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Wendel Dietterlin

Wendel Dietterlin (1550 – 1599), sometimes Wendel Dietterlin the Elder, to distinguish him from his son, was a German mannerist painter, printmaker, master builder and the most important German architectural theoretician of the outward mannerism and early baroque Only his theoretical work has been preserved

His Tractate Architectvra From the partition, Symmetria and Proportion of the Fünff Seulen, and all subsequent art work, from windows, camines (Nuremberg, 1598) exerted a lasting influence on German building and decorating art This work is based on the tradition of the model book, thus largely dispensing with a commentary and theoretical classification of the numerous illustrations However, the many engravings for gates, windows, fireplaces, etc, are found in a gradation given by the five column orders.

Dietterlin settled down in Strasbourg, and in 1571 he acquired the civil rights of this town, having married a year before He belonged to the local guild of artists, decorators and painters, with no masons and architects involved Dietterlin worked as a painter of frescos and decorators of facades, walls and ceilings He performed several works at municipal houses and at the Lusthaus of the Duke of Wurttemberg in Stuttgart

Wendel Dietterlin is known to have painted frescos for the Bruderhof, the Bishop’s residence, in 1575,

He is later recorded in Hagenau in 1583 and in Oberkirch in 1589 He also worked on large projects in Stuttgart for some time

Most of his paintings are now lost, and he is best known for his treatise on architectural ornament, Architectura, published in its final edition in Nuremberg in 1598

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Dietterlin died in 1599 after a long illness in Strasbourg

Works:
In Strasbourg, Dietterlin worked on the decoration of the Neuer Bau (currently the building of the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie) in 1589 Between 1590 and 1592 he was employed in Stuttgart with the execution of a large (57 metres long and 20 metres wide) ceiling painting in the upper hall of the Neues Lusthaus, a building constructed by Duke Ludwig of Württemberg for entertainment purposes In addition to the ceiling, Dietterlin painted the walls of the hall The Renaissance Lusthaus having later been rebuilt several times and almost entirely replaced in 1845 by the new Hoftheater (which was destroyed in a fire in 1902, when some of the remains of the original building came to light), nothing is now preserved of the paintings from the hall, but they are depicted in a 1619 etching by the Strasbourg-based painter and engraver Friedrich Brentel showing the interior of the large room Other of his paintings are known from engravings by Matthäus Greuter and by his own grandson Bartholomäus Dietterlin

The style, with “exaggerated foreshortenings”, appears influenced by North Italian models, such as Giulio Romano’s frescos in Mantua, through German intermediaries

His only extant painting is a Resurrection of Lazarus (in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe), signed and dated 1582 or 1587

Dietterlin’s architectural treatise Architectvra: Von Außtheilung, Symmetria vnd Proportion der Fünff Seulen was first published in separate parts in 1593 and 1594, and finally in a combined and expanded edition in 1598 The book described the classical orders and their character and proper use, as was traditional in such books Dietterlin, however, showed less interest in the proportions of the order than in their ornamentation According to the architectural historian Torbjörn Fulton, Dietterlin treats the orders “more as a basis or excuse for the development of a bizarre ornamental fantasy than as didactic examples of classical architectural ornamentation” Like other theoreticians, he ascribed masculine and feminine qualities to the orders In giving them an appropriate ornamentation that would agree with these qualities, he borrowed from older forms of ornament, including Gothic tracery Dietterlin was dependent on many older models, and like other representatives of the Northern Renaissance (such as

Hans Vredeman de Vries) he filled his surfaces with scrollwork, strapwork, gemshapes and grotesques Dietterlin had Northern European contemporaries who likewise integrated Gothic elements in their designs, but he was unusual in the degree of blending of elements of different origin While others kept Gothic elements clearly separate from Renaissance forms, Dietterlin would cover Renaissance elements in Gothic tracery or allow one to morph midway into the other

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