PETER EDUARD STRÖHLING (STROELY)

PORTRAIT OF THE DUKE KARL OF MECKLENBURG-STRELITZ, 1814-1815

PETER EDUARD STRÖHLING (STROELY)
Dusseldorf 1766 – after 1828 London
Watercolour and gouache on ivory, metal frame
8 x 6 cm / 3.1 x 2.4 in

PROVENANCE
Private collection, Sanremo

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About the artist:
The second half of the 18th - early 19th century is the Golden Age of miniature portraiture. At this time, the largest art schools were formed and flourished - French, English, Russian and Swiss. Each of these schools is bright and original, each of them has its own individual and recognizable features. At the same time, this era gave the world a number of masters, who are difficult enough to classify definitely as one or another school. And not because the boundaries of their creative individuality seem blurred, but because they turned out to be above the usual understanding of stylistic affiliation. These were the original Étoilles errantes of the artistic world. The brightest, and still very underestimated, representative of this galaxy of artists was Peter Edward Stroehling. Already in the spelling of his name, which varied as Ströhling, Straely or Stroely, this stylistic ambiguity of the artist is reflected. Indeed, there are not so many painters in the history of portrait miniature, whose art would so organically merge into several large national schools at once - German, Russian or English.
Born in Düsseldorf in 1766, Stroehling most likely gets his first artistic skills from his father, decorative painter Johann Burhard Stroehling, or from a local art school. After working for several years in different cities of Germany, Stroehling moved to Naples in 1792. Actually, from this moment the international fame of the artist begins. The cosmopolitan atmosphere of this southern city contributed to the establishment of close contacts between the artist and numerous foreign clients, English, Russian or Austrian. Already in 1795 we meet Stroehling in Vienna, where he works for the imperial family, and in 1797 already in St. Petersburg. Fondled by the Russian aristocracy, Stroehling's talent was revealed with the greatest brightness in Russia. It was in St. Petersburg that his artistic language, combining the ability to capture the character of a character and convey it by small means without bringing to the point of caricaturism, reaches its zenith.
After leaving Russia in 1802, Stroehling moved briefly to Berlin, but already in 1803 we met him in London, where he remained until 1828.
Identification:
Identifying the characters depicted in miniatures is one of the most difficult tasks for any researcher. At the same time, any researcher is faced with two types of images. The first, when it comes to typology, a kind of set of easily recognizable features, sometimes reaching the level of caricature and schematism. As a rule, there are no difficulties with this type of identification. The second, free and creatively more original, is much more difficult. In this case, it is not enough for the researcher to have a convincing visual series for comparison; it is necessary to find much more points of contact between the artist and his possible model.
This was the case with the portrait of Karl, Duke of Mecklenburg. The portrait came from a family collection of miniatures of varying quality, but had, in addition to this, two other large miniatures by Stroehling. One of the miniatures represented, presumably, the Duchess Charlotte Georgine of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. A weak hunch that the person depicted could be associated with the character in another portrait started the search for relatives with whom Stroehling could contact. This task was complicated by one fact - all possible relatives of the Duchess of Mecklenburg were in Germany. Stroehling was last in Germany, in particular in Berlin, in 1803, and after that year the artist worked permanently in England. The hairstyle, costume and type of mustache of the depicted show that the character is presented in the fashion of the 1810s, and the type of portrait itself, as a well-known researcher of the miniature "too British" aptly noted.
Further research, meanwhile, led to an interesting discovery. In 1814, the Italian engraver Giovanni Vendramini, who worked in London, produced a series of prints commissioned by the Prince Regent entitled "Portraits of the most Illustrious Persons who visited London in June 1814". Among these portraits is an image signed "Drown by P.E. Stroehling Historical Painter to HRH the Prince Regent _ & Engraved by J. Vendramini. ". A more detailed inscription below tells about the most depicted:
His Serene Highness Charles
The Hereditary Prince of Mecklenberg Strelitz
having the command of brigade under gen.l D. York, frequently gave proofs of his bravery, & particularly distinguish'd himself in Silesia, in covering the retreating army of that general in so gallant a style, who with rapture exclaimed, you have hitherto worn the Black Eagle as the Brother of our King, but by this action it becomes a due Reward of you Valour
Pub. July 4. 1814. by I. Vendramini, 14 Brompton Row.
Comparison of the two images, miniatures and engravings allow us to conclude that in both cases the same character is represented, by the way, the brother of the above-mentioned Duchess Charlotte Georgine of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Depicted and his iconography:
Duke Karl of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (his full name sounds like Karl Friedrich August zu Mecklenburg-Strelitz), was a famous Prussian politician, military general, an active participant in the anti-Napoleon wars of 1805-1815. Especially active, meanwhile, was the political activity of the duke after the Napoleonic wars. Belonging from birth to the Mecklenburg- Strelitz clan, influential in Prussia (one of its half-sisters, by the way, Louise, was the wife of the Prussian king Frederick William III, and bore the title of queen consort), Duke Karl had every opportunity to be active in Berlin. Having received the post of chairman of the State Council of Prussia with the right to participate in meetings of the Privy Council of Ministers, Duke Karl began to make a great contribution to politics in Prussia. His strategy was aimed at balancing necessary liberal reforms and strengthening absolutism. This political agility of Duke Karl, combining a graceful adventurous outlook and incredible pragmatism, ultimately laid the foundation for the hegemony of Prussia as the unifier of the German lands.
Wladyslaw MAXIMOWICZ
Bratislava, 2021

Base: Ivory

Epoque: XIX century

Epoque: XVIII century

Genre: Portrait

School: Austrian

School: British

School: German

School: Russian

Technic: Watercolor

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