Anton Raphael Mengs

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Anton Raphael Mengs

German painter and critic

Born 1728 - Died 1779

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MENGS, ANTONY RAPHAEL (1728-1779), German painter, was born in 1728 at Aussig in Bohemia, but his father, Ismael Mengs, a Danish painter, established himself finally at Dresden, whence in 1741 he took his son to Rome. The appointment of Mengs in 1749 as first painter to the elector of Saxony did not prevent his spending much time in Rome, where he had married in 1748, and abjured the Protestant faith, and where he became in 1754 director of the Vatican school of painting, nor did this hinder him on two occasions from obeying the call of Charles III of Spain to Madrid. There Mengs produced some of his best work, and specially the ceiling of the banqueting-hall, the subject of which was the Triumph of Trajan and the Temple of Glory. After the completion of this work in 1777, Mengs returned to Rome, and there he died, two years later, in poor circumstances, leaving twenty children, seven of whom were pensioned by the king of Spain. Besides numerous paintings in the Madrid gallery, the Ascension at Dresden, Perseus and Andromeda at St Petersburg, and the ceiling of the Villa Albani must be mentioned among his chief works. In England, the duke of Northumberland possesses a Holy Family, and the colleges of All Souls and Magdalen, at Oxford, have altar-pieces by his hand. In his writings, in Spanish, Italian and German, Mengs has put forth his eclectic theory of art, which treats of perfection as attainable by a well-schemed combination of diverse excellences: Greek design, with the expression of Raphael, the chiaroscuro of Correggio, and the colour of Titian. His intimacy with Winckelmann, who constantly wrote at his dictationhas enhanced his historical importance, for he formed no scholars, and the critic must now concur in Goethe's judgment of Mengs in Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert (Winckelmann and his Century); he must deplore that so much learning should have been allied to a total want of initiative and poverty of invention, and embodied with a strained and artificial mannerism.

See Opere di Antonio Raffaello Mengs (Parma, 1780); Mengs Werke, ubersetzt v, G. F. Prange (1786); Zeilschrift fur bildende Kunst (1880); Bianconi, Elogio slorico di Mengs (Milan, 1780); Woermann, Ismael und Raphael Mengs (Leipzig, 1893).

Source: Entry on the artist in the 1911 Edition Encyclopedia.


brother of

  • Mengs, Theresia Concordia (1725-c.1808)

sister of

  • Mengs, Theresia Concordia (1725-c.1808)

son of

  • Mengs, Ismael Israel (1688-1764)

teacher of

  • Brompton, Richard (c.1734-1783)
  • Rehberg, Friedrich (1758-1835)
  • Stauder, Franz (c.1734-)

worked for

  • Casanova, Giovanni Battista (c.1728-1795)

Image courtesy of Don Kurtz

Image courtesy of Don Kurtz