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Die Römischen Ansichten (Views of Rome)/ Ruine del Palazzo de'Cesari in Roma.
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Die Römischen Ansichten (Views of Rome)/ Ruine del Palazzo de'Cesari in Roma.
Work Type
prints, etchings, landscapes, works on paper
Plate: 224mm (width), 170mm (height), Support: 261mm (width), 206mm (height)

Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839) was an Austrian painter of the Neoclassical and later the German Romantic movements. He is probably the most significant Neoclassical landscape painter. Koch was influenced by the style of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), which he sought to revive, informed by his own vision. Koch belonged to a generation of artists that used empirical images of nature in idealised compositions; and in doing so he romanticised nature. He trained at the Hohe Karlsschule (military academy), in Stuttgart from 1785 to 1791. However, he rejected the restrictive and outmoded teaching methods and he left the school in 1791 for Strasbourg.

He then travelled extensively through France and Switzerland. After a brief stay in Naples, he arrived in Rome in 1795. There he joined the circle around Johann Christian Reinhart (1761-1847), whose prints are also represented in Te Papa's collection. With his pronounced, outgoing personality Koch became the centre of the German artists' colony in Rome. In 1812, after facing financial hardship and perhaps in protest against the French invasion he went to Vienna, where he worked prolifically. During this period he incorporated more non-classical themes in his work and his style became harsher.

On his return to Rome in 1815, he painted the four frescoes in the Dante Room of the Villa Massimi. His presence and personality had considerable influence among the younger generation in the art life of Rome and his new approach impacted on German landscape painters who visited the city. Koch, along with Reinhart and Jacob Wilhelm Mechau (1745-1808), is considered one of the 'discoverers' of the untouched villages outside Rome in the Sabine and Alban Hills, which he explored from the beginning of the century together with his artist colleagues on numerous treks. Koch's last years were spent in great poverty, despite his inspirational influence. He died in Rome, where he was buried in the Teutonic Cemetery, located next to St. Peter's Basilica within Vatican City.

Te Papa has a complete set of the 20 etchings that make up Koch's series Die Römischen Ansichten (Views of Rome), presented to the Colonial Museum by Bishop Ditlev Monrad in 1869. The original commission came about through expatriate Germans in Rome who subscribed to the series to support Koch who experienced hardship through the French occupation. Their rapid production ensued, with all twenty made by October 1810. To try to earn a better living, he moved to Vienna in 1812, taking his plates with him, and brought them back to Rome in 1815. On 3 January 1816 he complained that "in Vienna the swines of printers never cleaned the plates properly, so they gave bad impressions. Here I will get the plates boiled and they will be cleaner than they ever were". All 20 plates for the Vedute Romane were donated in 1999 by Koch's descendants to the Museo Olevano Romano; Olevano was the home of Koch's wife, Cassandra Ranaldi.

Koch derived the subjects from sketches that he had made in the previous decade: many such sketchbooks survive either whole or dismembered. After the completion of the series of etchings, he plundered them in turn for ideas in many of his later landscape paintings. This is the eighth plate and, as the title in Italian implies, it depicts the ruins of the Palace of the Caesars on the Palatine Hill, Rome. Koch deliberately adds an element of melodrama in the procession of monks heading towards the spectator, while in the right hand corner, a beautiful classicised woman, accompanied by her child, gives alms to a hooded, penintent monk. In the long distant past that Koch imagined, the Palace was a sublime, spooky ruin; urban and tourist Rome had long since encroached on it by 1810. Two prints in this series depict the Palace: see also Te Papa 1869-0001-264.


British Museum Catalogue online 'Die Römischen Ansichten (Views of Rome) / Near S. Vitale...', t=joseph+anton+koch&page=1

Cornelia Reiter, 'Nature as Ideal: Drawings by Joseph Anton Koch', Metropolitan Museum Journal, 49, 1 (2014), pp. 207-33.

Wikipedia, 'Joseph Anton Koch',

Dr Mark Stocker Curator, Historical International Art April 2019

Collection: Art
Gift of Bishop Monrad, 1869
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Image and original data provided by Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa
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