Collection of Mrs. William P. Wilstach” in The art treasures of America; being the choicest works of art in the public and private collections of North America, volume 3, George Barrie Publisher, Philadelphia, c. 1880, pp. 34, 40

Gabriel Max, “Autobiographical Notes” completed for Westermann’s Illustrierte Deutsche Monatshefte, Ammerland, June 1882, Estate of Max, Gabriel von, II, C-12, depository Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Deutsches Kunstarchiv, Nuremberg

Adolf Kohut, “Gabriel Max” in Westermann’s Illustrierte Deutsche Monatshefte, Braunschweig, April – September, 1883, p. 180

Agathon Klempt, Gabriel Max und seine Werke, Gesallschaft für Vervielfältigende Kunst, Wien, 1886, p. 8

Adolf Rosenberg, Die Münchener Malerschule in ihrer Entwickelung seit 1871, E.A. Seemann, 1887, p. 16

Dr. F. Hantschel, “Gabriel Max” in Mittheilungen des Nordböhmischen Excursions – Clubs, volume XI, Bohm. Leipa, September, 1888, p. 135

Friedrich Pecht, Geschichte der Münchner Kunst im 19. Jahrhundert, Kunst und Wissenschaft, München, 1888, p. 325 (mistakenly dated 1865)

Nicolaus Mann, Gabriel Max’ Kunst und seine Werke: Eine Kunsthistorische Skizze., Leipzig, 1888, p. 24

Dr. Ludwig Schlesinger & Prof. Rudolf Müller, “Kunstler der Neuzeit Böhmens: Gabriel Max” in Mitteilungen bes Vereines für Geschichte der Deutschen in Böhmen, volume 27, Prague, 1888/9, p. 302

Earl Shinn, “Mrs. W. P. Wilstach’s Collection” in Selected pictures from the art treasures of America, section 22-23, G. Barrie, 1888, p. 36 

Ernst Hallier, Kulturgeschichte des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts in ihren Beziehungen zu der Entwickelung der Naturwissenschaften, Verlag von Ferdinand Enke, 1889, p. 571

Hermann Julius Meyer, ed., “Gabriel Max” in Meyers Konversations – Lexikon: Eine Encyklopädie des allgemeinen, volume II, Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, Leipzig, 1889, p. 367

Adolf Rosenberg, Geschichte der Modernen Kunst, Die Deutsche Kunst Zweiter Abschnitt 1849 – 1880, volume II, Verlag von F.R. Wilh. Grunow, Leipzig, 1889, p. 52 (mistakenly dated 1865)

Nicolaus Mann, Gabriel Max. Eine Kunsthistorische Skizze, J.J. Weber, Leipzig, 1890, p. 53 (mistakenly dated 1865)

Friedrich von Boetticher, “Gabriel Cornelius Max” in Malerwerke des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Beitrag zur Kunstgeschichte, volume I, Fr. v. Boetticher’s Verlag, Dresden, 1891, p. 953, no. 9 (mistakenly listed under works from 1865)

Charles Stuart Johnson, “Famous Artists and Their Work – Gabriel Max” in Munsey’s Magazine, volume VII, Frank A. Munsey & Company, Publishers, April to September, 1892, p. 144 (mistakenly dated 1866, and as “now owned in Philadelphia”)

“Exposition De 1867”, in Bulletin Commissions Royales D’Art et D’Archéologie, Commission Royale des Monuments, Resume des Procès-Verbaux, 1892, section 410, unpaginated

Carol H. Beck, ed., “Gabriel Max” in Catalogue of the W.P. Wilstach Collection, The Commissioners of Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1893, pp. 42, 45, no. 63 (reprinted in 1896 and 1897)

Alfred Trumble, ed., The Collector, A Current Record of Art, Bibliography, Antiquarianism, Etc., volume IV, no. 17, New York City, 1893, p. 263 (Wilstach Collection)

“Gabriel Max” in Brockhaus’ Konversations = Lexikon, volume 11, F.A. Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1895, p. 686 (mistakenly dated 1865)

Alexander Müller & Hans Wolfgang Singer, “Gabriel Cornelius Max” in Allgemeines Künstler – Lexicon, Leben und Werke der Berühmtesten Bilden den Kunstler, volume II, Rütten & Loening, Frankfurt, 1898, p. 145 (mistakenly dated 1865)

C. Aldenhoven, “Die Moderne Malerei” in Die Nation, volume XVI, Berlin, 1898 – 1899, p. 722

Karl Baedeker, ed., “Philadelphia – Fairmount Park” in The United States with an Excursion into Mexico, Handbook for Travelers, Karl Baedeker Publisher, Leipsic, 1899, p. 242 (reissued in 1904 in English and German and 1905 in French)

Carol H. Beck, ed., “Gabriel Max”, in The W.P. Wilstach Collection, Commissioners of Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, 1900, no. 180, unpaginated, (reprinted in 1902 and 1903)

John Denison Champlin, Jr. & Charles C. Perkins, eds., “Gabriel Max” in Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, volume III, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1900, p. 224 (mistakenly dated 1866, Mrs. W.P. Wilstach, Philadelphia)

Amanuensis K. Fischer, “Gabriel Cornelius Max” in Salmonsens store illustrede konversationsleksikon En nordisk Encyklopaedi, volume XII, J. Salmonsen, Kjøbenhavn, 1901, p. 524

Adolf Rosenberg, Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte, Verlag von Velhagen & Klasing, Leipzig, 1902, p. 596

Carol H. Beck, ed., “Gabriel Max” in Catalogue of the W.P. Wilstach Collection, The Commissioners of Fairmount Park, Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, 1904, p. 57, no. 161

Herrmann Julius Meyer, ed., “Gabriel Max” in Meyers Grosses Konversations – lexicon, volume 13, Bibliographilches Institut, Leipzig, 1908, p. 472

Karl Baedeker, “Philadelphia, Memorial Hall”, in The United States with Excursions to Mexico, Cuba, Porto Rico, and Alaska, Handbook for Travelers, Karl Baedeker Publisher, Leipzig, 1909, p. 174

“Gabriel Max” in The W.P. Wilstach Collection, Commissioners of Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, 1910, unpaginated, no. 259

“Gabriel Max” in Catalogue of The W.P. Wilstach Collection, Commissioners of Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, 1913, unpaginated, no. 272

Maurice W. Brockwell, “Gabriel Max” in Catalogue of the W.P. Wilstach Collection, The Commissioners of Fairmount Park, Memorial Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1922, p. 79, no. 200

L.S., “Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max” in Dr. Ulrich Thieme & Dr. Felix Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, volume XXIV, Veb. E.A. Seeman Verlag, Leipzig, 1930, p. 288, (W.P. Wilstach, Philadelphia)

Katalog – Gemalde, Ende 18. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart, Städtische Galerie, München, 1955, no. 5006 (This actually refers to Saint Elizabeth as a Child, 1881 mistakenly identified as Ludmilla Herzogin von Bohmen, 1865.)

“Rekonstruktion der Ersten Internationalen Kunstausstellung 1869 In München” in München, 1869 – 1958: Aufbruch zur modernen Kunst. Rekonstruktion der ersten Internationalen Kunstausstellung 1869. Leibl und sein Kreis. Vom Jugendstil zum Blauen Reiter. Gegenwart., Haus der Kunst, München, June 21 – October 5, 1958, p. 50, no. 81 (This actually refers to Saint Elizabeth as a Child, 1881 in the Stadtische Galerie, Munich mistakenly identified as Die Hl. Ludmilla.)

Peter Hahlbrock, Herta Elisabeth Killy, Eberhand Roters, “Gabriel Max” in Le Salon imaginaire; Bilder aus den grossen Kunstausstellungen der zweiten Hälfte des XIX. Jahrhunderts., Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1968(?), p. 171

Stelios Lydakēs, Geschichte der griechischen Malerei: des 19. Jahrhunderts, Prestel – Verlag, München, 1972, p. 50 (mistakenly dated 1865)

E. Bénézit, “Gabriel Cornelius von Max” in Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, volume 7, Librairie Gründ, 1976, p. 280 (noting “His real debut dates from 1865 with The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla”; W.P. Wilstach, Philadelphia)

Margaret Mary Richter, Gabriel Max: The Artist, The Darwinist and the Spiritualist, Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1998, pp. 118, 119, fns. 303 – 304, p. 120, fns. 305 – 307, p. 121, fn. 308, pp. 123, 128, 359, no. 8, p. 411 (as present location unknown)

Hans F. Schweers, Gemälde in deutschen Museen: Katalog der ausgestellten und depotgelagerten Werke = Paintings in German Museums: catalogue of exhibited works and depository holdings, Saur, München, 2005, p. 777 (This actually refers to Saint Elizabeth as a Child, 1881, mistakenly identified as Ludmilla-Herzogin von Böhmen, 1865.)

Horst G. Ludwig, “Pre-Symbolism” in Secession 1892 – 1914: the Munich Secession 1892 – 1914, exhibition catalogue, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, September 28 – November 30, 2008 and traveling, p. 160

Gérald Schurr & Pierre Cabanne, “Gabriel Cornelius von Max” in Dictionnaire des Petits Maîtres de la peinture 1820 – 1920, Les Éditions de l’Amateur, Paris, 2008, p. 519 (“Il débute en 1865 avec le Martyre de Sainte Ludmille”; museum, Philadelphia)

Barbara Eschenburg, Von Spätmittelater bis zur Neuen Sachlichkeit: die Gemälde im Lenbachhaus München, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, c. 2008, p. 105 (notes Saint Elizabeth as a Child, 1881 mistakenly identified as Ludmilla Herzogin von Böhmen, 1865)

Karin Althaus, Susanne Böller, “Gabriel von Max 1840 – 1915, Der erste grosse Erfolg mit der Märtyrerin am Kreuz und Reise nach Paris 1867” in Gabriel von Max. Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist, exhibition catalogue Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, München, October 23, 2010 – January 30, 2011, p. 22, (mistakenly dated 1865)

“Gabriel von Max, Autobiografische Aufzeichnungen I, Lebensbeschreibung” in Gabriel von Max, Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist, exhibition catalogue Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, München, October 23, 2010 – January 30, 2011, p. 42

Karin Althaus, “Märtyrerinnen” in Gabriel von Max. Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist, exhibition catalogue Staditsche Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, München, October 23, 2010 – January 30, 2011, p. 76, (mistakenly dated 1865)

Roman Prahl, “Gabriel von Max und Tschechien” in Gabriel von Max. Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist, exhibition catalogue Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, München, October 23, 2010 – January 30, 2011, p. 136, (mistakenly dated 1865)

Susanne Böller, “Gabriel von Max und Amerika” in Gabriel von Max. Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist, exhibition catalogue Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, München, October 23, 2010 – January 30, 2011, p. 179, (mistakenly dated 1865)

Gabriel von Max, “Texty z pozůstalosti” in Gabriel von Max (1840 – 1915), exhibition catalogue Západočeská galerie v Plzni, February 25 – May 8, 2011, pp. 79 – 80

Aleš Filip, Roman Musil, “Spektrum nábožehské a historické malby” in Gabriel von Max (1840 – 1915), exhibition catalogue Západočeská galerie v Plzni, February 25 – May 8, 2011, p. 107

Roman Prahl, “Pražske odezvy na tvorbu Gabriela von Maxe” in Gabriel von Max (1840 – 1915), exhibition catalogue Západočeská galerie v Plzni, February 25 – May 8, 2011, p. 295 (mistakenly dated 1865, and as missing)

“Výbĕrovy soupis obrazů Gabriela von Maxe” in Gabriel von Max (1840 – 1915), exhibition catalogue Západočeská galerie v Plzni, February 25 – May 8, 2011, p. 325, 334, fn. 7 (notes Saint Elizabeth as a Child mistakenly identified as Ludmilla Herzogin von Böhmen)

“Dila Gabriela von Maxe na výstavách Krasoumné jednoty v Praze” in Gabriel von Max (1840 – 1915), exhibition catalogue Západočeská galerie v Plzni, February 25 – May 8, 2011, p. 337 (listed under 1865)

Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Foreward” in Gabriel von Max, exhibition catalogue Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, July 9 – October 30, 2011, pp. 6, 112, fn. 2

Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul” in Gabriel von Max, exhibition catalogue Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, July 9 – October 30, 2011, p. 55

Karin Althaus, “Female Martyrs” in Gabriel von Max, exhibition catalogue Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, July 9 – October 30, 2011, p. 60, (mistakenly dated 1865)

Susanne Böller, “Gabriel von Max and America” in Gabriel von Max, exhibition catalogue Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, July 9 – October 30, 2011, p. 90 (mistakenly dated 1865)

“Gabriel von Max (1840 – 1915)” in Gabriel von Max exhibition catalogue Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, July 9 – October 30, 2011, p. 102 (mistakenly dated 1865)

Aleš Filip & Roman Musil, eds., “Gabriel von Max, Marter der Heiligen Ludmilla” in München – leuchtende Kunstmetropole 1870-1918, Gallery of West Bohemia, Pilsen, January 28, 2015 – April 6, 2015, p. 97, fn. 4; p. 108, no. 79 (color illustration); p. 239, no. 79

Harold Raab, “Bavaria discover treasures in Bohemia” in Mittelbayerische Newspaper, January 28, 2015, (“The key work of Max, Gabriel, Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla, was until 2014...lost. The Pilsener curators have unearthed [it] in a New York collection and made it a highlight of the exhibition”.)

“Exhibition in Pilzeň highlights Munich School painting” in Prague Daily Monitor, January 28, 2015 (“Another miracle [Roman Musil] said is the presentation of the painting Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla by Prague-born Munich school painter Gabriel von Max”.)

Raymond Johnson, “Exhibition: Munich – the shining metropolis of Art” in Prague Post, January 29, 2015, color illustration, (“The highlight of the show is a piece that was long considered lost, Musil said. Prague-born artist Gabriel von Max painted the Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla in 1864. It is considered a key piece of the Munich school of religious painting”.)

Markéta Kachlíková, “Kultursalon – Münchner Kunst leuchtet in Pilsen”, Czech Radio 7, Radio Prague, January 31, 2015, p. 4. (color illustration)

In 1864 Gabriel Max painted a hauntingly provocative scene of The Martyrdom of Saint Ludmilla while still a student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Seminal in conception, it lay the groundwork for all his major works and ignited a meteoric rise to international prominence. Made all the more mysterious by the lack of any photographic reproductions, known only through contemporary descriptions that were repeatedly and extensively published, the importance of the painting became legendary. Responsive to its period the work embodies the contemporary obsessions of spiritualism, hypnotism, somnambulism, the occult, the quest for immortality, parapsychology, and such commonplace distractions as evenings spent spirit rapping. Writing in the exhibition catalogue devoted to Gabriel Max for the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker summarized his career stating, “His depictions of somnambulant and crucified women, young women being raised from the dead, anatomical dissection, vivisection, and melancholic monkeys as art critics, painters, and musicians are among the most compelling images of the late nineteenth century.”[1] This is where it all began.  

Gabriel Max was the son of Joseph Calasanza Max and Anna née Schumann. He was the nephew of Emmanuel Max and both his uncle and father were sculptors based in Prague. In 1855 he began his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Eduard von Engerth. Sadly this was the same year that Max’s father, Joseph, succumbed to cholera, a life altering event for the painter as well as the cause of the impoverishment of his family. This period further marked the beginning of the painter’s interest in the natural sciences and his investigation into the transience of life. He would remain at the Academy in Prague until 1858 and then entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna where he stayed until 1861. In Vienna he studied with Karl von Blaas, Karl Mayer, Christian Ruben and Carl Wurzinger. At the same time, Max routinely made visits to a hospital morgue in order to study corpses. Awarded an Imperial Scholarship in 1850 it was later revoked for not attending classes and he was asked to leave the Academy. After 1861 he briefly returned to Prague and then from 1863 – 1867 studied under Karl Theodor von Piloty at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. At this time the school was one of the most important in Europe and fellow classmates included Franz von DeFregger, Franz von Lenbach and Hans Makart with whom he shared a studio. In Munich Max flourished and discovered his unique artistic path, which earned him the nickname of “Malerfurst” or prince of painting.[2]

Ludmilla was a tenth century Salavonian princess who married the Duke of Bohemia, Boizlvoi. In her widowhood she was converted to Christianity by St. Adalbert of Prague. Revered for her charity and goodness she was universally loved. Grandmother to Prince Wenceslas later called “Good King Wenceslas” she carefully watched over his education. After the death of Ludmilla’s son Wraitislaus his wife Drahomira wanted to control Bohemia, and jealous of Ludmilla’s influence over her son Wenceslas hired assassins. The assassins strangled Ludmilla with her own veil while praying in her private oratory. Wenceslas met a similar fate at the hands of his mother and brother Boleslav in 938 while praying at a church in Prague. Ludmilla’s feast day is September 16th and her usual attribute is a veil held in her hand.[3] She is buried in St. George’s Basilica in Prague. Her story must have held particular significance for Max. His father painted the subject[4] and his uncle Emmanuel, who became his guardian upon the death of his father,[5] executed a marble sculpture of the strangled Ludmilla for St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague where Wenceslas is entombed. Such a commission would have been a great honor. His oldest sister’s name was Marii Ludmilla Josefa and Max named his only daughter Ludmilla (1874 – 1961). When Max wrote an autobiographical article on his career for Westermann’s monthly magazine in 1882 he included The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla in a list of his most important paintings.[6]

Ludmilla in a white gown lays sprawled against the base of her bed with her head pillowed by bedding draped across the seat of a chair. Her left hand still clutches the black veil that was her demise. Her prayer book remains open on its stand atop a desk to her left. The most striking feature of the work is the immediacy of the imagery. Although set in the Dark Ages no hint of the period survives. Max has transferred the location of the private oratory to what could be a well-appointed bedroom from his own time. The religious nature of the scene has been restrained. Ludmilla’s cross is barely visible through the transparent layers of her black veil. Max painted Christian themes and martyrs throughout his career but was not particularly religious. These subjects were executed more for their beauty and sublimity.[7] The French painter Paul Delaroche played an influential role on Max’s early works. In a comparison of their output Adolf Rosenberg, a contemporary art critic, succinctly stated “whilst in the famous painting of Delaroche’s young martyr (Young Martyr, 1855) one still sees a touch of religious feeling and devotion, despite its very modern sentiment, these are not traits that should be sought in the pictures of Gabriel Max’s martyrs. His martyrs are simply ‘interesting creatures’. The pale complexion, tangled black hair, rapturous eyes, fine limbs, frail body, everything is so touching and appeals so vividly to our feelings that there is no need for us to ask about the life and suffering of these poor creatures.”[8] Marble-like in her demise, the sculpted quality of the figure is notable as well as reflective of his uncle’s earlier work. The coloration is best described by Richard Muther in The History of Modern Painting, “these pictures…make him the forerunner of the most modern artists…They are in their delicate black, green and white simplicity of a nobleness of colouring which stands quite alone in the German painting of the century.”[9] J. Beavington Atkinson wrote of Max’s work in 1873 “A silvery moonlight takes the place of common day.”[10] Edouard Verdeil remarked in 1867 on The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla when shown at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, “avec sont ton gris est d’un magnifique effect” (the grey tone is a beautiful effect).[11] Margaret Mary Richter insightfully commented on his marvelous handling of the whites stating “It clearly reflects all the time Max spent as a student in morgues and hospitals doing studies.”[12] Such subjects as Ludmilla must also be viewed as vehicles for Max’s investigation into the paranormal. A quest believed to have been initiated by his father’s untimely death, Max would spend his life trying to answer the age-old questions of where do we come from and where will we go.[13] Ludmilla portrayed just at the moment of passage from one world into the next proved the perfect catalyst for all his future endeavors.

In 1865 Max sent The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla[14] to exhibitions in Boston, Dresden and Prague. In 1867  he showed it at the Kunstverein in Munich and then sent it to the Exposition Universelle in Paris along with Märtyrerin am Kreuz (The Christian Martyr) now in the National Gallery, Prague. The Exposition Universelle was the greatest in size and scope of all international shows up until this time. The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla was noted and singled out for praise by art critics reviewing the well over 1,500 paintings on view. Bathild Bouniol who preferred it to The Christian Martyr wrote, “La Sainte Ludmilla étranglée…Il me parait supérieure en tant qu’execution, d’une couleur plus vraie et tout agreable, d’un dessin elegant, charmant…. Je trouve singulierement gracieuse…”(It seems to me as superior in execution with pleasant, truer coloring, of a charmingly elegant design. I find it exceptionally graceful.)[15] Such reviews must have caused Emmanuel Bénézit to later record in his dictionary, “His real debut dates from 1865 with the Martyrdom of Saint Ludmilla.”[16] It is known that Max traveled to Paris to see the exhibition.

By 1870 the painting belonged to William P. Wilstach of Philadelphia.[17] Wilstach from the 1840s through the Civil War years was a prosperous merchant of saddelry and carriage hardware. At the age of 48 he retired to devote his life to the collecting of art.[18] For part of this period he relied on Robert Wylie for advice. Wylie was a painter and sculptor who had studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1863 he was sent by its directors to France to complete his education, and remained there for the rest of his life.[19] Acting as advisor and agent Wylie scouted the annual salons for Wilstach[20] enabling him to purchase some of the “sensations” of the exhibitions.[21] Wylie is documented as being in Paris in September 1867 during the run of the Exposition Universelle,[22] which opened on April 1st and closed on November 3rd. Wilstach was definitely in Paris by July 14, 1868 where assisted by Wylie he purchased a painting from Durand Ruel.[23] Unknown is when Wilstach arrived in Paris, and if he had personally viewed the Exposition Universelle. In all likelihood he would not have missed such a major event and purchased the Max at a time when reviewers were abuzz, but we cannot be sure. What is definitive is that The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla was never publically exhibited in Europe again and that the painting was owned by Wilstach at the time of his death[24] on September 17, 1870 at Saratoga, New York.

Wilstach would have regarded this acquisition as a trophy, the only work by Max he ever owned, and it was recorded as such in The art treasures of America; being the choicest works of art in the public and private collections of North America (Edward Strahan, op. cit., pp. 34, 40). Retiring at 48 to pursue the acquisition of art is hard to comprehend from a modern perspective, but in doing so Wilstach was an embodiment of his times. This was a period that saw the rise of the American art museum created at the behest of industrialists and financiers who sought to establish institutions that would rival those of Europe while glorifying and memorializing their own names,[25] and Wilstach’s ultimate goal would prove the same. European art was regarded as superior to American and the only way to acquire these works was to travel abroad.[26] To Strahan’s eyes (i.e. Earl Shinn) Wilstach had succeeded, characterizing the collection as the “cream of the French salons” and the prizes of Munich. Stating, “this is a gallery that knows absolutely no inferior pictures it is such a collection as a well trained artist gathers when fame and success have given him the means.”[27] Upon his death Wilstach’s will stipulated a plan for a public gallery, although the collection at that point would pass to his wife. It consisted of 150 paintings, 30 pieces of bronze and marble sculpture, volumes of eighteenth and nineteenth century engravings and etchings as well as a small number of drawings.[28]  Mrs. Wilstach followed in her husband’s footsteps, not only increasing their wealth by twofold, leaving an estate worth approximately $5,000,000, but also upon her death in 1892 presenting the collection to the city of Philadelphia along with an endowment for its maintenance and acquisitions.[29]

The collection opened the next year and Philadelphians came in droves. It was housed in Memorial Hall, a remnant from the Centennial in Fairmount Park which had been the site of the Pennsylvania Museum. The Pennsylvania Museum had originally been founded in 1876 as a showcase for industrial design, but with the acquisition of the Wilstach Collection a shift in direction began that would eventually culminate in the museum being dedicated solely to the fine arts. By 1900, 400,000 visitors annually came to Memorial Hall which began to crumble under the strain. In 1899 and again in 1904, 1905 and 1909 in English, German and French, the famous Baedeker travel guides noted Gabriel Max’s The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla as one of the sights not to be missed when traveling to Philadelphia. By 1928 the cramped galleries and leaking roof made for impossible conditions and the collection was moved from Memorial Hall[30] to a new building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the institution renamed a few years later The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In 1914 with the start of World War I American appreciation of German art and culture began to wane which deepened after World War II, and resulted in institutions deaccessioning German artworks.[31] In 1954 the Philadelphia Museum of Art under the directorship of Fiske Kimbel sold at auction more than 200 paintings from the Wilstach Collection including Max’s The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla. In the introduction of the sale catalogue Fiske Kimbell stated that the museum owned “many more paintings” than they could properly exhibit, particularly those of the nineteenth century. He advised potential buyers that this was “a unique opportunity to get yourself something choice and delightful.”[32]

The painter Walter Stuempfig (1914-1970) must have agreed with Kimbell as he purchased the Max. Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania and trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,[33] by mid-century Stuempfig was regarded as one of Pennsylvania’s leading landscapists. In the 1975 book The Perennial Philadelphians Stuempfig was described as, “a realist and romantic painter of rather gloomy or even sordid landscapes shot with an electric menace. The strange and often beautiful figures who stand about like ballet dancers off duty on Stuempfig’s ravaged shores don’t do anything. They seem to be waiting for some dreadful storm to break, or to be mourning some dreadful storm that has passed. Stuempfig’s world is rather Germanic in its weight of brooding.”[34] Such a telling description of Stuempfig’s work provides intriguing insight into his obvious reverence for Max.  Upon his death the painting remained with his family for the next 43 years.

Max was a professor at Munich’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts from 1878 – 1883. Students included Carl von Marr, Alexej Danilowitsch, Andreas von Reisinger, Harada Naojiro and Walter Firle.[35] In the 1870s his career continued to rise with the 1880s marking the height of his fame.[36] Max turned the sensuality of morbidity into an art form. Throughout his career he continued to paint scenes of young women, often clothed in white usually in bed, experiencing or having just passed through an ecstatic state. Examples of such works include: The Christian Martyr, 1865; The Anatomist, 1869; Julia Capulet on the Morning of her Wedding, 1874; The Ecstatic Virgin Anna Katharina Emmerich, 1885; The Lord’s Prayer, 1887; Atropa Belladonna, 1887; The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, 1888; The Seeress of Prevost in High Sleep, 1892; Isolde, 1894; and The Seeress in a Seeing State, 1895. Many are regarded among his most important works though unlike Ludmilla, their narratives were often unclear prompting critic and viewer alike to ponder if the subject was intended to be alive or dead. Even with Ludmilla it became an issue as made clear in a letter he wrote to his mother from Munich in April, 1865, “the Ludmilla is on the way to Prague. I did not exhibit it here, too much alarm was given to see another corpse.”[37] Inherently drawn to such subjects one can also only conclude that Max well aware of their ambiguity delighted in the notoriety and capitalized on their mystery.

Max was a confirmed Darwinist who was fascinated by his theories of evolution which affected his art. From the 1860s onwards he kept a series of monkeys as pets. With the 1889 success of Affen als Kunstrichter (Monkeys as Art Critics) now in the Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Max produced a large body of works featuring monkeys which proved immensely popular.[38] Constituting beautifully rendered likenesses, J. Beavington Atkinson in 1881 described their essence: “I have come across sundry studies of monkeys, treated tenderly and significantly as ‘the missing link’ between man and brute. It is true that other painters, Decamps, Kaulbach, and Landseer, have made of monkeys pets, but Max alone endows them with soul and immortality.”[39] The other result was that Max seeking to explain the evolutionary process amassed a collection numbering between 60,000-80,000 objects of ethnographic, prehistoric and anthropological material – one of the most important private scientific collections in Europe (now in the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, Mannheim).[40] Unfortunately this proved very expensive and continually plunged the artist into debt. In order to raise capital Max began producing canvases that portrayed heads of young women that could be painted and sold quickly. Although often technically refined they tend to be highly sentimental renderings[41] with titles such as Fabiola, Liberte, Ophelia, Salome and Yolanda.

Symbolism, which began circa 1885, was a movement characterized by “painters of the soul.” Their quest was to portray the conflicting nature of the material and spiritual worlds by giving tangible form to the mystical and the occult.[42]  Mythical figures especially those of strong women that functioned as psychologically charged symbols were particularly esteemed by the movement.[43]The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla had incorporated these ideas some twenty years earlier. Max, who considered such works among his most important, strove to portray not only the emotional state of his sitters but also to incorporate the transience of life. He equated his entire career to that of a medium who presents a “vision”.[44] By the end of the nineteenth century Max was regarded by his peers as a forerunner of the Symbolists and the importance of his role as a precursor cannot be overlooked. In 1900 he received the honor of the “Ritterkreuz des Verdienstordens der Bayerischen Krone,” elevating him to the status of nobility and allowing him to use Ritter von in his name.[45] With his death fifteen years later his reputation went into an eclipse, his achievements all but forgotten.[46]

The importance of the rediscovery of Ludmilla cannot be underestimated. Coming at a time of renewed interest in the artist with three recent major museum exhibitions in Munich, Plzni, and Seattle, its finding appears fortuitous. What emerged from these exhibitions is that many of Max’s major works are missing. The house of Colombo (Max’s only surviving son at the time) was bombed during World War II which destroyed many of his father’s works. No inventory exists of what was lost.[47] An additional difficulty in the study of the artist’s oeuvre is as Max’s reputation grew he replicated works that proved particularly popular leading to confusion as to which are primary versions. An accurate monetary evaluation of his work has been clouded as an endless stream of female heads produced under financial duress and some monkey paintings are basically all that have appeared on the art market. The last major work at auction was The Anatomist (one of several recorded versions) at Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York in 1976 now owned by the Neue Pinakothek, Munich.

With the publication of The Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla the start of Max’s career has finally been fully documented. This work was never replicated or reproduced. It was last exhibited in Europe in 1867 and probably not viewable in America since the 1920s. The recovery of this lost masterpiece heralds a rare opportunity. Once regarded as extraneous when deaccessioned in 1954 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it can now be seen as the linchpin of the artist’s career. The resurrection of the artist’s reputation comes at a time that in some ways mirrors the beliefs from which this work derived. Although modern acceptance of spiritualism and the occult would appear laughable, we dwell in a culture mired with the undead in which stories of vampires, zombies and werewolves abound. In such an atmosphere Ludmilla’s appeal resonates, as we like Gabriel Max search for answers.

It is with sincere gratitude that we would like to thank Margaret Mary Richter for her insightful comments and the gift of her 1998 thesis.

 

 

[1] Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul” in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., p. 14.

[2] Biographical information taken from “Emmanuel Max”; “Gabriel Cornelius von Max”; and “Joseph Calasanza Max” in E. Benezit, Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, op. cit., p. 280; Geraldine Norman, “Gabriel Cornelius von Max” in Nineteenth Century Painters and Paintings: a Dictionary, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1977, p. 144; Horst Ludwig, “Gabriel (Corenilus Ritter) von Max” in Bruckmanns Lexikon der München Kunst, Münchner Maler im 19. Jahrhundert, volume 3, Bruckmann, München, 1982, pp. 123, 125; Margaret Mary Richter, op. cit., p. 42; Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, op. cit., p. 14; and “Gabriel von Max (1840-1915) in Gabriel von Max exhibition catalogue Frye Art Museum, op. cit., p. 100.

[3] Biographical information taken from Clara Erskine Clement, “St. Ludmilla” in A Handbook of Legendary and Mythological Art, Hurd and Houghton, New York, 1871, p. 183; Mrs. Arthur Bell, “St. Ludmilla” in The Saints in Christian Art, Geo. Bell & Sons, London, 1901, p. 147; The Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Ramsgate, eds., “St. Ludmilla”, “St. Wenceslaus” in The Book of Saints, A&C Black, LTD., London, 1931, pp. 170, 270; and Margaret Mary Richter, op. cit., p. 119.

[4] Margaret Mary Richter, op. cit., p. 119.

[5] “Gabriel von Max (1840 – 1915)” in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., p. 100.

[6] “Gabriel von Max in Autobiografische Aufzeichnungen I Lebensbeschreibung” in Gabriel von Max. Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist, exhibition catalogue Städitsche Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, München, op. cit., p. 42 (Max further notes that he sent it to Boston, followed by a sentence recording the meeting of his future wife Emma Kitzing in the autumn of 1864).

[7] Karin Althaus, “Female Martyrs” in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., p. 60.

[8] Ibid, pp. 60-61.

[9] Richard Muther, “Gabriel Max” in The History of Modern Painting, volume I, Macmillan and Co., New York, 1896, p. 510.

[10] Margaret Mary Richter, op. cit., p. 7.

[11] Edouard Verdeil, op. cit., p. 82.

[12] Written communication from Margaret Mary Richter dated July 30, 2013.

[13] Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul” in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., pp. 14, 36.

[14] As 1865 was the first time it was exhibited it led to the misconception that this was the year it was painted. In the numerous publications in which the work has been recorded, the painting has received an array of different titles. These include: Ludmilla, Martyr to Religious Faith; Strangled St. Ludmila; Marter der Hl. Ludmilla; Martyre de sainte Ludmille-Etranglée; Heil Ludmilla; Sainte Ludmille Etranglée; Herzogin Ludmilla; Hl. Ludmilla; Ludmilla, Herzogin Heilige Ludmilla; Den Hellige Ludmilla; Die Erwurggte Heilige Ludmilla; Sa Ludmilla; Heiligen Ludmilla von Böhmen; and Erwurgt hl. Ludmilla. In Max’s 1882 autobiographical article he refered to it as erdrosselte Herzogin Ludmilla (strangled Duchess Ludmilla).

[15] Bathild Bouniol, op. cit., p. 92.

[16] E. Bénézit, op. cit., p. 280.

[17] Earl Shinn, in Lippincott’s, op. cit., p. 80. Shinn reviewed the collection after Wilstach’s death in 1870, “And the sad, tender Martyrdom of St. Ludmilla by Max of Munich showing the fair saint strangled with a black drapery as she kneels against her bed.”

[18] Written communication from Susan K. Anderson, The Martha Hamilton Morris Archivist, Philadelphia Museum of Art, July 10, 2013; and “William P. Wilstach” in Archives Directory for the History of Collecting, Frick Art Reference Library, p. 1.

[19] Glenn B. Opitz, ed., “Robert Wylie” in Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, Apollo Book, New York, 1986, p. 1,064.

[20] Hollister Sturges, Jules Breton and the French rural tradition, exhibition catalogue Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, November 6, 1982 – January 2, 1983, p. 56.

[21] Alfred Trumble, op. cit., p. 157.

[22] Daniel Timothy Lenehan, Fashioning Taste: Earl Shinn, Art Criticism and National Identity in Gilded Age America, Ph.D. dissertation, Haverford, Pennsylvania, 2005, p. 30.

[23] Hollister Sturges, op. cit., p. 60.

[24] Earl Shinn, Lipincott’s, op. cit., p. 80.

[25] Daniel Timothy Lenehan, op. cit., pp. 63, 65.

[26] Ibid, p. 59-60.

[27] Edward Strahan, op. cit., pp. 30, 34.

[28] Susan K. Anderson, op. cit., p. 1.

[29] Helen Weston Henderson, “The Wilstach Collection” in The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Other Collections of Philadelphia, L.C. Page & Company, Boston, 1911, p. 294; and Susan K. Anderson, op. cit., p. 1.

[30] Steven Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876-1926, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998, pp. 213-214, 217-220, fn. 79, p. 221.

[31] Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul,” in Gabriel Max, op. cit., p. 56.

[32] Fiske Kimbell, Valuable Oil Paintings from the W.P. Wilstach Collection, op. cit., p. 3.

[33] Peter Hastings Falk, ed., “Walter Stuempfig, Jr.” in Who was Who in American Art, Sound View Press, Madison, Connecticut, 1985, p. 604.

[34] Nathaniel Burt, The Perennial Philadelphians, The Anatomy of an American Aristocracy, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1975, p. 342.

[35] Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul” in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., p. 23.

[36] Margaret Mary Richter, op. cit., pp. 178, 233.

[37] Ibid, p. 119, “Die Ludmilla ist auf der Reise nach Prag. Ich hab sie nicht ausgestellt man hätte zu viel Lärm geschlagen eine Tote wieder zu sehen.”

[38] Margaret Mary Richter, op. cit., p. 304; and Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul,” in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., p. 48.

[39] Richter, Ibid, p. 304.

[40] Richter, Ibid, 306-307, 310-311; and Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Foreward”, in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., p. 6.

[41] Richter, Ibid, pp. 311, 346.

[42] Harold Osborne, ed., “Symbolism” in The Oxford Companion to Art, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1970, p. 117.

[43] Anne-Marie O’Connor, The Lady in Gold, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012.

[44] Margaret Mary Richter, op. cit., p. 265.

[45] Ibid, p. 333. (an Order of Merit from the Bavarian Crown from which he received the title of Knight).

[46] Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, “Foreward” in Gabriel von Max, op. cit., p. 8.

[47] Ibid, p. 348, fn. 771.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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