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 (Die Zeit 24.3.1908 p.2).

Vienna's mayor Karl Lueger commissioned 4 Viennese artists to create historical monumental paintings at their own expense to decorate the buffet rooms on the side of the ballroom of Vienna City Hall. The artists commissioned were John Quincy Adams (1873-1933), Alois Hans Schramm (1864-1919), Charles Wilda (1854-1907) and Albin Egger Lienz (1868-1929). Charles Wilda died in 1907 and is unlikely to have started the commission. His subject is also unknown. The work by Adams is lost. 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 (Egger Lienz, dated 1909/10) and Fischer von Erlach presents Emperor Charles V with the model of St. Charles Church in front of the church under construction (Schramm 1907/08). The Schramm painting was also exhibited in the Künstlerhaus in 1908 alongside the Adams painting. 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 was of the same gigantic format (260 x 840 cm). (The format results from the dimensions of the side buffet rooms and the planned installation above the wooden paneling that still exists today. One of these buffet rooms currently serves as the office of the Mayor of Vienna. The project was not pursued further after the death of Mayor Lueger in 1910).

The title of Adam's work Arrival of Emperor Barbarossa on the Danube refers to a historical episode from the 3rd Crusade, when Emperor Friedrich 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 "immoral behavior". As is well known, the emperor drowned on this crusade in the river Saleph in Asia Minor in 1190). This was Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa's second visit to Vienna. The first was in 1165.

It is not known to whom the Adams work was handed over after the 1908 exhibition (the normally expected note in the entry book is empty) and whether Adams completed the work and finally sold it (it was not in the artist's extensive estate). The painting is therefore considered lost since the 1908 exhibition and may have survived, if at all, only 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:
"When it comes to decorating a banqueting hall in a meaningful and solemn manner, historical topics have typically been preferred, and the halls of the Doge's Palace [in Venice] are a brilliant example of how such a task can be solved in an impeccable manner. The coloristic effect, the decorative harmony are the main thing. Such a painting must be effective in the distance and must not lose its interest when seen close up. [...] 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)


Work lost since 1908 exhibition.