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Dunkle AnsichtHelle Ansicht
Painting and Graphic Art

Double portrait of Johannes and Wilhelm Leonhard Bernoulli as children

Key data

Giovanni Moriggia, Basle, ca. 1840

Oil on canvas

86.5 x 70.2 cm

Inv. 1991.162.


Several portraits in the collection document the work of the Italian painter from Caravaggio, Giovanni Moriggia (1796-1878), for the prominent Bernoulli, Merian and Sarasin families in 1836-40. The Bernoulli brothers pose as butterfly hunters, a popular motif at that time. Johannes (1826-1895), already in young man's dress, puts his arm protectively around Wilhelm Leonhard (1833-1919). A preparatory study for the careful treatment of the heads has been preserved. The swallowtail butterfly poised on the elder boy's hand in a snapshot effect cannot disguise the artifice of the pose. The brothers' interest in natural history goes beyond contemporary fashion, for the Bernoulli family's natural history collection had been an essential constituent of the Naturhistorisches Museum founded in 1830. Their father was the son of an apothecary and from 1840 owned the drugs, pharmaceuticals and paints firm of Geigy & Bernoulli, which soon became the leading drugs company in Switzerland and southern Germany. The firm was inherited and carried on by the subjects of this portrait.

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