SCHÖNFELD, Johann Heinrich
(b. 1609, Biberach an der Riss, d. 1683, Augsburg)

Allegory of Time (Chronos and Eros)

Oil on canvas, 94 x 129 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

The two paintings (Allegory of Time; Alexander the Great before the Tomb of Achilles), similar in size, were probably originally part of a larger cycle, to which a third canvas of Saul and Endor the Magus also must have belonged. These complicated subjects are not always readily comprehensible to modern scholars.

After an initial artistic training in southern Germany, Schönfeld came to Rome in 1633. There he joined the Schildersbent, the informal band of Flemish, Dutch and German painters in Rome that included Poelenburg, Both, and Swanevelt. From a stylistic point of view, however, he was more influenced by his exposure to the neo-Venetian, classical experience of Poussin and his circle. Moving from Rome to Naples, where he stayed from 1638-39 to 1648, Schönfeld was an important vehicle for the transfer of this Roman style to that city. In the art world of Naples, where the hierarchical division between the genres was more pronounced, he specialized in painting subjects from ancient history and mythology. It was his aptitude in this area that drew the attention of Flavio Chigi, whom he met during the course of his second stay at Rome. Schönfeld would become one of the cardinal's favourite artists.

The clear and subtle colours, the vibrant and nervous brushstrokes, and the strong, direct light render his figures evanescent and almost unstable. These elegant and elongated figures, derived from the engravings of Callot, are placed in strongly classical settings that are similar to contemporary theatrical scenes.