- Museum number
Object: Die Köpfe der sieben Haupthelden der Ilias (The heads of the seven main heroes of the Iliad)
Series: Homer nach Antiken gezeichnet
Seven heads of heroes from Homer's Iliad; from "Homer nach Antiken gezeichnet", Göttingen: Heinrich Dieterich, 1801-5 and Stuttgart: J G Cotta, 1821; c. 1796
Etching and engraving
- Production date
- 1796 (c)
Height: 260 millimetres
Width: 455 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Antony Griffiths and Frances Carey, exhib.cat., BM, London, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe', 1994, no. 85:
In Naples Tischbein became closely involved with Sir William Hamilton and very interested in his Greek vases. Hamilton's first collection (which he sold to the British Museum in 1772) had been published in four magnificent volumes in 1765-76, with colour illustrations paid for by Hamilton and an idiosyncratic text by the extraordinary adventurer, the 'Baron d'Hancarville' (on whom see Francis Haskell, 'Past and present in art and taste', New Haven and London 1987, pp.30-45). Hamilton then made a second collection (which was later destroyed off the Scilly Isles in the wreck of the Colossus) and published it in four volumes in 1791-7 with a text written by himself with the help of Italinsky, the Russian ambassador in Naples. He entrusted the illustrations to Tischbein, underwriting the expenses of the entire production so that Tischbein only contributed his time.
While working on this Tischbein became such an enthusiast that he made a collection of vases for himself, which he decided also to publish. A letter from Tischbein in von Alten's collection dated 25 March 1797 shows that there were to be six parts of ten prints, making in all a volume of sixty plates, together with an explanatory text. This project seems not to have got very far, like most of his schemes: sets of prints may have been sold, but there was never any text, and the book is unknown to modern bibliography.
Tischbein started yet a third project, a set of illustrations to Homer taken from original antique visual sources. This was incomplete when he left Naples in 1799, and publication began under the title 'Homer nach Antiken gezeichnet' (Homer drawn after the Antique) in parts in Göttingen in 1801. The accompanying text was written by Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729-1812), the famous classical philologist and professor at Göttingen University whose own edition of Homer's text was to appear in Leipzig and London in 1802, and was largely based on information provided by Tischbein himself. This was the greatest illustrated book produced in Germany at the time; the publisher Dieterich even cast new type for it.
This print was used as the fifth plate in the first part, which was devoted to the Iliad. The second part was related to the Odyssey, and the four following parts alternated between Homer's two epics until the project petered out in 1805. It was revived in 1821 but even then only three more parts appeared, leaving many plates unused.
The heads shown here are (reading from left to right) Menelaus, Paris, Diomedes, Ulysses, Nestor, Achilles and Agamemnon. Heyne's text for this plate runs to eleven pages, and gives the source of each image. It begins: "This group is one of Tischbein's most splendid pages. The heads are taken individually from the finest antiques, but he devised the arrangement himself so as to make each head more remarkable and distinct by the juxtaposition of one with the other. The characters of these ideal heroes are, along with their nobility and size, expressed in the clearest and most particular way." Tischbein's interest in character heads thus reappears even in this book.
Lit.: G. Bartrum (ed.), exhib.cat., BM, London, 'German Romantic prints and drawings from an English private collection', London, 2011, pp.134-5, under no.33.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994/5 Sep-Jan, BM, German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, no. 84
1995 Jan-Mar, Lancaster, Peter Scott Gall, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Mar-May, Edinburgh, NG Scotland, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 May-Jun, Newcastle, Northumbria Univ, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Jul-Aug, Plymouth City Mus & AG, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Sep-Oct, York City AG, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Nov-Dec, Nottingham, Djanogly AG, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number