Portrait of Mrs von Soist
(Franz Ittenbach)


(Königswater, nr. Drachenfels, 1813-1879, Düsseldorf

Portraits of Dr. Franz Xavier von Soist and his wife, Margarete
Oil on canvas
90 x 64 cm. (35 ½ x 25 ¼ ins.); 91 x 66 cm. (36 x 26 in.)

Signed and dated respectively: ‘F. Ittenbach./1850. (lower left), inscribed on reverse Franz Xav: von Soist/Dr.(underlined twice) Med; in Ehrenbreitstein/ geb: 1794; and ‘F. Ittenbach..gem:1849 (lower right); inscribed on reverse
Mag: von Soist.geb:/Finsterer in Ehrenbreitstein./geb: 1809’

Literature: H. Finke, Der Madonnenmaler Franz Ittenbach 1813-1879, Cologne, 1898, p. 89.

Franz Ittenbach was the youngest child of ten, born to staunchly Catholic parent who ran a small wine shop. He was initially expected to follow in his elders’ footsteps and become a small business man, but encouraged by his elder brother Johann, a teacher who tutored the young Grafen Wolff-Metternich and who eventually became their steward at their holdings in Gymnich, near Cologne. This was to be a main meeting place for the members of the Dusseldorf Academy and it was probably here, at the age of nineteen, that Ittenbach first met Wilhelm Schadow. Having successfully exhibited in 1831 at an exhibition of Dusseldorf artist in Cologne, Ittenbach was admitted to the Dusseldorf Academy. There he encountered for the first time the unrelieved emotion and romance of the work of Carl Friedrich Lessing, the Academy’s acting director. Ittenbach’s teachers were Theodore Hildebrandt, and Carl Ferdinand Sohn, but above all, Wilhelm Schadow, with whom he studied privately and with whom he travelled to Rome in 1839. Upon his return to Germany in 1842, Ittenbach embarked on a Wandereise throughout the country in the company of his friends and fellow-students, Karl and Andreas Müller, and Ernst Deger, artists who had also frequented Gymnich and who shared Ittenbach’s measured, yet spiritual approach to religious subjects which, eventually, became one of the hallmarks of the Nazerene movement.

A devout Roman Catholic, Ittenbach persistently declined any commissions for mythological or pagan subjects, and as a rule devoted his energies exclusively to church decoration. He was said to have preceded the execution of his great religious commissions by taking both confession and communion. His finest paintings are to be found at Bonn, in the church of St. Remigius, and in Breslau in a church dedicated to the same saint. There is also a remarkable Holy Family, dated 1861, painted for Prince Liechtenstein in his private chapel near Vienna, and many other works by him are in various Catholic churches in Germany. His only important fresco was painted in 1844 in the Fürstenburg church on the Apollinarisberg at Remagen, which he helped decorate with the brothers Müller and Deger, possibly under the direction of Schadow.

Ittenbach’s ability to balance a delicate sense of colour, and the simple piety of his interpretations, which were both self-consciously indebted to Perugino and Raphael, with an almost Netherlandish naturalism, made him a stand-out amongst his fellow students. And in 1839, he has chosen by Clemens August Freiherr Droste zu Vischerling, Archbishop of Cologne, at Schadow’s behest, to paint his portrait, now in Schloß Darfeld, Rosendahl. The success of this modest, but perceptive portrait was to make Ittenbach one of the most popular painters in Catholic aristocratic circles. Over the next forty years, along with his well-known Madonnen and other religious subjects, Ittenbach produced portraits for several of the most prominent Catholic noble families of the rheinisch-westphälischen nobility, including that of Stephanie of Portugal, née Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.

It is worth noting that Schadow had been the one of the few Nazarenes amenable to the French influence, while the others, such as …. nervously held themselves aloof from the members of the French Academy. As can been seen, particularly in Dr. von Soist’s likeness, Ittenbach was capable of a sophisticated sense of immediacy in his portraiture which almost suggests a sort of German Ingres.In the portrait of Soest#s wife Ittenbach includes the central panel of the Stefan Lochner altarpiece in Cologne cathedral as if to emphasise the connection Because he was primarily a painter of religious subjects, these two portraits are exceedingly rare in his surviving oeuvre. However, another example of a double portrait of a younger German couple, and dating to the same period, can be found in the Louvre.

Ittenbach also executed portraits of Academy professor, Joseph Keller (1811-1873) and his wife, Bertha, who he would have met during his Roman sojourn with Schadow.

Franz von Soist was a doctor in Ehrenbreitstein, on the opposite side of the Rhine from Coblenz. He and his Junoesque wife were most likely members of the local Catholic haute-bourgeoisie, from whom many of Ittenbach’s portraits were commissioned. Von Soist was probably related to Jean-Baptiste von Soist, who married Paula Sophia Gfrörer von Ehrenberg, a scion of the Hechingen branch of the Hohenzollerns, in Hechingen in 1848.
R. Muther, The History of Modern Painting, Vol. 1 , London, 1907, p. 161.
Louvre, Inv. No. RF 1979-14.

61 x 94 cm
Oil on canvas
Where is It?
Purchased by the Boston Museum of Fine Art 2009
Historical Period
Realism to Impressionism - 1840-1900
Price band
Sold or not available