Lime-wood herms on elaborate scrolled pilasters of pinewood
Overall dimensions: height: 128 cm - 50½ in width: 63.5 cm - 25 in
The busts alone (including the wings): height : 54.5 cm - 21½ in width: 63.5 cm - 25 in
Comment: The busts, wings and the scroll at the bottom of the supporting pilasters are made in a number of sections of limewood, while the supporting pilasters are each made from a single piece of pinewood; all of the sections fit together with wooden dowels. Both Angels have a paler piece of wood on the crown of their heads also located by wooden dowels. Lacking their original polychrome finish, these figures are exceptionally finely carved and crisply defined, and are in very fine condition; all of the component parts, with the sole exception of the tip of one leaf, are original.
Günther is unusual for having used his own face as his ideal physiognomic type for male and female images alike. His self-portrait, which is now only known from an engraving of 1806 by Ferdinand Neuhaus, called Piloti, shows Günther with his hair brushed forward over a high forehead, heavily lidded, sunken eyes, a long, straight, fleshy nose with slightly flaring nostrils, a small mouth with full pursed lips and broad cheek and jaw bones that terminate in a small, slightly receeding chin.(1)
There are many comparisons within his oeuvre that are evidence of Günther’s authorship of the present figures. Stylistically identical comparisons are found among a number of his greatest works made in 1761-63: in particular the bust of The Madonna of circa 1761, now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, which comes from Günther’s house(2); and the Guardian Angel made in 1763 for the Bürgersaal, Munich (3). Both are very similar to the present figures in their physiognomic type and in the modelling of the wings; as also is the Angel Gabriel in the Annunciation Group made in 1764 for the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, Weyarn (4). The most closely comparable pair of wings are seen on Chronos of circa 1765-70, now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (5).
The pilasters in an early design by Günther of 1771/1772 for the west doors of the Frauenkirche in Munich bear an identical pattern to those of the present figures, and they are surmounted by herms in the same way(6). Although they were simplified in their final execution(7), Günther used a similar design for the west door of Schloss Schleissheim in 1763 (8). However, the way in which the wings of the present Angels curve back and behind their herm pilasters makes it clear that they were not intended to be set against a flat background. As Gerhard Woeckel has pointed out, they were more probably intended as a ‘framing’ element for an altarpiece, such as that seen in his drawing of 1754 for the Church of St Anna, Munich-Harlaching (9).
Notes: 1. G. P. Woeckel, Ignaz Günther. Die Handzeichnungen des kurfürstlich bayerischen Hofbildhauers Franz Ignaz Günther, Weissenhorn, 1975, pl. II.
2. A. Schoenberger, Ignaz Günther, Munich, 1954, p. 36, no. 22 & pl. 22.
3. A. Feulner & E. Schmauss, Ignaz Günther. Der Grosse Bildhauer des Bayerischen Rokoko, Munich, 1947, p. 203, showing the Guardian Angel prior to restoration. See also illustrations and discussion in Schoenberger 1954, pp. 44-46 & pls III, 54-57, and in P. Volk, Rokokoplastik in Altbayern, Bayrisch-Schwaben und in Allgäu, Munich, 1981, pl. VIII & p. 37.
4. Schoenberger 1954, pp. 49-50 & pls 67 & 69.
5. Schoenberger 1954, p. 73 & pl. 130.
6. Woeckel 1975, pl. 72 & p. 59. The drawing is in Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung (inv. no. 5765). The same design also appears in Günther’s drawings for the north-east and north-west doors of the Frauenkirche.
7. Schoenberger 1954, figs E38, E39 & p. 83; Woeckel 1975, pls 72-74 & pp. 426-445, nos 72-74, figs 350-351, 359-360, 365 & 368.
8. Schoenberger 1954, p. 44 & pl. 51.
9. In a private written communication. For the drawing (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, inv. no. Hz. 4094), see Woeckel 1975, p. 56, no.13 & fig. 13.