Joachim von Sandrart and the “Teutsche Academie”

The author

Portrait of Joachim von Sandrart from the “Teutsche Academie”
Portrait of Joachim von Sandrart from the “Teutsche Academie”

The painter and art writer Joachim von Sandrart (1606–1688) was an exceedingly versatile, gifted, productive and, thanks to the ramified trade connections of his family, cosmopolitan personality. As the son of a wealthy Calvinist family originating from Wallonia who had to flee the catholic Habsburg family from Valenciennes in 1602, Sandrart was born on May 21, 1606 in Frankfurt am Main. The influence, international connections and wealth of his clcose family allowed him to pursue a extensive artistic education under the best-known teachers in Europe. He received his first artistic stimuli under Sebastian Stoskopff in Frankfurt, learned the trade of graphical arts under Aegidius Sadeler in Prague and continued from there to Utrecht, where he started working in Gerrit van Honthorst’s studio in 1625. One highlight of his first period in the Netherlands was when he met Peter Paul Rubens.

The close connections between Utrecht and Rome, Sandrart’s meeting with Rubens and his desire to study ancient architecture and sculpture helped Sandrart make the decision to set off on a journey to Italy with his cousin and mentor, Michel le Blon, in 1629. On the journey there, they stopped in Venice, where they met Johann Liss. In the same year, they travelled via Bologna to Rome, where the Middle Baroque art scene was celebrating its first triumphs with Pietro da Cortona and Gianlorenzo Bernini. He acquired the new style of the baroque, which was focussed on classical ideals, by following Domenichino’s example. In addition, he associated with Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, did drawings with Andrea Sacchi and Pietro Testa and made contact with the Schildersbent. A journey to Naples, Malta and Messina led him to Ribera, Artimisia Gentileschi and Stanzione as well as to Caravaggio’s monumental Beheading of St John the Baptist. From 1632 onwards, he lived in the Palazzo Giustiniani, evidently as the curator of its collection of paintings primarily and as the organiser of the “Galleria Giustiniani”, a comprehensive set of copper engravings copied from antiquities, for which he, Theodor Matham and Cornelis Bloemaert delivered the templates.

In early 1635, Sandrart left Rome and travelled via Basle to Frankfurt, which at that time was experiencing the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War. During his two-year stay there, he produced primarily portraits, including the Portrait of Johann Maximilian The Younger, but also the pudica Moonscape with Cupid and Venus, which was inspired by Elsheimer. In 1637, he married Johanna Milkau, daughter of a rich banker who owned the Stockau estate near Augsburg. In the same year, he left Frankfurt and moved to Amsterdam with his wife. As the most important intermediary in social matters it was once again Le Blon who facilitated his access to the Amsterdam patriciate and thus to his first picture commissions. The Portrait of the Prince-Elector Maximilian of Bavaria led to a commission for twelve labours of the months for the Schleissheim Palace in 1642. Before returning to Germany, he travelled to Antwerp in 1645, where Rubens’ altarpieces made a long-lasting artistic impression on him. In the same year, his father-in-law died and left Sandrart and his wife the stately residence in Stockau, their new home as of 1645. The next few years were dominated by the rebuilding of the property and its management, which was often difficult, as wells as by numerous significant commissions for church altars, for example for Wurzburg cathedral (1646), Bamberg cathedral (1651), St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna (1653) and Lambach Minster, where the extensive decorations kept him busy until 1661.

On the occasion of the banquet in Nuremberg on September 25, 1649 with Count Palatine Charles Gustav of Sweden and the Imperial States, he painted the Peace Banquet as his first significant official commission. In 1653, he was ennobled and made a member of the Palatinate-Neuburg Council; in the years that followed, he produced in Vienna the portraits of Emperor Ferdinand III., the Roman king Ferdinand IV. and Archduke Leopold, which also brought him the Austrian peerage. The final important honour was his admittance to the Fruitbearing Society in 1676.

From the mid 1660s, Sandrart devoted himself increasingly to his work as an art theorist and teacher. He played an important role in the founding of the academies of art in Nuremberg (1662) and Augsburg (1670). Against the background of his great wealth of artistic experience, he began to write the Teutsche Academie with the help of the poet and publicist Sigmund von Birken in 1668; this work was published in three volumes between 1675 and 1680 in Nuremberg. Thus, he created a book of both imposing and vivid scope, which radiated out into the entire empire and set new benchmarks among artists and their critics.

The Book

Title page of the “Teutsche Academie”, Nuremberg 1675
Title page of the “Teutsche Academie”, Nuremberg 1675

Joachim von Sandrart’s publications are among the most important source texts of the early modern period. Over the centuries, they were internationally received by artists and academics. In 1675, the first part of the Teutsche Academie der Edlen Bau- Bild- und Mahlerey-Künste was published in Nuremberg; the author dedicated it to the “heroes of art and art-lovers” (meaning the artists and art collectors of his day). The book was structured according to the model already used by Giorgio Vasari in his biographies: The theory of the three arts precedes the biographies of the artists. The second part, published in 1679, expands the theoretical works on the genres with extensive antiquarian descriptions. A translation of the Ovid Metamorphoses paraphrase by Karel van Mander was included in this volume. In 1680, Sandrart finally published a new translation of Vincenzo Cartari’s Imagini de i Dei de gli antichi with new illustrations as a supplement to his work. To give international readers access to his Teutsche Academie, Sandrart arranged for Latin editions of the three arts starting in 1680: Sculpturae veteris admiranda (1680), Academia nobilissimae artis pictoriae (1683) – which included numerous important additions to the biographies—and the Romae antiquae et novae theatrum (1684).

Sandrart’s art literary writings cover a wide spectrum of topics: They range from generic papers about ancient architecture and sculpture, through the theory of and role models for painting, taking in the biographies of ancient and modern artists from various countries, which also include a comprehensive biography of Sandrart, and descriptions of the art collections and treasuries of his day, up to two iconographic writings, the translations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Cartari’s mythographic handbook. Born in 1606 as the son of Dutch emigrants in Frankfurt, Sandrart’s life took him to the art metropolises of Europe and turned his texts, with their first-hand reports on artists, works of art, and collections, into a work of European dimensions.

Joachim von Sandrart owed the publication of the first part of the Teutsche Academie to the fact that he was admitted to the “Fruitbearing Society” on April 28, 1676 as the “Gemeinnützige” (The Charitable); this literary society was founded in 1617 by Duke Ludwig of Anhalt-Köthen based on the example set by the Florentine “Academia della Crusca” and had the objective of cultivating and refining the German language.
In the final decades of his life, the artist’s authoring activities became increasingly important. These benefited from his lifelong exchange with scholars, poets and publishers. Accordingly, Sandrart’s Teutsche Academie turned out to be an arrangement of text quotations which are commented, complemented by his own experience or new knowledge and, above all, enriched with numerous copper engravings. During the writing of the text, he was supported by the Nuremberg poet Sigmund von Birken, who oversaw the editorial side of the task.

As source texts, Sandrart used Giorgio Vasari’s Lives and the Schilder-Boeck by Karel van Mander as well as numerous texts about individual artists (for example the manuscript by Johann Neudörffer containing the Nachrichten über Künstler und Werkleute in Nürnberg (Account of Artists and Workmen in Nuremberg) from 1547) and about special areas of art and archaeology (16th century publications such as Sebastiano Serlio’s Regole generali di Architettura and Andrea Palladio’s Quattro Libri dell’Architettura as well as the latest publications of his day, for example, Alessandro Donati, Roma vetus ac recens, Rome 1638; Giovanni A. Canini, Iconografia cioè disegni d’imagini de’ famosissimi monarchi, regi, filosofi, poeti ed oratori dell’antichità, cavati … da frammenti de marmi antichi, 1669; Charles Patin, Relations historiques et curieuses de voyages en Allemagne, Angleterre, Hollande etc, 1676; Caspar Bartholinus, De tibiis veterum et earum antiquo usu libri tre, 1679, to name just a few). The Teutsche Academie is the result of reading, compiling and interpreting academic knowledge in accordance with the understanding of scholarship in the 17th century and also the result of intensive discussions with poetry-writing contemporaries. This identifies Sandrart as a typical polyhistor as defined by Juan Luis Vives (De disciplinis, 1531), equipped with experience of life, ancestral role models and knowledge of the present day.

As the first encyclopaedic art history in German, as an anthology on the basics of artistic education, which included a translation of specialist literature from Dutch, French and Italian into German, this work complied with the ideals of the “Fruitbearing Society” and the beliefs of the “Pegnitz Order of Flowers”, a literary society of which Sandrart was not a member, although he was close to some of the members. Sandrart’s deliberations and desire to put his own experiences in the art metropolises of Europe, above all in “flourishing” Italy, to use for the benefit of his country and to harmonize them with the representatives of his own nation (painters such as Dürer, Grünewald and Elsheimer), were the same as the aims of both societies. These common objectives and principles—the ideals from the ancient world, the longing for a prospering art production and the competition with other European countries—can be found both in the Teutsche Academie and in Sandrart’s paintings.