Mengs, Anton Rafael
Mengs, Anton Rafael a distinguished artist of the 18th century, was born at Aussig, in Bohemia, in 1728. His father, also a painter, adopted a very cruel course of treatment to his son, forcing him, at the age of six years, to draw the entire day without other nourishment than a crust of bread and a bottle of water, and chastising him severely if the task given was unfinished in the allotted time. In 1741, at the age of thirteen, he was taken to Rome, where he was employed in copying the works of Raphael in miniature for Augustus III, elector of Saxony and king of Poland. In 1744 he returned to Dresden, and was appointed court-painter by Augustus, with permission to return to Rome to continue his studies. He there painted several original pictures, among which was a lovely Virgin and Child, in which the Virgin was painted from a beautiful peasant girl, of whom he became so enamoured that he turned Roman Catholic for her sake and married her. Soon after this he again returned to Dresden, where he remained three years, when the tyranny of his father became so oppressive that he received permission from his royal patron to visit Rome again, in order to execute his commission for an altar-piece for the royal chapel. Shortly after his arrival he was deprived of his pension, the king's finances having suffered by the Seven-Years' War; and thus suddenly thrown upon his own resources, Mengs painted at low prices for the support of his family. In 1754 he received an appointment as director of the new academy at Rome, and in 1757 was employed by the Celestines to paint the ceilings of the Church of St. Eusebio. In 1761 the king of Spain invited Mengs to his court at Madrid, and granted him a liberal pension. Here he executed, among other works, a Descent from the Cross and the Council of the Gods. The air of Spain proved detrimental to his health, and he returned to Rome, and was there engaged, immediately upon his arrival, by Clement XIV, to paint in the Vatican a picture of Janus dictating to History, and one of the Holy Family. One of his finest productions is the Nativity, painted for the royal collection of the king of Spain. He died in 1779. See Giobals, Eloge historique de Mengs (1781); Bianconi, Elogio storico di R. Mengs (1780); Spooner, Biographical History of the Fine Arts (N. Y. 1865, 2 vols. 8vo), vol. ii; Chev. Don Joseph Nicholas d'Azara, The Works of Anthony Raphael Mengs (Lond. 1796,2 vols. 12mo); Kugler's Hand-book of Painting (transl. by Waagen, Lond. 1860, 2 vols. 12mo), 2:519, 521.