1813 Königswinter - 1879 Düsseldorf
John the Baptist
Oil on canvas (relined). 101 x 111 cm.
Signed and dated lower left: F. Ittenbach. 1838..
In German family ownership since 1870.
Franz Ittenbach became a pupil of Theodor Hildebrandt at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1832. From 1834 to 1839 he attended the painting class of Carl Ferdinand Sohn. From 1839 - 1842 he travelled to Italy together with the painter Wilhelm von Schadow to carry out preparatory studies for the frescoes of the Gothic Revival church of St. Apollinaris near Remagen. In Rome, he joined the Nazarene group under Friedrich Overbeck. After the completion of the fresco work in St. Apollinaris in 1849, he finally settled in Düsseldorf, where devoted himself almost entirely to painting large-format Biblical narratives and smaller devotional works. Franz Ittenbach was already highly regarded during his lifetime and was one of the most renowned representatives both of the Düsseldorf Nazarenes and of religious history painting as a whole.
Ittenbach painted the present work in the year before his departure for Italy. It depicts John the Baptist preaching in a rocky desert landscape whilst an old and a young man sit by his feet listening devoutly. The depiction is placed within a golden Romanesque arch, the spandrels of which show depictions of John baptising Christ and his beheading, expanding upon the narrative of the central scene. The previously unpublished work has been housed in a family collection for almost 150. This important discovery represents a valuable addition to our knowledge of Franz Ittenbach's oeuvre.