The Staatsgalerie Stuttgart is one of several museums in Germany privileged to present a substantial number of Italian paintings to its visitors. However, the paintings on exhibit represent only a narrow selection of about a third of the Italian paintings in the collection. The full collection comprises a small number of early Gothic works, several Renaissance and Mannerist pieces, and an impressive group of works from the 17th and 18th century, which itself accounts for more than half of the Italian paintings on hand. This strong focus on baroque art might be taken to suggest that the Stuttgart collection is one of the several richly traditional collections north of the Alps that owe their existence to a ruling prince’s passion for pictures. Yet, although quite concerned with outward representation and a man of decidedly »baroque-mercantile« persuasions, Prince Carl Eugen von Württemberg (r. 1744-1793) was never as avid a collector as August III in Dresden, for example, or Bishop-Prince Lothar Franz von Schönborn in Mainz.
The collection of more than 400 paintings owned by Count Gustav Adolf von Gotter (1692-1762) was acquired for Schloß Ludwigsburg in 1736 - a body of works that would form the foundation for the Gallery. Gotter’s collection contained only a few noteworthy paintings by Italian masters, however. Nor did the brief existence of the Hohe Carlsschule, precedessor of the Académie des Arts founded in 1761, have an appreciable impact on the acquisition of Italian paintings for the Ducal Gallery in Ludwigsburg. The situation in which Nicolas Guibal - court painter, academy professor and director of the Ducal Gallery - found himself at the time bore the indelible imprint of the classicist doctrine propagated by such figures as Mengs and Winckelmann. This influence remained evident in Stuttgart even during Dannecker’s years as Gallery supervisor and did not wane appreciably during the next few generations. We still associate this era of local museum and art acquisition history with the traumatic experience of the loss of the widely famous Boisserée collection, which had previously been housed in Stuttgart.
Apparently, however, the very same considerations that ultimately led to the departure of these excellent paintings by early Dutch and German masters continued to suppress the impulse to acquire Italian paintings well into the 1840s. During the uneasy years preceding the Revolution of 1848, the King preferred to decorate his own royal quarters in appropriately soldierly taste with provocatively painted odalisques. The departure of the Boisserée brothers’ saints from the former officers’ pavilion on Königstraße for their new home in Catholic Munich had left Stuttgart with a virtually empty building, its walls puritanically bare. Yet new visions of a public collection of paintings gradually began to emerge among bougeois circles, culminating eventually in the founding of the »Staatsgalerie« in a new building on Neckarstraße in 1843, the year in which it was also given its name. Indeed, the preceding years had witnessed signs of a new approach in occasional purchase of paintings by some of the best-known Italian masters. Soon, several works attributed to Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, Titian, Perugino, and even Carracci and Reni adorned the walls of the gallery. Of the paintings from Italy acquired during the period, the museum now has about 50 - albeit no longer attributed to such resounding names. Probably the most noteworthy of these are Frau Bartolomeo’s fragmentary »Coronation of the Virgin« and Mattia Preti’s large »Christ and the Woman from Canaan«.
The origins of the present Italian collection at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart can be traced almost as far as these early founding years, and, to a certain extent, it owes its existence in the present to the failure to acquire the Boisserée collection. In the climate of debate with respect to Stuttgart’s role as a cultural centre that was already emerging at the time, many saw a need to compensate for this lost opportunity. The purchase in 1852 of a private collection, the Venetian Pinacoteca Barbini-Breganze comprising nearly 250 primarily Italian paintings, laid the essential groundwork for future collection activity. The Barbini-Breganze paintings were presented as a gift to the Stuttgart gallery by King Wilhelm I on the occasion of his own birthday. Even Sulpiz Boisserée, who had heard about the strange discoveries of old, overpainted pictures during the course of restoration work in Stuttgart, travelled from Munich to see these paintings. Works by Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio, Pietro della Vecchia’s »The Tribute Money«, Renieri’s »Vanity-Pandora«, Strozzi’s »St. Catherine of Alexandria« and Giambattista Tiepolo’s draft for the ceiling fresco at the royal residence in Würzburg came from this collection, which, with a total of 195 paintings, remains the largest single complex within the Italian Painting section today.
The northern Italian masters, and the Venetians in particular, account for a nearly three-quarters of these works - a relatively large proportion, yet understandable in light of the collection’s origin. With the acquisition of the Pinacoteca Barbini-Breganze, which contained some Renaissance and Mannerist paintings and was heavily weighted (60 %) towards baroque and rococo works, the cornerstone for the collection focus still in evidence in the Italian section today was laid at this quite early date - an unusual circumstance in those times but one which nonetheless had a shaping influence on future acquisition policy. In the years following the first appointment of an art historian as collection curator, the influence of classicist tastes, which had long exercised a determinative effect on purchasing activity, began to wane in Stuttgart as well, thus gradually making room for new acquisition concepts. We should not neglect to mention the generous bequest of Dr. h.c. Heinrich Scheufelen in 1948, which brought a considerable number of new, qualitatively significant paintings to the Italian section as well. Most noteworthy among the 31 Italian paintings from the Scheufelen estate are the works of baroque painters. Within the context of the historical focus already established through the Barbini-Breganze acquisition, the existing collection was significantly enriched by the addition of works by such artists as Strozzi, Celesti, Maffei and Grassi, not to mention three paintings by Luca Giordano, as well as those of several Renaissance painters.
The previously rather modest inventory of early Italian paintings was also substantially enhanced through Dr. Scheufelen’s bequest, which included the two fragments of altar screens by Rosello di Jacopo Franchi and a small painting by a painter from the circle of artists associated with Bernardo Daddi. This period in Italian painting deserves particular mention, as the history of the collection of early Italian painting at the Staatsgalerie is rather unusual. The first valuable Gothic panel painting purchased from an art dealer in 1862 was a depiction of the vision of Emperor Augustus, a work originally attributed to Paolo Veneziano on the basis of the signature. Thus nearly a generation later, at a time when early Italian paintings were being collected avidly in Altenburg by Bernhard August von Lindenau, in Cologne by Johann Anton Ramboux and in Munich under King Ludwig I, just such a work was acquired in Stuttgart as well - and remained the only painting from this early stylistic epoch of Italian art in Stuttgart until 1948. Thus the now quite substantial proportion of paintings from that era cannot be attributed to the rediscovery of the passion for collecting. Although greater attention was not devoted to this period in the history of Italian painting until more than 100 years later, a quite respectable collection has nonetheless been established in the meantime.
Two factors played a determining role in this development, and both relate to one and the same person. The first post-war exhibition of »Early Italian Paintings« in 1950 - a show that gained widerspread international recognition - represented a milestone in the development of collection policy. Baron Gerhard von Preuschen, then Chairman of the Galerieverein, under whose auspices the exhibition was realised, became one of the most influential advocates of this new field of collection in Stuttgart. Several spectacular purchases helped elevate the quality of the existing collection to a quite respectable level. Three of the most important works of the period came to Stuttgart with the acquisition of the painted crucifix of an unknown Florentine master and the two paintings known as the »Erbach Panels«, scenes of the Apocalypse reminiscent of Giotto’s lost paintings in Naples. In 1971 Baron von Preuschen’s bequest alone put the Staatsgalerie in possession of the thirty-six more early Italian paintings, which were not actually transferred to Stuttgart until after the death of the Baroness in 1993, however. The most significant works from this collection include Giovanni di Paolo’s »St. Christopher«, a large Madonna by Spinello Aretino and Niccolò die Segna’s small painting featuring three female saints.
The enormous expansion of the present collection of Italian paintings even in recent years through acquisitions of highly respectable works is surely primarily attributable to well-considered commitment on the part of the government and the legislature of the state of Baden-Württemberg. The decision to allocate funds from lottery earnings has enabled the museum to make significant purchase since 1958. The sheer number of paintings added to the Italian section during the past thirty-four years (some 167 works) - whether as loans, gifts and bequests or through purchase - attest to the positive impact of the aforementioned resolution on acquisitions in general. It is not possible to list here all of the purchase made during this period. In keeping with the existing collection structure, however, the acquisition policy after the 1970s has focused upon baroque and rococo art, bringing to Stuttgart such works as the paintings of Magnasco, Amigoni and Crespi and Canaletti’s view of the city of Dolo on the Brenta, which came to the Staatsgalerie as a gift of the Daimler Benz Corporation on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the museum’s founding. The Staatsgalerie Stuttgart possesses more Italian baroque paintings than any other comparable-sized collection of paintings in Germany. Although several great names are still missing - Caravaggio, Reni, Guercino, Piazzetta or Guardi, for example - the distinctive character of this particular collection is revealed above all in the works of artists who are underrepresented (if they are represented at all) elsewhere - in the paintings of Crosato, Faccini or Falciatore, to mention only a few.
Credit for the success of purchasing activity over the past 30 years is also due in large measure to the directors who served during this period. It was not until after the Second World War and the institution of a sensible acquisition policy, which one may hope will be pursued in the future as well, that the museum succeeded in liberating itself - often in the face of vehement resistance to the purchase of modern works - from the stubborn local shackles of Stuttgart intellectual classicism. And the effect of that newly won freedom on all areas of collection at the Staatsgalerie has been very positive. In numbers alone, the group of Italian paintings acquired during this period approaches the magnitude of the original Barbini-Breganze acquisition. In qualitative terms, the Italian collection at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart has advanced to become one of the most important of its kind in Germany. [ Rv ]
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