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Mausolus and Artemisia. Gouache on parchment, with framing line in gold, the parchment stretched over a copper plate. 19.7 x 14 cm. Signed and dated in gold “Anna . Maria . Wernerin . Fec:. / 1709” on the right beneath the subject.
The miniaturist, Anna Maria Werner, née Haid, was the daughter of Andreas Haid, a goldsmith from Danzig, and received her initial training from her father. In 1705, she married Christoph Joseph Werner, the eldest son of the famous painter and miniaturist Joseph Werner II, in Berlin. A talented artist, she excelled in her adopted country as a miniature portraitist, some of her works being reproduced by prominent engravers such as Johann Jakob Haid and Johann Georg Wolfgang. In 1721 Werner was called to the court in Dresden and moved with her husband to the Saxon royal seat, where she subsequently worked as a miniaturist and designer of engraving templates.
The present gouache, masterfully executed with great graphic refinement, was in all likelihood based on a lost original by her father-in-law, which has survived thanks to an etching made by Franz Ertinger (see J. Glaesemer, Joseph Werner 1637–1710, Zurich/Munich 1974, no. 172). The story of Mausolus and Artemisia was a popular theme in Baroque art, since the subject matter was well suited for an opulent, exotic scenario. Artemisia was the sister and wife of the Persian satrap and ruler of Caria, Mausolus II, who died in 353 BC. Legend has it that Artemisia was so grief-stricken by the loss that she mixed his ashes with wine and then drank the potion so that he might have a living grave. As a memorial to him she completed the mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which ranked as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Everything in the little picture radiates preciousness and courtly refinement. A broad, flowing curtain in precious lapis lazuli blue has been lifted to afford a view of the scenery. The artist has focussed her attention on the moment suprême of the action, in which Artemisia is about to drink from the golden chalice and a servant in oriental dress shrinks back with a theatrical gesture. In the foreground an exotic little lapdog prosaically scratches itself, apparently oblivious to the imminent event. In the background thin wisps of smoke rise tellingly from the ornamental stone vessels that decorate the architrave of the huge mausoleum.
In depicting the splendid ancient building the artist in all probability drew on an engraving by Philips Galle (The New Hollstein 518). The visually concise scene is also important in terms of cultural history in that it is a rare work by a female artist from the German Baroque period.