Reverse Painting Depicting a Rural Tavern Scene

Reverse Painting Depicting a Rural Tavern Scene

This finely executed reverse painting depicts seven farmers gathered around a table in a rural tavern. It is signed and dated by Nikolaus Michael Spengler (1700–1776). The composition is significant for its lively colors and Flemish character, and is based on a French print after Jacques Philippe Le Bas’s copperplate engraving L’Ecole du goust, itself a genre scene after a painting by the Fleming David Teniers the Younger (1610–1690). Teniers was one of the most famous genre painters in 17th century Flanders. The success of his work continued, predominantly in Paris, long after his death, as copperplate engravings reproduced his paintings and circulated his compositions more widely. Le Bas (1707–1783) was a highly talented and industrious engraver in Louis XV’s Paris, where he created prints after Flemish paintings.

Genre scenes, compositions showing everyday situations, were extremely fashionable in mid-18th-century Paris. Spengler, born into a family of glass painters from Konstanz, Germany, participated in this market and extended the fashion from France to Germany. He worked in the service of Counts Ernst Ludwig (r. 1678–1739) and Ludwig VIII (r. 1739–1768) of Hesse-Kassel, and introduced to their courts the less well known medium of meticulously painted glass panels. These paintings were smaller and more intimate than the highly prized oil paintings of the same school. Spengler’s “tavern scene” follows the Le Bas print to the smallest detail. In his use of color, however, Spengler provides a depiction that is more varied and bright, and is closer to the prevailing Rococo style than to the Baroque manner of Teniers and Le Bas.

Reverse Painting Depicting a Rural Tavern Scene, Germany, Darmstadt, Nikolaus Michael Spengler, 1760 (signed “N.M.SP 1760”). Glass, wood, metal mounts; painted, assembled. OH. 41.1 cm, W. 33.6 cm; H. (glass panel without frame) 29.4 cm (2011.3.114).

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