Lot 39
  • 39

Hans Rottenhammer

70,000 - 100,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Hans Rottenhammer
  • Minerva and the Nine Muses
  • signed with monogram and dated lower right on the rock: 1606 / HR
  • oil on copper, oval
  • Oval. 32.8 x 39.4cm


B. Aikema, in H. Borggrefe et al., Hans Rottenhammer, exhibition catalogue, Munich 2004, p. 38, reproduced fig. 55.

Catalogue Note

Unlike the Rudolfine Court painters Hans von Aachen, Bartholomäus Spranger and Joseph Heintz, the evidence of his paintings and drawings reveal Rottenhammer’s Italian experience to have been much more specific: his style and above all his palette is overtly Venetian in character, grounded in the figural tradition and shot colours of Tintoretto and Palma Giovane, and reinforced during a lengthy sojourn in Venice from 1591 until 1606, broken only by a Roman excursion in 1594–95. His Roman sojourn was significant, however, because he met and collaborated there with the Flemings Paulus Bril and Jan Brueghel the Elder, and it is at this point that he started to paint small-scale works on copper. Brueghel mentioned him frequently in his correspondence with Cardinal Federico Borromeo in Milan, and Rottenhammer contributed staffage to several of Brueghel’s small-scale works on copper for Borromeo, including in works painted by Brueghel following his return to Antwerp, to which Rottenhammer may have added the figures once they were shipped to Italy.  

One such, the present work, is dated to the year when Rottenhammer returned to his native Bavaria, where he settled permanently in Augsburg. It is impossible to tell whether he painted there or before his departure from Venice, because his style in the first decade of the seventeenth century shows only a slow evolution. It is a highly characteristic work, its composition perfectly adapted to the chosen oval format. Here he revisits a subject that he had treated in 1601, in a work now in Baltimore.1 The compositions are not the same, but they are sufficiently similar to suggest that Rottenhammer kept a drawing as a record. This was probably not the drawing of the subject in Florence, which is much closer to the present composition, and was probably made in preparation for it (see fig. 1).2 Although of rectangular format, there are hints in the upper corners and in the figure in the lower right that Rottenhammer was working towards an oval composition. The drawing includes all the figures found in the present painting except the Cupid playing a lute-like instrument. By comparison with the present work, the female figures in the Baltimore painting are if anything more ample and Titianesque. In between the two paintings Rottenhammer painted a large-scale version on a rectangular canvas, dated 1603, and now in Nuremberg (see fig. 2).3 It is hard to say if the Uffizi drawing dates from before or after the 1603 painting. 

The background of the present picture, including the trees that are much superior to those in the background of the Nuremberg painting, and entirely different to those in the Baltimore work (which are Venetian in feel and reminiscent of Paolo Fiammingo, in whose studio in Venice Rottenhammer worked), would appear to be the work of Jan Brueghel the Elder.  

1 Baltimore Museum of Art; see Aikema in Munich 2004, p. 37, reproduced fig. 57.

2 Florence, Uffizi; Aikema in Munich 2004, pp. 38, 140, reproduced fig. 58.

3 Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum; Aikema in Munich 2004, p. 140, reproduced fig. 189.