German School, circa 1780
Two Designs for Wall Elevations with Painted Schemes
Pencil, watercolour, heightened with white, 174 x 106 mm (6.9 x 4.2 inch)
Private collection, Germany
The Neoclassical style appeared at the French royal court around 1760 and is mostly associated with the monarch Louis XVI (1754–1793), who reigned from 1775. The symmetrical style was heavily inspired by Classical Antiquity, whose remains were increasingly being studied. The archaeological excavations carried out in Pompeii during the eighteenth century were of particular influence. Historians have coined the style Neoclassicism as opposed to the Classicism of the Renaissance period. The refined decorative Neoclassical language was opposed to the lively and asymmetrical character of the Rococo style, which was dominant during the reign of Louis XV around the middle of the eighteenth century.
Neoclassicism quickly conquered Europe, and indeed far beyond – it was for instance highly fashionable in the expanding United States. The style could be applied to architecture, decorative and visual arts, and was especially popular among makers of furniture.
The present pair of highly attractive and beautifully preserved designs for wall elevations with painted schemes is a rare survival. It is difficult to attribute such anonymous works to specific painters or even schools, as they are rarely signed or documented and were purely made as presentation models to prospective clients and to serve as working drawings for decorative painters. However these sheets come from an old collection in Germany and have long been called German, which may well be the case. Many examples of rooms decorated in the Neoclassical style in Germany can be quoted – the style was for instance favoured at the court of the Ducal Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel family in Weimar: Duchess Anna Amalia (1739–1807) decorated the rooms of her dowager palace, the Wittumspalais, with similar painted schemes,1 as in known from early photographs (see fig.).2
1. See, for instance, Willi Ehrlich, Das Wittumspalais in Weimar, Weimar 1975.
2. The rooms were largely destroyed during the Second World War, but have been restored according to the early photographs.Request more information »