Slovakia – ART: Ján Rombauer (1782 – 1849)

Slovakia - ART: Ján Rombauer (1782 – 1849)

Ján Rombauer, a painter from the Spiš region (1782 – 1849), was the son of a carpenter and a tanner’s daughter. He left the town of his birth, Levoča, at a young age to follow his brothers to Prešov, and later he went on to Petersburg. He married Amalia Baumann, with whom he spoke French. In 1824 he returned to Prešov, where he lived for the rest of his life. 

He lacked an education in art, he probably learned the basics from a painter of Danish origin, Ján Jakub Stunder, in Levoča. His talent earned him recognition as a renowned painter of portraits of prominent people, merchants and scholars. He painted during the Biedermeier period, taking inspiration from old Dutch art. He also worked on religious paintings for the Evangelical, Roman-Catholic and Greek-Catholic Churches. In 1836 he created a large painting, St. Martin on a horse. It is part of the collection of the SNM – The Museum of Spiš in Levoča. It is signed and dated on a stone in the bottom left corner. It was probably intended for the Church of St. Martin in Kapušany, for which he painted the pictures for both side altars. Rombauer portrayed St. Martin, the Bishop of Tours, as a Roman soldier on a horse, who, after he saw a lame beggar, cut up his gown with a sword and gave him half. According to Roman law, only half of his gown belonged to a soldier, the other half belonged to the exchequer, so he only gave away what belonged to him. The background of the painting shows a mountainous landscape with a domed temple with painted angels in the heavens. All of them, with a single exception, only have wings and heads. The picture includes dark contours, which are typical of Rombauer, and several peculiarities. It is quite rare to see that Martin’s horse is heading away from the viewer, not toward them. A hissing basilisk sits on his helmet to intimidate the enemy, with no raison d’etre in this particular depiction. Rombauer also painted the saint with a moustache, which is rather unusual. The picture is unprecedented in Slovakia. It enriches the range of the artistic renderings of this well-known legend. FDC overprint depicts A portrait of Ján Steinhübel from Prešov located in the collection of Slovak National Gallery.