GERMAN masters

 
 

CHRISTOPH AMBERGER

(Place unknown circa 1505 - 1561/2 Augsburg)

 

Portrait of Barbara Schwarz

 

Inscribed with the sitter’s year of birth in an astrological diagram, upper right: 1505/ AD.21:AVG:TO; and inscribed and dated beneath: TO/ XXI AVG: M:DXLII/ .BARBARA./ DIE MATHEVSIN SCHWERTZIN/ .AEKRAD.XXXV.IAR  

Oil on panel

28 3/8 x 24 1/8 inches (72 x 61.2 cm)

PROVENANCE:

Commissioned by the sitter's husband Mathias Schwartz (1497– c. 1574) to commemorate her birthday on the 21st August 1542; possibly Ferdinand August Hartmann (probably the painter Christian Ferdinand Hartmann (1774–1842), Dresden, together with the companion portrait of the sitter's husband; by descent to Johann Gottlob von Quandt (1787–1859), Dresden; Von Ritzenberg collection, Schloss Nischwitz, near Wurzen, Saxony, until 1870; Richard Freiherr von Friesen (1808–1884), Dresden, together with pendant; his posthumous sale, Cologne, Lempertz and Heberle, 26 March 1885, lot 3, for DM 6,500; There acquired by Dr. Martin Schubart (1840–1899), Dresden and later Munich, together with pendant; his posthumous sale, Munich, Helbing, 23 October 1899, lot 3, together with pendant for DM 51,000; there acquired by Colnaghi, London; Leopold Hirsch (1857–1932), 10 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, by 1906, together with pendant; his posthumous sale London, Christie's, 11 May 1934, lot 89, for 1,500 guineas, to Heinemann; with Arnold Seligmann, New York and London, 1936; with Kurt Meissner, Zurich, 1953; acquired in 1976 by the family of the present owner.

EXHIBITED:

Munich, Glaspalast, VI. Internationale Kunstausstellung. Alte Meisterwerke, 1894; Munich, Köningliche Kunstausstellungs-Gebäude, 1895, no. 2; London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Early Gwrman Art, 1906, no. 27; Possibly Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, in about 1969; Augsburg, Rathaus and Zeughaus, Die welt im Umbruch: Augsburg zwischen renaissance und Barock, 28 June – 28 September 1980, no. 45.

LITERATURE:

C. Schwarz, Kostümbuch [‘Das Schwarz’sche Trachtenbuch II’], 1561, MS Brunswick, Herzog Anton Ullrich-Museum, Kupferstichkabinett, inv. H. 27 Nr. 51, ‘Barbara Mangolltin meiner Lieben mueter aigentich gstallt Wie sy Im Agosto 1542 Das ist 10 Monat nachdem ich geborn gewöst, gesechen hat, abcontrofact durch Jheremias Schemel von ainer tafel die der allt Christoff amberger damalls gemallt hat – Si was Dismalls allt 35 lar Krad’; C. Richard, Matthäus und Veit Konrad Schwarz, nach ihren merkwürdigsten Lebensumständen und vielfältig abwechselden Kleidertrachten, Magdeburg 1786, pp. 17 and 18; P. von Stetten the Younger, Kunst Gewerbe und Handwerks-Geschichte der Reichs-Stadt Augsburg, Augsburg 1788, I, p. 295, II, pp. 257–58; J.G. von Quandt, Verzeichnis von Gemälden und anderen Kunstgegenständen im Hause des J.G.v. Quandt zu Dresden, Dresden 1824; W. Engelmann and A. Woltmann, ‘Amberger, Christoph: Die Werke des Meisters’, Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, I, 1872, p. 602, no. 8; A. von Zahn, ‘Zwei Bildnisse von Christoph Amberger und die Trachtenbücher der beiden Schwartz, Vater und Sohn, von Augsburg’, Zahns Jahrbücher für Kunstwissenschaft, IV, 1871, pp. 127–34; A. Woltmann, ‘Christoph Amberger’, Kunstchronik: Beiblatt zur Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, IX, 1874, col. 191, p. 601, no. 8; A. Woltmann, ‘Christoph Amberger’, Die Wartburg, IX, 1874, pp. 151–53, no. 8; A. Woltmann and K. Woermann, eds., Geschichte der Malerei, II: Die Malerei der Renaissance, Leipzig 1882, p. 453; A.Bredius, ‘Die Auktion von Friesen und die neuesten Ankäufe der Kölner Gemäldegalerie’, Kunstchronik: Beiblatt zur Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, XX, 1885, col. 501; H. Janitschek, Geschichte der deutschen Kunst, III: Geschichte der deutschen Malerei, Berlin 1889, p. 433; C. Hofstede de Groot, Sammlung Schubart, Früher Dresden jetzt München: Eine Auswahl von Werken alter Meister, Munich n.d. [1894], I, pp. 1 and 51; T. von Trimmel, ‘Die Galerie Schubart in München’, Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, V, 1894, pp. 216 and 218; E. Haasler, Der Maler Christoph Amberger von Augsburg, Ph.D. dissertation, 1893, pp. 83–86 and 129, no. 23; M. Schubart, ‘Christoph Ambergers Bildnisse de Matheus und der Barbara Schwartz von Augsburg. 1542. Vortrag, gehalten am 30. April 1894 im Münchner Alterthumsverein’, Zeitschrift des Münchner Alterthumsvereins, VI, 1894, pp. 1–5; W. von Seidlitz, Beilage der Allgemeinen Zeitung, 1894, no. 19; F. von Reber and R. Bayersdorfer, Klassischer Bilderschatz, VII, 1895, no. 994; F. Pecht, Allgemeinen Zeitung, 1895, no. 194;

M. Schubart, ‘Drei Augsburger Portraitmedaillen: Matthäus Schwarz, 1527, 1550. Veit Conrad Schwarz, 1563’, Zeitschrift des Münchner Alterthumsvereins, VII, 1895, pp. 14–16, n. 1;Vom Fels zum Meer, 1895, p. 538; ‘Veiling Schubart’, review, clipping in an RKD catalogue of the 1899 sale (Lugt 57500), under nos 2 and 3; M.J. Friedländer, ‘Amberger, Christoph’, in U. Thieme, F. Becker and H. Vollmer (eds), Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, I, 1907, p. 388; G. Bezold, ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte des Bildnisses’, Mitteilungen aus dem Germanischen Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, 1920–21, pp. 46–101; E. Auerbach, Die deutsche Bildnismalerei im 16. Jahrhundert in Franken, Schwaben und Bayern, Ph.D. dissertation, Frankfurt am Main 1925, p. 24; F. Weigl, Christoph Amberger, ein mittelalterlicher Maler oberpfälzisch-Ambergischer Abstammung, Amberg i.d. Oberpfalz 1926; L. von Baldass, ‘Studien zur Augsburger Porträtmalerei des 16. Jahrhunderts’, III: ‘Christoph Amberger als Bildnismaler’, Pantheon, IX, 1932, pp. 178 and 182; S. Flamand-Christensen, Die männliche Kleidung in der süddeutschen Renaissance, Berlin 1934, pp. 9–10; A. Carfax, ‘Treasures of the Leopold Hirsch Collections’, Connoisseur, March 1934, pp. 182–84, reproduced; H. Leporini, ‘Rundschau’, Pantheon, XIII, 1934, no. 1, pp. 125–26; W. R. Deusch, Deutsche Malerei des 16. Jahrhunderts, Berlin 1935, p. 22, fig. 87; C.L. Kuhn, A Catalogue of German Paintings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in American Collections, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1936, p. 68, no. 288, pl. 58; ‘Notable Works of Art now on the Market’, The Burlington Magazine, LXXI, 1937, supplement, pl. 13; R. Heinemann, Sammlung Schloss Rohoncz, Zurich 1937, pp. 2–3, under no. 6; H. W. Singer, Neuer Bildniskatalog, Leipzig, IV, 1938, p. 230, no. 32649; P. Wescher, Grosskaufleute der Renaissance, Basel 1941, pp. 113 and 185; N. Lieb, Die Fugger und die Kunst im Zeitalter der hohen Renaissance, (Studien zur Fuggergeschichte, XIV), Munich 1958, pp. 88 and 376ff.; A. Fink, Die Schwarzschen Trachtenbücher, Berlin 1963, pp. 15, 62, 168 and 186, fig. 6; K. Löcher, ‘Studien zur oberdeutschen Bildnismalerei des 16. Jahrhunderts’, Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Würtemberg, IV, 1967, pp. 47ff.; J.C. Ebbinge-Wubben, C. Salm, C. Sterling, and T. Heinemann, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Zurich 1969, pp. 10–11, under no. 2; J.C. Ebbinge-Wubben, C. Salm, C. Sterling, and T. Heinemann, Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, Zurich 1971, pp. 10–13, under no. 2; D. Koepplin and T. Falk, Cranach: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik, Basel and Stuttgart, 1976, II, pp. 723–24, no. 656, and supplement ‘Vorläufiges Verzeichnis der im 2. Band katalogisierten und in Auswahl abgebildeten Ausstellungsobjekte’, p. 23, no. 656; K. Löcher, in Die Welt im Umbruch: Augsburg zwischen Renaissance und Barock, Augsburg 1980, II: Rathaus, pp. 23–30 and 107, no. 457, pl. 11; K. Löcher, ‘Christoph Amberger’ in Die Welt im Umbruch: Augsburg zwischen Renaissance und Barock, Augsburg 1981, III: Beiträge, pp. 136ff., no. 4; G. Goldberg, ‘Old Masters from the German School’, Apollo, CXVIII, July 1983, p. 35 (as in the ‘Detroit Museum’); C. Pirovano (ed.), Paris Bordone, Milan 1984, p. 70; Meisterwerke des 15.-20. Jahrhunderts aus der Sammlung von Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Budapest 1985, pp. 36–38, 141; K. Löcher, ‘Bildnismalerei des späten Mittelalters und der Renaissance in Deutschland’, in I. Lübbeke and B. Bushart, eds., Altdeutsche Bilder der Sammlung Georg Schäfer, Schweinfurt 1985, pp. 31 and 48; K. Löcher, in Allgemeinen Künstlerlexicon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, II, Leipzig 1986, p. 585; B. Yamey, Arte e contabilità, Bologna 1986, p. 65; Old Master Paintings from Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Moscow and Saint Petersburg 1987, pp. 48–49 and 101–02; Maestros Antiguos de la Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid 1987, pp. 64–67; C. de Watteville, Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza: guida alle opera esposte, Milan 1989, p. 13; I. Lübbeke and M. Thomas Will, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Early German Paintings, 1350–1550, 1991, pp. 41–43, under no. 2, reproduced fig. 3; K. Löcher, ‘Amberger, Christoph’, in Künstler-Lexikon, III, 1992, p. 123; F. Elsig, ‘Christoph Amberger Portrait von Barbara Schwarz’, in K. Meissner, Gemälde und Zeichnungen aus sechzig Jahren Kunsthandel, Zurich 2003, pp. 112–13; A. Kranz, Christoph Amberger: Bildnismaler zu Augsburg, Regensburg 2004, pp. 319–27, no. 34 and under no. 33, reproduced fig. 75; U. Rublack, Dressing Up. Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe, Oxford, 2010, p. 64; U. Rublack and M. Hayward (eds.), The First Book of Fashion. The Book of Clothes of Matthäus & Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg, London and New York 2015, pp. 17, 189, 334, reproduced fig. 1.13.

 

The following note was written for the Sotheby’s catalogue:

This important example of German Renaissance portraiture was painted in Augsburg, then one of the leading commercial centres of Europe with important connections to Venice and Italy. The sitter, Barbara Schwarz, was the wife of wealthy Augsburg accountant Matthäus Schwarz, a high-ranking servant of both the wealthy banking family of the Fuggers and the Emperor Charles V, and moved in the highest circles of Augsburg society. Amberger himself had worked for Charles V and was the favoured portrait painter to this elite circle; his own experiences of Italy and of Venice in particular produced in portraits such as this an elegant fusion of German and Italian courtly portrait types which proved highly popular. Here elaborate inscriptions and a very rare astrological horoscope are discreetly married with a wealth of observation relating to the sitter’s wealth and interests, not least her expensive and highly fashionable costume, providing an unusually clear window onto her privileged lifestyle.

As the inscription on the panel shows, the sitter was born on the 21 August 1507, the daughter of Anton Mangold, a Swabian accountant who had risen to high office in the employment of the great Augsburg banker Anton Fugger (1493–1560). Her elder and decidedly plainer sister Magdalena, had previously married the wealthy Augsburg merchant Veit Wittich (1493–1544) in 1523, and both she and her husband had also been painted by Amberger.1 Her introduction to the wealthy elite circle of Augsburg was cemented by her marriage in 1 May 1538 to the Fuggers’ chief accountant Matthäus Schwarz (1497–1574). Picked out in gold on the pilaster behind her is the most unusual feature of a horoscope (fig. 1), in the centre of which the sitter’s date of birth (21 August 1507) is inscribed and surrounded by a diagram showing the position of the stars at the time. According to the inscription beneath it, this portrait was painted on the 21 August 1542, on the sitter’s thirty-fifth birthday. At the same time the portrait formed a pendant to Amberger’s likeness of the sitter’s husband, painted five months earlier, and today in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid (fig. 2).2 The two portraits remained together for nearly five hundred years, being separated in 1934 at the sale of the collection of Leopold von Hirsch in London.

Barbara’s husband Matthäus Schwarz was a fascinating and well-documented personality. A native of Augsburg, he acquired financial training from Antonio Mirafiori in Venice, and was responsible for the introduction of double entry bookkeeping north of the Alps. He rose to become head of the accounting office of Fugger, perhaps the greatest and wealthiest merchant house of the time. For his services to the Holy Roman Empire he was finally ennobled by Charles V in 1541, the year before this portrait was painted. A humanist and mathematician, he died in 1574 in Augsburg, a city to which he was deeply attached culturally. His father, Ulrich, had also been a patron of artists before him, most notably Holbein the Elder, and Schwarz continued in this tradition, commissioning a number of works, including for example, his own portrait by the court painter Hans Maler (1469–1537), which depicted him as a luteplayer, as well as portrait medallions by Friedrich Hagenauer and Hans Kels.3 As a mathematician, Schwarz would no doubt have had a close interest in astrology, and his own portrait by Amberger contains an astrological horoscope as in the present painting, but of even more complicated nature.4 Despite the fashion for astrology throughout Europe in the sixteenth century, the inclusion of such horoscopes in portraiture is extremely rare, and suggests that this was a strong personal interest of Matthäus and his wife.

Amberger has dealt sensitively with the interests and position of his sitter, with whom he was no doubt acquainted for many years. Although at first glance this portrait might seem to depict Barbara Schwarz in relatively modest attire, clad in the sombre colours befitting the wife of a wealthy Augsburg accountant, this is very far from being the case, and indeed the painting contains a myriad of details that bring to life the sitter’s interests in fashion. One of the most fascinating aspects of the painting is its inclusion in the Trachtenbuch or Costume Book of 1561 kept by her son Veit Conrad Schwarz, now in the Herzog Anoton Ulrich-Museum in Braunschweig (fig. 3). This journal was in fact a reprise of his father Matthäus’s own remarkable Trachtenbuch, started in 1520, and also now in Braunschweig, which contained no less than 137 miniatures, all detailing Schwarz’s new clothes with accompanying texts and explanations. At the beginning of Veit Conrad’s costume book are two illustrations of his parents by Jeremias Schemel, recording the name of the Christoph Amberger as the original painter, but extending his original designs to full-length. Far from being demure or thrifty, black was in fact much the most expensive colour for such a dress, and Amberger plainly delights in showing off his skill in the rendering of the silk, embroidery and lacework, and with it the wealth of his client. Schemmel’s miniature also tells us that the object attached to the silver girdle around Barbara’s waist was an elaborate and very ornate tassel, its quality a reflection of the skill and reputation of Augsburg's silversmiths at this date.

The wealth of such detail and documentation regarding both Barbara and her husband make these portraits central to our understanding of the work of Amberger, who rarely signed or dated his works. Like Matthäus Schwarz, Amberger had also travelled to Italy, probably around 1526–27, where he had been profoundly influenced by the work of Titian in Venice. So successfully did he fuse Italian Renaissance and mannerist formulae onto the prevailing German court fashions following Dürer, that three years later in 1530 he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Emperor Charles V, now in Berlin, which, according to Joachim Sandrart, was much praised by the sitter.5 Having arrived in Augsburg, Amberger married the daughter of his master Leonhart Beck and was admitted to the Guild of Painters in 1530. The unchallenged heir to the portrait tradition established in Augsburg by Hans Holbein the Elder, successive commissions from Hans Jakob and Christoph Fugger in 15416 cemented his position as the portrait painter of choice to the city’s patrician elite, and no doubt led directly to the commission for the present portrait the following year.

 

1. Braunschweig Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum. Kranz 2004, nos 41–42.

2. Lübbecke and Will 1991, pp. 38–43, no. 2.

3. Paris, Musé du Louvre. Cf. H. von Mackowitz, Der Maler Hans von Schwaz, Innsbruck 1960, no. 45, reproduced fig. 32.

4. The horoscopoes in both paintings are now thought to have been based upon the Ephemeriden of Regiomontanus, one of the earliest treatises on the positions of the heavenly bodies, first published in Nuremberg in 1474.

5. Kranz 2004, p. 254 ff., no. 9. According to the inscriptions on the painting itself, it was painted or completed only in 1532.

6. Kranz 2004, nos 30 and 31. The former was sold New York, Sotheby’s, 28 January 2010, lot 158, and the latter is in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.