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Martin von Molitor

(1759–1812, Vienna)

Three Hermits in a Rocky Landscape; Family in a Landscape. Two etchings. 26.5 x 26.2 cm; 24.2 x 30.3 cm. Nagler 46, 48.

We can see from Nagler’s biographical notes on the life and work of Martin von Molitor that he was a landscape painter and etcher who was highly respected during his lifetime. Molitor was trained at the Vienna Academy, where his outstanding talent made him the favourite student of his teacher, Christian Brand. He compiled an extensive oeuvre of picturesque, atmospheric landscapes in oil and gouache which were very popular in the late 18th century. At the same time Molitor was a skilled and prolific etcher, convincing evidence of which is provided by these two wonderfully nuanced landscapes.

The artist uses an extremely intricate and varied etching technique to convey the intense atmosphere of the landscape. In the first print the scene is dominated by a towering rock face illuminated by the sun; at the top left we can see a picturesque wooded grove with a statue of the Madonna. In the foreground two monks are setting off for work with their shovels, while a third hermit is engrossed in reading the Holy Scripture in a pergola covered with creepers. The airy, sun-drenched atmosphere of this work is also to be found in the second print with its depiction of a family resting in a meadow in front of a little waterfall and tall oak trees. The intricate, varied rendering of the dense vegetation and the terrain testifies to the subtle powers of observation available to the artist, who achieves effective chiaroscuro effects by alternating dense hatchings with transparent areas. The poetically elegiac atmosphere of Molitor’s landscapes is fully in keeping with the zeitgeist at the end of the 18th century. Very fine, differentiated and contrasting impressions, with occasional light plate tone and with even margins around the inky platemark. Slightly foxed, other minor ageing, otherwise in very good condition. From the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein.

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