Justus Juncker was a successful 18th century German painter active in Frankfurt. Funny enough he learned to paint … from a façade painter.
In his early years he painted genre scenes. Circa 1745 he turned to painting still lifes and kitchen interiors. He decorated Goethe’s family house in Frankfurt with still lifes.
Juncker was strongly impressed by the alchemist scenes of the 17th century Haarlem painter Thomas Wijck. Although he had produced earlier in his career alchemist scenes our hilarious painting must date from his later years.
About Justus Juncker
Mainz 1703 – 1767 Frankfurt
Painter of genre scenes and of still lifes.
Funny enough Juncker did not study painting under a master specialised in oil painting, he studied under a façade painter, a certain Hugo Schlegel, in Frankfurt. Apparently this was not such a stupid choice, as many years later the future, successful landscape and vedute painter Christian Georg Schütz the Elder did the same.
But Juncker’s real model was the 17th century Dutch painter Thomas Wijck (Beverwijk circa 1616 – 1677 Haarlem), who had specialised in Italianate scenes (harbour scenes and genre scenes set in popular quarters of Rome), in Dutch interior scenes and in his last years in interiors with alchemists. Juncker studied paintings by Wijck in the collection of Baron von Häckel in Frankfurt. Juncker travelled in 1725 to London, where he was confronted again with the art of Wijck in numerous collections. Wijck had been active in London between 1660 and 1666. Months before returning to Holland he had also witnessed the Great Fire of London, which he had also painted.
By 1723, aged twenty, Juncker had returned to Frankfurt. At the start he painted portraits and genre scenes inspired by Wijck and by the Flemish painter David Teniers II. From around 1745 he concentrated primarily on still lifes.
By the end of the 1750s Juncker was employed by Johann Caspar Goethe to decorate his house in the GroBer Hirschgraben with paintings of still lifes. His son, the famous poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832), has written about these paintings in the autobiography of his childhood “Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit”.
About our painting
Juncker was strongly influenced by the paintings of Thomas Wijck that he had seen at the collection of Baron von Häckel in Frankfurt and in private collections in London. Juncker and the art dealer Johann Christian Kaller organised in August 1764 the sale of the von Häckel collection. Following that sale 75 paintings were presented to the Danish king and about half of these are today at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen. That Museum holds indeed several paintings by van Wijck, amongst which an interior of an alchemist, but I can not confirm that it came from the von Häckel sale. Goethe has also described that sale in “Dichtung und Wahrheit”.
Seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish painters have usually painted a large stuffed fish or a crocodile or even an iguana hanging from the ceiling of the study of doctors, dentists, quack doctors and alchemists. In the house of the famous botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish father of biological classification of plants and animals (1707 – 1778) an ‘animal’ can still be seen hanging from the ceiling; this present was a joke from his pupils, who had assembled different animals to produce one large species, unknown to their professor.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is such a hilarious subject.