Lot 11
  • 11

Ferdinand Bellermann (1814-1889)

700,000 - 900,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Ferdinand Bellermann
  • Costa de la Guaira a la caida del sol
  • signed and dated 1874 lower right
  • oil on canvas
  • 46 7/8 by 62 3/8 in.
  • 119 by 158.3 cm


The Collection of Charles and Lola Röhl, Hanover, Germany
The Collection of Eduardo Röhl
Thence by descent to the present owners


Caracas, Galería de Arte Nacional, Ferdinand Bellermann en Venezuela, Memoría del paisaje, 1842-1845, December 1991-February 1992, no. 128, p. 63, illustrated in color
Caracas, Galería de Arte Nacional, Artistas y cronistas extranjeros en Venezuela 1825-1899, March-May 1993, no. 4, p.35, illustrated in color
Caracas, Galería de Arte Nacional, Viaje hacia el asombro, Alejandro de Humboldt en Venezuela, March 7-May 2, 1999


Fundación Galería de Arte Nacional, Ferdinand Bellermann: Diarios Venezolanos, 1842-1845, Caracas, 2007, p. 302, illustrated in color


This work is unlined. The tacking edges have been reinforced to ensure proper stretching. There are no reinforcements on the reverse. The paint layer is clean, varnished and retouched and is in splendid condition. Retouches have been added in just a few places. There are retouches beneath the “Ferd” of the signature on the bottom edge and in a few tiny cracks in the top of the trees. Under ultraviolet light a good deal of original pigment reads strongly in the sky and landscape. This is all original paint and the work should be hung as is. (This condition report has been provided courtesy of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.)
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.

Catalogue Note

Ferdinand Bellermann studied painting under Professor Karl Blechen at the Berlin Academy of the Arts and later took private lessons with Wilhelm Schirmer. Upon Schirmer’s death, Bellermann assumed his teacher’s academic post.

Alexander von Humboldt, one of the brightest minds of the 19th century, was a geologist, geographer, explorer, writer and homme du monde. A true art lover and connoisseur, he traveled extensively in the region that is today Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico.  In his best-selling 4-volume book, Cosmos, a sketch of a physical description of the universe,he stated that painting had an important role to play in spreading knowledge. He writes, “The comprehension of a natural whole, the feeling of the unity and harmony of the Cosmos, will become at once more vivid and more generally diffused […] by bringing the phenomena of nature to the contemplation of the eye and of the mind.” (1)  This would surely have impacted Bellermann, who took Humboldt as a mentor.

One of the artist’s biographers, Prof. Helga Weissgarber from the National Gallery in Berlin, tells us that after a painting expedition to the Norwegian fjords in the 1830’s, Bellermann sold a large Nordic painting to Frederick William IV, King of Prussia. A few years later, he accidentally met Carl Ruhs, a German merchant who had a commercial establishment in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. With an invitation from Ruhs a recommendation from Humboldt, and financial support from the Prussian crown, Bellermann embarked for Venezuela in 1842.

In this fine example, one of his largest and most arresting compositions, Bellermann (now 60 years old) sought inspiration from his oil sketch titled Costa de la Guaira a la Caída del Sol, ca. 1844 (Coast of La Guaira at sunset), which is currently preserved in the collection of the Museum of Prints and Drawings, Berlin (fig1). As we can see, with the exception of reversing the first plane of the oil study, Bellermann did not change much else. The distribution of the elements of the composition gently invites the eye to move from the bottom left to the right.  Workers gathering cocoa pods place them in bags near the overseer. With a twist to the center, some burros, guided by campesinos bring the product downhill and direct the view towards the ocean which is framed by the palm trees. The sunset is at the center and above it a semicircle of luminous clouds gloriously crowns the composition.

Costa de La Guaira a la Caida del Sol truly honors Humboldt words: “Landscape painting, though no mere imitative art, has a more material substratum and a more essential domain: it requires a greater mass and variety of direct impressions, which the mind must receive, fertilize and reproduce as a work of art. Heroic landscape painting must be the result at once of a comprehensive understanding of the visible spectacle of nature and of this inward process of the mind.” (2)

This painting by Bellermann, the rare group of Anton Goering watercolors of Venezuela (lot 12)  and the views of La Guaira and Caracas by Fritz Melbye (lots 109 and 110) were assembled by the great-grand-father and the grandfather of the present owners, Charles and Eduardo Röhl ( Hambourg 1851- Caracas 1959). Eduardo Röhl was an industrialist, a curious mind and a man of science. Among many other things, Röhl translated Humboldt´s Viaje a las Regiones Equinocciales del Nuevo Continente into Spanish and wrote extensively about the artists who visited Venezuela in the 19th century. His book Exploradores famosos de la naturaleza venezolana, was published in Caracas in 1948. The book includes interesting biographical information about Bellermann, Anton Goering (a German artist who visited Venezuela in 1866 to 1874), and Danish artist Fritz Melbye, who was Camille Pissarro´s first tutor and travel companion to Venezuela in the early 1850´s.

 (1) Alexander von Humboldt, COSMOS: Sketch of a physical description of the universe, Vol 2, sixth edition, John Murray Ed. London, 1849, page 82

(2) Ibid, p.83