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Title Virgin and Child with the Infant Baptist
Collection Grosvenor Museum, Chester
Artist Attributed to König, Johann (German painter, 1586-1642)
Previously attributed to German School
Date Earliest probably about 1610
Date Latest probably about 1630
Description The authorship of this small devotional work has been disputed. Several German and Flemish artists produced small scale works, often on copper, in which a religious scene is set in a landscape, a developing genre during the early seventeenth century. Several of these artists also spent time in Italy and were influenced by Alpine and Italian scenery as a result. In this picture Italian cypress, sycamore, poplar, silver birch and wild thyme have been identified. It is currently attributed to the Augsburg-born König who visited Venice soon after 1606 and was in Rome 1610-16.
Current Accession Number 1967.114
Subject religion (Virgin and Child, St John the Baptist)
Measurements 28.2 x 22 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material oil on metal (copper)
Acquisition Details Transferred form Chester Free Public Library 1920.
Provenance Miss Anne Topham; given to the Chester Free Library 1879
Publications http://www.chester.gov.uk/main.asp;page=2380, 16 July 2007.

In the original accession record this work is attributed to an artist of the School of Rottenhammer. David Scrase (Fitzwilliam Museum), thought that the painting was not by Rottenhammer but more likely to be by Jan Pynas or someone around Johann König. Keith Andrews (National Gallery of Scotland) thought that the landscape certainly looked very close to König and that the figures could well be by his hand too. The attribution to König was confirmed by Malcolm Waddingham, who pointed out revealing comparisons in the following works: for the child Jesus and the infant St John, the putti in the four panels depicting the seasons by König (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum); the Toilet of Bathsheba, (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum) contains similar female heads; and the signed and dated 1616 series of classical and Christian allegories (Munich, Schloss Nymphenburg) has similar stylistic qualities and helps to provide an approximate date for the Chester painting.

Johann (or Hans) König, a German painter and miniaturist, was born in 1586 probably in Augsburg. He was working at Augsburg about 1600 as an apprentice to Rottenhammer, and painted for the Town Hall of that city a Last Judgement and the Story of Ananias and Sapphira. He was in Venice after 1606 and was in Rome from 1610-16. He also lived at Nuremberg. The majority of König's oeuvre consists of small cabinet paintings, often painted on copper, in a miniaturist style and technique developed during the artist's sojourn to Rome when he came into contact with the work of Paul Bril and Adam Elsheimer whose attention to detail and lighting effects had an enduring effect on König's work. In Nachrichten von Franckfurter Künstlern und Kunst-Sachen, Frankfurt, 1780, p.25, Hüsgen reported that the signature had been removed from one of König's pictures because it was wished to make it seem like one of Elsheimer's. Several of König's works are dependent on Elsheimer, whom he must have met in Rome, in terms of interpretation and layout, but König's work generally lacks the excessively detailed execution of the overall layout and colouring evident in Elsheimer's work.

The painting received conservation at the North Western Museum and Art Gallery Service, Manchester (1965-67) and by J. France at the Walker Art Gallery (1978-1984), who provided a conservation report. In this report is mentioned 'a pattern of fine gold lines which originally delineated areas of drapery'. The losses were considered too extensive to be able to reconstruct this detailing. Painted in a miniaturist style, the overall appearance of the work suggests that it was painted for private devotional purposes rather than for a church.

Rights Owner Grosvenor Museum, Chester
Author Lisa Howard



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