ASAM, Cosmas Damian
(b. 1686, Benedikternbeuern, d. 1739, Weltenburg)


Bavarian architect and decorator who worked together with his brother Egid Quirin (1692-1750). They studied in Rome (1711-14) and developed further the dramatic effects of light and illusionism with which Italian Baroque artists, notably Bernini and Pozzo, had experimented. Both men worked as architects, but Cosmas Damian was also a prolific fresco painter, and Egin Quirin was a sculptor and stuccoist. They worked best as a team, and their ecclesiastical buildings were the supreme expression of the Bavarian delight in decorative display; architecture, painting and sculpture unite to set a scene in which light and colour are the chief actors. The best known of their churches is that of St John Nepomuk, Munich (1733-46). The brothers themselves paid for the building (which was attached to Egid Quirin's house), and it is often referred to simply as the 'Asamkirche'.

Cosmas Damian, together with his brother Egid Quirin, with whom he worked later, was trained by his father Hans Georg Asam, who is considered to be the founder of Baroque ceiling painting in Bavaria. In the years 1712 to 1714 the brothers travelled to Rome, where Cosmas Damian took up his studies under Pierleone Ghezzi and won an academy prize. He concentrated mainly on wall and ceiling painting of the High Baroque, in particular in the style of Cortona and Pozzo, who in 1702 had published a book of rules on quadratura, a form of ceiling decoration with architectural elements, which give the illusion of perspective and imaginary space.

The work which he carried out on his return in south Germany, Bohemia, Silesia and the Tyrol betrays his Roman schooling. However, he gradually abandoned the Italian quadratura technique in which the illusionism is solely directed at the viewer (Weingarten, Aldersbach). Finally, as in the principal fresco at Osterhofen, each side commands its own viewpoint. His work, both sacred and secular, such as at Weltenburg on the Danube, in which his brother was also engaged as sculptor and ornamental plasterer, contains examples of late Baroque art which was to become important for the Rococo in southern Germany.