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Old Masters, Allegory, Five Senses, Baumgartner, Blue Rococo, Set of 5 Antique Prints, Augsburg, c. 1750

Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner (1712-1761) (after)
Johann Philipp Koch (engraver)
Fünf Sinnen [Five Senses]
Verlag Koch, Augsburg: c. 1744-1757
Mezzotints printed in colors finished by hand
13 x 16.75 inches, plate mark
13.75 x 17.5 inches, overall

An exceptionally fine and rare complete set of five rococo prints — each of one of the five senses — composed by Austrian artist Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner. They are executed as mezzotints printed in primarily in blue and finished and heightened by hand — combining other tones including green, red and black. These highly elaborate allegories of hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight incorporate fanciful architectures and a mixture of contemporary and romantic figures of the aristocracy within landscape settings. The complex compositions combine overlapping scenes portraying different aspects of each sense within a spatial framework. The prints are each titled in German and Latin in a Baroque medallion lower center: Das Gehör. Auditus. [Hearing]; Der Geruch. Odor. [Smell]; Der Geschmack. Gustus. [Taste]; Das Gefühl. Tactus. [Touch] and Das Gesicht. Visus. [Vision]. On either side of each title are poems in four verses in German and Latin that relate to the activities portrayed in the print. The poems in four verses explore nature and philosophy, often with undercurrents of romance. The images range from the practical or uplifting (a man gazing through a telescope in Sight and a woman holding a baby in Touch) to the humorous (a dog sniffing another dog’s behind in Smell and the raucous banquet in Taste).

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Description

Author Franz Reitinger wrote a book in 2016 about the vogue for blue toned art and decorative objects in Germany in the mid 18th Century: Die Blaue Epoche: reductive Farbigkeit im Rokoko [The Blue Epoch: Reductive Color in the Rococo]. According to Reitinger, Baumgartner established himself as “the outstanding representative of poetic printmaking and a well-known exponent of Augsburg Rococo.”  Specifically Reitinger discussed  the half-dozen series of blue prints that Baumgartner produced for the engraver and publisher Johann Philipp Koch. These include the offered set The Five Senses, as well as series on The Continents, The Parable of the Prodigal Son, The Life of Abraham, and a series on the canals of Venice. According to Reitinger, these blue prints were among “the artistic highlights of the Blue Age” of rococo German printmaking. Reitinger refers to these blue prints with the German word for “cyanotype” meaning a blue print, a term more commonly used today describe certain blue-toned photographs.

Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner was an Austrian painter, draftsman and engraver in the Rococo style, based in Augsburg, Germany. He began as a painter on glass, but also was a prolific draftsman, leaving behind hundreds of detailed drawings, often on tinted paper and in a large scale, to be engraved by Augsburg publishers such as Kilian, who helped launch his career in Augsburg, as well as by the firms of Klauber, Engelbrecht, and Koch. His facility with reverse glass painting translated well to the blue printing process which became popular in Augsburg in the 1740s. He also made designs in oil on canvas for engravings. He initially painted landscapes but went on to become a noted painter of architectural and religious subjects. Baumgartner executed frescoes for the churches of Gersthofen and Eggenhausen in the vicinity of Augsburg and worked at the Meersburg Palace. His works are in museums around the world, including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, but perhaps the largest collection of his works is in the Tyrolean State Museum in Innsbruck, Austria.

The following are rough translations from German to English of the verses on each print:

Hearing

In the resting stillness of night, hearing sharpens,
When the trumpet is silent, when the drums do not move
You hear the quiet word and silent music more clearly.
Let it, if you want to be wise, lead you to the stillness.

Taste

Whatever mouth and throat tastes, sensuality seeks,
She wants to enjoy the taste of food and drink:
But desire often in reluctance lies.
Ah, but notice the heart in sweet sensuality there.

Smell

The sweet breath of flowers refreshes mind and nose,
When their leaves blow the balsam dust to us.
And where in rose bushes of pure virtue grows,
There remains the smell of praise that her grace deserves.

Touch

What we are sensitive to can also be felt,
The cold feels the skin of the back bite and blow.
As a soft bed may feel to the lazy.
O some would not want to play with the tricks of the heart.

Sight

Whatever heaven, earth, art, or nature mean,
Discover the vision of the observable world,
It is wily, it sees, it thinks: this is not bad
So think of it all as purely child’s play.

Publication credits on each print: Baumgartner pinx. Ioh. Ph. Koch exc. A.V.

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with some remaining toning, wear, handling. Outer dimensions of sheets vary slightly, but can be matted and framed the same size as a set.

References:

“Baumgartner, Johann Wolfgang.” Oxford Art Online. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T006986 (11 November 2020).

Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. ßance: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 1, p. 476. Vol. 5, p. 262.

Reitinger, Franz. Die Blaue Epoche: reductive Farbigkeit im Rokoko. Berlin: Lukas Verlag, 2016. pp. 69-72, 292. Online at Google Books: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Die_blaue_Epoche/IUSlDQAAQBAJ (11 November 2020).

Footnotes:

German verse on Auditus:
In stiller Ruh und Nacht, je Schärfer das Gehör,
Wan die Trompete schweigt, die Paucken sich nicht rühren
Hört man das leise wort und Stille Music mehr.
Lass, wan du klug willst seyn, dich zu der Stille führen.

German verse on Gustus:
Was Maul u Gurgel schmeckt, das sucht die Wollust auf,
Dan sie will den Geschmack mit Speiß u Tranck vergnügen:
Sicht aber ihre Lust offt in der Unlust ligen.
Ach merckte doch das Herz in süßer Wollust drauf.

German verse on Odor:
Der Blumen süsser Hauch erquicket Geist und Nasen,
Wan seine Blätter uns den Balsam Dust zublasen.
Und woe in Rosenbusch von reiner Tugend grunt,
Bleibt der Geruch des Lobs, den ihre Huld verdient.

German verse on Tactus:
Was uns empfindlich ist, das läßet sich auch fühlen,
Die Kälte fühlt die Häut der Rücken Biß und Schlag.
So wie ein weiches Bett der Faule fühlen mag.
O möchte mancher nicht mit Herzens Stichen Spielen.

German verse on Visus:
Was Himel, Erde, Kunst, Natur gemeines halt,
Entdecket das Gesicht der aufmerksamen Welt,
Es List, es sicht, es denckt: ist dieses nicht badey
So glaubt, daß alles nu rein Spiel der Kinder sey.

Additional information

Century

18th Century