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Anton Raphael Mengs

Anton Raphael Mengs (March 12, 1728 - June 29, 1779) was a German painter.

Mengs was born in 1728 at Usti (Aussig) in Bohemia, but his father, Ismael Mengs, a Danish painter, established himself finally at Dresden, whence in 1741 he took his son to Rome. The appointment of Mengs in 1749 as first painter to Frederick Augustus, elector of Saxony did not prevent his spending much time in Rome, where he had married Margarita Quazzi who had sat for him as a model in 1748, and abjured the Protestant faith, and where he became in 1754 director of the Vatican school of painting, nor did this hinder him on two occasions from obeying the call of Charles III of Spain to Madrid. There Mengs produced some of his best work, and specially the ceiling of the banqueting-hall, the subject of which was the Triumph of Trajan and the Temple of Glory. After the completion of this work in 1777, Mengs returned to Rome, and there he died, two years later, in poor circumstances, leaving twenty children, seven of whom were pensioned by the king of Spain.

Mengs portrait of Pope Clement XIII
Besides numerous paintings in the Madrid gallery, the Ascension and St Joseph at Dresden, Perseus and Andromeda at Saint Petersburg, and the ceiling of the Villa Albani must be mentioned among his chief works. As of 1911, Henry George Percy, 7th duke of Northumberland possessed a Holy Family, and the colleges of All Souls and Magdalen, at Oxford, posessed altar-pieces by Mengs's hand.

In his writings, in Spanish, Italian and German, Mengs has put forth his eclectic theory of art, which treats of perfection as attainable by a well-schemed combination of diverse excellences Greek design, with the expression of Raphael, the chiaroscuro of Correggio, and the colour of Titian. His intimacy with Johann Joachim Winckelmann who constantly wrote at his dictation has enhanced his historical importance, for he formed no scholars, and the critic must now concur in Goethe's judgment of Mengs in Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert; he must deplore that so much learning should have been allied to a total want of initiative and poverty of invention, and embodied with a strained and artificial mannerism.

Works (selection)


See Opere di Antonio Raffaello Mengs (Parma, 1780); Mengs Werke, übersetzt v. G. F. Prange (1786); Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst (1880); Bianconi, Elogio storico di Mengs (Milan, 1780); Woermann, Ismael und Raphael Mengs (Leipzig, 1893).

[This entry is based on an article from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.]