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Oil painting - Monastic Library
  • Monastic Library
    Zimmermann, Reinhard Sebastian, born 1815 - died 1893
  • Enlarge image

Monastic Library

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    mid 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Zimmermann, Reinhard Sebastian, born 1815 - died 1893 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Joshua Dixon

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

Oil on panel; In a monastic library three monks grouped around a desk make fun of a fourth monk who sways as he sings from a prayer book.

Place of Origin

Germany (possibly, painted)


mid 19th century (painted)


Zimmermann, Reinhard Sebastian, born 1815 - died 1893 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel

Marks and inscriptions

R. S. Zimmermann
signed lower left


Height: 32 cm approx., Width: 51 cm approx., :

Object history note

Joshua Dixon, by whom bequeathed to the Bethnal Green Museum, 1886

Joshua Dixon
Ref: Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, (Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990), p.xx.
Joshua Dixon (1811-1885), was the son of Abraham Dixon of Whitehaven and brother of George Dixon (who was head of the foreign merchants firm of Rabone Brothers in Birmingham 1883-98). Educated at Leeds Grammar School, and was deputy chairman of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company 1869-70. Died Winslade, near Exeter, 7 December 1885. Bequeathed all his collection of drawings, watercolours and oil paintings to the Bethnal Green Museum; they have since been transferred to the V&A. He also collected engravings, Japanese vases and panels, and bronze and marble sculpture.

Historical significance: Zimmermann painted a number of humerous genre scenes of monks. The seated figure at the lectern, and the desk with the open drawer and the string hanging from it, and the books on it and piled up next to it, all reappear in a painting titled Monk Smoking , dated 1876 (private collection); see Coseriu, Ricke-Immel, Tittel & Wieland, Der Genremaler Reinhard Sebastian Zimmermann 1815-1893 , Friedrichshafen 1986, pp. 46-7.

Historical context note

Reinhard Sebastian Zimmermann (1815-93) was born at Hagnau on Lake Constance, and from 1840-1842 studied at the Munich academy, where his teachers included Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Heinrich Hess and Clemenz Zimmermann. After visiting Paris, London and Belgium (1845-46) and a brief residence in Hagnau amd Constance (1846-47) he settled in Munich. He became court painter to the Dukes of Baden-Württemberg and specialized in humerous genre scenes of Swabian and Bavarian subjects, especially figures grouped around a table. These reflect the influence of 17th century masters such as Adriaen van Ostade and David Teniers and the Scottish genre painter Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841), as well as recent German painters such as Carl Spitzweg (1808-85). Zimmermann sold works to a number of British clients, and in 1886 exhibited 8 works in Liverpool.

The term ‘Biedermeier’ refers to bourgeois life and art in Germanic Europe, an extensive area embracing such cities as Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna and Prague, from 1815 (the Congress of Vienna) to the revolutions of 1848. Biedermeier painters were ideologically opposed to academic and religious painting and favoured such subject matter as portraits, landscapes and genre scenes, with still-lifes, especially of flowers. They share a similar technique in the use of separate, clear tones and a high degree of finish, reminiscent of Neo-Classicism while they tend to convey a greater sentimentality. By the 1880s, the influence of this artistic movement was on the wane and was even used pejoratively to characterize the reactionary bourgeois elements in society, which remained quite indifferent to social problems and cultivated a sense of order and sobriety, especially in the private sphere and the domestic realm.

Descriptive line

Oil on panel, 'Monastic Library', Reinhard Sebastian Zimmermann, mid 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900 . London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 106, cat. no. 233.

For a general account of the artist, see:
Maren Coseriu, Ute Ricke-Immel, Lutz Tittel & Georg Wieland, Der Genremaler Reinhard Sebastian Zimmermann 1815-1893 , exhibition catalogue, Staedtisches Bodensee-Museum, Verlag Robert Gessler, Friedrichshafen 1986, pp. 46-7, 176-7.


Oil; Panel



Subjects depicted

Monk; Library




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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