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Friday, January 24, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Hans Rottenhammer, 1626
Lucas Killian
Some artists choose their names. Great artists we know today as Donatello, Botticelli, and Tintoretto, among others, all changed their names. Some artist should have change their names, such as Franz Stuck (nothing to do with Stuckism), Hendrik Gerritsz Pot, Hieronymus Grimm, Cornelis de Man, and Ernest William Christmas. And who hasn't tried to mention Jacques Lipchitz with a straight face? Some artists seem to have come straight from "Loony Tunes"--Rupeert Bunny (no relation to Bugs), Willy Finch, Janet Fish, Gonzalo Endara Crow, and Jacob Duck. (One of Donald's ancestors, perhaps?) Meanwhile, Henry Tonks, George Bellows, and Wilhelm Bendz. Added to those, are names for which one has to be certifiably Polish to pronounce: Ferdynand Ruszczyc, Witold Wojtkiewicz, Aleksander Kobzdej, and Nína Tryggvadóttir (that one is Icelandic, I think). I chuckled a bit when I came upon the name of the American artist, "Doc" Hammer, but then practically fell out of my chair when I encountered the German painter, Hans Rottenhammer. I'm sorry. I know it's impolite to make fun of other people's names, but...funny is funny.
Feast of the Gods, 1600, Hans Rottenhammer (painted about 13 by 18 inches)
With a name like Rottenhammer, I just had to check this guy out. It turns out he was born in Munich, around 1564. 1594 found him in Rome; and then a year later, he settle in Venice where he lived and worked for the next ten years. In Venice Rottenhammer picked up the delicate art of cabinet painting. No, that's not pictures of cabinets, nor even pictures on cabinets, but pictures small enough to go in a cabinet, which, in any case, was not a piece of furniture but a very small room hidden away for the owner's private enjoyment. Usually such works were framed oil paintings on copper plates seldom more than eighteen inches (45cm) in either dimension. These works, such as his Feast of the Gods (above) usually involved nude mythological subjects with erotic overtones. During his time in Italy, Rottenhammer seems to have been influenced by Tintoretto, Veronese, and the Bamboccianti painters (a group of Dutch/Flemish genre painters living and working in Rome).

Flight into Egypt, after 1606, Jan Brueghel and Hans Rottenhammer
Around 1606, Rottenhammer returned to Germany, settling in Augsburg, where he graduated to larger scale altarpieces and palace decoration, shaking off his Italian influences, working in a Northern Mannerist style. Later he worked with the Flemish painter, Jan Brueghel (the elder), on The Flight into Egypt (above), which, strangely, seem not to refer to the holy family from the gospels as one might expect, but to Abram in Genesis 12:4. Despite the title of the painting, the scripture mentions nothing to do with Egypt. If, on the other hand, the scene is a depiction from the Gospels, the figure of the Christ-child seems a bit too old. Hans (sometimes listed as Johann) Rottenhammer died in 1526, an impoverished alcoholic. One has to wonder if his life and career might have been different had he opted to change his name.

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