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J. Paul Getty Museum acquires A Rare Fragonard Drawing and a German Painting of the Holy Trinity from the Late Middle Ages

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced two acquisitions—The Pancake Maker, drawn in 1782, by French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, ca. 1732–1806) and The Trinity with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Stephen and Lawrence and a Donor, 1479, attributed to the famed Peter Hemmel von Andlau (ca. 1420/25–after 1501) Workshop.

”These two acquisitions, which are so unlike one another in style and medium, reflect the Museum’s desire to see that each acquisition lifts up the collection as a whole and enhances our visitors’ experience of European art,” said Thomas Kren, acting associate director for the Collections at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The Trinity with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Stephen and Lawrence and a Donor, 1479, The Peter Hemmel von Andlau (ca. 1420/25–after 1501) Workshop

More than 500 years old and in very good condition, the Trinity is a remarkable example of the panel paintings produced by the Strasbourg Workshop Cooperative, a partnership between five of Strasbourg’s leading independent workshops of glass painters, and features the bold colors and elegant, individualized and dynamic figures associated with Peter Hemmel von Andlau.

The striking altarpiece was devised for a donor, who is shown in the painting kneeling in prayer on the left, in diminutive scale, directing his pleas to the image of the Trinity—an immense and resplendently robed figure of God seated on a carved stone throne with the Crucified Christ and the Holy Spirit. They are flanked by a grieving Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist. The presence of two chief deacon saints, Stephen and Lawrence, confirms the clerical status of the donor. Saint Stephen, identified by the rocks with which he was martyred, looks protectively down at the donor and is presumed to be the donor’s namesake.

Peter Hemmel is generally considered to be one of the most extraordinary glass painters of the late-fifteenth century and a senior member of the Strasbourg Workshop Cooperative. Although no panel paintings have yet been convincingly ascribed to Hemmel himself, the Trinity shares affinities with the sophisticated stained glass projects attributed to him. Hemmel’s work has often been associated with bold, saturated fields of color, notably purple, which create a glowing, jewel-like effect that is one of the outstanding features of the present Trinity.

In the late Middle Ages the city of Strasbourg (today in France), then as now a crossroads between German and French territories, was a thriving artistic center as well as a bustling commercial hub. At least eight workshops provided patrons across neighboring regions with stained glass, panel paintings, wood and stone sculpture, and less expensive engravings. An extraordinary partnership was formed between five of Strasbourg’s leading independent workshops of glass painters headed by Peter Hemmel von Andlau (ca. 1420/25–after 1501), Lienhart Spitznagel, Hans von Maursmünster (active 1475–1503), Theobald von Lixheim (d. bef. 1507), and Werner Störe to cooperatively produce large and important stained glass commissions for a period of four years (ca. 1477–1481).

The Strasbourg Workshop Cooperative (Straßbuger Werkstattgemeinschaft), as it has come to be known, produced an astonishing amount of large and small-scale stained glass for churches in Tübingen (Stiftskirche), Ulm (Minster), Nuremberg (St. Lorenzkirche), Salzburg (Nonnberg Convent), Munich (Liebfrauenkirche) and many other cities. Distinguished by high-quality and nuanced painting, individualized figures, and brilliant use of color, the signature manner of the cooperative reflects the direct influences of contemporary leading Upper Rhine painters and engravers, notably the Master of the Karlsruhe Passion (active 1435-65), the Master E.S. (active 1450–67) and Martin Schongauer (ca. 1435–1491), as well as the elegant naturalism of the Netherlandish painters Rogier van der Weyden (ca. 1399–1464) and Dieric Bouts (ca. 1415–1475).

“This painting epitomizes the powerful, individualized figures, nuanced compositions, and rich bold palette found in Hemmel’s stained glass work and provides an important link between the glass and panel painters in Strasbourg,” said Scott Schaefer, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. “It joins an impressive group of fifteenth-century German paintings, drawings, stained glass and manuscripts already in the Museum’s collection, offering visitors and scholars alike access to a comprehensive picture of German art from the late Middle Ages.”

Among other examples of German Gothic works represented in the collection at the Getty are a double-sided panel painting of The Meeting of the Three Kings with David and Isaiah (recto) / Assumption of the Virgin (verso), before 1480, by the Master of the St. Bartholomew Altarpiece, and Madonna and Child in a Window (ca. 1485–90) by Martin Schongauer; the recently acquired sculpture of St. John the Baptist (ca. 1515) by the Master of Harburger Altar; The Apostle Thomas and Philip (ca. 1460–70), stained glass; and many important drawings, including Studies of Bookbindings and of Christ’s Loincloth (about 1490), by the Master of the Coburg Roundels, and major examples of illumination, including two exquisite large miniatures by the Master of Saint Veronica.

The painting will be placed on view concurrently with the Renaissance Drawings from Germany and Switzerland, 1470-1600 exhibition, on view March 27–June 17, 2012.

The Pancake Maker, 1782, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732–1806)

An embodiment of late Rococo style and subject matter, The Pancake Maker depicts a mother cooking beignets on the hearth, as a bevy of wriggling children look on, eager to eat the hot treats. The dynamically mounded figures throb with energy as they squeeze around the dinner table. An improvisatory but exacting draftsman, Fragonard uses dashing pencil lines worked over in infinite gradations of warm brown wash to convey the surging joy and anticipation in this intimate, animated scene. The only stable and patient presence is a little spaniel dog with its eyes trained on the frying pan. Fragonard also uses the white of the paper to evoke the scintillating flames and heat of the fire as it illuminates the mother’s face.

“This charming and brilliantly executed drawing is a momentous addition to our excellent collection of French eighteenth-century drawings, as Fragonard is one of the defining artists of the period,” said Lee Hendrix, senior curator of Drawings at the Getty Museum. “We are also thrilled that the work is in such excellent condition, and retains the freshness and luminosity of the washes, as these are often faded in Fragonard’s other surviving drawings.”

The drawing captures the artist’s own belief in the importance of family life, and reflects Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s contemporary advocacy of the family as the bedrock of morality.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French painter whose late Rococo imagery was distinguished by his celebration of love and fecundity. One of the most celebrated artists of the late Ancien Régime, Fragonard produced a steady flow of paintings and drawings executed in a brilliant loose style perfectly suited to his subject matter of playful dalliances in lush natural settings.

Born in the small city of Grasse, Jean-Honoré Fragonard moved to Paris with his family in 1738. While still in his teens, he apprenticed with Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, and then worked in François Boucher’s studio. After winning the Prix de Rome in 1752, he spent three years under the tutelage of Carle Van Loo before studying at the Académie de France in Rome from 1756 to 1761. Fragonard also drew landscapes with Hubert Robert and traveled to southern Italy and Venice.

Fragonard’s submission to the Paris Salon of 1765 earned him associate academy membership, yet he declined an official career as a history painter. Preferring to make lighthearted, erotic pictures for private clients, he only exhibited at the Salon twice. His buoyant canvases celebrating nature and love reinvigorated the Rococo style. He painted mythologies, gallantry, landscape, and portraiture and drew ceaselessly. The French Revolution ended Fragonard’s career and made him a pauper. Admiring his work, the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David attempted to assist by making him curator of the future Musée du Louvre. Unable to adapt to the new style of painting, however, Fragonard died forgotten in Napoleon’s France.

The Pancake Maker will go on view at the Getty Center from March 6–May 27, 2012 in a special Drawings gallery dedicated to new acquisitions, and will be incorporated into future drawings exhibitions from the museum’s permanent collection. The drawing had previously been publicly exhibited only twice, both times in Paris, at the Galerie Martinet in 1860, and at the Hotel de Sagan in 1931. It will join three Fragonard works currently in the Getty Museum’s collection: his masterpiece The Fountain of Love (about 1785), a painting of two lovers in a verdant forest about to drink love’s elixir; Ruins of an Imperial Palace, Rome (1759), a red chalk scene of a Roman villa; and Oh! If Only He Were As Faithful to Me (about 1770), a drawing of a woman bemoaning her broken heart to a little dog.

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