Masters of Mobility


10.3 Views in and around the Village : The Schwalbach Village Views

One of the earliest works in the German-speaking countries that is indebted to the Small Landscapes is the so-called Schwalbacher Reise by Matthäus Merian I (1593-1650)1 who did those engravings after drawings by Anton Mirou (1578-1621/7) , the Flemish landscape painter whose Protestant leanings led to his exile from Antwerp.2 The series, consisting of 25 prints and a title page, depicts views in and around the village, formerly called Langenschwalbach, near Wiesbaden, Germany [9-12]. Merian was, of course, familiar with different types of landscape painting. In (or before) 1620 he produced engravings after Paul Bril, and his earlier work is full of references to Gillis van Coninxloo.3 He apparently never visited the Netherlands, but he definitely knew the Small Landscapes.4

It is the title page of the Schwalbacher Reise, or Schwalbach village views [9],5 published in Basel in 1620, that reveals how closely Merian’s publication was modelled on the successful series from Antwerp. The question that needs to be answered is: What exactly is the relationship between the Schwalbach village views of the title and the Small Landscapes?

In both series, what seems to dominate is the close view of the buildings and their asymmetrical shapes as well as the limited scope in terms of the variety of the depicted houses and cottages. There are no large and representative buildings present in Merian’s engravings. The houses are neatly embedded in the surroundings, which requires a slightly different treatment of the horizon compared to the Small Landscapes where the horizon is parallel to the picture plane and thereby often seems to create a spatial continuum. The view in the Small Landscapes is often that from a distance, while in the Schwalbach village views the viewer seems to be standing right in the centre of a rural landscape. The depiction of trees seems to help Merian to establish the position of the viewer between the surrounding forest, its periphery, and the centre of the village. In the Small Landscapes the trees are examples of a more compository style. Smoking chimneys and a number of decorative items in the Schwalbach village views also indicate in what way the two series differ. The Small Landscapes include depictions that are devoid of people and can do with a few farm animals. Merian’s additions might have been a conscious decision, but they could also point to his being ignorant of the original prints, having known only the copies made by Claes Jansz. Visscher (c. 1587-1652).6

Matthäus Merian (I) after Anton Mirou published by Peter Aubry (II)
Title page of the Schwalbach Village Views after drawings by Anton Mirou, 1620
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.150

Matthäus Merian (I) after Anton Mirou published by Peter Aubry (I)
Village road with farms of which two with a smoking chimney, 1620
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ 3.151

Matthäus Merian (I) after Anton Mirou published by Peter Aubry (II)
Truss shed with half opened door, Schwalbach, 1620
Bad Schwalbach, Stadtmuseum Bad Schwalbach

Matthäus Merian (I) after Anton Mirou published by Peter Aubry (II)
Riding boy with bagpiper, 1620
Bad Schwalbach, Stadtmuseum Bad Schwalbach

In terms of the size of the plates, the Schwalbach village views are slightly smaller than the Small Landscapes which seem to achieve what could be called a zooming effect: The Schwalbach Village appears to be closer to the viewer’s eye, but what can be actually seen has been created in a smaller format – like through a rectangular magnifying glass. The native German landscape is literally depicted through Netherlandish eyes. The comparison therefore shows how a landscape motif with a very characteristic principle of composition has been transposed to a German village: Schwalbach. This is in itself significant to the history of the reception and transmission where a certain motif is being modified (to achieve a more local feel), and – according to what the artist is trying to express – updated, however without dispensing with formal elements like the title page.

In Augsburg and some years later the influence of the Small Landscapes in southern Germany is still quite visible, for instance in Johann Ulrich Kraus’s afore-mentioned Views of Nuremberg [13-15, 20]. Kraus is another artist who sees through Netherlandish eyes, both in terms of compositional aspects and of the format of the series. There is one difference, though, and that is the fact that Kraus has given each of his views a name, thereby helping the viewer to identify the buildings depicted. The original drawings were made by another German, Johann Andreas Graff (1637-1701). Kraus’s Views of Nuremberg captivate the viewer with their simplicity and spatial integration at eye level.

Johann Ulrich Kraus after Johann Andreas Graff published by Johann Andreas Graff
View of the Unterbürg, Nuremberg, 1675-1688
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.34

Johann Ulrich Kraus after Johann Andreas Graff published by Johann Andreas Graff
View of the Veilhoff en de Ferne Mögeldorffs, 1675-1688
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.33

Johann Ulrich Kraus after Johann Andreas Graff published by Jeremias Wolff
View of the Hochmannischen Garten, 1675-1688
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.43

His views of the imperial city of Augsburg, on the other hand, are, incidentally, completely different [16-17], and there are other engravings of Nuremberg, also done by Kraus, where the style is one of grandeur and ornate details [18-19].7

This simply shows that one and the same artist can switch between different modes of depiction, even when the object, in this case the imperial city of Nuremberg, remains the same. The Views of Nuremberg and its surroundings clearly document a conscious choice with an established mode of depiction that originates in the Small Landscapes and has been transposed to an urban setting. Even the representative buildings chosen by Kraus have a stylistic similarity with those depicted in the Small Landscapes. And that both format and mode of depiction would have appealed to a target group of buyers can be explained by the publishing history and the title page [20] which does not mention the words ‘views’ or ‘landscape’ and instead states Dodecas oder 12. Abgezeignete schöne Landschäftlein umb Nürnberg, in Augspurg bey Jeremias Wolff Kunsthandl. zu finden (Twelve beautiful small landscapes around Nuremberg, and are to be sold by Jeremias Wolff in Augsburg). The stairs in the title page seem to go down and, at the bottom, create an entrance to the surrounding area of Nuremberg. A peacock perched on a balustrade, like the diminutive form of ‘schöne[n] Landschäfftlein’ (beautiful small landscapes), pays homage to the tradition of the locus amoenus. The depiction of precise geographical locations (‘Landschäfflein umb Nürnberg’ or, in the case of the first series of the Small Landscapes, ‘meest rontom Antwerpen gheleghen finden’) and the advertisement on the title page, promising naturalistic likeness (‘abgezeignet’ and ‘gheconterfeyt naer dleven’, i.e. lifelike) are closely related. They are the two aspects that had been brought together first in the series of prints from Antwerp.8

In this respect, it can be said that the Small Landscapes somehow started a fashion that quickly spread throughout the German-speaking countries. Not only its publishing history, but the mere fact that Merian’s Schwalbach village views can be found in almost every collection of prints and drawings,9 show their popularity, matched, perhaps, only by the Small Landscapes themselves. There are, in the case of the Schwalbach village views, for example, test prints or proof copies, and there is the edition by Pierre Aubry, brought out in 1620-25, and the new edition by Christoph Weigel published in Nuremberg in 1690, as well as countless copies, ‘zahlreiche Nachstiche’10, which make it difficult for the scholar to establish a certain order. We can therefore assume that, by 1690, the motives developed in the Small Landscapes were well known in the south of Germany.

Johann Ulrich Kraus
Mercury fountain at Augsburg, between 1675-1719
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.21

Johann Ulrich Kraus
Zeughaus in Augsburg, 1675-1719
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.22

Johann Ulrich Kraus
Lauffer tower at Nuremberg, 1675-1719
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.49

Johann Ulrich Kraus
View of the new tower in Nuremberg, 1675-1719
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ AB 3.52

Johann Ulrich Kraus after Johann Andreas Graff published by Jeremias Wolff
Title page from the Views of Nuremberg, 1675-1719
Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv./ JUKraus AB 3.36


1 Wüthrich 1966-1996, vol. 1, p. 102-109, nos. 422-447.

2 Diefenbacher 2002, p. 20.

3 Wüthrich 1966-1996, vol. 1, p. 51, nos. 232; p. 52-53, no. 234-239; p. 141-142, no. 531-536.

4 Diefenbacher 2002, p. 34ff. Sandrart mentions a journey to the Netherlands. Wüthrich, on the other hand, is very much in doubt about this for the reason that, in 1616, there simply was not enough time.

5 Hans-Martin Kaulbach (Kaulbach 2003, p. 359), in his review of Diefenbacher 2002, has put forward the title Schwalbacher Ansichten (Views of Schwalbach), or Ansichten aus der Umgebung von Schwalbach (Views from the area around Schwalbach). The numbering of the prints and Diefenbacher’s topographical reconstruction does not, however, have anything in common with a picturesque walk or a Reise (journey), as the title of Diefenbacher’s book seems to suggest.

6 The differences (and similarities) between the two editions of the Small Landscapes are discussed in Onuf 2011.

7 Views of Augsburg (4 plates), etchings. The city gates of Nuremberg (6 plates), etchings.

8 Freedberg 1980, p. 15-20.

9 Wüthrich 1966-1996, p. 109: ‘in beinahe jedem Kupferstichkabinett’.

10 Wüthrich 1966-1996, p. 108.

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