Autumn by Francesco Bassano (c. 1576)

Autumn by Francesco Bassano (c.1576)

Still at the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna

After looking around the Hans van Aachen exhibition (see yesterday’s post) I went to the wing of the gallery which housed the museum’s collection of Italian paintings and I came across works of art by a father and son, Jacopo and Francesco Bassano. 

Francesco Bassano the Younger, sometimes known as Francesco Giambattista da Ponte or Francesco da Ponte the Younger, was an Italian Renaissance painter who was born in Bassano del Grappa a town 50 miles north west of Venice in 1549.  He was the eldest of four sons and came from a family of painters, his father being the celebrated painter Jacopo Bassano and his grandfather, a village painter, Francesco da Ponte.  His three brothers, Leandro, Gerolamo and Giovanni Battista, like himself followed in the footsteps of their father and both Francesco and Leandro gained reputations as fine painters.

Francesco was trained in his father’s workshop in Bassano del Grappa between 1560 and 1570.  Later he moved to Venice and ran a branch of the family business.  Francesco the Younger had a penchant for rural scenes begun by his father, and he developed this aspect of the workshop.  Sadly, all his life, Francesco was prone to hypochondria and other mental illnesses and soon after his father’s death in 1592, he committed suicide

My Daily Art Display painting today is Autumn by Francesco Bassano, which hangs in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna.  He painted this rural scene around 1576.  Against a lush mountainous landscape, he illustrates a country scene with workers busy picking, collecting and crushing the harvested grapes.  In the left foreground are two oxen hauling a cart on which is a large wooden barrel.  Beside the animals is a young girl kneeling, drinking the grape juice.  The background of the picture has a hare, seen in mid flight, and a couple of dilapidated timber-framed thatched dwellings.  The theme for the majority of Francesco’s paintings, notwithstanding whether the theme was religious, mythological or allegorical, was almost always that of a rustic and contemporary setting and decor.

The subject matter of the painting, harvesting of the grapes, is obviously secular and yet there is also a subtle religious aspect to the painting for if one looks closely at the background on the left hand side one can just make out, on the top of a grassy mound, a kneeling man dressed in a white robe.  He is seen receiving an object from a godly figure in the sky who is reaching down from the illuminated cloud.   This god-like figure extends his hands towards the arms of the kneeling individual. The interpretation of this is that it is probable that this small scene depicts Moses receiving the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. This was a popular iconography during the Renaissance and it was not unusual to include the detail within a larger genre scene such as the harvest.

Have you a favourite painting which you would like to see on My Daily Art Display?  

If so, let me know and tell me why it is a favourite of yours and I will include it in a future offering.

Portrait of Emperor Rudolf II by Hans van Aachen

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has three floors.  The ground floor has collections of Greek and Roman Antiquities as well as a collection of Egyptian and Near Eastern artefacts.  The top floor is set aside for special collections and a large coin collection.  I concentrated on the middle floor which housed the art treasures.  On one side were the Dutch, Flemish and German paintings and on the other side hung the Italian, Spanish and French works of art.  A central section of this floor was set aside for special exhibitions.

The day I was at the museum the special exhibition was of the extraordinary art of the German painter Hans van Aachen.  In all there were 112 of his works on display.  This exhibition was the culmination of a three-museum tour as it had previously been at the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen the birthplace of the artist’s father.  Then it moved to the Castle Gallery in Prague before finally ending its tour in Vienna.

Hans van Aachen, a German Mannerist painter, was born in Cologne in 1552.  He, like so many of the northern European artists spent time in Italy.  He lived in Venice from 1574 to 1588 and during that period in Italy, spent time in Rome and Florence.  He returned to Germany in 1588 where he built a reputation as an exceptional portrait painter concentrating on paintings of the nobility.  In 1592 he became the official court painter of Rudolf II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.   In 1600 he went to live in Prague where he died, fifteen years later, aged 63.

My Daily Art Display painting for today is Emperor Rudolf II, a portrait by Hans van Aachen, which he painted in 1607

The Court Jester Gonella by Jean Fouquet

Interior of Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum

Just a short walk away from the Vienna Academy of Fine Art is the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is one of the largest museum/galleries in the world.  It was built in 1872 and was opened in 1891 by Emperor Franz-Joseph the ruler of the then dual Austria-Hungary monarchy.  It had been his wish to find a home for the Hapsburgs’ remarkable art collection.  The interior of this rectangular building, above which sits a massive octagonal dome, is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco ornamentations, gold leaf and paintings which make the interior a fabulous work of art itself.

The Court Jester Gonella by Jean Fouquet (c. 1440/1445)

The painting featured in today’s My Daily Art Display hangs in the museum.  It is The Court Jester Gonella by Jean Fouquet. 

Jean Fouquet was born in Tours around 1420 and is now acknowledged as the greatest fifteenth century French painter.  He was an exceptional panel painter and manuscript illuminator.  Although little is known of his early upbringing it is known he lived in Rome between 1443 and 1447 before returning to France where he became court painter to Louis XI. 

In the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm’s collection the painting was described as a portrait of a court jester known as Gonella but the portrait of a wily old man remains a mystery.  With his arms are tightly folded, his head tilted to one side he seems to have been squeezed into the picture.  The minutely detailed reproduction of his face complete with wrinkles stubble and reddened eyes is precise and often likened to portraiture by Jan van Eyck.  Here we have a fool acting the part of a simple peasant who is able to amuse the court with his crude jokes or his rough wisdom.

Boreas abducting Oreithyia by Peter Paul Rubens

On Saturday, despite the heavy snow, I trudged through the streets of Vienna to visit the Academy of Fine Arts.  The Academy was opened in 1688 as a private academy by Peter Strudel, the court painter to Emperor Leopold I.  In 1877 a new building was constructed, where it remains today.  In 1907 and again in 1908 a prospective art student applied to join this seat of artistic learning but failed on both occasions to pass the entrance exam.   The student’s name was Adolf Hitler. 

It has had university status since 1998, but has retained its original name. It is currently the only Austrian university that doesn’t have the word “university” in its name.   It offers almost one thousand students a variety of courses which range from painting and sculpture to photography and video, performance and conceptual art, and also includes architecture, scenography and restoration. 

The Picture Gallery of the Academy is Vienna’s oldest public art museum that, since 1877, has maintained its collection at the same location.  The gallery, as a whole, represents the sum of countless acts of patronage.  The major one being seven hundred and forty Old Masters from the painting collection of Count Lamberg, which was bequeathed upon his death in 1822.  

After its renovation and restructuring, the Fine Arts’ Gallery of Paintings was reopened in September and is now accessible to the public again.  It has a world ranking collection of European painting from the 14th to the 19th centuries.

Boreas abducting Oreithyia by Rubens (1615)

Today’s work of art for My Daily Art Display can be found at the Academy and is a painting by Peter Paul Rubens  circa 1615 entitled Boreas abducting Oreithyia,  part of the Lamberg bequest.  It is Rubens’s interpretation from an episode in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  Boreas, the Tracian god and ruler of the north wind, carries off the daughter of Erechteus, King of Athens, who had been refused as a bride for him……

“…..Boreas shook out the wings which, as he beats through the air, causes great gusts of wind to blow over the earth and shrouded in darkness, engulfed the panic stricken Oreithyia in his dusky winds….”

Die Windsbraut by Oskar Kokoschka

die Windsbraut by Oskar Kokoschka

Today I am composing my My Daily Art Display blog from Vienna.   I have bestowed upon myself an early Christmas present – a three day holiday in the Austrian city and with it, a chance to visit three of the city’s wonderful art galleries.  As I am in Austria, I thought it only right to feature an Austrian artist in today’s blog.  One of the country’s three most illustrious painters, along with Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, was Oskar Kokoschka, who was born in 1886 in Pochlarn, a small town on the Danube.  His father was a goldsmith from Prague and Oskar was his second of four sons.

Oskar graduated from a state school and then went to Vienna where he studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1909.  During that time, he also worked at The Vienna Workshops, at which in 1908 they published his book, Die Träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Youth).  His book, which as well as comprising of a number of his colour lithographs, was accompanied by some of his own poems.  Originally the book had been planned for children but the nature of some of his writings was deemed to be more suitable for adult readers.

In 1912, Kokoschka met Alma Mahler, the widow of the great composer Gustav.  Within a year of that first meeting they became inseparable.  The affair lasted for years but eventually their relationship deteriorated and their passion for one another waned and they began to drift apart.  Alma bargained with Kokoschka challenging him to paint a masterpiece for her and in return she would marry him.   Kokoschka was consumed with this task and the “reward” at its completion. 

The painting, die Windsbraut, (The Tempest) was one of his most famous works, which now hangs in the Kunstmuseum Basle.  The picture shows the lovers side by side sheltering from a ferocious storm.  His early preliminary sketches for this work show the bodies of the lovers almost as one, hand in hand but the final picture shows space between them and their hands apart.  Maybe Kokoschka, as time went by, realised that his relationship with Alma was coming to an end.  In the picture, whilst Alma looks peaceful and contented, the face of Kokoschka is more pensive and shows signs of worry.  Was this because of the storm or was it his realisation that his beloved affair with Alma was doomed.  It is not a look of a lover’s satisfied contentment.  It is a sad look, almost one of bereavement – the death of the affair – the imminent loss of his soul mate.

Self Portrait with Model by Christian Schad (1927)

Self Portrait with Model by Christian Schad (1927)

Today’s work for My Daily Art Display is the first twentieth century painting I have showcased.  It is a painting by the German artist, Christian Schad.  He was born in 1894 in Miesbach a small town in Upper Bavaria, thirty miles south of Munich, a city, in which at twenty years of age Schad attended at the art academy.  At the onset of the First World War, he, being a pacifist, managed to simulate a heart problem in order to avoid military service. Furnished with a medical certificate so as to avoid military duties, he fled to Switzerland settling down for a time in Zurich and later in Geneva.  Zurich was the city in which the Dada movement started in 1916.   The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature – poetry, art manifestoes, art theory – theatre and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Its purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world. In addition to being anti-war, Dada was also anti-bourgeois and anarchistic in nature.  Schad found the aims of this movement to be similar to his own personal views and soon became a Dadaist.  After the war he left Switzerland and travelled to Italy where he resided until 1925.  In 1927 he and his Italian wife Marcella and three year old son Niklaus moved to Vienna but a year later, having separated from his wife, Schad returned to his homeland, settling in Berlin.  His paintings of the late 1920’s are closely associated with the New Objectivity art movement which arose in the early 20’s but ended with the rise of Nazi power.

Self Portrait with Model, an oil on wood work, was painted by Christian Schad in 1927 and is currently to be seen at the Tate Modern, on loan from a private collector.  A narcissus, indicating vanity, leans towards the artist. The woman’s face is scarred with a freggio, inflicted on Neapolitan women by their lovers to make them unattractive to others. It is a startling emblem of the potential violence underlying male possession of the female body.

This is considered to be one of his Schad’s masterpieces.

 Schad died aged 87 in Stuttgart.

The Isenheim Altarpiece

The Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Grünewald (1515)


Many years ago I took a driving holiday in France and drove along the Alsatian wine route from Strasbourg to Colmar, where I stayed for a few days…   At this time in my life I was more interested in experiencing the joys of good weather and good wine and the thrill of discovering of new lands.   Sadly fine art was not foremost in my mind, as if it had been; I would have been able to have discovered for myself one of the greatest altarpieces known to the world – the Isenheim Altarpiece

This magnificent work of art which was painted for the Monastery of St Anthony in Isenheim, near Colmar, can now be found displayed at the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar.  The Isenheim Altarpiece or retable is a polyptich composed of nine panels mounted on two sets of folding wings. The outer set consists of the Crucifixion with the Entombment below it and is flanked by St. Anthony and St. Sebastian. The inner set displays the Annunciation, the concert of Angels, the Nativity, and the Resurrection. The innermost panels, flanking a carved wooden shrine to St. Anthony, are St. Anthony and St. Paul in the Wilderness and the Temptation of St. Anthony. All three central panels are split in the middle to facilitate the changing of scenes.

This work of art is a collaboration of sculpture and painting.  The former was created by Niclaus of Hagenau and the latter, the actual paintings, were done by the German painter Matthias Grünewald.  The altarpiece was taken apart during the French revolution and is now shown as separate paintings.

For My Daily Art Display today I decided to show just one facet of the magnificent altarpiece – a realistic but horrific depiction of the Crucifixion scene.  Grünewald decided that the end justified the means in his attempt to gain the attention of spectators and move them by the unattractiveness and misshapenness of the body of Christ, with limbs twisted and hands distorted, racked in pain and writhing in agony.  The skin of the Christ figure has a grey-green tone to it and is covered with wounds.  It is a heart-rending scene and one that was rarely shown in works of art of the time.   

 On the left is the Virgin Mary being comforted by St John the Apostle while Mary Magdalene is seen kneeling in the foreground.  On the right is John the Baptist appearing to say: “Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui “(John 3:30) ‘He must become greater, I must become less’

Death of Marat by Jaques-Louis David

Death of Marat by Jaques-Louis David (1793)


Today’s featured artist is another French Neoclassical painter.  Jaques-Louis David was born in 1748 in Paris and is considered one of the foremost painters of his time.  From the age of nine, after his father was killed in a duel, he went to live with his wealthy uncles who ensured he had the best education.

He was a highly political being and actively supported the French Revolution and counted Robespierre, one of the best-known and most influential figures of the Revolution, as one of his friends.  His influence with Robespierre allowed him to almost be a dictator of the arts under the new French Republic.   However, the downside of such a close friendship was the fact that with the fall from power of Robespierre, came David’s fall from favour, which landed him in prison.  After his release his interest in politics continued and he became a supporter of Napoleon I.

My Daily Art Display features David’s Death of Marat which he painted in 1793 and can be found in the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts in Brussles.  It is considered by many as his greatest work.  The oil on canvas painting depicts the assassination of the revolutionary journalist and member of the National Assembly, Jean-Paul Marat.  In that same year, Marat was killed as he lay in his bath by the young anarchist Charlotte Corday, who had come to Marat on the pretence of giving him a list of people who should be executed as enemies of France.  The picture shows Marat dying, clutching the list on which can be seen Corday’s name.   Corday blamed Marat for his part in the September Massacres which occurred the previous year leading to the death of over a thousand people.

Jaques Louis David , on completion of the painting, handed it over to the National Convention saying:

Citizens, the people were again calling for their friend; their desolate voice was heard: David, take up your brushes.., avenge Marat… I heard the voice of the people. I obeyed.”

The painting of Marat is somewhat romanticised as it shows a flawless skin when in fact for the last three years of his life Marat suffered from a disfiguring skin condition.   In John Adolphus’s  Biographical Anecdotes of the Founders of the French Republic published in 1799 he describes Marat  as  a man “short in stature, deformed in person, and hideous in face”

Marat suffered extreme pain caused by this disease which could only be soothed slightly by immersing his body in the bath.

The Battle of Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer

The Battle of Alexander at Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer (1529)

Albrecht Altdorfer was a German painter, born in Amberg, Germany around 1480   He was a German painter, printmaker, draughtsman and  architect of the Renaissance era, the leader of the Danube School in southern Germany, and a near-contemporary of  Albrecht Dürer.  He is best known as a significant pioneer of landscape in art.  His early works was influenced by Lucas Cranach.  His patrons included Maximillian I and Louis X, the duke of Bavaria, who commissioned today’s painting.  

My Daily Art Display today is Altdorfer’s Battle of Issus which he painted in 1529 and now hangs in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.  This is said to be the greatest picture ever created by a German artist with its apocalyptic scene,  the whirlpool of action of the two huge armies and dazzling light effects of the sky on the over-elaborate  landscape.  This picture depicts the battle between Alexandra the Great, who is centre left in the painting riding a chariot hauled by three white horses, and the Persian Emperor Darius.  This painting formed part of a large series of famous battle pieces from classical antiquity.

The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix

The Death of Sardanapulus by Eugène Delacroix (1827)

Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was born in Charenton–St-Maurice near Paris in April 1798.   Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school.   As an artist he was inspired by the works of Rubens and the Venetian Renaissance painters, Mantegna, Giorgione and Titian.  Baudelaire the writer and art critic said of Delacroix “Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible

My painting for today is one that hangs in the Louvre entitled Death of Sardanapalus which Delacroix painted in 1827.   This massive canvas features the defeated Assyrian ruler Sardanapalus propping himself up on a large bed on which a naked woman prostrates herself begging for mercy.   Sardanapalus, on learning that his armies had been defeated, ordered that his possessions were to be destroyed and that his sex slaves were to be murdered before immolating himself.