Munich , Rome, Venice, Augsburg – these are the cities in which the artist Hans Rottenhammer, born in Munich in 1564, spent much of his life. After an apprenticeship with the Munich court painter Hans Donauer he went to Italy in 1589, as did many ambitious young artists of the time. First to Venice to gain inspiration from the masters of the Venetian school, then in 1594 to Rome, where his main priority was the art of drawing. The opportunity for doing this was provided both by ancient sculptures as well as by the famous Accademia di San Luca, where lessons in drawing with black and red chalk were a particular attraction.
Hans Rottenhammer, Venus, Mars and Vulkan, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
In Rome Rottenhammer made a reputation as a figure painter and became acquainted with the Flemings Paul Bril and Jan Brueghel the Elder, both well-known artists, who were looking for a competent figure painter for their small-size landscapes on copper-plate. The collaboration with Paul Bril and Jan Brueghel continued well beyond the time they spent together in Rome.
Despite his success Rottenhammer returned to Venice in 1595 to set up his own workshop there for small-size painting on copper. A year later he married the Venetian woman Elisabetta de Fabris. Hans Rottenhammer was at the zenith of his career.
Hans Rottenhammer and Jan Brueghel the Elder, Diana and Aktaion,
Rottenhammer’s paintings are characterised by elegant figures radiating a sensual erotic charm. They captivate the viewer with their balanced composition, a masterly atmosphere of colour and their great attention to the finest detail.
Rottenhammer’s recipe for success consisted in adapting well-known motifs of the Venetian school of painting, rearranging them und transforming them to a small format. The precious collector’s items – easy to carry and exquisitely executed – were highly sought after on the expanding European art market around 1600.
Hans Rottenhammer, Göttermahl, State Hermitage St. Petersburg
The increasing number of orders from the north, for example from Count Ernst von Holstein-Schaumburg, who ordered ceiling paintings for the Golden Chamber in Bückeburg Castle in 1605, may well have acted as an incentive to the artist to settle in Augsburg in 1606. His illustrious name secured him prominent contracts for churches in Augsburg and Munich. The Fugger numbered among his patrons as well as Duke Maximilian von Bayern. Rottenhammer’s time in Augsburg was however a time of personal decline. The excessive consumption of alcohol increasingly impaired his work; which intermittently ceased altogehther. In 1625 Rottenhammer died in Augsburg in poverty.
Hans Rottenhammer, Visitation, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg
With roughly 100 works the exhibition presents a fascinating picture of Rottenhammer’s oeuvre and of his epoch. 40 lending institutions from ten European countries contribute to its success, including the State Hermitage St. Petersburg, the Kunsthistorische Museum Vienna, the Musée du Petit Palais Paris, the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, the National Gallery London, the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana Milan, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Royal Belgian Museums Brussels, the Alte Pinakothek Munich, the State Museums Dresden and private collectors.
Hans Rottenhammer, Vanitas mundi, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Hans Rottenhammer, Tarquinius and Lucretia, Kupferstichkabinett Dresden
Hans Rottenhammer, Bacchus, Rijksprentenkabinet Amsterdam
Awaiting the visitor is a whole series of well-chosen highlights. Many exhibits are to be seen for the first time. Almost all the artist’s key works are shown: for example the famous Banquet of the Gods, that is thought to have once belonged to the collection of Emperor Rudolph II in Prague Castle, and the Coronation of the Virgin painted in Rome – the work that made Rottenhammer well-known. The exhibition has also been the occasion for having six of the artist’s paintings restored. Works of his pupil Hendrick van Balen alongside those of Jan Brueghel and Paul Bril convey a good impression of Rottenhammer’s influence throughout Europe .