Personification of Air
black chalk underdrawing, grey ink, brush & wash, white gouache heightening, on paper thickly washed blue, unlined. 77/8 x 61/4 (187 x 157mm).
This assured drawing, on near pristine paper washed blue, belongs to the Hamburg school of the 17th century. It is the type of drawing, single figure, wash with white heightening on prepared paper, that was previously thought to be by one of the Hamburg Weyer's. Recent investigation and a publication by Peter Prange has done much to shed light on this subject,1 but it has not led to an attribution of the present, superior work.
The Hamburg Kunsthalle has 15 drawings by Pfeiffer, many of single figures employing the same media.2 Those with a background landscape, especially Der Blasebalgverkaufer, 3 present the best comparison, as there are trees there too dotted with white gouache. This Kunsthalle drawing is also comparable in size, on paper prepared with red wash, and signed and dated 1683. But it is not up to the quality of our drawing, Pfeiffer's figure type is different, and nowhere is the brushwork in applying the white gouache the same. So for now, our whimsical Personification of Air, whose hair turns to clouds, as she strides gaily along, is unattributed.
Hamburg was the burgher artistic center of the northern Germany. During the second half of the 17th c., a style of painting heavily dependent on Netherlandish art took hold.4
A drawing apparently from the same series of The Four Elements, a Personification of Fire, was advertised by Boerner in Simiolus:Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol 22, No. 1/2 (1993-1994). It is by a slightly different hand than ours and had been attributed to Jacob Matthias Weyer. Today, it might be attributed to Johann Moritz Riesenberger, d.J., a contemporary of Pfeiffer's.
Peter Prange, Deutsche Zeichnungen, 1450-1800, Hamburger Kunsthalle, 2007.
Prange, op.cit., cat numbers 6658-6672, illus.
Prange, op.cit., cat.# 670.
Other artists of this ilk were Johann Georg Hainz (fl 1666-1700), Joachim Luhn, Franz Werner van Tamm, Jacob Matthias Weyer (fl 1648-70), and Otto Elliger. This information is from the Grove Dictionary of Art.