The German painter Adam Elsheimer is credited with a drawing preserved in the BNE

Madrid, Jun 25 (EFE) .- Researchers from the National Library of Spain, the Spanish University Foundation and the University of Valladolid have attributed the German painter to Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610) a drawing preserved among the BNE’s funds cataloged up to the date as anonymous.

As reported by the BNE in a statement this Friday, the drawing could be preparatory for a painting, now lost, of “Tobias and the Angel”, as can be seen from a print preserved in the British Museum in London.

Elsheimer made a series of representations of this scene during his stay in Rome between 1600 and 1610 and some of them were printed by his collaborator Hendrik Goudt in the well-known series “Little Tobías” (1608) and “Great Tobías” (1613 ).

The German Adam Elsheimer was one of the most influential but relatively little-known artists in European painting of the time. The fact that he only lived for 32 years together with the slowness with which he worked, makes the work that has been preserved very scarce since only 35 oil paintings survive.

However, his paintings and drawings strongly influenced his contemporaries, including Rubens, as well as Spanish artists of the Golden Age.

This drawing would be the first work attributed to Adam Elsheimer (Frankfurt, 1578-Rome, 1610) in the collection of drawings of the BNE, a fact that the library considers very relevant because the graphic corpus of this German artist living in Rome is very small and only a dozen autograph drawings are recognized.

The drawing now identified is dated between 1605-1610 and represents Tobias and the angel, an iconography that the artist developed in Rome in two prints that were engraved by his compatriot Count Hendrick Goudt in 1608 and 1613 respectively, explains the BNE.

The evidence of the attribution and the existence of this found version resides in a stamp dated around 1685 by the British engraver John Smith (1652-1743), which reproduces, down to the smallest detail, the composition of the BNE drawing, with the except for being recorded in reverse. In addition, the stamp contains the inscription “ællsheimer pinx”.

According to the BNE, this drawing clearly shares a vision of Elsheimer’s work as a whole: the gestures, movements and poses of the figures, the relationships between them and the use of the stage to evoke the mood, reflect a set of characteristics that they are repeated throughout his work.

Researchers have determined that the drawing was made by Elsheimer and not by any of the artists who worked alongside him, such as Hendrick Goudt, with whose works he has sometimes been confused by the use of the thick line with which they finished off the figures from his sketches.

However, it is a drawing that is characterized by spontaneity, and in which the treatment of the clothes is fluid. This lack of detail is not attributed to Goudt, who was more conscientious in his sketches. The importance of the identified drawing lies in the fact that it is possibly a preparatory drawing for a small-format painting, now disappeared, which was also printed around 1685 by John Smith.

In the BNE drawing, Tobías appears dragging the fish with his left hand, unlike other Elsheimer compositions, such as “Little Tobías”, today in Frankfurt, or the versions made by Goudt of the work of Elsheimer after his death in 1610 (“Great Tobias”, 1613), in which Tobias carries the fish under his arm.

The finding is part of the collaboration agreement between the BNE and the Spanish University Foundation in order to study and identify the drawings of the Madrid school from the second half of the seventeenth century of the Department of Fine Arts and Cartography of the BNE.

The study by researchers Isabel Clara García-Toraño Martínez, Ángel Rodríguez Rebollo and Álvaro Pascual Chenel has been published in the prestigious magazine “The Burlington Magazine” (June 2021 issue).


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