Adolph MENZEL (Breslau 1815 - Berlin 1905)

Portrait of Frau Constanze Puhlmann

Pencil on paper, trimmed to an oval.
Inscribed and dated (by Emmy Puhlmann) Frau Constanze Puhlmann / geb. Steinert / von Adolph Menzel 1851 on the old backing board.
Further inscribed Fürs Museum in / Potsdambestimmt. / Potsdam 29/6 1920 / Emmy Puhlmann / geb. Schmeißer. on the old backing board.
230 x 185 mm. (9 x 7 1/4 in.) at greatest dimensions.


Adolph Menzel rarely accepted portrait commissions, and in general only produced portraits of members of his family, close friends and associates. As the scholar Marie-Ursula Riemann-Reyher has noted, ‘Even though Menzel never wanted to be a portraitist, and his portraits were primarily created for special occasions or as favors, he succeeded brilliantly in this area. In addition to his artistic ability, his watercolors, pastels, and pencil drawings attest to his grasp of the psychological aspects of portrait painting, which were bolstered by his extraordinary empathy and his knowledge of human nature.’

The present sheet is a portrait of Constanze Puhlmann, née Steinert (1796?-1852), the wife of one of Menzel’s closest friends, the army surgeon Dr. Wilhelm Puhlmann (1797-1882). Himself the son of a painter, Wilhelm Puhlmann first met the young Menzel in 1836, when he commissioned him to design a membership certificate for the Potsdamer Kunstverein, the Art Union in Postdam, as well as a visiting card. Despite the fact that Puhlmann was several years older than Menzel, the two men became close friends and established a lifelong correspondence, punctuated by numerous gifts of drawings from the artist, until Puhlmann’s death in 1882. In October of that same year, the National-Galerie in Berlin acquired much of Puhlmann’s collection of works by Menzel. 

Constanze and Wilhlem Puhlmann were married in 1828, and had five children. She died the year after this portrait by Menzel was drawn. Other drawings by Menzel of members of the Puhlmann family include a fine watercolour portrait of Wilhelm Puhlmann, dated 1850, in the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, as well as chalk portraits of Constanze Puhlmann’s mother and the Puhlmann’s only daughter Sophie, and another of their eldest son Oscar Puhlmann at the age of fourteen.

Sold at auction in Berlin in 1929, the present sheet later belonged to the choirmaster and church organist Karl Lütge (1875-1967), who lent it to the exhibition Ausstellung Adolph von Menzel aus Anlass seines 50 Todesjahres at the Museum Dahlem in Berlin in 1955.

Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Puhlmann and Constanze Puhlmann, Potsdam
By descent to their son and daughter-in-law, Oscar and Emmy Puhlmann, Potsdam, by 1920
Anonymous sale, Berlin, Karl Ernst Henrici, 22-23 April 1929, lot 214
Karl Lütge, Ahstedt (Schellerten), by 1955
Anonymous sale, Berlin, Villa Grisebach, 28 May 2014, lot 223
Private collection.

Claude Keisch and Marie Ursula Riemann-Reyher, ed., Adolph Menzel: Briefe, Berlin and Munich, 2009, Vol.4, p.1633, fig.18.


Portrait of Frau Constanze Puhlmann


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