Wendel Dietterlin  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Wendel Dietterlin (c.1550–1599), sometimes Wendel Dietterlin the Elder, to distinguish him from his son, was a German mannerist painter, printmaker and architectural theoretician. Most of his paintings are now lost, and he is best known for his treatise on architectural ornament, Architectvra: Von Außtheilung, Symmetria vnd Proportion der Fünff Seulen, published in its final edition in Nuremberg in 1598. He is described by one source as a "veritable Poe in German ornament."


Dietterlin was born at Pfullendorf in Württemberg; his original name was Grapp and he may have been a member of a family of artists in Swabia, spent most of his life in Strasbourg (then Strassburg), where he married Catharina Sprewer on 12 November 1570, and where he is known to have painted frescos for the Bruderhof, the Bishop's residence, in 1575, but he is later recorded in Hagenau in 1583 and in Oberkirch in 1589. He also worked on large projects in Stuttgart for some time (see below).


In Strasbourg, Dietterlin worked on the decoration of the Neuer Bau (currently the building of the Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie) in 1589. Between 1590 and 1592 he was employed in Stuttgart with the execution of a large (57 metres long and 20 metres wide) ceiling painting in the upper hall of the Neues Lusthaus, a building constructed by Duke Ludwig of Württemberg for entertainment purposes. In addition to the ceiling, Dietterlin painted the walls of the hall. The Renaissance Lusthaus having later been rebuilt several times and almost entirely replaced in 1845 by the new Hoftheater (which was destroyed in a fire in 1902, when some of the remains of the original building came to light), nothing is now preserved of the paintings from the hall, but they are depicted in a 1619 etching by the Strassbourg-based painter and engraver Friedrich Brentel showing the interior of the large room. Other of his paintings are known from engravings by Matthäus Greuter and by his own grandson Bartholomäus Dietterlin. The style, with "exaggerated foreshortenings", appears influenced by North Italian models, such as Giulio Romano's frescos in Mantua, through German intermediaries.

His only extant painting is a Resurrection of Lazarus (in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe), signed and dated 1582 or 1587.

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