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Painting and Graphic Art

Portrait of Johann Rudolf Burckhardt

Key data

Anton Graff, Basle, ca. 1786

Oil on canvas

114.5 x 84 cm

Inv. 1976.175.

Description

J.R. Burckhardt (1750-1813) was by profession a silk ribbon manufacturer and from 1777 held the influential office of director of the merchants' association. Here, however, he appears as a private citizen. The statuette of Apollo and the books as attributes in the background recall the Gedanken über den Stand eines Kaufmanns (Thoughts on a merchant's station) by his Basle contemporary Jakob Sarasin, in which the merchant, too, is expected to have an understanding of the fine arts, "... for without them what use are knowledge of languages, grace and wit in life?" Burckhardt was a friend of Gessner, Lavater, Pestalozzi and Goethe. In Basle he has left his mark as an ambitious patron of architecture: his town residence, the Haus zum Kirschgarten (built 1775-80), is a high point of early Neoclassical secular architecture in the Upper Rhine region. In this portrait, Anton Graff justifies his high reputation as a portraitist and especially as a pioneer of the naturalistic portrait.

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Basel Historical Museum
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Reception: +41 61 205 86 00
Message: +41 61 205 86 02
historisches.museum(at)bs.ch

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