The watercolour and gouache drawing depicts the ‘Italian Room’ of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in the building in Neue Mainzer Straße, which the museum used from 1833 to 1877.The watercolourist Mary Ellen Best, who created this drawing, came from a wealthy background in northern England and had trained as a draughtswoman in her youth. As a young woman, she travelled to continental Europe, especially to Germany, and watercoloured along the way whatever pleased and interested her. With a fine power of observation and skilful drawing techniques, she created her watercolours, which capture the everyday life of the time, not for sale but rather for her own pleasure and collected them in albums that remained in the family.
From the sale of one such album in the 1980s, several views of rooms of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut were already known, which Mary Ellen Best had drawn in 1835 during her first stay in Frankfurt am Main. The watercolour of the ‘Italian Room’ was painted in 1838 or 1839 during a later visit to the Main region. In well-preserved colour, the details of the paintings are reproduced so accurately that they can be identified. On the right is the bust of the founder Johann Friedrich Städel, which today stands in the entrance hall of the Städel Museum. The beautiful watercolour is not only an informative source on the history of the museum, but also a drawing of high quality, which, with its depiction of the light and mood of the hall, conveys the impression of a visit to the museum in Frankfurt in the late 1830s.