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Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder

(known as ‘Kasseler Tischbein’ 1722 Haina – 1789 Kassel)

Minerva Appears to Prince Telemachus. Pen and black and a little brown ink, grey wash. 12.8 x 17.6 cm. Signed and dated: “J. He: Tischbei Sen. 1780”.

This intimate scene in a small format radiates the esprit and lightness of the Rococo period, although at the time Tischbein produced it he had already embraced the new, stricter formal canon of classicism. Despite its size, the artist’s deft and masterly penwork gives the portrayal the quality of a painting. The airy, finely gradated washes give the mythological scene a remark­able atmospheric density and create a subtle chiaroscuro effect. This particular sheet is probably a preliminary drawing for the Telemachus suite in the private rooms of Landgrave Wilhelm VIII on the upper floor of Wilhelmsthal Palace.

Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder was trained in Kassel and subsequently went to Frankfurt am Main, Paris, Venice and Rome to continue his artistic studies. In 1752 Landgrave Wilhelm VIII of Hessen-Kassel appointed him court painter. This was followed by other appointments as professor at the Collegium Carolinum in Kassel (1762) and director of the Aca­demy there (1776). Tischbein is considered one of the foremost portrait painters of his time and his art perfectly reflects the refined aesthetics of the courtly era. The drawing is framed by a contemporary engraved decorative border.

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