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Work March of the Great Lord with his Guard of Janissaries and Spahis

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

La marche du Grand Seigneur avec sa garde de janissaires et de spahis

Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo M. Beck-Coppola

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Author(s):
Grollemund Hélène

The delicacy of Baur's miniatures, his rich inventiveness, and the expressiveness of his figures were acclaimed by leading eighteenth-century art lovers. The work was described in detail in the inventory drawn up after the death of Cardinal Mazarin. In this March of the Great Lord, Baur demonstrates tremendous deftness in depicting a procession involving hundred of figures in an extremely small space.

A baroque miniaturist

A miniaturist, draftsman, and engraver, Johann Wilhelm Baur was a native of Strasbourg who divided his career between Rome, Naples, and Vienna. The son of a goldsmith, in 1620 he entered the studio of the etcher and miniaturist Friedrich Brentel, an acknowledged shaper of talents in the Strasbourg-Nancy region. Circa 1628 Baur left Strasbourg for Italy, where he quickly found favor with the Farnese, Colonna, Orsini, and Borghese families and, especially, the future Cardinal Mazarin. He transposed engravings of Rome into gouache miniatures; the new "view painting" genre ensured him immediate success when he arrived at the Viennese court of Ferdinand III 1637. Baur played a major part at the court, introducing Roman Baroque into the Holy Roman Empire.

The art of the microcosm

Baur's miniatures reflect a traditional poetics of the microcosm that experienced its final flowering in eastern France in the early seventeenth century. Placing countless elements in a space no larger than a human hand, Baur created elaborately detailed mythological and religious scenes, panoramas and landscapes, or battles between entire armies. His particular strength lies in a lively narrative touch capable of setting hundred of figures in a precisely rendered landscape. Two examples are his Procession of a Sultan and its companion piece Papal Procession, painted for Mazarin in 1634 and showing his skill as a miniaturist at its peak: we can recognize St. John Lateran Square in the Vatican and a walled Eastern city with its minarets. These two works are part of a tradition of paintings and engravings of the historical or festive processions that were increasingly frequent in Rome between the late 1500s and the 1630s; however the artist did not actually witness the events portrayed, his source of inspiration being two engravings by Tempesta.

Contrasting scenes

Seventeenth-century painters often produced complementary or contrasting companion pieces. Baur's two miniatures are based on antithesis: on the one hand, the pontiff riding towards St. John Lateran Square surrounded by his Swiss Guard; and on the other, the sovereign leaving the city accompanied by his dignitaries. In one, we see the faithful kneeling as the Pope passes; in the other, the sultan's subjects respectfully prostrating themselves. In Papal Procession, the nobles in the left foreground hesitate; similarly positioned in Procession of a Sultan, a group of Orientals await their ruler. Thus Christianity and Islam confront each other in an antithesis balanced by a common format and composition. This pairing of images harks back to the Middle Ages and an artistic concept based on types and symbols.

Bibliography

R. Bonnefoit, "Mazarin collectionneur : Les miniatures de Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607-1642) au Louvre", in Revue du Louvre, XLV, 1, 1996, p. 70-81
R. Bonnefoit, "Johann Wilhelm Baur : ein Wegbereiter der barocken Kunst in Deutschland", Tübingen, 1997
R. Bonnefoit, in Johann Wilhelm Baur 1607-1642 : Maniérisme et baroque en Europe, exhibition catalogue, Strasbourg, Palais Rohan, 1998

Technical description

  • Johann Wilhelm Baur (Strasbourg, 1607-Vienna, 1642)

    March of the Great Lord with his Guard of Janissaries and Spahis

    1634

  • Gouache on vellum

    H. 9 cm; W. 59 cm

  • Collection of Cardinal Mazarin; purchased by Louis XIV from Mazarin's heirs, 1661; Collection of Louis XIV

    Procession of a Sultan

    3918502

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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