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Hans Rottenhammer in Venice: Networking in Style between Italy and Germany

  • Author(s): McCabe, Sophia Quach
  • Advisor(s): Meadow, Mark A
  • et al.
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Scholarship on cultural and artistic exchanges between northern Europe and Italy during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries has focused primarily on the development of artistic style, largely ignoring the fact that successful artists were also successful businessmen. My work places the early modern artist in a different context, reconstructing the interrelationships between art, commerce, and networks. This dissertation examines the ways in which German painter Hans Rottenhammer (c. 1564–1625) achieved international success from Venice through his use of networks. Part of the late sixteenth-century wave of northern European artists traveling south to Italy for further training, Rottenhammer is best known for his small-format paintings of religious and mythological subjects on copper panels. His decision to actively pursue and develop an artistic style that met the sophisticated tastes of European courts and international merchants saw the critical imitation of Venetian and Roman masters.

As a foreign artist in Venice, equally significant for Rottenhammer and his career was the strategic use of various groups in his social network. His collaborative copper painting enterprise with Flemish landscape specialists Paul Bril and Jan Brueghel the Elder brought him into the rarefied circles of leading patrons, such as Cardinal Federico Borromeo. Rottenhammer’s artist-friends and German merchants around Venice’s Fondaco dei Tedeschi also served as intermediaries and agents, marketing his work to collectors on both sides of the Alps. In presenting an alternative model for how artists garnered success through the use of intermediaries and agents—different from the long-standing artist-patron relationship and the “open market” models—this dissertation further illuminates the close connections between art, commerce, and networks in the early modern period.

Chapter 1 traces Rottenhammer’s stylistic development, from his apprenticeship in Munich to his continued education in Italy and demonstrates Rottenhammer’s critical imitation of Italian, Flemish, and German masters. It also argues for a connection between the international style practiced by Rottenhammer and efforts toward a common European culture. Chapter 2 reconstructs Rottenhammer’s social network through correspondences, testimonials, princely court and city records, and contemporary biographies. Using the methods of social network theory and network visualization, the chapter shows how Rottenhammer negotiated with and worked through overlapping networks of artist-friends, patrons, and merchants in order to establish his career. The chapter also brings attention to Rottenhammer’s activities as an art agent, connecting the multiple roles served by the artist to his associations with merchants and professional art agents. Chapter 3 investigates copper painting economics through the infrastructure of the European copper metal trade. This chapter frames copper painting as a luxury product supported by Southern German merchant trade networks involved in the mining and trade of European metals. Chapter 4 examines Rottenhammer’s collaborations on copper, namely copper panel paintings produced with Paul Bril and Jan Brueghel the Elder, and engravings after Rottenhammer’s designs by the Sadeler family and Lucas Kilian. This final chapter provides an alternative model to understand the phenomenon of collaborative paintings, distinct from the long-standing scholarly discussions of friendship, for Rottenhammer’s collaborative copper paintings with Bril and Brueghel, produced at long distances apart, were predicated upon existing networks and infrastructures.

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This item is under embargo until September 14, 2024.