- Museum number
- Object: Carl Philipp Fohr
Head of young painter to half-l, wearing beret. 1818
- Production date
Height: 150 millimetres
Width: 117 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from A. Griffiths and F. Carey, exhib.cat., BM, London, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe', 1994, pp.181-no.120:
'The portrait drawings made by the Nazarenes and their circle in Rome are some of their finest works; a full catalogue is in Hans Geller, 'Die Bildnisse der deutschen Künstler in Rom 1800-1830', Berlin 1952. But hardly any were engraved at the time. This is easily explained: the drawings were intended as personal records of friendships, while an engraved portrait implies a general public interest and demand. The making of this masterpiece of the art of portrait engraving emerged from special circumstances - the tragic death of Fohr, who was drowned while bathing in the Tiber, in the presence of Barth, Ramboux and Amsler himself, who were unable to save him. J.D.Passavant recorded that this print was made to raise funds to erect a monument to Fohr ('Ansichten . . .', 1820 p.88). Amsler had himself made a portrait drawing of Fohr (in the Ashmolean, Bailey xxxiii), as had Fohr of Amsler (Geller no.22), and the fact that he chose to engrave Barth's drawing of 1817 (now in the Museum at Heidelberg) is a tribute to the close friendship of the three men. Barth's rashness in plunging into a dangerous part of the Tiber and encouraging Fohr, a much weaker swimmer, to do so too made him directly responsible for his death; he was so distressed that he was unable to make the print himself.
Fohr (1795-1818) was one of the most popular figures in the German colony in Rome. Born in Heidelberg, he spent a couple of years in Munich before arriving in Rome in 1816. His short life means that most of his surviving works are drawings, and the most famous of these are his superb pencil portraits of his friends, many of which were intended for use in a projected group portrait etching of the German artists at their meeting place, the Café Greco in Rome.
Contemporaries recognised the originality of this print, which is one of the earliest attempts to revive Dürer's engraving technique, extending even to the adoption of a monogram similar to his. The print was included in the 1819 Palazzo Caffarelli exhibition (no. 123), and in a long article on Amsler's work in 'Kunstblatt' of 5 October 1820, p.317, it was compared to Dürer's engraved portrait of Pirckheimer. In July 1819 Wilhelm von Humboldt reported to his wife that Goethe had "mentioned Fohr's head, engraved by Amsler, which he possesses. He praised extravagantly the exact technique of the engraving, but at the same time he found many deficiencies in it, and an underlying false mannerism in the drawing and handling" (Mainz 1993, cat. 1). This is an interesting testimony to the difficulty that Goethe had in coming to terms with the new art emerging from Rome: he recognised its quality, but was unnerved by its uncompromising earnestness and wish to make a clean break with the recent past.
Fohr's long hair and 'old-German' costume in this portrait were the hallmark of the patriotic student societies which sprang up during the period of the 'Freiheitskrieg'. Fohr was a member of one, called the 'Teutonen', in Heidelberg in which he took an active part in the summer of 1816 prior to his departure for Rome.'
Additional lit: G. Bartrum (ed.), exhib.cat., BM, London, 'Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy', 2002, no.261; F. Carey, 'The reinvention of the past: Testaments of Friendship and of Faith' in G. Bartrum (ed.), exhib.cat., BM, London, 'German Romantic prints and drawings from an English private collection', 2011, pp.46-7, fig.12.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994/5 Sep-Jan, BM, German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, no. 120
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
2006 Jun-Aug, London, National Gallery, Rebels and Martyrs, no.11
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- From the Steigelmann collection
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number