Specializing in Folk Art and Painted Antiques

Maentel Double Portrait

Maentel Couple - May 2018

We are proud to offer this important full-length double portrait attributed to Jacob Maentel (1778-1863), fresh to the market since it first appeared in 1997 in a regional auction house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The woman is dressed in a billowing blue dress with lavender undertones that perfectly complements her brilliant blue eyes.  Her upswept hair is held in place with a tortoiseshell comb adorned with an elaborate feather headpiece and in her hands is a beautifully decorated fan.  The man is dressed in a formal suit complete with a top hat.  They are depicted in a landscape frontally, oversized, on bare ground with rolling hills in the middle ground and houses in the distance with a dense row of trees beyond.  This portrait is part of a small group executed in a similar format that date from c. 1830-1840 when the artist was working in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and, later, New Harmony, Indiana.

Jacob Maentel was born in Westphalia, Germany in 1778 and immigrated to Baltimore sometime between 1805 and 1807, when he was listed as a “Portrait painter” in the city’s directory.  From there Maentel settled in Schaefferstown, painting portraits in the surrounding area.  He developed a conventional approach to his portraits, which usually depict the sitter in full-length profile against minimal backgrounds that highlight the artist’s distinct ink strokes and detailed renderings of the sitter’s face, hair, dress and other features.  By 1838, Maentel was listed in the tax rolls for New Harmony, Indiana, a community originally established in 1814 by fellow German and Harmonist leader Father George Rapp (1757-1847).  In 1825 Rapp sold the town to textile manufacturer Robert Owen (1771-1858), who wanted to create a utopian socialistic community.

This double portrait likely dates from Maentel’s time in New Harmony or just prior.  It is remarkable for its large size, format, condition and vibrancy of color and represents a rare opportunity for collectors.