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Passavant, Johann David

Date born:  1787

Place Born:  Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Date died:  1861

Place died:  Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Curator and artist; developed the major scholarly formats of art publication.  Passavant apprenticed in commerce in Frankfurt.  His interest in the arts was evidence by an early correspondence with the artist Franz Pforr (1788-1812).  He moved to Paris in 1809 to further his business interests. In 1815 he abandoned trade to enter the studio of Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835) to study painting.  Passavant traveled to Rome in 1817 continuing his study under Johann Friedrich Böhmer (1795-1863) and Carl Philipp Fohr (1775-1818) as well as other Nazarenes. He wrote an anonymous 1820 encomium to German painting, titled Ansichten über die bildenden Künste.  He also began regular contributions to the art journal Die Kunstblatt, which he continued through 1861.  He returned to Frankfurt in 1824 where art history evermore occupied his interest.  He traveled throughout Belgium, Spain and particularly in England, collecting documents and studying art.  The result was his Kunstreise durch England und Belgien, published in 1833.  In 1836, the work was translated and published by Elizabeth Rigby later Lady Eastlake, as Tour of a German Artist in England. His biography of Raphael, Rafael von Urbino appeared in 1839, a hallmark of documentary research. The following year he became Inspektor (curator) of the Städel’schen Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt.  There he acquired important works in the prints and drawing area, mounted exhibitions, and taught. In 1850 articles began to appear in the Deutsche Kunstblatt. The same year he contributed, with G. B. Cavalcaselle and Gustav Waagen to the catalog for the city of Liverpool Gallery, commissioned by Sir Charles Eastlake. In 1851 Passavant published an updated inventory of the collection Maximilian Eugen von Leuchtenberg (1817-1852), followed by his account of Spanish painting, Die christliche Kunst in Spanien, in 1853.  The first volume of his important revision to Le Peintre-graveur of Adam von Bartsch appeared in 1860, which eventually ran to six volumes.  After his death, a partial translation of his Raphael biography appeared in English in 1869 and a full translation in 1872.

Passavant developed the three principal genres of art writing important for the next two centuries:  the scholarly artistic biography, the aesthetic travelogue, and the reference survey.  As a historian, he followed the romantic tradition.  His biography of Raphael employed Nazarene aesthetics as well as archival documentation. It became the model for the form of the artist's monograph in the 19th century: the presentation of an artist's entire oeuvre as a complete sequential body of work (Guercio). His Kunstreise had a tremendous impact on the reading public;  Waagen used it as a model for his Kunstwerke und Künstler in England and Paris  of 1837.  Passavant's writings became widely disseminated after his death through English translations.  His paintings include Holy Family with Elizabeth and John (1819), Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, and a Visitation, Christ and the Samaritan (c. 1820), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

Home Country:  Germany

Sources:   Waetzoldt, Wilhelm. Deutsche Kunsthistoriker. vol. 2 Leipzig: 1924, pp. 14-29; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 44 mentioned; Kultermann, Udo. Geschichte der Kunstgeschichte: Der Weg einer Wissenschaft. Frankfurt am Main and Vienna: Ullstein, 1981, pp.155-6; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 89; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 146-7; German Essays on Art History. Gert Schiff, ed. New York: Continuum, 1988, p. xxx [discussion of Rumohr's rift with]; Bauereisen, Hildegard, and Stuffmann, Margret. Von Kunst und Kennerschaft: die Graphische Sammlung im Städelschen Kunstinstitut unter Johann David Passavant 1840 bis 1861.  Frankfurt am Main: Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut Frankfurt am Main, 1994;  Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 300-1; Guercio, Gabriele. Art as Existence: The Artist's Monograph and Its Project. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, p. 20.

Bibliography: Ansichten über die bildenden Künste und Darstellung des Ganges derselben in Toscana: zur Bestimmung des Gesichtspunctes, aus welchem die neudeutsche Malerschule zu betrachten ist von einem deutschen Künstler in Rom.  Heidelberg: Oswald 1820; Kunstreise durch England und Belgien, nebst einem Bericht über den Bau des Domthurms zu Frankfurt. Frankfurt am Main: S. Schmerber, 1833, English, Tour of a German Artist in England. London:  Sanders and Otley, 1836; Raffael von Urbino und sein Vater Giovanni Santi. 3 vols. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1839-58, partial English publication as, Cundall Joseph, ed.  The Great Works of Raphael Sanzio of Urbino . . . and Essays on the Genius of Raphael, by Luigi Lanzi and Quatremere de Quincy: second series.  London: Bell and Daldy, 1869, published fully in English as,  Raphael of Urbino and His Father Giovanni Santi. London: Macmillan, 1872; Galerie Leuchtenberg: Gemälde Sammlung seiner Kaiserl. Hoheit des herzogs von Leuchtenberg in München.  Frankfurt am Main: J. Baer, 1851, English,  The Leuchtenberg Gallery: a Collection of Pictures Forming the Celebrated Gallery of his Imperial Highness the Duke of Leuchtenberg at Munich. Frankfurt am Main: s. n., 1852; Die christliche Kunst in Spanien.  Leipzig: Weigel, 1852; Le peintre-graveur . . . Et un catalogue supplémentaire aux estampes du XV. et XVI. siècle du Peintre-graveur de Adam Bartsch. 6 vols. Leipzig: R. Wiegel, 1860-64;Verzeichniss der öffentlich ausgestellten Kunst-Gegenstände des Städel’schen Kunst-Instituts zu Frankfurt a. M. Frankfurt am Main: C. Naumann, 1883.