Johann Heinrich Schönfeld »Reclining River God«, 1629, pen and brown ink, grey-blue wash, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
The Department of Prints and Drawings of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart has the world’s largest holdings of drawings by Schönfeld and his studio and is therefore in a position to trace the artist’s development from his beginnings as an apprentice painter and journeyman in Stuttgart to his late work. Most of the drawings were produced for his own use, as preparatory studies for compositions in oil or to work out the often complex movements of his principal figures.
Little known is the fact that Schönfeld was blind in his left eye and could work with his left hand only. His drawings preserve evidence of his left-handedness, for example in the more perfectly traced arches towards the right and in the direction of his hatching from top left to bottom right.
After his return from Italy, Schönfeld settled in Augsburg in 1652 and quickly established himself as a successful painter, receiving commissions from the Church and prominent patrons. Augsburg had long been a centre of print production and Schönfeld expanded his creative practice to include etchings. In order to bring his paintings to a wider audience, he worked with a number of highly qualified engravers and etchers. The trial proofs with Schönfeld’s corrections in brush or pen and ink provide a fascinating insight into this fruitful collaboration, for example the unique trial proof of the engraving »Saul and Samuel`s Ghost invoked by the Witch of Endor« with its eerie light effects. It was executed by Gabriel Ehinger, an employee in Schönfeld’s workshop, but corrected and supplemented by the master himself. It depicts a macabre scene from the Old Testament (I Samuel 28: 4–25): In the war against the Philistines, Saul, king of the Israelites, pays a clandestine visit to a woman who has the power to conjure up the dead. He requests that she bring up the judge Samuel, so that the latter might advise him on how best to defeat the Philistines.
The Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen marked the 400th birthday of Johann Heinrich Schönfeld with an exhibition devoted to the artist’s paintings: ›Johann Heinrich Schönfeld – World of Gods, Saints and Heroic Myths‹, 16 October 2009 – 7 February 2010. The exhibitions in Friedrichshafen and Stuttgart are accompanied by a shared catalogue, available in the museum shop for 39,90 Euro.
Further paintings by Schönfeld are on display in the Baroque Gallery of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart at the Ludwigsburg Palace.
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