Discovering the
World in Detail

Adam Elsheimer 1578–1610

17 March to 5 June 2006

Who was Adam Elsheimer? That question might have already been asked in around 1600, when the young artist came to Rome. The exhibition retraced the inquisitive painter’s footsteps and offered its visitors an inexhaustible journey of discovery. Adam Elsheimer was born in Frankfurt in 1578, as son of a tailor. There are few sources pertaining to his youth and apprenticeship in his native town. He is assumed to have been a pupil of Philipp Uffenbach, a respected artist of his day who never lost sight of the example set by the German Renaissance painters, particularly Dürer and Grünewald. Upon completion of his training, Elsheimer left the city of his birth and is thought to have visited Munich in 1598 on his way to Italy.

It was in Italy that he chose to remain. During his sojourn in Venice, where he worked with Hans Rottenhammer of Munich, Elsheimer became acquainted with the work of the Venetian painters, especially Tintoretto.

As he developed his style, he drew from both the old German tradition and the atmospherically painterly manner of the Venetian masters, an unusual mixture which left a lasting mark on his work. Elsheimer is certain to have reached Rome by the Holy Year 1600, if not earlier. There he was befriended by Peter Paul Rubens, an artist one year his senior, and Rubens’ brother Philipp. He also cultivated contact with German scholars devoted to the study of literature, theology and the natural sciences, who inspired him and patronized his art. In 1607 he was admitted to the reputable painters’ guild Accademia di S. Luca, an honour few Germans enjoyed. In Rome Elsheimer developed his “poetic painting”, which anticipated the ideas of Romanticism by some two hundred years. His mood-filled moonlit landscapes and enigmatic nocturnal interiors, illuminated by nothing more than the glow of a candle, were what made him famous.

CURATOR: Dr. Michael Maek-Gérard