Small Masterpieces at Alte Nationalgalerie


Small Masterpieces at Alte Nationalgalerie

The smallest masterpieces have barely the size of a beer mat. They are on view in the soon-ending special exhibition Small Masterpieces at Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Besides their pocket size, what makes them special are the frames. Each work is framed in a silver filigree hat buckle that was common in Upper Swabian or Upper Palatinate during the early 19th century. Where centre bars used to fix the silk hat ribbon in the middle of the buckle, women’s and children’s heads, depictions of animals and landscapes can be seen.

Ludwig Passini, Italienisches Mädchen. Miniatur aus der Sammlung Loewe, 1884 Öl auf Metall, 5,8 × 5,4 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, National- galerie / Andres Kilger

The miniatures were painted by various famous artists of the time: Adolf Menzel, Leon Pohle, Anton von Werner and Anna Peters to name but a few.

Albert Loewe, a Berlin City councilor, who started collecting in 1860 and continued until the death of his wife in 1886, assembled during this time over 200 of these small oil paintings. What is to be seen reflects the bourgeois taste of the period with its preference for nature, family and inwardness. Among the beautiful portraits of children and women, one depicts  a young girl whose subject casting a spell:

The Italian Girl (1884), by Ludwig Johann Passini, is roughly ten years old. Her hair is long and brownish, her eyes dark. Lost in her thoughts she seems completely unaware of her beholders. Her absent look with a slightly open mouth presents a state of deep absorption particular to this age. It seems to be reserved for infancy solely. The Italian Girl’s portrait has only the size of a post stamp. Her striking liveliness is captured on 2 x 2 inches of cardboard

Her vibrancy stands out against Friedrich Wasmann’s beautiful portrait of Paul, Maria and Filomena von Putzer (1840) also exhibited at Small Masterpieces.

Austellungsansicht © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Alte Nationalgalerie / Andres Kilger

Friedrich Wasmann, Paul, Maria und Filomena von Putzer, 1840 Öl auf Leinwand, 37 x 49 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Andres Kilger

The elder children Paul and Maria are about the same age as the Italian Girl. The youngest daughter Filomena is a few years her junior. The three children are standing in front of the Tirol Mountains. Their portrait is build strictly from the painting’s outlines. In its making it is reminiscent of old German master paintings. But the most striking feature of Wasmann’s work are the bright colors he used: carmine red, deep blue, white and green clothes are catching the eye. While the boys’ and girl’s facial expressions are more typecast than individual, the colors are what brings the painting to life. They look as if the fresh mountain air, which is apparently coloring the brothers’ and sisters’ cheeks, has brightened them as well. 

On display till the 11th of march 2018, so not very much time left to experience these exquisite miniatures!

Kleine Meisterwerke 
30.03.2017 – 11.03.2018
Alte Nationalgalerie, Bodestraße 1-3, 10178 Berlin

Header Photo:

Friedrich Wasmann, Paul, Maria und Filomena von Putzer, 1840
Öl auf Leinwand, 37 x 49 cm
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Andres Kilger

Author: Rebecca Hoffmann