The Painting Gallery of the HLMD features numerous major works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, including the portrait of Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg in the guise of Saint Jerome in his study (1525). Other works found in the same hall are Hans Baldung Grien’s “Christ as a Gardener” (1539) and Georg Pencz’s large portrait of the Nuremberg goldsmith Jakob Hofmann (1544) as well as the world-famous “Magpie on the Gallows” (1568) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a grandiose design for a poetical and simultaneously disturbing “world landscape”.
Highlights from the transitional period between Renaissance and Baroque are to be found among the early German still life paintings dating from the first half of the 17th century, for example works by Peter Binoit and Gottfried van Wedig in addition to Georg Flegel’s “The Apricot Branch” (1630/39), one of the most beautiful of all German still lifes.
The German still lifes are accompanied by history paintings as well as landscapes and architectural pictures dating from the same period, predominately from Antwerp. The painters in this Flemish commercial centre was so well organised that they all had their own speciality, for example figures, landscapes, architecture and still lifes, and they often collaborated on single pictures. Painters like the Antwerp-born Paul Vredeman de Vries continued this cooperative practice later while living in exile in Amsterdam. He did not paint the figures in the foreground of his perspective piece “Esther before Ahasuerus” (1612), which were probably done by the young Adriaen van Nieulandt. Even in the 18th, landscape and perspective painters still collaborated on occasion with specialists for figures, for example in Frankfurt am Main.
The small-format paintings by Flemish masters are shown in a separate cabinet in order to facilitate the concentration on these delicately made works. But a Baroque picture cabinet “à la mode française” is not imitated here because the perpendicular symmetry of such a picture wall requires a centrally composed middle piece and side pieces arranged in pairs. Philipp Bender’s “View of the Grand Ducal Painting Gallery” (1824/30) shows that while the administrators of the Darmstadt gallery retained the densely cluttered presentation of a Baroque painting wall, they abandoned the perpendicular symmetry of the wall composition in favour of a didactical hanging according to schools of painting.
Mid-sized and large-format Flemish paintings from the first half of the 17th century hang in the basement level of the Painting Gallery along with works of “Dutch Classicism” from the latter half of the century, for example the large “Narcissus” (1675/80) by Gérard de Lairesse. The most important painting here is Peter Paul Rubens’s “Diana Returning from the Hunt”, which depicts the gripping encounter between the virtuous Diana, goddess of the hunt, and her nymphs with the lustful satyrs. Rubens drafted and executed this large painting around 1623 with the help of the assistants in his Antwerp workshop. However, he entrusted the painting of the animals and the fruit to an Antwerp colleague, the still life specialist Frans Snyders.
The Amsterdam Rembrandt school and painting from nearby Haarlem are particularly well represented in the collection of 17th-century Dutch masterpieces. Featured works include the portrait of an opulently attired boy with a cane stick (1644) by Dirck Dircksz. van Santvoort, then the leading painter of children in Amsterdam, and a small extraordinary view of a shore painted around 1622/24 by Jan Porcellis in Haarlem. The presentation of Dutch painting continues in a cabinet with works by Netherlandish and German painters that exude “dreams of the South”.
Paintings representing Italy as seen from the perspective of foreigners are followed by Italian works dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, including Domenichino’s “Portrait of a Young Man”, which makes a monumental impression despite its small size. Italian painting is juxtaposed with examples of French art from the Baroque period ranging from Louis Le Nain’s “The Lamentation of Christ” (circa 1640) to Philippe Jacques Loutherbourg’s appealingly exaggerated “Rendez-vous” (circa 1770).
Copies are exhibited between the “Flemish Cabinet” and the Baroque Gallery which early in the history of the Darmstadt Painting Gallery were already shown in a separate hall in the presidential palace.
A gallery devoted to the history of music in Darmstadt featuring listening stations and instruments has been set up here and is followed by an exhibition space focusing on German painting of the 18th century. One of the most impressive works here is the sensitive portrait of an aristocratic woman painter (1790/95) by Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder. The Frankfurt “Goethe Painters” from the circle of Christian Georg Schütz the Elder have traditionally been well represented in the Darmstadt collection; landscapes by Schütz himself are on view along with a wall painting and a church interior. The hall is rounded off with masterpieces by court painters in Darmstadt under Landgrave Ludwig VIII, including three self-portraits by Johann Christian Fiedler dating from various phases of the artist’s life. Johann Conrad Seekatz, one of the most important artists of the German Enlightenment, is represented by paintings such as the cunning “Magi Pageant” (1762-1764).