ULong horses and bad roads under the wooden wheels of the carriage that had been rumbling for weeks, in the narrow cabin of which the passengers were shaken: A trip from Hamburg to Italy at the beginning of the 19th century must have been quite difficult. The fact that Martin Johan Jenisch and his wife Fanny Henriette headed south twice for one year each shows how great their longing for the land of art was.
The Grand Tour in Goethe’s footsteps was a must at that time, but the Jenischs not only wanted to acquire education on their travels in 1829 and 1838, they also wanted to do some shopping. “Jenisch acquired many of his paintings on the two trips,” says Nicole Tiedemann-Bischop, director of the Jenisch house in Klein Flottbek.
The almost completely preserved collection by Martin Johan Jenisch d. J. (1793–1857) comprises around 100 images and was already a Hamburg attraction around 1833. A selection of the works can now be discovered in the online edition of the exhibition “The Dream of the South” on the homepage of the Historical Museums.
Background texts, interviews with the curator Tiedemann-Bischop and excerpts from Jenisch’s travel diaries take you back to the time of the art-loving senator, who belonged to a wealthy merchant and banker family. However, Jenisch not only managed the paternal inheritance, he also made a name for himself as the builder of the Jenisch house and as president of the building deputation, which drove the reconstruction of the city after the great fire in 1842.
Jenisch also developed into an art expert and joined the Hamburg Art Association after his first trip to Italy, which influenced the art scene. Because the Jenischs had no children, they bequeathed their fortune – including the art collection – to their grandnephew, the later diplomat Martin Johan Rücker Freiherr von Jenisch.
The art traveler carefully selected his collection pieces by visiting galleries and artist studios. There he also commissioned pictures. As the diaries of his Italian journeys show, Jenisch visited the artist colony of the so-called German Romans in the Eternal City and bought what he liked from the easel – for example from the brothers Franz and Johannes Riepenhausen, from Franz Ludwig Catel or from August Heinrich Riedel.
Jenisch did not acquire old masters, but found pleasure in his contemporaries. “He made sure that he also collected names,” explains Tiedemann-Bischop. Among the paintings are, for example, works by Friedrich Overbeck, and the Sisi painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter, who was one of the most famous portrait painters in the 19th century, is represented with one work: The picture “Italian girl” shows a graceful beauty, in whose gaze seems to reflect the longing for Italy of that time.
Jenisch’s collection can be divided into thematic areas, to which the online dossier also refers. In addition to the Italianità, the Senator was particularly drawn to genre pictures. Realistically detailed scenes of everyday life were presented here, which could have an idyllic or folkloric character and demonstrated a lot of staff. Johann Jacob Gensler, for example, created the painting “Fischer am Ostseestrand”, in which a family of fishermen pulls their boat ashore while dark clouds clump over the cliffs in the background.
Joergen Sonne’s genre scene “Country People at Mass in Roman Campagna” looks very different: the sky is clear, the group of people exudes pious calm and contemplation, while a priest is holding the prayer from a car. The collector was also interested in religious motifs and political depictions.
The latter includes Albrecht Adam’s work “Napoleon before Moscow”. The general sits on a white horse and looks across the battlefield at the smoking wreckage of the destroyed Russian city. The picture expresses the ambivalent attitude that the senator had towards the French emperor. On the one hand he admired Napoleon, on the other hand he had seen Hamburg suffered under the French occupation for eight years.
Jenischhaus became a meeting point for illustrious guests
The online presentation is based on a beautiful exhibition in the Jenisch Haus, for which Tiedemann-Bischop and her colleague Verena Fink have selected 24 representative paintings from the Senator’s collection. The show is set up and will open its gates as soon as the museums are accessible again (scheduled to run until January 13, 2021).
Choosing the “Dream of the South” as the leitmotif, the tour first tells of the travel circumstances, the members of the two travel companies and the route. He then fanned out the subjects of the painting collection using concise examples: politics, religion, genre and Italy. As a bonus, the curators send the visitor on their own journey through the Jenisch house, under whose furnishings there are various objects that the former landlord acquired in Italy: “He had 16 boxes of marble work and paintings shipped from Livorno,” she says Museum director. The Italian acquisitions included, for example, two marble fireplaces and a round table with an artificial stone top that shows lithographed images.
With its extensive purchases, Jenisch furnished the country estate in Jenisch Park as well as its townhouses. The white, late-classicist upper-class villa with a wide view over the Elbe became a total work of art. The show shows models of the architectural designs for the magnificent building, which were to demonstrate Jenisch’s level of education and his travel experience: “He looked at Italian architecture and tried to establish that here in Hamburg,” says Tiedemann-Bischop.
The cubic summer house of the Jenischs was created according to the combined plans of the architects Franz Gustav Forsmann and Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It became a meeting point for illustrious guests from all over the world: rulers, dignitaries, artists and writers – from Sisi to Hans Christian Andersen – came and went, celebrated here and admired the treasures of the landlord. Especially since Jenisch was not only enthusiastic about paintings but also for lacquer cans, seals, books and especially for orchids. Together with his gardener Friedrich Berthold Kramer, he built up an internationally recognized collection of these plants. A specimen of the “Stanhopea jenischiana” is now waiting in the Jenisch house for visitors and is initially holding back its flowers.
For a virtual tour here.
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