Not currently on display at the V&A

The Bay of Aulis

Oil Painting
1848 (painted)
Place of origin

An oil painting showing a view of the bay of Aulis, Greece, with mountains rising along the shore in the distance.

Object details

Object type
TitleThe Bay of Aulis (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief description
Oil Painting, 'The Bay of Aulis', Carl Rottmann, 1848
Physical description
An oil painting showing a view of the bay of Aulis, Greece, with mountains rising along the shore in the distance.
  • Estimate height: 56cm
  • Estimate width: 78cm
Dimensions taken from Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, C.M. Kauffmann, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1973
Marks and inscriptions
'Aulis/c. Rottmann gem[alt]/München 1848' (Inscribed by the artist on the back)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend
Object history
Signed and dated 1848. Bought by the Rev. C. H. Townshend before 1854-56, when it was seen in the dining room of his London house by G.F. Waagen. Listed in the 1868 post-mortem register of the contents of Townshend's London house (V&A R/F MA/1/T1181) in the library as by C. Rottmann; Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868.

Historical significance: According to Homer's Iliad Aulis, a settlement on the eastern coast of the Boeotian Sea, was the point at which the Greek fleet assembled before settling sail for the siege of Troy.

In 1834-5, after Otto, the son of Ludwig I had ascended the Greek throne, the King of Bavaria commissioned Rottmann to paint 38 views of Greece in encaustic on supports of cast stone for the northern arcade of the Hofgarten in Munich, of which 23 were completed before the artist's death. Because of the danger of weather damage, these were transferred to the Neue Pinakothek, and are now divided between several locations in Munich. These views of the 'historically charged topography' of Greece typically represent scarred extensive landscapes with few signs of life illuminated by sunsets and similar dramatic light effects. The series includes a view of Aulis, which is dated 1847 (157 x 200 cm.; Hugo Decker, Carl Rottmann, Berlin 1957, no. 494, p.82 and Erika Bierhaus-Roediger, Carl Rottmann 1797-1850, Munich 1978, no. 608, pp.382-3).

1529-1869 is an autograph early reduced version of the encaustic painting of Aulis commissioned by Ludwig I. It does not appear in the monographs on the artist, mentioned above (Decker 1957 and Roediger 1978.)

This composition proved extremely popular, and at least six other reduced versions in oils exist:

1. A dated work of 1848; private collection, formerly (1957) in the collection of Fritz Busche, Dortmund (Roediger 1978, no. 668; Decker 1957, no. 510; Heilmann & Roediger-Diruf 1998, no. 156). An (autograph?) inscription on its reverse identifies this view as: 'Aulis with Euboea, mount Mefajeion and Parnassus (in full sunlight)'.
2. Sammlung Georg Schaefer in Schweinfurt (Inv. Nr. 2004; Roediger 1978, no. 669; Decker 1957, no. 512)
3. Stadelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt (Given 1892, Inv. Nr. 1245; Roediger 1978, no. 670; Decker 1957, no.511)
4. Private collection Munich (Roediger 1978, no. 671; Decker 1957, no. 512 a)
5. Location unknown, formerly Galerie Dr. Luz, Berlin (Decker 1957, , no. 513)
6. Hermitage, St. Petersburg, formerly Yusupov collection, St. Petersburg (Asvarishch 1988, no. 198).

There are also two versions in water-colours:
1. Staatliche Graphische Sammlung Munich (Inv. Nr. 21 390; Decker 1957, no. 495).
2. Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt (Inv. Nr. 1289; Roediger 1978, no. 607; Decker 1957, no. 496).

The thirteen autograph preparatory pencil sketches probably date from the summer of 1835, when Rottmann was in Aulis (Roediger 1978, nos. 605-6; Decker 1957, nos. 497-509)

Waagen praised 1529-1869 when he saw it in the Rev. C. H. Townshend's dining room in 1854-56: 'The Bay of Aulis: a small repetition of the large picture in the Pinacothek of modern art at Munich. Few painters have rendered this classic scenery, so suggestive of thought to every instructed mind, with such poetic feeling as Rottmann. The effect of this small picture, which is represented in the warmest lighting, is of great beauty. On the other hand, in the attempt to render the style of historical landscape, the painter has here as elsewhere treated the trees in a too general and conventional manner'. '
Historical context
Carl Rottmannn (1797-1850) was born near Heidelberg. He was the pupil of his father, Friedrich Rottmann, and was early influenced by the work of the German romantic painter C. Ph. Fohr and by Claude and Poussin. From 1822 he lived in Munich, where he obtained the patronage of Ludwig I of Bavaria, to whom he subsequently became court painter. He travelled extensively in Italy in 1826-27, and 1829-30 and in Greece in 1834-35.

Rottmann is generally considered to have been the most important landscape painter in Munich in the first half of the 19th century. His influence may be seen in the work of Christian Morgenstern and Eduard Schleich.

Hellenism flourished in 19th century Germany, and Greek culture formed the basis of the curriculum recommended by the Prussian philosopher and educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835), who believed that: 'Greek education...ignites the first sparks, its beneficial effects stay with us and we owe the best to it' and considered that the Germans 'were tied to the Greeks by a bond far stronger and closer than that of any other period or nation, even those nearer to us in time'. An especially passionate philhelene was King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786-1868), who built the Glyptothek in Munich to house his collection of classical sculpture, and whose son Otto I (1815-67) became the first modern king of Greece. (see Bernhard Maaz, 'An Education and a Model - Greece', in exh. cat. Views on Europe: Europe and German Painting in the Nineteenth Century , Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels 2007, pp.93-129, 325.)
Inscribed on the back: 'Aulis/c. Rottmann gem[alt] / Muenchen 1848'
Subject depicted
Place depicted
Bibliographic references
  • Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900 . London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 88-89, cat. no. 191. For other versions of this composition, and the series in general: see Hugo Decker, Carl Rottmann, Berlin 1957, nos. 494-513, pp.82-3. Erika Bierhaus-Roediger, Carl Rottmann 1797-1850, Munich 1978, nos. 605-608, 668-671, pp.381-3, 407-8. Boris I. Asvarishch, German and Austrian Painting. Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Catalogue of Western European Painting. The Hermitage., Giunti 1988, no.198. Timothy F. Mitchell, Art and Science in German Landscape Painting 1770-1840, Oxford 1993, nos. 605-608, 668-671, pp.187-90. Christoph Heilmann & Erika Roediger-Diruf (ed.), Landschaft als Geschichte: Carl Rottmann 1797-1850. Hofmaler Koenig Ludwigs I, exhibition catalogue, Munich 1998, nos. 154, 156-7, pp.296, 298-9, 363.
  • Waagen, Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain: Being an account of more than forty collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Mss, etc, London, 1857, p.176.
Accession number

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Record createdAugust 31, 2006
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