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A Spanish galley seen from the front; with a navigator holding the rudder and several oarsmen; verso: study of a right foot in a sandal in the lower left corner. 1818
Watercolour over graphite, squared for transfer in black chalk; the verso in graphite.
- Production date
Height: 245 millimetres
Width: 342 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This drawing is one of at least ten made by Friedrich Olivier in autumn 1818 of cartoons executed in charcoal and watercolour by the sixteenth-century Flemish artist, Jan Vermeyen. The monumental cartoons (measuring almost four metres in height) were commissioned by Mary of Hungary in 1546, and in 1818 were in the Austrian Imperial collections (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Inv. 2038 to 2047). The cartoons were produced for a series of twelve tapestries representing Emperor Charles V’s Conquest of Tunis of 1535, woven in Brussels by Willem de Pannemaker in the mid sixteenth century. Vermeyen had accompanied Charles V on his military expedition in 1535, commissioned to produce artistic testimony to the successful mission. Two of the originally twelve cartoons had been lost at the time of Olivier’s drawings, and it is significant in this respect that a new set of tapestries commissioned in the mid-eighteenth century consisted of ten out of the originally twelve scenes.
Olivier had fought against the French during the Napoleonic wars and perhaps saw the subject of Vermeyen’s cartoons in patriotic terms. His principal interest was in extracting single figures and small groups from much larger compositions, with a consequent loss of narrative context. Olivier’s copies demonstrate the artist’s desire to study for himself Vemeyen’s compositions and the squaring suggests an interest in dissemination, although no corresponding prints or work in other media are known. A description of Vermeyen’s cartoons by Friedrich’s elder brother, Ferdinand, was published in the periodical 'Janus' in the same year as his brother’s copies: ‘[the cartoons] possess through their gradations of colour, their considerable clarity, and their highly detailed yet nevertheless simple and bold handling a perfect similitude with ancient Italian frescoes’ ('Janus' 11, 1818, p. 54, cited in P. Müller-Tamm, op.cit. below). Ferdinand Olivier’s visual knowledge of Italian frescoes was limited to drawn copies and prints (Michelangelo’s Sistine frescoes being the best reproduced in print at the time) since he never travelled to Italy; Friedrich, on the other hand, was on the eve of his departure to Rome where the Nazarenes led by Friedrich Overbeck were seeking to conjure afresh the accomplishment of frescoes in Renaissance Italy.
The drawing is a detail from the cartoon for the fifth tapestry, 'The Siege of Goleta', showing a Spanish galley rowed by slaves, and thus in contrast to the other drawings from this series which demonstrate a figurative interest. As with all but one of this group formerly in the Albertina, it is executed in brush and coloured washes over squaring in black chalk. The drawing without squaring represents a Saracen soldier presenting the severed head of an enemy soldier to an officer (Albertina inv. 28274, Bassenge lot 6654): it is to a larger scale than the others and has not been coloured.
The six other drawings formerly in the Albertina are: Inv. 28274, Bassenge lot 6654, 'Saracen soldier presenting the severed head of an enemy soldier to an officer', inscribed ‘Freitag den 18.t September 1818’ ; Inv. 28275, Bassenge lot 6648, 'Two Saracen horsemen with lances, inscribed ‘Sonnabend d. 19t August 1818’; Inv. 28276, Bassenge lot 6651; Inv. 28277, Bassenge lot 6649, 'An oriental soldier with a musket and a grey hound, inscribed ‘No 4’ and ‘gez. den 24t August 1818’ (Private collection, London); Inv. 28278, Bassenge lot 6650, 'A woman in a red dress', inscribed, ‘geendigt Sonnabend den 5t Sept. 1818’ (Private collection, London); Inv. 28279, Bassenge lot 6653, wounded Saracen tended by a comrade', inscribed ‘Freitag den 18.t September 1818’ (Private collection, London); Inv. 28280, Bassenge lot 6652, 'Five Imperial Soldiers wading across a beach', inscribed ‘Montag, den 21t September 1818. Rueckkehr’ (Private collection, London);
Three further drawings of Vermeyen's cartoons by Olivier which did not belong to the Schmidl family are known in other collections: 'Turbaned figures beside two camels, inscribed ‘18 OF 18 / den 4tem August edei RF’; Kunsthalle Mannheim, inv. G 1104, see Pia Müller-Tamm, 'Die Zeichnungen und Aquarelle des 19. Jahrhunderts der Kunsthalle Mannheim', vol. iv: 'Nazarenische Zeichenkunst', Berlin, 1993, no. 30, pp. 58-9; 'Charles V in procession' Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, inv. 1693, see Ulrike Gauss, 'Die Zeichnungen und Aquarelle des 19. Jahrhunderts in der Graphischen Sammlung', Stuttgart 1976, no. 1112; 'Fleeing musketeer', Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, inv.18/258, see I. Markowitz and Eckhard Schaar, 'Handzeichungen und Aquarelle des 19. Jahrhunderts aus den Beständen des Kupferstichkabinetts', Düsseldorf, 1965/66, no. 124.
A series of prints made by an anonymous engraver Vermeyen's cartoons was made c.1546-50 (see Hollstein, XXXVI, pp.139-141, nos. 1-3; BM 1867,1012.397 to 404 ); and there are also six early photographs of the cartoons, given by Prince Albert to the British Museum (1863,1114.846 to 51).
Lit.: Ludwig Grote, 'Die Brüder Olivier und die deutsche Romantik', Berlin, 1999 (first ed. 1938), pp. 246-47; Christie's sale catalogue, 'Old Master and Early British Drawings and Watercolours', 30 January 2014, no. 61 (unsold)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2018-2019, Oct 4 – 27 Jan, London, BM G90, Recent Acquisitions: Gozzoli to Kara Walker
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This drawing is one of eight by Friedrich Olivier acquired by the Albertina at the Boerner auction in 1939, and inscribed with inventory numbers 28273 to 28280 (the present work being 28276). On 8th March 2013, the advisory council concerned with the return of works from Austrian federal museums and collections recommended that the Austrian government’s Federal Ministry for Education, Art and Culture return the eight works to the heirs of Marianne Schmidl, based on the evidence of the Commission for Provenance Research. The eight works were put up for sale at Christies New York in January 2014 but remained unsold; seven of the eight were returned to sale at Bassenge in May 2017, where the present drawing was acquired by Charles Booth-Clibborn and presented to the British Museum.
- Prints and Drawings
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