Rare and delicate nineteenth-century watercolor miniature painted on a cobweb, depicting two young people in Tyrolean peasant costume.
Gossamer paintings first originated in monastic settings for devotional purposes; those produced for a later secular market enjoyed periods of considerable popularity in the 18th century and again in the 19th. The portfolio housing this specimen indicates it was one produced for the tourist trade under the supervision of Austrian painter Franz Unterberger by anonymous commissioned artisans employed by his Innsbruck workshop.
The fragility of the medium contributed to the rarity of cobweb paintings; this example has several breaks and tears, although the beautifully painted figures and landscape they stand in are largely intact. According to Northwestern University, which houses two from Unterberger's studio, there are less than 100 known cobweb paintings extant.
Read more: Hock, "Cobweb Art a Triumph of Whimsy over Practicality," Northwestern University News, 22 July 2008; Young, "The Lost Art of Painting on Cobweb Canvases," Atlas Obscura, 6 December 2016.
[Innsbruck, Austria]: [Franz Unterberger], [late 19th century]. Portfolio title: Gemälde auf Spinnengewebe. 3'' x 2.5'' within mat; paper case: 6'' x 4.5''. Original watercolor painting on cobweb. Housed in original quarter tan cloth portfolio with printed paper boards. Printed paper title label affixed to front paste-down. Moderate wear and scuffing to folder; remnants of brown ribbon to back cover. Several breaks and tears to painting, with some loss to edges. Small chip to edge of mat. Pencil writing to lower edge of mat.
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