AD 1189 Arrival of Emperor Barbarossa on the Danube 1907/08

JQAW# G_1908_040
Oil on canvas ca. 260 x 840 cm
Signature: unknown, likely: John Quincy Ɑdams
Work lost

This lost monumental history painting is documented in the 1908 Künstlerhaus exhibition (catalog #338, there described as unfinished) as well as in the Künstlerhaus entry book (52 1908/09 #1768) and contemporary press reports (e.g. Die Zeit 24.3.1908 p.2).

The painting was created in the context of an initiative by four Viennese artists: John Quincy Adams (1873-1933), Albin Egger Lienz (1868-1929), Alois Hans Schramm (1864-1919) and Charles Wilda (1854-1907), who were joined by three other artists: Siegmund Ajdukiewicz (1861-1917), Paja Jovanović (1859-1957) and Josef Jungwirth (1869-1950). In a memorandum submitted to the Vienna City Council in 1905, they presented a program for the artistic design of the two buffet rooms located to the side of the ballroom of the Vienna City Hall with 8 monumental paintings plus supraports, which the artists wanted to produce at their own expense (Die Zeit 31.5.1905 p.7), a proposal that was approved by the City Council (Wiener Kommunalkalender 1906 - Gemeinde Chronik S.639). The thematic program, which was agreed with the director of the municipal art collections (today's WienMuseum), included the following historical themes: 1. Vindobona, settling of Germanic peoples; 2. scenes from the Nibelungen saga; 3. scenes from the court life of the Babenberg dukes Leopold V or Leopold VI - singing circle or crusades; 4. Rudolf IV the founder; 5. Reception of Emperor Frederick II and Archduke Maximilian at a dance party in the house of the burgher Nikolaus Teschler in the Regensburgerhof or a mardi gras scene at the Brandstätte (1490); 6. siege of Vienna by the Turks (1663); 7. Charles VI (wedding of Maria Theresa); and 8th scenes from 1809 or a modern theme (Das Vaterland 5.5.1905 p. 6). In the memorandum, the artists reserved the freedom of artistic design, in particular the style of painting, the consent to hand over the work to the city and the right to suggest further artists in the event that one of the commissioned artists was unable to deliver the work, but decidedly excluded material compensation or "counter-dedications". A reduced program for one buffet room was ultimately to be pursued by the City of Vienna. Vienna's mayor Karl Lueger commissioned Adams, Egger Lienz, Schramm and Wilda to produce 4 paintings. Charles Wilda died in 1907 and is unlikely to have started the project. His subject is unknown. The work by Adams was exhibited unfinished in 1908 and is lost. It depicts an episode from the Crusades (theme #3). The two works by Schramm and Egger Lienz have survived and are in the collection of the WienMuseum (see cross-references). They depict the entry of King Etzel into Vienna from the Nibelungen saga (theme #2) (Egger Lienz, dated 1909/10), and Fischer von Erlach presents Emperor Charles VI with the model of the St. Charles (Borromaeus) Church in front of the church under construction (theme #7) (Schramm 1907/08). The Schramm painting was also exhibited alongside the Adams painting at the Künstlerhaus in 1908. From these two works (as well as the phenomenally high insurance value of 30,000 crowns of the Adams work at the Künstlerhaus exhibition (EL 52 1908/09 #1768), it can be concluded that the Adams painting is of the same giant format: 260 x 840 cm! (for a visualization of the giant format, see cross-references). The format results from the dimensions of the side buffet rooms and the planned installation above the wooden paneling that still exists today. (The south-facing buffet room now serves as the office of the Mayor of Vienna since around 1970). The project was abandoned after the death of Mayor Lueger in 1910 and the paintings were not installed in the Vienna City Hall.

The title of the Adams work Arrival of Emperor Barbarossa on the Danube refers to a historical episode from the 3rd Crusade, when Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1122-1190) stopped off in Vienna with the crusading army. He arrived in Vienna on May 18, 1189, traveling by ship on the Danube. (The Vienna Chronicle reports that 500 crusaders had to leave the army after their stay due to their "immoral behavior and thefts". As is well known, the emperor drowned on this crusade in the river Saleph in Asia Minor in 1190). This was Emperor Frederick Barbarossa's second visit to Vienna. The first was in 1165. A critique of the painting, which the anonymous critic found "partly clunky" and "unhistorical", but celebrated the city of Vienna as an art "patron" (in the case of a free gift from the artists to the city!) (Danzers Armee Zeitung 2.4.1908 p. 11), allows an impression of the design of the painting: Emperor Frederick Barbarossa is on board of a ship on the banks of the Danube and is received by Duke Leopold V., who is standing on the bank and looking up at the emperor "with fear". A "naked boatman lays down a single plank as a landing stage", which the critic considered inappropriate for the "magnificent court of the Babenbergs". On land, the crusader army accompanying the emperor is depicted as a "sharply aligned crusader squadron" and criticized as unhistorical (which, as the Vienna Chronicle depiction of an undisciplined army suggests, was probably an accurate point of criticism on the part of an army newspaper).

It is not known whether Adams completed the work (which, as other examples such as the unfinished Kaiserjäger homage from 1916 show, is rather unlikely). The work most likely remained in the artist's possession, as the list of large-format paintings from Adams' estate compiled by the Künstlerhaus in 1948 includes a "Crusader painting" marked with the number 1963. (The estate label is in the form of a 2 x 3 cm perforated paper stamp with a light blue decorative border and the number 1963 handwritten inside). There is no documentation to whom the painting was given to after 1948 (it did not remain in the Künstlerhaus). The painting must therefore be regarded as lost and, if at all, has probably only survived in a rolled-up state due to its extreme format. (The roll of the Schramm painting has a diameter of 52 cm and is 3 meters high).

The critic Josef Folnesics wrote (Die Zeit 24.3.1908 p.2) positively, albeit not enthusiastically, about the Adams and Schramm paitings:
"...The historical event is a secondary matter, it is nothing but a welcome motif to create a pleasant harmony of colors, a magnificent decoration with a serious, worthy content. It is from this point of view that the two large paintings by Adams and Schramm intended for the Vienna City Hall should be viewed. Adams depicts the arrival of Emperor Barbarossa on the Danube. Historical fidelity would have little value in such a case. The picture must be effective and generally comprehensible, it must fit harmoniously into the space it is to decorate, it must not be too realistic, nor too strong and independent in color, it must present itself on the spot as something quite natural. Adams' painting fulfills this task admirably, and Schramm, who painted Fischer von Erlach explaining the model of the Karlskirche to Emperor Charles VI, is in no way in contrast to Adams. There is no reason to be particularly enthusiastic about either work, but they will fulfill their purpose in a completely satisfactory manner."


1908 Künstlerhaus Vienna (catalogue #338), entry book 52 1908/09 #1768


APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, p. 88, cat.#57, no ill. (and dated with 1908)


1907-1933 with the artist.
1933-1948 estate of the artist (1938-1948 in storage).
Work lost since the 1948 estate inventory at the Vienna Künstlerhaus .