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Carl Hummel

* 1821 – † 1907

Italian Landscape (View from the Alban Hills across Lake Nemi and the Campagna to the Sea)

Oil on paper mounted on canvas
29 cm41,8 cm

Labelled on verso in a different hand: Nachlaß Prof. Carl Hummel Weimar
 Margarete Hummel

Italian Landscape (View from the Alban Hills across Lake Nemi and the Campagna to the Sea)

Until 1842 Carl Hummel was a student of Friedrich Preller the Elder at the Fürstliche freie Zeichenschule Weimar.1 Together with Preller he travelled to England, Norway, and the Island of Rügen, and later to Tyrol and Corsica. After touring Italy and Sicily, Hummel accepted a professorship at the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstschule in Weimar. This study was painted in the Alban Hills around the time when the late Romantic was producing his great landscape paintings. Whereas initially Hummel was very much under the influence of Preller’s heroic grasp of landscape, in his later years he developed a more naturalistic approach in line with the prevailing zeitgeist. Carl Hummel spent the years 1842 to 1846 in Italy with long sojourns on Capri, in Sicily, and in Rome.2 It was during that period that he painted this view from the Alban Hills down to the sea. Roaming the Lake Nemi region in 1802, the poet and travel writer Johann Gottfried Seume3 had gone into raptures over the landscape there: “The region is […] one of the finest in Italy, and the romantic blend of the wild and the cultivated, which here seem locked in battle, makes a curiously wholesome impression on one arriving from the arid wastes of Rome […] The situation is very beautiful; all around mountains and valleys are delightfully intermixed, and the little lake of Nemi, known as Diana’s mirror, adds the fascination of mythology.”4 Lake Nemi is indeed known locally as Diana’s mirror, a name it derives from Ovid’s saga of the nymph Egeria, who having fled to the shore of the lake was transformed by Diana into a stream crashing down off the rocks.5 Our work could have been painted from a vantage point near the town of Nemi situated above and to the east of the lake. The village on the opposite side, here largely obscured by the foreground rocks and trees, would therefore be Genzano di Roma with its landmark Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini. At the centre of the composition is a hill-top castle, beyond which the Campagna unfurls all the way down to the sea. Executed on paper in situ and with astonishing artistic licence, the painting softly juxtaposes patches of bold colour. It might even be described as a purely painterly study inasmuch as the artist dispensed with a preparatory drawing altogether. As can be deduced from the label on verso, the artist could not bring himself to part with this study, presumably because he was very pleased with it. That Carl Hummel was held in high esteem as a painter even during his lifetime and had patrons as far away as the United States is not surprising. Yet he was soon forgotten after his death. Not until 1976 did the first works from his estate come up for auction at Sotheby’s. Fortunately, a wealth of Hummel studies survived the GDR period by virtue of being stored in the vaults of the Weimarer Museum. Today, his oeuvre is in large part in private hands.

  1. Friedrich Preller the Elder (1804 Eisenach–1878 Weimar).

  2. For biographical information, cf. Wandschneider, Andrea (ed.), Carl Hummel. 1821– 1907, Städtische Galerie in der Reithalle Paderborn-Schloß Neuhaus, Paderborn 2005, p. 125

  3. Johann Gottfried Seume (1763 Poserna, Saxony – 1810 Teplitz, Bohemia).

  4. Seume, Johann Gottfried, Spaziergang nach Syrakus im Jahre 1802, Braunschweig 1803, p. 168

  5. Cf. Ovid Metamorphoses 15, 478–551.

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