Adolph MENZEL (Breslau 1815 - Berlin 1905)

An Alley in a Mountain Town, Possibly in the South Tyrol

Carpenter’s pencil, with stumping.
Signed Ad. Menzel at the lower left.
203 x 119 mm. (8 x 4 5/8 in.)


Beginning in 1852, Menzel took annual summer trips to towns and resorts in southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and he produced countless pencil drawings of the buildings, sights and local people he encountered. As Irmgard Wirth has noted, ‘[Menzel’s] comprehension of a subject is perhaps the most amazing aspect of his achievement: a natural sympathy for the textural, and above all the three-dimensional qualities of what he is describing, and this is reflected in the countless studies and completed drawings of buildings and architecture. Whether it is an isolated part of a building, the inside or outside of a door, an historical building, or simply a street or square, it is always the vital, the individual and the characteristic that is brought to light. It is as if his hand actually felt along and traced every column and every cornice, so that his eye might absorb the scene in its entirety.’

This drawing, which has been dated by Marie Ursula Riemann-Reyher to c.1881-1882, was said to be the view of a town in the South Tyrol region at the time of its inclusion in the seminal Menzel memorial exhibition held in Berlin in 1905. Among stylistically and thematically comparable drawings by the artist is An Alley in an Old Town, dated 1891, in the collection of the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf.

The first owner of the present sheet was the Hamburg collector Gustav Engelbrecht (1848-1923), who began acquiring drawings around 1892. His collection was dominated by the work of 19th century German artists, including a particularly fine selection of drawings by Menzel, and was dispersed at auction in Germany the year after his death. Other drawings by Adolph Menzel from the Engelbrecht collection are today in the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg, the Museum Georg Schäfer in Schweinfurt and the Albertina in Vienna.

Gustav Engelbrecht, Hamburg (Lugt 1148)
His (anonymous) sale (‘Handzeichnungs-sammlung eines süddeutschen Kunstfreundes’), Berlin, Amsler & Ruthardt, 28-29 October 1924, lot 450 (‘Motiv aus einem kleinen Gebirgsstädtchen; durch eine schmale Straße mit alten Häusern blickt man auf das Gebirge. 20,2 x 12 cm. Prachtvolle, sorgfältig ausgeführte Landschaftsstudie von schönster malerischer Bildwirkung, in schwarzer Kreide und mit gewischten Tönen. Bezeichnet “Ad. Menzel”.’, sold for 1,750 Goldmarks)
Private collection, Berlin
Anonymous sale, Berlin, Villa Grisebach, 4 June 2005, lot 109
Jill Newhouse, New York, in 2006
Private collection.


An Alley in a Mountain Town, Possibly in the South Tyrol


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