Lot 10
  • 10

Joseph Anton Koch

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Joseph Anton Koch
  • Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen (heroic landscape with rainbow)
  • signed and dated J. Koch 1824 lower left

  • oil on canvas
  • 108.5 by 96cm., 42¾ by 37¾in.


Gustav Parthey (1798-1872; commissioned from the artist); thence by descent in his family
Sale: Christie's, London, 21 June 1991, lot 52
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Rome, Permanente Ausstellung deutscher Künstler, 1825
Berlin, Akademie-Ausstellung, 1826, no. 900
Berlin, Berliner Kunstausstellung, 1827
Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Joseph Anton Koch 1768-1839, Gemälde und Zeichnungen, 1939, no. 49 (illustrated in the catalogue)
Berlin, Märkisches Museum (on extended loan 1951-1991)


Andreas Andresen, Die deutschen Maler-Radierer des 19. Jahrhunderts, vol. I, 1878, p. 20
Ludwig Richter, Lebenserinnerungen eines deutschen Malers, Frankfurt a.M., 1885, p. 367
Ernst Jaffé, Joseph Anton Koch. Sein Leben und Schaffen, Innsbruck, 1905, p. 115, no. 35
Wilhelm Stein, 'Die Erneuerung der Heroischen Landschaft nach 1800', Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte, vol. 201, Strasbourg, 1917, pp. 90 & 122
Lilli Parthey, Tagebücher aus der Berliner Biedermeierzeit, edited by B. Lepsius, 1926
Otto R. von Lutterotti, Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839). Mit Werkverzeichnis und Briefen des Künstlers, Denkmäler deutscher Kunst, Berlin, 1940, p. 59, no. 15, illustrated
Dagobert Frey, 'Die Bildniskomposition bei Joseph Anton Koch. Eine Untersuchung über Kochs geistesgeschichtliche Stellung', Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 1950, XIV (XVIII), p. 200
Johann Eckart von Borries, Joseph Anton Koch, Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen, Bildhefte der Staatlichen Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, 1967, p. 22, no. 14, illustrated
Otto R. von Lutterotti, Joseph Anton Koch, 1768-1839, Leben und Werk. Mit einem vollständigen Werkverzeichnis, München, 1985, p. 157, illustrated as fig. 14; p. 104, discussed; p. 298, catalogued, no.  G 59
Gisold Lammel, Deutsche Malerei des Klassizismus, Leipzig, 1986, p. 199, no. 142, illustrated
Dominik Bartmann, 'Schinkels Gouache Antike Stadt am Berg - eine historische Landschaft', in Jahrbuch preussischer Kulturbesitz 23, 1986, p. 191, no. 46, illustrated
Christian von Holst (ed.), Joseph Anton Koch, 1768-1839, Ansichten der Natur., exhibition catalogue, Stuttgart, 1989, p. 89, fig. 57, illustrated; p. 285, the pencil and ink sketch for the present work illustrated


This condition report has been provided by Hamish Dewar, Hamish Dewar Ltd. Fine Art Conservation, 14 Masons Yard, Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BU. Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and while there are visible horizontal stretcher-bar lines and an overall craquelure pattern, the original canvas is still ensuring an even and secure structural support and it is obviously very encouraging to find the painting in its unlined state. Paint surface The paint surface has an even but discoloured varnish layer and inspection under ultra-violet light confirms how discoloured the varnish layers have become and how beneficial cleaning would be. Only very minimal retouchings are visible under ultra -violet light. There are 2 small areas: 1) a thin line approximately 2 cms in length in the rainbow, and 2) a small area, approximately 1 cm in diameter, in the sky just below the rainbow. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in excellent condition and while no further work is required for reasons of conservation, cleaning could be considered.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Joseph Anton Koch's Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen stands out as one of the most iconic and influential images of landscape painting of the Romantic era. Commissioned in 1824 by the scholar Gustav Parthey, it is one of four versions in oil of a scene originally based on a watercolour, Vietri on the Gulf of Salerno, Koch executed in 1795 (fig. 1). The present painting, the final one of the series and the preparatory sketch for which is in the Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe (fig. 2), is the culmination of his developing thoughts on, and ambitions for, this panorama.

The earliest version of the composition (Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle, fig. 3) of 1805 was painted for Giuseppi Carnesecchi, the owner of the Caffè Greco in Rome. The second version (fig. 4), and also the smallest, now in a German private collection, was painted in 1806. Koch worked on the third and largest  version (Munich, Neue Pinakothek, fig. 5) for eleven years. Begun in 1804, illness and on-going interruptions and distractions delayed its completion until 1815, when it was bought by the Munich Academy. Later, in 1850, it was purchased by King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

Koch's monumental landscapes are firmly rooted in the classical tradition, both in their artful composition and the staffage and architecture they depict. Deeply inspired by the clasical writers Ovid and Aeschylus from an early age, as well as well as by Michelangelo, Raphael, and seventeenth-century classical painting (figs. 6 & 7), Koch himself called his 'heroic' scenes 'great Greek landscapes', even though they were inspired either by the mountains of Switzerland or by the Italian campagna. Describing the inspiration for Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen, he rhapsodised on 'the beautiful surroundings of Salerno on the way to Paestum, with antique towns bathed in striking light. One can also see the sea with mountains in shades of blue in the background. Shepherds and shepherdesses are partly in the brilliant light, partly in the shadow.'

In Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen, as in his other heroic landscapes, however, Koch showed that neoclassicism could and should seamlessly blend into Romanticism and have ideological motivations. The picture spirits the viewer into a timeless, bygone realm populated by shepherds and shepherdesses. From the foreground, the eye is led by clear compositional lines over copses and lush river valleys to sunny plateaus and rugged mountains, over whose slopes spread classical and medieval towns as idyllic symbols of communal life. The rainbow, symbol of God's grace follwing the Deluge, links heaven and earth, classical and Christian forms of existence, into a harmonious, cosmic unity. Melancholy and sweet, the sense of the past binds itself to the present, as Friedrich Schiller wrote, and again the rainbow, through which the figures point, forms the portal between the two.

The importance Koch attached to tempering cold observed reality with aspects of the sublime is perhaps a reflection of his upbringing. Born into a poor rural family, Koch himself started life as a shepherd boy in the remote Tyrolean valley in which he was born. His talents attracted the attention of the Bishop of Augsburg, who funded his education at the Dilling Seminary and then his art training at the Karlsschule in Stuttgart. Yet like Schiller before him, Koch felt stifled by the school's harsh drill and fled by way of Strasbourg to Switzerland. Having joined the Jacobin Club in Strasbourg, the young artist was inspired by the Alps and their remoteness from the political turmoil in his homeland to project his love of liberty and unity into art. Apart from a brief three-year intermezzo in Vienna from 1812 to 1815, which he also found intolerable, Koch lived in Rome from 1795 until his death, his adopted country providing him with his greatest creative inspiration.

In Rome, Koch proved an immensely influential figure on the succeeding generation of German Romantic painters working there, including the Nazarenes, Carl Philipp Fohr, and Carl Rottmann, and Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen was singled out by many as a radical new departure in landscape painting.

Fig.1: Joseph Anton Koch, Vietri am Golf von Salerno, watercolour, Vienna, Akademie der bildenden Künste

Fig. 2: Joseph Anton Koch, Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen, pencil and ink sketch, Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Kupferstichkabinett

Fig. 3: Joseph Anton Koch, Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen, 116.5 x 112.5 cm, Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle

Fig. 4: Joseph Anton Koch, Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen, 73 x 60 cm, private collection

Fig. 5: Joseph Anton Koch, Heroische Landschaft mit Regenbogen, 188 x 171 cm, Munich, Neue Pinakothek 

Fig. 6: Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with a man killed by a snake, London, National Gallery

Fig. 7: Claude Lorrain, Landscape with shepherds, Grenoble, Musée des Beaux-Arts