A Family Affair: Neoclassical Painting

August 23 2011, 5:29pm

This painting of a group within a neoclassical interior has been in Carlton Hobbs’ personal collection for nearly 26 years and has remained a mystery. Until now…

The group may be a family, though that is not certain. The young girl on the left was clearly not painted at the same time as the other figures, based on her unusual pallor and the fact that her dress covers an original signature on the lower left of the canvas. One important hint was the document which the older gentleman is handing to the young man is inscribed “Burghausen.” A curator from the Metropolitan Museum informed us that it is a town in Bavaria. Armed with this clue, we began contacting institutions in the region.

It was suggested to us by the curator of Burghausen castle, that the artist could have been Johann Nepomuk della Croce or one of his sons, Anton and Clemens Johann Evangelist, who were active in the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. Johann della Croce was an Austrian painter born in Tyrol. He worked in Italy, Germany, England and France before settling in Burghausen. His prolific oeuvre included roughly 5,000 portraits including the well-known painting of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with this sister and father. After receiving this information we took a second look at the signature (which at first seemed mostly illegible) and–voila! We could see that the signature of our painting clearly reads: Clemens de la Croce / pinxit 1816. Clemens della Croce (1783-1824) was the 16th son of Johann Nepomuk and took over his father’s workshop upon Johann’s death. He also worked as an art teacher in Burghausen and his paintings, done in the baroque-classical style of his father, include frescoes, portraits and altarpieces.

While it has been confirmed that the painting does not depict a room of the castle of Burghausen, it is likely to be a Burghausen interior. The director of the city archive and municipal museum in Burghausen has told us that she believes she has seen other portraits of the same couple depicted in our painting. We anxiously await the results of her search, and can’t wait to share them with you!