Joseph Anton Koch: Landschaft mit Bileam, ca. 1832-1836, Öl auf Leinwand, Inv.-Nr. Gm1746, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg
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.
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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