Denner, Balthasar

, a portrait painter of considerable eminence, for minuteness of labour at least, if not of genius, was born at Hamburgh in 1685, and after studying his art at Altena and Dantzic, improved himself by copying the best pictures in the latter city, and also studied diligently after living models. His first great attempt was the portrait of Duke Christian Augustus, administrator of Holstein Gottorp, which he executed in miniature with such success as to establish his credit at that court, where he also painted, in one very large picture, twenty-one portraits of the family of that prince, and introduced his own. He was principally employed by the princes of Germany; and the king of Denmark, and George I. having seen some of his works at Hanover, promised to sit to him, if he would come over to England Denner accordingly arrived here, but succeeded so ill in the pictures of two of the king’s favourite German ladies, that he did not obtain the footing he had expected at court. His fame, however, rose very high, on his exhibiting the head of an “Old Woman,” that he brought over with him, about sixteen inches high, and thirteen wide, in which the grain of the skin, the hairs, the down, the glassy humour of the eyes, were represented with the most exact minuteness; but it gained him more applause than custom, for a man could not execute many works who employed so much time to finish them. The emperor of Germany, however, gave him six hundred ducats for the picture. He finished here an “Old Man,” as a companion to it, which he had begun at Hamburgh; | and also painted himself, his wife, and children, with the same circumstantial detail. Mr. Fuseli very justly remarks of him that he was born to be a fac-similist, and not a painter. With the most anxious transcription of parts, he missed the whole, and that air of life which is the result of imitation. He left England in 1728, and died, probably in his native country, in 1747. His “Old Woman” has been exhibited, or a copy from it, within these few years in London. Lord Orford adds that “the portrait of John Frederic Weichman of Hamburgh, painted by him, is said to be in the Bodleian library at Oxford.” But in the catalogue of pictures there, this is stated to have been painted as well as given by Weichman himself. 1


Descamps, vol. IV. Pilkington, edit. 1805. Walpole’s Anecdotes.