Like many Dutch artists, Breenbergh was drawn to Italy at an early age; he worked in Rome for several years. The experience left its mark not only on the content, but also on the form of his paintings, even those executed back in Amsterdam from 1633 onwards. A leading Italianist, he depicted the martyrdom of Lawrence against the backdrop of the Eternal City. Trajan’s Column and the Temple of Antoninus Pius serve as reminders of antiquity, while the Castel Sant’Angelo – and above all Michelangelo’s dome of St Peter’s in the background – set the event in the artist’s own time.
"Dr. Grambs also owns a collection of paintings, copperplate engravings and drawings by hand which exceeds all expectations. The definitive knowledge of the owner helps the visitor to gain rapid enlightenment and thorough understanding." That was how Goethe described the Frankfurt collection of the lawyer Johann Georg Grambs (1756-1817). It included Netherlandish Baroque artists and contemporary master painters from Frankfurt. Grambs was one of the administrators of the museum appointed by Städel. Like the donor, he, too, bequeathed his art collection to the institute.