Landscape with the Prophet Balaam and his donkey, Joseph Anton Koch
Joseph Anton Koch
Landscape with the Prophet Balaam and his donkey
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Joseph Anton Koch: Landschaft mit Bileam, ca. 1832-1836, Öl auf Leinwand, Inv.-Nr. Gm1746, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg

Joseph Anton Koch

Landscape with the Prophet Balaam and his donkey, ca. 1832

74.0 x 102.0 cm
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Inventory Number
Not on display


About the Work

The painting was acquired directly from the painter shortly after its creation, together with a mythological representation ("Landscape with the Rape of Hylas", obj. no. 849). These two works are exemplary of Koch's oeuvre: mythological and biblical scenes in classically composed landscapes, painted with bright colours and clear contours. This style of painting and especially the biblical motifs influenced the so-called Nazarenes. The painting shows Koch's art at its peak – combining both the seen and the imaginary. He transferred his numerous sketches of the Roman Campagna into an ideally composed landscape. In this landscape he depicted the Old Testament story of the prophet Balaam and his donkey: for money but against God's will, Balaam wants to curse the Israelites. On the way he is confronted by an angel, which is at first only visible to his jenny. Balaam beats the animal until God gives the jenny the gift of speech and brings Balaam to his senses. The scene, popular with historical painters since the 17th century, was painted several times by Koch. One version was burnt in 1931 in an exhibition in the Munich Glass Palace, another is now in the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg.

Work Data

Basic Information

Landscape with the Prophet Balaam and his donkey
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert unten links auf einem Stein: I.K.
Work Catalogues
  • Lutterotti 1985, Nr. G 78

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Picture Copyright
Public Domain

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Persons Shown
Associated Persons and Institutions
Illustrated Passage
  • Bibel, Altes Testament, Numeri 22,21-23


  • 7 Bible
  • 25H landscapes
  • 71E3314 an angel holding a sword bars the way and causes Balaam's ass to turn aside; the angel is invisible to Balaam
  • 71E33141 Balaam strikes his ass, whereupon the ass lies down and starts to speak
  • 25H11 mountains

Research and Discussion


Object History
Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839), Rom
verkauft zusammen mit dem Gemälde Der Raub des Hylas durch Vermittlung von Legationsrat August Kestner (1777-1853) in Rom an das Städelsche Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 28. Dezember 1832
Verlust am Auslagerungsort Amorbach, 18. April 1945
Rückgabe aus amerikanischem Privatbesitz, 2018.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

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