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The Elector Johann Georg of Brandenburg and his wife Elisabeth von Anhalt, double portrait in a case

Key data

dated 1578

Heinrich Rappusch, Berlin

Modelled wax in copper gilt engraved and lidded case

diameter 10.5 cm

Inv. 1874.66.


The art of making wax portraits flourished in the late C16 and was highly valued by noble collectors for the impression they gave of being lifelike while evoking the preciousness of carved gemstones. The wax portrait in medallion form derived from portrait medals and Antonio Abondio was the most important exponent of the art. Six outstanding examples of wax sculpture from Brandenburg Saxony came to the Museum from the collection of the Basle goldsmith and natural scientist Leonhard Thurneysser (1531-1596). For 14 years he was the Elector's personal physician and was in close contact with the portrayed couple. He is recorded as wearing golden 'favour pennies' ('Gnadenpfennige'), or portrait coins, around his neck. The double portrait, of which a variant of 1579 is known, was probably made by Heinrich Rappusch in the year before his appointment as court goldsmith. Rappusch came to Berlin from Nuremberg. The minute description of the precious armour of the Elector and the jewels of his wife are noteworthy, as is the contrast in the sitters' complexions.

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