Von Bartsch in Context

Book Review

  • Copy.Right: Adam von Bartsch: Kunst, Kommerz, Kennerschaft

  • Edited by Stephan Brakensiek, Anette Michels, and Anne-Katrin Sors
  • Published by Michael Imhof Verlag, Petersberg, Germany, 2016
  • €45

The 32 essays that constitute Copy.Right address developments in the production, collecting and connoisseurship of prints from the late 17th to the early 19th centuries. Technological innovations, the professionalization of the art market, and the emergence of a genre of literature devoted to collecting transformed the manner in which artists, dealers and viewers regarded printed images. The contributors to Copy.Right examine materials and discourses produced in this expansion of print culture with an emphasis on the German-speaking regions of central Europe. Although not addressed by every author, the life and work of Adam von Bartsch (1757–1821) exemplify the complementary relationships between artistic creation, commerce and the attainment of expertise that thematically link the volume’s essays.

Despite the recognition of Bartsch as the founder of the scholarly analysis of prints, the details of his biography and the range of his activities are not widely discussed. Born and raised in Vienna, he trained as an etcher and served the Habsburg dynasty as a librarian and curator of prints at its Imperial Court Library. In addition to the composition of his landmark catalogues raisonnés, he produced about 500 etchings after extant drawings, oversaw the late publication of woodcuts commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519), and theorized the collecting and appreciation of prints in his
Anleitung zur Kupferstichkunde (Vienna: 1821).1 Rudoph Rieger’s 2014 monograph2 added a detailed biography and catalogue raisonné to the analysis of Bartsch’s curatorial activities that Stephan Brakensiek had provided in his 2003 history of German print collections.3 The authors of Copy.Right expand upon Rieger’s research by exploring Bartsch’s scholarly production and by relating his achievements to the international conversation on prints.

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  1. Between 1796 and 1799, Bartsch collaborated with private publishers to produce new editions of The Triumphal Procession (B.81), The Triumphal Arch (B.138), Der Weißkunig (B.80), and Saints from the Family of Maximilian I (B.82) from blocks in the collection of the Imperial Court Library. []
  2. Rudolf Rieger, Adam von Bartsch (1757–1821): Leben und Werk des Wiener Kunsthistorikers und Kupferstechers unter besonderer Berücksichtigung seiner Reproduktionsgraphik nach Handzeichnungen (Petersburg, Ger.: Imhof Verlag, 2014). []
  3. Stephan Brakensiek, Vom “Theatrum Mundi” zum “Cabinet des Estampes”: Das Sammeln von Druckgraphik in Deutschland 1565–1821 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2003). []