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Anthon Rafael Mengs
A Bohemian painter, usually regarded as belonging to the Italian or Spanish school, b. at Aussig in Bohemia, 12 March, 1728; d. in Rome, 29 June, 1779. He received his instruction from his father, Ismael Mengs, who went to Dresden while his son was quite young, and in 1741 moved to Rome, where he copied in miniature some works of Raphael for the Elector of Sasony, which were intended for Dresden. From his youth Mengs was an energetic and skilful artist, and he was appointed a painter to the Elector of Saxony before he was sixteen years old, his skill in crayon portraiture having attracted attention in Dresden. He did not, however, feel disposed to accept the position, and declined it with becoming modesty, returning to Rome, devoting himself to his studies, and working with his father for four years. In Rome he married Margarita Quazzi, a poor and virtuous peasant girl who had sat for him as a model. At the same time Mengs became a Catholic and the marriage took place in the Catholic church. Shortly afterwards he returned again to Dresden with his father, but speedily had a serious difficulty with him, being turtled with his wife and daughter into the street. The King of Poland, who was then Elector of Saxony, promptly named him a second time as a painter in ordinary to the Royal household, and employed him to decorate the Catholic church in Dresden. Owing to difficulties in the king's finances, Mengs went again to Rome in 1752, and was there employed by the Duke of Northumberland to make copies of several important pictures by Raphael still in the possession of the present holder of the title, and to be seen at Albury and Alnwick. For many years Mengs supported himself in Rome by various commissions as all his income from Dresden had been stopped, the emperor Frederick having driven the King of Poland out of Saxony. It was at this time that Mengs painted a superb fresco on the dome of the church of St. Eusebius in Rome, and another very important work in the Villa Albani. He then went on to Naples, and executed various commissions, painting an important altar-piece for Caserta, and some portraits, but quickly returned to Rome for a short time, and was then pressed to enter the service of the Spanish King, Charles III. He arrived at Madrid in 1761. Here he carried out a very large number of commissions, and was a member, and eventually the director of the Academy of St. Ferdinand. Once more he went back to Rome for the sake of his health, and was employed by Clement XIV in the Vatican. He then returned to Madrid in 1773, and painted "the Apotheosis of Trajan" in the royal palace, and several other pictures for Charles III. Again his health broke down, and he finally returned to Rome, where his wife died. He also died there, and was buried in the church of San Michele, where tbere is a bronze monument to his memory.
Mengs was a skilful writer, as well as a clever painter, but a man of melancholy dispositions, and of strange, stern habits, too sparing in his diet, and given to over-exertion. He was an affectionate father and husband, but somewhat improvident, and had so little faith in his own profession that he refused to allow his children to be educated for it. As a copyist he had extraordinary merit, and his original pictures are eclectic in their composition and technique, correct in design, smooth in execution, but somewhat too sweet and a trifle insipid. As a portrait painter, he had great success, and his works in pastel and crayon are amongst his finest creations. There are many of his paintings in Dresden and Vienna, and in the former city are some excellent miniature portraits and some copies in miniature of paintings by Raphael.
QUILLIET, Dict. des Peintres Espagnols (Paris, 1816); PALOMINO DE CASTRO Y VELASCO, El Museo Pictorico y Escala (Madrid, 1715); STIRLING-MAXWELL, Annals of the Artists of Spain (London, 1848); HUARD, Vie Complete des Peintres Espagnols (Paris, 1839).
GEORGE CHARLES WILLIAMSON