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Carl Spitzweg
Scholar of Natural Sciences
Oil on paper mounted on canvas

22 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches
Gift of the René von Schleinitz Foundation, (Photo credit: Larry Sanders)

Milwaukee Art Museum

Excerpt from Milwaukee Art Museum:

Carl Spitzweg is regarded as the master of small-scale genre painting, in which he was fond of depicting—with a fine, ambiguous sense of humor—anecdotal scenes of narrow-minded bourgeois life in the so-called “good old days.” A pharmacist and self-taught painter, he devoted himself entirely to his art after an inheritance from his father made him financially independent. This work, one of Spitzweg’s most famous paintings, is a satire on lofty scholarly ambitions that inevitably fail in the absence of genuine ability. The dedicated scholar depicted here might also be self-referential. As a pharmacist, Spitzweg certainly knew that in the 19th century mummies and crocodiles were used for curative powders and that mummy coffins and stuffed crocodile skins were often displayed in apothecary shops to awe and mystify patrons.


Carl Spitzweg, German, (1808–1885)
b. February 5, 1808,  Bavaria
d. 1885

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