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Gottfried Bernhard Goetz

(1708 Velehrad – 1774 Augsburg)

Scenes from the Passion of Christ (Birth of Christ, Last Supper, Descent from the Cross, Entombment). Pen and gray and brown ink, gray wash, heightened with white, over traces of red chalk. Each ca. 8.6 x 5.1 cm.

Having joined the well-known Klauber brothers in founding a publishing house specializing in prints in 1737, Bernhard Goetz soon ranked alongside Johann Gottfried Eichler, Johann Evangelist Holzer and Johann Daniel Herz as one of the most successful contributors to Augsburg’s print industry. Just seven years later, the Emperor Charles VII appointed Goetz not only court painter, but court printmaker as well. The Catholic-cum-humanist education he received at the Jesuit classical school in Uherské Hradišt between 1718 and 1723 predestined him for a career in the Free Imperial City of Augsburg, where he went in 1729 after completing his training with the fresco painter Franz Ignaz Eckstein in Brno. The Swabian town of Augsburg had been an internationally recognized centre of book and print production since the 16th century with a special emphasis on theological publications and religious prints.

The work of the young Goetz in the field of printmaking was influenced above all by the Director of the Augsburg Academy, Johann Georg Bergmüller, who as an inventor of designs for prints already had a lot of experience in this field. Bergmüller introduced the young Goetz to printing techniques, giving him his own drawings as models to engrave from. Although Goetz remained in Bergmüller’s studio for only a very short time, the latter’s professionalism doubtless had a lasting influence on him.

These four drawings by Goetz show the Birth of Christ, the Last Supper, the Descent from the Cross, and the Entombment. Presumably they belonged to a larger sequence of scenes from the Passion of Christ. While their iconography forms part of the long tradition of portrayals of the Passion, the consummate spatial arrangement of the figures, their vivid gestures and facial expressions testify to the experience and skill of their creator. The compositions are impressive for their wealth of detail and filigree line work. With a flowing line, subtle use of washes and individual white heightenings Goetz creates whole worlds in the smallest of formats.

The attraction of the four images resides above all in their relation to printmaking. The rubbed red chalk on the reverse of two of the drawings indicates that the outlines of the compositions were to be incised. The iconography, the pictorial finish and the typical almanac format would suggest that the drawings were intended as preparatory drawings for engraved book illustrations.

Provenance: From the collection of Heinrich Wilhelm Campe (Lugt 1391).

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