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Design of a Choir Fresco with Maria Immaculata for Schönenberg Church near Ellwangen. Pen and reddish-brown ink, grey wash. 32 x 19.5 cm. 1711. Signed, inscribed and dated at the bottom: „Melchior Steidl Mahler I:F:/gezeichnet in Ellwange[n] a: 1711."
Little is known of the early training given to Melchior Steidl, a painter of frescoes and altarpieces. Only after he became a journeyman with the Munich court painter Johann Anton Gumpp did his artistic personality begin to emerge. The master and his pupil jointly painted the new-style frescoes in the collegiate church of St. Florian. This gave Steidl the opportunity to establish himself as a fresco painter and thereafter he was in great demand as an artist, carrying out numerous commissions in Southern Germany and Upper Austria. Prominent among his achievements are the painting of the Imperial Rooms in Kremsmünster and the Bamberg Residenz and the works he executed in Fulda.
The frescoes in the pilgrimage church on Schönenberg Hill near Ellwangen were painted in 1711/12. Three designs for the choir fresco are recorded (see J. Strasser, Melchior Steidl (1657–1727). Die Zeichnungen, Salzburger Barockmuseum, Munich-Berlin 1999, No. 25–27), all of which are very similar to the actual painting. While the present drawing, unpublished hitherto in the literature, matches the known designs as regards the main subject and the compositional structure, there is a striking thematic divergence in the lower part of the composition. Instead of the expulsion from paradise Steidl originally planned the figure of death. Hence the present drawing is presumably an earlier design that Steidl first presented to his clients. We are grateful to Dr. Josef Strasser for kindly confirming the authorship.