On Connoisseurship

Johann David Passavant, 1839

A German art historian and critic, Passavant was known for his critical study on Raphael published in Leipzig in 1839. His extensive research culminated in the most complete “catalogue raisonne” of the artist’s work at that time.

In order to see as far as possible with my own eyes the works of the master, I returned for a year to Italy where I had already spent seven years. I undertook a journey to England and another to Paris, where in youth I had admired the treasures of the Napoleon Museum, and in 1816 the Raphaelesque paintings which then belonged to Mr. Bonnemaison and now adorn the Prado Museum in Madrid. I already knew thoroughly the galleries of Germany, except that of Vienna, which I wished to visit; so that I can say with all reason that I had seen and studied almost all the works of Sanzio. I was at Urbino, his country, in the places where he lived and worked; I ransacked the libraries of Italy, Germany, England and France to collect documents. The most difficult part of my labour was the catalogue of works, to make which it was my business to examine everything which had been attributed to him; and I devoted six years of journeys to such verification. A still greater difficulty remained with the drawings. Nevertheless, the practice of the painter, the long habit of observing works of art, as much on the critical as on the theoretical side made me sure of not falling into serious errors.

©1998 R de Koster