Book Review: Heinrich Graf von Brühl (1700-1763). Ein sächsischer Mäzen in Europa

Heinrich Graf von Brühl (1700-1763). Ein sächsischer Mäzen in Europa, Dresden, Sandstein Verlag, 2017, 547 pages Picture1

Published by Ute Koch and Cristina Ruggero, this book is the outcome of a symposium that took place in Dresden and Rome in March 2014, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the death of Henry, Count of Brühl (1700-1763). Prime minister of king of Poland Augustus III, the Count of Brühl long suffered a negative image due to the situation of bankruptcy which he left at his death, following the Seven Years’ war. He nonetheless played a fundamental role in the artistic field, an aspect of the statesman’s life which is here reassessed and analysed in detail. The self-propagandist image of the Saxon prime minister is clearly reflected by the publication of family trees and above all his residences, be it that of Dresden (known for the famous “Brühl terrace”) and his further properties in Forst-Pförten and in Warsaw. While Brühl’s name is associated with the foundation of the celebrated Meissen porcelain manufactory (the “table fountain” from the V&A museum being a fascinating example of the kind), his attempt to establish a mosaic manufactory in Saxony is less often remembered. The Count of Brühl assembled a collection of tapestries and a library, but it was above all his impressive paintings gallery that made his fame. This is testified by their publication during Brühl’s lifetime and their acquisition for the Russian Impress Catherine the Great through her agent Andre Belloselsky. Brühl’s correspondence with the Bolognese painter Luigi Crespi partly reveals the manner how he formed his paintings collection around 1750. One may shed more light about Brühl’s taste through his relationships with scholars such as Bianconi or Winckelmann; Count Algarotti’s commission of Tiepolo’s famous pair of paintings even hint to Brühl’s sympathies for the masonic lodge. A further way to situate Count of Brühl among 18th century Saxon and Polish art lovers is provided by an analysis of the art market in Leipzig, Jablonowski’s collection of antique gems and Count of Hoym’s paintings gallery.

François Marandet, lecturer, IESA Paris

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