Continental European after 1800 24 Do you know any more about the artist Essen von Matern?

Departure of the Peasants
Topic: Subject or sitter

This painting's title is surely not the original, though perhaps a mistranslation. The subjects are certainly not peasants but respectable country folk or farmers; the men are off hunting.

The collection comments: 'This painting was created after an original by the Austrian artist Franz Defregger (1835-1921). The original's title indeed refers to "Jaeger" or "Hunters". I can only speculate that an error has occurred when the title was translated.'

Newport has another painting by 'Essen von Matern':
http://bit.ly/2nqDQuQ

This one, 'Boy Jesus in the Temple' seems to be a copy of a German painting 'Christ in the Temple' by Heinrich Hofmann (1824–1911) of 1871 now in the Riverside Church, New York, and apparently very well known. The collection confirms that both copies by Von Matern were given to Newport by the same donor in 1938.

Any further information on the artist would be appreciated.

Andrew Greg, British 19th C, except portraits, Entry reviewed by Art UK

24 comments

Andrea Kollmann,

Defregger’s painting is in Dresden today: http://bit.ly/2nrtfQi and the SKD calls it “Abschied von der Sennerin” (Sennerin= an alpine herdswoman / dairywoman); though the title “Abschied der Jäger” seems to have been more popular (at least that is what googling the two titles suggests).

Are the two paintings in Newcastle signed or is there another source for the attribution and the name of the artist? It is such a strange name, I wonder whether there has been a “mistranslation” too.

Probably just a coincidence: a version of the other painting Andrew mentions above is also in Dresden: H.J.M.F. Hofmann: http://bit.ly/2mMNPrd

That there are versions of both originals in Dresden suggests that the copyist, 'Essen von Matern', may well have copied them both in Dresden and thus may have been from Dresden him/herself (although we don't know when they were acquired by the SKD). The title 'Abschied von der Sennerin' of course means it is the dairymaid saying farewell to the hunters rather than the other way round! Perhaps she is working in an inn.

Malcolm Fowles,

'Abschied von der Sennerin' is also the title of a song by the German salon composer Carl Heins (1859-1923). The song postdates the 1877 Defregger painting, was published as "The Reaper's Parting Kiss" in New York in 1908, and is a classic piano roll tune. You can hear it played by a real person at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg7RT58vnhA. It fair takes me back to the Alpenhutte. :-)

I suspect that neither is the original bearer of the title; that is more likely a poem. In "Gedichte und lieder in verschiedenen deutschen mundarten" (Poems and songs in different German dialects) ed. Johann Günther (1840) you can find "Der Sennerin Gruß" (The milkmaid's greeting) followed by "Abschied" (Parting). These too may derive from something older.

The YouTube translation is "Farewell to the milkmaid". The examples at http://www.linguee.com/german-english/translation/Abschied.html make it clear that "Abschied von" is parting from, taking leave of, farewell to, etc., not the other way round, pace Andrew.

Slightly better than "milkmaid" may be "dairymaid", because eine Sennerin tends the cows as well as milks them, and is the dictionary's preference. You sometimes see farm girl or even farmer's wife.

So I'd recommend "Parting from the dairymaid" as the most accurate title, pending anyone finding an earlier poem which makes the context clearer.

Malcolm Fowles,

I've tracked down the source. It is "Der Wildschütz und die Sennerin" (The Hunter and the Farmgirl), a one act play with songs, by Louis von Saville, c 1870. https://bildsuche.digitale-sammlungen.de/index.html?c=viewer&bandnummer=bsb00057517&pimage=6&v=100&nav;=&l=en

The setting is the Regenalm, a mountain farmhouse near Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. The hunter is one Baron Frankenstein (I kid you not) and being a Baron, not the alternative translation of poacher! The girl is Resel Arbacher, one of the farm's cowgirls. Right now, she's just wished him luck in the hunt, but he's thinking he doesn't need it anymore, and probably she is too. Except I fear for the outcome, because she speaks in dialect.

This little play (actually "lebensbild" - life picture or tableau) must have been rather popular to have spawned paintings and music not in the original.

The Regenalm is now a hunting lodge with glorious views in the Berchtesgaden National Park.

Malcolm Fowles,

As far as I can find, there are no German names, male or female, beginning "Es...".

Following up the clue of the surname, https://www.nordicnames.de/namefinder/ suggests "Es..." occurs in several of the languages (you may have heard of the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen) and especially in Swedish, which has Esa, Essa & Esse for both genders, and Essan & Essi for females; but no Essen exactly.

Looking for a Swede in Dresden after 1877. Personally, I'd prefer to take a magnet to a haystack.

Malcolm Fowles,

Someone had better check this for an explanation that does not involve the word FORGERY.

There are at least three versions of the painting. (I have used original URLs to indentify sources).

1. “Abschied von der Sennerin” in Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, attributed to Franz von Defregger by the collection, unstated inscription.
See http://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/de/contents/showSearch?id=240957

2. “Departure of the Peasants” in Newport Museum and Art Gallery, inscription ‘Essen von Matern’.
See https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/departure-of-the-peasants-155966

3. “Abschied des Jägers”, tr. “The Hunters’ Leavetaking”, signature ‘Defregger’
Sold at auction in Vienna in 2011 for EUR 55200.
See https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Franz_von_Defregger_Abschied_des_Jägers.jpg
Auction record: https://www.dorotheum.com/en/auctions/current-auctions/kataloge/list-lots-detail/lotID/63/lot/1916242-franz-von-defregger.html

Paintings 1 & 2 are both close in style to Defregger’s body of work as seen online. The second is by a different hand and inscribed as such. To me it is a very accomplished copy, although Defregger should be acknowledged.

Painting 3 seems crude to me. It does not look like any other work by Defregger that I can find, and perhaps would not pass even as a preparatory sketch by him.

What happens in these cases? Is there an “Action Fraud” organisation for paintings?

This is getting rather off-topic, but if you look at Defreggers sold by Ketterer Kunst, whose auction website includes some very high res images, the quality looks to me no better than the Dorotheum's 1991 sale version of our picture. At any rate at least two bidders thought it worth the going rate for Defreggers!

19th century painters, and others, frequently made copies of their own work, so I wouldn't assume a forgery.

Malcolm Fowles,

I was actually trying to establish a correct title, which made me look at the 'Jägers'. If it is by Defregger, well, deary me. Look at the use of white; the dog's leash, the Baron's hair and face ... making a quick mark becomes an apt pun.

Anyway, I assume the original is in Dresden. It is of higher quality, and is clearly the one copied by von Matern. So the title should be a straight translation of “Abschied von der Sennerin”. Both "Parting from the farm girl" and "Taking leave of the farm girl" are good. The former suggests more emotional attachment, does it not?

And thereby hangs a tale. This picture is based on the 'Abschied' exchange on page 18 of the script linked above. It is actually the core of the play, because it sets up a misunderstanding on the part of both the audience and an unseen character, Seppi, the girl's sweetheart, who is peering through window shutters; this might even be intended as his view. If the play were popular, it would be what you'd paint.

We - and Seppi - are left thinking there might be something between Resel and the Baron, especially if the play's director is any good. Seppi follows the hunting party. When he returns, he declares "I've shot him!". Cue Resel's horror! After a bit of farce, it turns out that "him" was the Baron's quarry. Cue hugs and singing!

Hence the play's title is also part of the author's game with the audience. "Wildschütz" could mean the hunter or the poacher, i.e the Baron or Seppi. We don't realise this until the denouement, and even then ... Very clever.

And for our painting? Well, the Baron speaks like a gentleman, so I have to go for the less romantic "Taking leave ...".

Malcolm Fowles,

The current recommendation stands as Essen von Matern (after Franz von Defregger), not before 1877.

Essen von Matern remains untraced. Both forename and surname appear to be uniquely Scandinavian, particularly Swedish.

Von Matern copied from an original by Franz Defregger, an Austrian artist who became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1878. The original’s subject comes from a play in Bavarian dialect, so it was probably painted there, and indeed is dated 1877.

Did Defregger, perhaps, use the painting for student training? This is a possible explanation for close access and various copies, hands, attributions and quality. Luckily, the Munich Academy has a database of “all art students ever registered” there. Unluckily, Essen von Matern is not in it.

Apart from asking the SKD about when they acquired the Defregger work, where from, and whether they have a record of Essen von Matern, there seems not much more we can do. There is also a Fine Art Academy in Dresden. I found no online database of past students. Their history page (only the German version http://www.hfbk-dresden.de/hochschule/profil/vorstellung/geschichte/) suggests it might have been even more prestigious than Munich, attracting Caspar David Friedrich for one, but more notably for us the Norwegian Johan Christian Dahl, which implies a Scandinavian intake. Given this is German academia, I don’t feel able to initiate anything. It needs somebody of standing in the UK art world.

Please ask our collection how von Matern’s name is inscribed, the attribution when acquired, and for images of this evidence in case there have been transcription issues (such as Old German script).

Malcolm Fowles,

"Essen von Matern", might also be a pseudonym. 'Essen' is both the German verb 'to eat' and the noun 'food'; 'von' is of course 'from'. 'Matern' doesn't exist, at least in modern references, but it would be the Germanic plural of 'Mater'. Mothers' milk. Somebody having a laugh at posterity, perhaps. Or does it ring any bells in terms of being a play on a known artist's name?

Hence, I would like to find out just how close the Newport and Dresden versions are in terms of painting technique. The former is a very sensitive copy, as you can see in the facial expressions (unlike the Jägers version). Following Andrew's point about artists making several copies, could it be by Defregger himself?

How would the collections answer this?

Malcolm Fowles,

Von Matern may be traceable via the other work, "Jesus in the Temple".

According to Wikipedia https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Ferdinand_Hofmann the original is the painting in Dresden. The SKD dates it "around 1880", Wikipedia 1881.

Wikipedia also says the New York version is an attributed studio copy by Hoffman and assistants, made in 1882 to order.

A third version was sold at auction in Canterbury in 2014, "attributed to" Hoffman, and "it is thought this is another studio copy of the [original in Dresden]". http://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/attributed-to-johann-michael-ferdinand-heinrich-348-c-56f0132032

Perhaps von Matern can be found in records of Hoffman's studio, if such exist.

I agree it would be most helpful to have from the collection a detailed image of the inscription, signature or other evidence that provided the mysterious name Essen von Matern. We have established that Matern and von Matern, sometimes with an accent on the 'e', are rare but known names in Sweden.

Malcolm Fowles,

From considering both works together:

Von Matern must have had lengthy close access to painted (not engraved) sources, because details are relatively accurate. They may not be accurate enough to be considered an authorised studio copy, e.g. the wall in the Defregger, the gazes in the Hofmann. In both cases other copies exist too, which hints at some market knowledge.

Unless Von Matern was a travelling copyist (did such exist?) he found both paintings in Dresden. The earliest date for the Defregger copy would be when the original reached Dresden from Munich. Probably only the SKD can narrow it down from "any time from 1877 to 1938".

The collection does not mention any information having come with their acquisition and has not identified the donor. Please would they provide whatever they have on *both* works? Clues may be found anywhere.

Osmund Bullock,

The von Matérn family are or were quite extensive in Sweden. Originally just Matérn, and of German ancestry, the C17th immigrant to Sweden had a son Johan Anton Matérn (1683 - 1767) who was a soldier and cartographer. He was ennobled (gaining the 'von') in 1757, and all the later von Matérns seem to descend from his numerous grandsons. See http://bit.ly/2nhtp9g

As far as I can tell, no German Materns, of which there are many, would (or at least should) have used the 'von' prefix.

I wonder if the 'Essen' could be a misreading of 'Ellen'? The Swedish genealogy linked to above gives two of the name: Ellen Emilia von Matérn (née Börjesson, 1863-1929) & Davida Eleonora ('Ellen') von Matérn (née Busck, 1873-1940). However, I can find no mention of either woman being an artist, either as von Matern or under their maiden names; nor is there any obvious sign of a residence in/connection with Dresden. But I haven't done any deep research into this at all, and there may be more to be discovered.

Andrea Kollmann,

Defregger’s painting has been in Dresden ever since 1877, when the ‘Königliche Gemäldegallerie’ bought it from the art dealers Honrath & van Baerle in Berlin (http://bit.ly/2nwEgPp and http://bit.ly/2nKP0tY)

Hoffmann’s painting was bought directly from the artist by the Gemäldegallerie in 1882. http://bit.ly/2nKEZN8


Malcolm Fowles,

Osmund, I think the first Ellen is well worth following up. Andrea's welcome discoveries put the paintings in Dresden at the right time for a student in her twenties.

She could possibly be related to the painter Agnes Börjesson, who became a Swedish Academician in 1872, in her forties. This reminds me that Scandinavian female artists achieved recognition and equal treatment earlier than elsewhere. It was one of the themes I remember from this excellent exhibition in Munich,
http://www.kunsthalle-muc.de/en/exhibitions/details/nordic-art/, whose catalogue I am now desperately looking for!

By contrast in Germany, as a girl, Ellen might not even be found in an academy's list of students, however talented she may have been.

Can you find out when she married von Matérn? A daughter was born in 1893: https://www.myheritage.se/person-1000054_123719971_123719971/ellen-borjesson-von-matern

Newport Museum and Art Gallery,

Both paintings were donated by a Mrs M. Treverton from Newport in September 1938. These are the titles recorded at the time: 'The Boy Jesus in the Temple' and 'The Departure of the Peasants'. Neither painting is signed or otherwise inscribed and I am afraid the accession record from 1938 does not offer any more detail. While a misspelling of the name is certainly a possibility, the artist's name appears as 'Essen von Matern' in the records.

Malcolm Fowles,

I have found the von Matérn marriage in your link. It was 12 Apr 1889.

Conceivably, earlier paintings could have been re-inscribed after marriage, but it seems less likely than the date being the point from which to search for records of her in Dresden.

Oliver Perry,

The Mansion house belonged to Sir Abraham Garrod Thomas , (1853-19310, a doctor and, briefly an MP. His daughter Mildred Eleanor was presumably the donor: her husband's name was Alan Treverton Jones, although her death registration in 1970 gives her surname as just "Treverton".
http://newspapers.library.wales/view/3881549/3881550/13/mildred trevarton

Abraham Garrod Thomas was born in 1853. He studied in Berlin, and Vienna in the late 1870s, and I suppose it's possible that he acquired the paintings while in Germany.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Garrod_Thomas

Malcolm Fowles,

The Hofmann Jesus could not have been painted before 1882 (see Andrea above). If our von Matérn is one of the Ellens, as above, neither work would predate 1889. This implies repeated travel to Germany, instructions to dealers, commissioned copies, or similar. Nothing strange for a wealthy man.

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