PAUL TROGER
(Zell unter Welsberg, South Tyrol 1698-1762 Vienna)

Purification and Glorification of Mary


oil on canvas
17 x 19 ¼ inches (43.2 x 48.9 cm)

Provenance:   

Private Collection, USA.

This impressive and highly finished oil sketch is a new addition to the oeuvre of Paul Troger, the leading painter in eighteenth-century Austria. Troger began his artistic training under the minor painter Matthias Durchner (1675–1741) before departing for Italy. In Venice, he came under the influence of Sebastiano Ricci, Gaspare Diziani, and Giambattista Tiepolo, absorbing the Venetian painters’ feeling for light and color. Further study in Bologna and Naples, where he encountered the works of the Carracci, Guercino, Francesco Solimena, and Luca Giordano, also played a considerable role in his stylistic development. Troger’s knowledge of the works of his contemporaries and artists of the preceding centuries in Italy was unparalleled by any other northern artist of his day. His experience on the peninsula helped him to develop his distinctive palette and style, which greatly influenced the next generation of artists and set the course for painting in Austria for the remainder of the eighteenth century.

This oil sketch depicts the Purification and Glorification of the Virgin Mary, who is shown seated atop a cloud of putti. With her arms outstretched, she looks down onto the several groups of figures that are arranged beneath her, each quotations from different biblical passages. Directly beneath the Virgin, the prophetess Anna, who attends the Presentation of Christ at the Temple (Luke 2: 36-38), holds the Christ aloft. To the right, Tobias is shown with his dog, presenting the fish he caught to his mother, Anna (Book of Tobit). The figural group on the left possibly depicts Saint Elizabeth and the infant Saint John the Baptist, who reaches out towards Christ. Finally, at the base of the composition, two putti are shown together. One grasps a banderole and points up at Christ and the Virgin, while the other hoists aloft a basket containing two white doves.

This unpublished allegorical painting is a bozzetto, or model, for a ceiling fresco in the dome of a small cupola. It relates directly to two bozzetti in the Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy that depict the Glory of Saint Joseph, Noah, Abraham and The sacrifice of Isaac, and Saint Bartholomew (fig. 1) and the Purification and Glory of Mary, The Prophetess Hannah with the Christ Child, and Tobias with his Mother (fig. 2). These oil sketches are designs for a decorative program that either was never realized or has not survived. Elvio Mich suggested a date in the early 1740’s for the sketches in the Castello del Buonconsiglio, and Johann Kronbichler has proposed that they may have been intended for a church in Hungary around 1743.[1]

This oil sketch is a second, autograph version of the Purification and Glory of Mary. The two works in the Castello del Buonconsiglio and the present painting are part of an extended creative process that involved the making of preparatory drawings and several bozzetti that were executed at different stages. In addition to the version in Trento, Troger produced two other versions of the Glory of Saint Joseph—one in the Marienberg Abbey in Burgeis[2] and the other formerly on the art market in Vienna.[3] These three works display varying levels of finish and completeness. It is therefore not surprising that he also made several bozzetti of the Purification and Glory of Mary. The creation of multiple small-scale painted models was a typical practice for Troger that can be observed in several of his other commissions for ceiling frescoes.

In comparison to the oil sketch Castello del Buonconsiglio, this work is highly finished and very finely executed, which suggests that it was the final (and possibly presentation copy) version of the model. The sketch stands out for its lively brushwork, refined palette, and subtle chiaroscuro effects. The pyramidal shape of the composition within the elliptical format—a common compositional tool used by Troger—is here particularly successful in conveying the upward movement of the ascending figures.

Elvio Mich identified a preparatory sketch for the prophetess Anna and the two putti in the Germanisches National Museum, Nurmberg (fig. 3).[4] An additional preparatory sketch, which has been accepted as by Troger but has not previously associated with this composition by scholars, is in the Diözesanmuseum Hofburg in Brixen (fig. 4).[5] The drawing was most recently published by Leo Andergassen, where it is incorrectly identified it as a scene of a mother and child receiving a donation of alms.[6] It is instead clearly a preparatory sketch for the figural group in the lower left of this work. The rediscovery of this bozzetto and the identification of its preliminary drawing in Brixen gives us fascinating insight into the working process of Troger.

Fig. 1. Paul Troger,  Glory of Saint Joseph, Noah, Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac, and Saint Bartholomew , oil on canvas, 17.5 x 21.5 inches (44.5 x 54.5 cm), Castello di Buonconsiglio-Monumenti e Collezioni Provinciali, Trento

Fig. 1. Paul Troger, Glory of Saint Joseph, Noah, Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac, and Saint Bartholomew, oil on canvas, 17.5 x 21.5 inches (44.5 x 54.5 cm), Castello di Buonconsiglio-Monumenti e Collezioni Provinciali, Trento

Fig. 2. Paul Troger,  Purification and Glory of Mary, The Prophetess Hannah with the Christ Child, and Tobias with his Mother , oil on canvas, 17.5 x 21.5 inches (44.5 x 54.5 cm), Castello di Buonconsiglio-Monumenti e Collezioni Provinciali, Trento

Fig. 2. Paul Troger, Purification and Glory of Mary, The Prophetess Hannah with the Christ Child, and Tobias with his Mother, oil on canvas, 17.5 x 21.5 inches (44.5 x 54.5 cm), Castello di Buonconsiglio-Monumenti e Collezioni Provinciali, Trento

 
Fig. 3. Paul Troger,  The Prophetess Anna with the Christ Child and Two Putti , pen and ink over pencil, 8.5 x 6.5 inches, Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg

Fig. 3. Paul Troger, The Prophetess Anna with the Christ Child and Two Putti, pen and ink over pencil, 8.5 x 6.5 inches, Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg

 
 
Fig. 4. Paul Troger,  Mother and Child, Possibly Saint Elizabeth with the Infant John the Baptist , pen and ink, 5.9 x 6.4 inches, Diözesanmuseum Hofburg, Brixen

Fig. 4. Paul Troger, Mother and Child, Possibly Saint Elizabeth with the Infant John the Baptist, pen and ink, 5.9 x 6.4 inches, Diözesanmuseum Hofburg, Brixen

 


[1] Elvio Mich, “Troger nelle collezioni trentine pubbliche e private,” in Paul Troger (1698-1762): novità e revisioni, ed. Bruno Passamani, 1997, p. 156-159; and more recently, Johann Kronbichler, Paul Troger: 1698-1762, Berlin and Munich, 2012, pp. 157, 341-342, no. G-162 and G-163.

[2] For a discussion of this version, see: Silvia Spada and Paola Bassetti, “Qualche Troger in più e in meno dala Venosta all’Otradige,” in Paul Troger (1698-1762): novità e revisioni, ed. Bruno Passamani, 1997, p. 188-189, fig. 10; and more recently, Johann Kronbichler, Paul Troger, pp. 342, 396, no. Gg 35.

[3] For a discussion of this version, see: Johann Kronbichler, Paul Troger, pp. 157, 342, 426, no. Gg 183.

[4] Op. cit.

[5] The work was first published as by Troger in Wanda Aschenbrenner and Gregor Schweighofer, Paul Troger: Leben und Werk, Salzburg, 1965, p. 129, no. 13, illus.; and subsequently in Monika Heffels, “Die Handzecihnungen des 18. Jahrhunderts”, in Die Deutschen Handzeichnungen, vol. 4, Nurmberg, 1969, p. 278, no. 329, illus.

[6] Leo Andergassen, Paul Troger & Brixen. Sonderausstellung zum 300. Geburtstag von Paul Troger (1698-1762), exhibition catalogue, Diözesanmuseum Hofburg, Brixen, 1998, pp. 107, 220, cat. no. 4.11, fig. 57.