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Diana, 1906
(Ferdinand Keller)

Description

Diana, goddess of the Hunt and the Moon, is portrayed here holding her bow, with a diamond encrusted moon brooch placed prominently amid the flowers worn in her blonde hair. She is shown in profile, bare-breasted, against a marble wall on which a wreath surrounding a leaping stag is engraved below the word DIANA, with a marble shelf placed between figure and viewer, on which the artist has prominently inscribed his name.

Ferdinand Keller (von Keller, as he was to become after being ennobled by the King of Würtemberg), was born in Karlsruhe in the grand duchy of Baden, which was to be his home for much of his later life and where a street was recently named after him. He did not grow up in an artistic household, however, but his father, a civil engineer, was also a designer and so Ferdinand was familiar with drawing skills from an early age. In 1857, when he was fifteen, his father was awarded a contract to design bridges, roads and dams in Brazil and his sons Ferdinand and Franz accompanied him there. Ferdinand was now able to indulge his growing love of drawing and painting in the exotic South American landscape, so different from that of southern Germany. Shortly after their return and now decided to pursue an artistic career, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe, studying initially with Johann Wilhelm Schirmer, a rather conventional landscape painter and former director of the Academy and then, after the latter’s death,  with Ludwig des Coudres, a successful portrait painter.

Wanting to broaden his studies beyond the academy he began to take private lessons in the studio of Hans Canon (real name Johann Baptist Strašiřipka), a more radical artist who had travelled extensively and later had a successful career in Vienna, rivalling Hans Makart in producing large scale decorations for the new public buildings and private palaces that were springing up across Vienna in the last decades of the century. This was followed, in 1866 and 1867, by study trips to Switzerland and France and his first public recognition with an ambitious historical subject,  The Death of Philip II, shown at the Paris  International Exposition of 1867. He then moved to Rome, staying there for two years, until 1869, and sharing a studio with his fellow countryman, Anselm Feuerbach, who was some thirteen years his senior and considered the leading German artist of the Romantic school.

With this broad experience of European art on his return to Karlsruhe, he was able to obtain a post at his old alma mater, being appointed a teacher of portrait and history painting at the academy, even though just twenty-eight years old. He was appointed to a full professorship in 1873, and in 1880 director of the academy, a post from which he finally retired in 1913.

In addition to his regular commissions, he provided decorations and designs for the curtains of the new Karlsruhe Court Theater and the Dresden Semperoper. His decorations for the King Carl Hall at the Landesmuseum Württemberg earned him elevation to the nobility and Grand Duke Frederick I  of Baden commissioned him to paint the “History of Baden”, now displayed at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.  His range of subjects was considerable, from a handful of portraits (including a large group portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm II and his family, and an even more famous portrait of the Kaiser posed dramatically as a warrior prince), to imaginary landscapes showing the influence of Böcklin, dramatic historical subjects with themes of passion and death, and the occasional genre scene.

Measurements
66 x 79 cm; Framed size: 91 x 115 cm
Type
Oil on board
Provenance

Private collection, Germany.

Exhibited

Große Berliner Kunstausstellung, Berlin 1906, cat. no. 536; Galerie Paffrath, Düsseldorf, January to March 1969, no cat. number  (illustrated).

Historical Period
Realism to Impressionism - 1840-1900
Subject
Portrait
School
German - Austrian
Price band
$100,000 - $150,000