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Kant’s Life
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[ KantHamannMetzgerHippelLoweBaczkoPurgstallReichardtBorowskiMorgensternJachmannWasianskiWaldWillReuschHagenHeßSchubert ]

Kant

We have Kant’s comments on four of these images: (1) the Schleuen engraving based on Becker (1763), (2) engravings based on the Lowe (1784) painting, (3) on a silhouette prepared in 1784, (4) the Bause engraving based on Schnorr (1789).

On the Schleuen engraving (based on Becker), we have remarks from two of Kant’s letters.

Letter from Kant to Friedrich Nicolai (25 Oct 1773):

the picture is most probably made from a copy of my portrait, which Herr Hertz [Marcus Herz] took to Berlin, and therefore less of a likeness but very well engraved.[AA 10: 142]

“Das Bildnis ist allem Vermuthen nach von einer Copey meines Porträts, welche HE. Hertz nach Berlin nahm, gemacht und daher wenig getroffen, obzwar sehr wohl gestochen worden.”

Letter from Kant to Marcus Herz (near the end of 1773):

I saw my portrait on the front of the [Allgemeine deutsche] Bibliothek. It is an honor that disturbs me a little, for, as you know, I earnestly avoid all appearance of surreptitiously seeking eulogies or ostentatiously creating a stir. The portrait is a good engraving though not a good likeness. But it pleases me to see that this sort of gesture stems from the amiable partisanship of my former students.[AA 10: 146]

“Mein Bildnis habe vor der Bibliothek gesehen. Eine Ehre die mich ein wenig beunruhigt weil ich wie Sie wissen allen Schein erschlichener Lobsprüche und Zudringlichkeit um Aufsehen zu machen sehr meide. Es ist wohl gestochen obzwar nicht wohl getroffen. Indessen erfahre ich mit Vergnügen daß solches die Veranstaltung der liebenswürdigen Partheylichkeit meines ehemaligen Zuhörers ist.”

It is unclear whether Kant ever saw the Lowe (1784) painting — either the miniature watercolor that is extant and in private hands, or the original miniature, if indeed the extant watercolor is not the original (which it most plausibly is). Kant did apparently see a no-longer extant engraving that Lowe prepared in 1786, the existence of which is conjectured by the reports of Kant's displeasure given by Hamann (in his correspondence from March 1786) and by Jachmann (in his 1804 biography of Kant).

Johann Georg Hamman’s letter to F. H. Jacobi (March 1786):

“He [Kant] had the displeasure of being engraved by a Jew, Löwe or Love,[1] in an entirely detestable fashion, such that he wants to press charges against him if he sells it. He supposedly looks like Pan, or the glutton Polyphemus.”[2] The artist is a protégé of H.[3] where I think I’ll take a closer look next time at the horrid monster. [F. H. Jacobi’s Werke, 4.3: 174]

“Er [Kant] hat den Verdruß gehabt, ganz abscheulich in Kupfer gestochen zu werden von einem Juden, Löwe oder Love, dem er einen Injurien-Prozeß ankündigen will, wenn er ihn verkauft. Er soll dem Pan oder Fresser Polyphemus ähnlich sehen. Der Künstler ist ein protégé des H. wo ich das monstrum horrendum auch nächstens in Augenschein zu nehmen denke.”

Later that month, in a second letter to Jacobi (March 25), Hamann made some of the same observations:

“[Kant] had the displeasure of being engraved in the most detestable manner by a Jewish painter Löwe, from which he looks like a true monster, and the best physiognomist would acribe to him a reprobate air. But I suspect that some prints of this may have already arrived in Berlin, notwithstanding the cost that might prevent such pasquinades, and the scoundrel had the impudence to place painted from life on it.” [F. H. Jacobi’s Werke, 4.3: 188-89]

“[Kant] hat den Verdruß gehabt, von einem jüdischen maler Löwe auf eine ganz abscheuliche Art in Kupfer gestochen zu werden, nach dem er wie ein wahres Monstrum aussieht, und der beste Physiognomist ein air de réprouvé ihm zuschreiben würde. Ich vermuthe doch, daß einige Abdrücke davon nach Berlin gekommen seyn mögen, ohngeachtet der Debit eines solchen Pasquills verhindert worden und der Geck, ad vivum pinxit, die Unverschämtheit gehabt, drauf zu setzen.”

Jachmann also mentions Kant’s dislike of this portrait:

“His respect for people, and his striving to appear in the world not otherwise than he really was, made him anxious when his friends persuaded him to have himself be sculpted or painted. Kant was so far removed from all vanity that, were it up to him, no painter, engraver or sculptor would have been allowed to ply their trade with him. But if it was to happen, then he also wanted the world to be portrayed entirely in its natural form and in a tasteful manner. His judgement of taste was there sharper over no other artwork than the portrayals of himself. He was really angry about the engraving of the Jewish engraver L. [Lowe] because, according to Kant, he had added his own racial features to the image and thereby made him unrecognizable.” [1804, 110-11]

“Seine Achtung gegen die Menschen und sein Bestreben, nicht anders in der Welt zu erscheinen als er wirklich war, machten ihn daher auch ängstlich besorgt, wenn seine Freunde ihn bewogen, sich abbilden oder malen zu lassen. Kant war soweit von aller Eitelkeit / entfernt, daß sich seinetwegen weder die Malerei noch die Kupferstcher- und Bildhauerkunst an ihm je hätte versuchen dürfen. Geschah es aber, so wollte er auch der Welt ganz in seiner natürlichen Gestalt und auf eine geschmackvolle Art dargestellt werden. Sein Geschmacksurteil war daher über kein Kunstwerk schärfer als über die Abbildungen seiner selbst. Er war über den Stich des jüdischen Kupferstechers L. [Lowe] wirklich böse, weil dieser demselben, nach Kants Meinung, einen Nationalzug von sich selbst mitgeteilt und ihn dadurch unkenntlich gemacht hätte.”

Kant was apparently discussing the Townley engraving (based on Lowe) in his letter to K. L. Reinhold (12 May 1789):

Sincerest thanks, my most cherished and dearest friend, for the communication of your kind opinion of me, which arrived together with your lovely present on the day after my birthday! The portrait of me by Herr Lowe, a Jewish painter, done without my consent, is supposed to resemble me to a degree, from what my friends say. But a man who knows painting said at first glance: a Jew always paints people to look like Jews. And the proof of this is found in the nose. But enough of this.[AA 11: 33; Zweig tr.]

“Den innigsten Dank, mein höchstschätzbarer und geliebtester Freund, für die Eröffnung Ihrer gütigen Gesinnungen gegen mich, die mir sammt Ihrem schönen Geschenk den Tag nach meinem Geburtstage rightig zu Handen gekommen sind! Das von Hrn Loewe, einem jüdischen Maler, ohne meine Einwilligung ausgefertigte Portrait, soll, wie meine Freunde sagen, zwar einen Grad Ähnlichkeit mit mir haben, aber ein guter Kenner von Mahlereyen sagte beym ersten Anblick: ein Jude mahlt immer wiederum einen Juden; wovon er den Zug an der Nase setzt: doch hievon genug.”

On the 1784 Hippel silhouette: This appears to be one of two that Kant sent to Hippel, as discussed in Kant’s brief letter to him dated 15 March 1784, the entirety of which concerns the silhouettes:

Accompanying Herr Buck is the silhouette you requested, although I question whether exactly enough was cut away. Perhaps the piece attached to the lower lip could be less wrong; and both miss with respect to the invented fat under the chin (the so-called wattle) which could perhaps be improved with a pair of scissors.[AA 10: 369]

“Beyliegende mir von Hn. Buck zugeschickte Silhouette habe die Ehre Ew. Wohlgeb. verlangen gemäß hiemit zu übergeben, ob ich zwar zweifle, daß sie genau genug abgenommen seyn. Doch möchte das losbeyliegende Stück in Ansehung der Unterlippe weniger unrichtig seyn; beyde aber fehlen in Ansehung der mir angedichteten Fettigkeit unter dem Kinne (dem sogenannten Kader) welche man vielleicht vermittels der Schere verbessern könnte.”

On the Bause engraving: Kant’s implicit approval of this engraving is suggested by the fact he sent a copy to Graf Lehndorff (1727-1811), who had earlier sent an engraving of himself to Kant. Lehndorff wrote in a letter to Kant (21 Dec 1793):

“The engraving that I have due to your kindness is the ornament of my room.” [AA 11: 481]

“Das Kupferstück so ich aus Ihrer güthe habe, ist die zirde meines Zimmers.”

Kant is reported to have enjoyed the various sepia portraits done by Elizabeth Stägemann, and that he said of them:

“The spirit of the sitter speaks to us from it.” [editor’s preface to Stägemann 1846, x]

“Der Geist des Dargestellten spricht uns daraus an.”

We might take this as an indirect commendation of an undetermined portrait — Stägemann 1796? Dresden c.1790? Some third portrait? — she had done of him, of which he wrote, in a lost letter to Reichardt (before 1 March 1797): “Yes, yes, that is me.” [“Ja, ja das bin ich.”] [Stägemann 1846, xi].


[1] If Lowe did indeed prepare an engraving of Kant, it has not been found.

[2] Polyphemus is the man-eating cyclops whom Ulysses blinded in Homer’s Odysseus. The Hamann edition of the letter, apart from a few other variations, reads "Pastor Polyphemus".

[3] ‘H.’ is presumably Hippel; the inscription under the 1789 Townley engraving concludes with a dedication from Lowe to Hippel.


Hamann [top]

Hamann described the Collin relief in a letter to Hartknoch (8 Dec 1782):

“There is much likeness in the medallion, but also something refined in the expression.” [Briefwechsel, 4: 465]

“Es ist viel Ähnlichkeit in dem Medaillon, aber ich weiss nicht was Verfeinertes im Ausdrucke.”


Metzger [top]

Johann Daniel Metzger (1739-1805), a well-regarded medical professor at the university and Kant’s colleague on the Academic Senate, sent a package of various items to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, the naturalist and medical professor at Göttingen – various bits of amber and things found on the beach, as well as some items related to Kant, as this passage from the accompanying letter (dated 12 June 1787) reveals:

“Concerning our Kant, I am not aware of any engraving of him, other than I remember seeing his portrait crassa minerva [plainly executed] engraved in front of a part of the A.[llgemeine] D.[eutsche] B.[ibliothek]. In the absence of which I enclose 1. two silhouettes. (NB. I have placed the silhouettes in a disputation.) 2. A medallion in Gyps which is a good resemblance. 3. The medal which his students had struck in his honor some years ago. The symbol and the inscription are said to be by the late Mendelssohn.” [Dougherty 2010, 105]

“Unsern Kant betreffend, so ist mir nicht bewußt, daß ein Kupferstich von ihm vorhanden ist, außer daß ich mich erinnere, sein Portrait, jedoch crassa minerva gestochen vor einem Theil der A.[llgemeinen] D.[eutschen] B.[ibliothek] gesehen zu haben. In Ermanglung deßen lege ich bey 1. 2 Silhouetten. (NB. Die Silhouette hab’ ich in eine Disputation gelegt.) 2 Ein Medaillon in Gyps welches sehr ähnlich ist. 3. die Medaille, welche seine Zuhörer vor einigen Jahren, ihm zu Ehren schlagen ließen. Das Sinnbildund die Umschrift sollen von dem seel.[igen] Mendelsohn seyn.”


Hippel [top]

The artist Veit Schnorr was in Königsberg in 1789 when he sketched Kant with pencil on parchment. Kant’s friend T. G. Hippel wrote on the back of the drawing: “Extraordinary likeness! ... Hippel, 13 May 89” [“Außerordentlich ähnlich! . . . Hippel a. 13. Mai 89.”].


Lowe [top]

On the Lips engraving: In a letter to Karl Rosenkranz (25 Sep 1837) discussing the upcoming Kant’s collected writings that Rosenkranz was editing with Schubert (1838-42), Schopenhauer offers advice on how to organize the writings and the following paragraph appears to be advice for which Kant image to use as a frontispiece.[1]

“Concerning the portrait: 12 years ago I knew a painter named Lowe, at that time already very old, formerly ‘Löwe’[2] and a Jew, who also gave me an autograph of Kant’s. Kant sat for a painting for him, which Kant himself mentions in a letter, printed in a collection of letters of Jacobi, Herder, Kant, and others, around 1826.[3] Who can be more competent about physiognomy than this old painter? Now there are always and everywhere in my room four copperplate engravings of Kant, engraved by Bause, Thilo, Lips, and Meno Haas.[4] Lowe looked at them closely and said: “Only the one by Lips is a good resemblance, but that one very much.” You can also see it, it is characteristic – the melancholy features, as if he had said: “That's how people are!” – next to him is Hume, but even this great man looks clumsy and common next to that fine, witty face. The two heads are in medallions, very nicely engraved, my print is avant la lettre, the whole sheet 8 inches. I therefore advise you to have your engraving made from this sheet, which certainly hangs in old friends’ houses in Königsberg, and must also still be available through art dealers. It is important to bring his true face to posterity, the most distant posterity. [Schopenhauer 1987, 169]


Baczko [top]

Ludwig Franz Adolf Josef von Baczko (1756-1823) attended Kant’s lectures (beginning in 1772) and was in occasional contact with him after that, remaining in Königsberg for the rest of his life, other than a six year period from 1776-82 (when he returned to his family in Lyck). So he knew Kant fairly well – although one must add that he was blind as a result of smallpox at the age of 21. He nonetheless drew on the visual judgments of others, which then entered into many of his writings, and in his 1790 obituary of the local artist Paul Heinrich Collin, he noted a decided preference for Collin’s image of Kant:

“The freedom and tastefulness of the work catches the eye at first glance, and how successful he was in depicting a resemblance can be seen by anyone who compares the bust of Prof. Kant sculpted by Collin with Abrahamsohn’s medal or all copper engravings of Kant.”

“Die Freiheit und das Geschmackvolle der Arbeit fällt beim ersten Anblick ins Auge, und wie glücklich er war, die Ähnlichkeit darzustellen, davon kann sich jeder überzeugen , der den von C. geformten Kopf des Prof. Kant mit der Abrahamsohnschen Medaille oder allen in Kupfer gestochenen Abbildungen von Kant vergleicht.

See also Brinkmann’s [1896, 59-60] discussion of this [PDF].


Purgstall [top]

On the Lips engraving (based on Vernet). In a 30 April 1795 letter reporting his recent visit with Kant, Wenzel Johann Gottfried von Purgstall (1773-1812), an Austrian nobleman, wrote that:

“His face and person looks most like the picture at the front of the Repertorium of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung and that hangs in Reinhold’s [bio] room.[1] Only he has, around his mouth and his light blue eyes, something mobile, fine, friendly, that is missing in the hard engraving. He walks bent over, his hair-bag always falls forward because he is a little crooked, and this results in his always making this maneuvre to push it back. […]” [Hügelmann 1879, 608; repr. Malter 1990, 418]

“Sein Gesicht und seine Person sieht dem Bilde, was vor dem Repertorium d. A. L. Z. ist und was in Reinholds Stube hängt, am Aehnlichsten. Nur hat er etwas Bewegliches, Feines, Freundliches um den Mund und um seine hellen blauen Augen, was man im harten Kupferstiche vermisst. Er geht schon gebückt, sein Haarbeutel fällt ihm immer hervor, weil er etwas schief ist, und dies macht, dass er immer ein Manöver mit ihm vorzuhnehmen hat, um ihn zurückzuschieben.”


[1] Reinhold had sent Kant a copy of the Townley (1789) engraving on 9 April 1789; this offers some circumstantial evidence that it might also be this Townley engraving that he has hanging in his room, and not one made from Vernet.


Reichardt [top]

On the Lips engraving (based on Vernet) Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814), in an 1822 memoire,[1] wrote:

Kant was, both body and soul, an entirely dry man. There has perhaps never existed one so thin, so withered as his small body; never did a philosopher live so cold, pure, closed-up. A high, cheerful forehead, fine nose[2] and bright clear eyes displayed his face to advantage. The lower part of this, on the other hand, was the most perfect expression of coarse sensuality, which showed itself to excess especially when eating and drinking. The picture from the Repertorium of the Allgemeinen Literatur-Zeitung expresses these characteristics also well enough, and is the best resemblance that we have of him.”

Kant war ein an Leib und Seele ganz trockner Mann. Magerer, ja dürrer als sein kleiner Körper hat vielleicht nie einer existirt; kälter, reiner in sich abgeschlossen wohl nie ein Weiser gelebt. Eine hohe, heitere Stirn, feine Nase und helle klare Augen zeichneten sein Gesicht vortheilhaft aus. Aber der untere Theil desselben war dagegen auch der vollkommenste ausdruck grober Sinnlichkeit, die sich bei ihm besonders beim Essen und Trinken übermäßig zeigte. Das Bild vor dem Repertorium der allgemeinen Literaturzeitung drückt diese Eigenschaften auch gut genug aus und ist das ähnlichste, das man von ihm hat.”


[1] Reichardt, Urania (1822), p. 259.

[2] Reichardt found Kant’s forehead and nose especially noteworthy; in a letter of Nov. 1, 1796, to Elisabeth Stägemann he implored her to sketch or paint Kant so that Reichardt could have a proper engraving made — since none that he had seen were very good (presumably that included the Lips as well! — and he asked her in particular to “give a true depiction of his admirable forehead and very fine nose.” [Stägemann 1846, 1: 223-24]


Borowski [top]

Ludwig Ernst Borowski [bio] knew Kant from his earliest years teaching, and then also from 1782. He wrote one of the three 1804 biographies of Kant, and listed there ten different images of Kant, offering brief assessments of two of them [Borowski 1804, 95-96]:

“Another engraving, in folio, from the painting by Schnorr, was done by Bause, as part of a group of famous scholars, but this was not as well-executed as those who knew him personally would have liked. […] A highly skilled local artist, Collin, who was worthy of a better fate, has delivered a bust of K. in gypsum, also in earthenware, where one truly sees the most apt likeness.”

“Ein andrer Stich in Folio, nach dem Gemälde von Schnorr, durch Bausens Hand zur Seite seiner Abbildungen berühmter Gelehrten gefertigt, [96] ist nicht ganz so ausgefallen, als die, die den Mann persönlich kennen, es wünschen. [...] Ein hiesiger sehr geschickter Künstler Collin, der eines bessern Schicksals wert war, hat ein Brustbild von K. in Gips, auch in Steingut geliefert, wo wahrlich die treffendste Ähnlichkeit sichtbar ist.”


Morgenstern [top]

Karl Morgenstern [bio] saw Kant only briefly in 1802, and we do not know which Vernet painting he had given to Jäsche [bio], nor do we have any other evidence that Jäsche owned such a painting, but Morgenstern claimed that it was a good likeness of Kant, noting this down in his travel diary for 7 October 1802 [Stieda 1916, 549]:

“I will never forget his appearance. Vernet’s painting of him, that I gave as a present to Jäsche, is a good likeness.”

“Sein Äusseres vergesse ich nie. Sein Bild von Vernet, das ich an Jäsche geschenkt, ist sehr ähnlich.”


R. B. Jachmann [top]

On the Vernet, see an article by Reinhold Jachmann [1864, 464-65], the son of Kant’s former student and early biographer, R. B. Jachmann [bio]. Under discussion is a portrait Kant had given Jachmann, perhaps on the occasion of Jachmann dedicating his book on religion to Kant. It was known in the family only that it was painted by a “Vernet”, and the younger Jachmann then made inquiries with August Hagen, who traced it down to the Berlin born Vernet, who was known in that city for his miniatures and that he usually worked on vellum (also used with Jachmann’s portrait).

Jachmann notes that his father viewed the Vernet as “das einzige wirklich ähnliche” portrait of Kant that he knew – leaving us to wonder which other portraits Jachmann had seen — but he clearly knew Kant well and the younger Jachmann notes that the fact that Kant gave the pointing to Jachmann further endorsed the fidelity of the painting. Jachmann closes his brief account by re-iterating that the miniature was “a perfect resemblance, and that this was confirmed by other men who knew Kant well,” mentioning here the physician William Motherby (one of Kant’s dinner friends). Jachmann had photographs of this painting prepared by a Glinsky in Elbing, through the bookdealer Leon-Saunier (also of Elbing); one would think one of these photographs would turn up somewhere. This was one of four originals by Vernet that were mentioned by Minden [1868, 28n-29n], the others belonging to Schubert, Frau Dr. Motherby, and Minden.


Wasianski [top]

E. A. C. Wasianski [bio] was a close acquaintance of Kant’s in his later years and wrote one of the three biographies published shortly after Kant’s death in 1804. Concerning the 1784 Abramson medal and in response to S. G. Wald’s [bio] question to Wasianski: “When did the Jews in Berlin have the medal struck? How did the inscription read?” [Wann ließ die Judenschaft zu Berlin auf ihn die Medaille prägen? Wie lautet die Inschrift darauf?] Wasianski replied:

“I have it not from Kant himself, but through hearsay, that Kant received this medal from his auditors at the close of a course of lectures in which several of the auditors were jewish. It weighs 10 #. The inscription is Perscrutatis fundamentis stabilitur veritas. [From another hand:] Kant's image is not a good likeness, with the inscription Emanuel Kant (with which K. was not happy) and the sign of the medal artist. On the reverse the Belus Tower[1] at whose feet a sphinx with the inscription perscrutatis, etc. In the section below Nat MDCCXXIII. (which is not right.)” [Reicke 1860, 54-55]

“Nicht von Kant selbst, sondern vom Hörensagen habe ichs, daß Kant diese Medaille von seinen Aud. nach geendigtem Coll. in welchem auch mehrere jüdische Auditores waren. Sie wiegt 10 # Die Inschrift ist: Perscrutatis fundamentis stabilitur veritas. [Von andrer Hand:] Kant's Bildniß nicht gut getroffen mit der Umschrift Emanuel Kant (womit K. nicht zufrieden war) und dem Zeichen des Medailleurs a/s (Wald's Hand: Abramson?) Auf dem Revers der Belus-Thurm, an dessen Fuße ein Sphinx mit der Umschrift perscrutatis etc. Im Abschnitt unten Nat MDCCXXIII. (welches unrichtig ist.)”

In the minutes of the 17 June 1880 meeting of the Alterthumsgesellschaft Prussia, it was noted that: “Conrector Stielow […] left a valuable portrait of Kant that a friend of Kant’s, Pastor Wasianski, wholly resembled him, save for the eyes.” [APM 1881, 18: 364]


[1] This is clearly an image of the leaning Tower of Pisa (and not the “Tower of Babel” or “Belus Tower”).


Wald [top]

Near the end of his 1804 memorial address for Kant, Wald mentions some of the iconography, weighing-in on a few items.

“His portrait was the frontispiece to the 20th volume of the Allgemeine Deutschen Bibliothek, to the 39th volume of the new Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften, a copper engraving by Lips in the 1st volume of the Jenaischen Literatur-Repertoriums, as well as by Bause in Leipzig. Some students, including some who were Jewish, honored him with a large gold medal and presented it in lieu of the usual course fee. This did not win his approval, however, since the picture was not very good and his year of birth was incorrect. Abramson has already minted another commemorative coin of him and provided it with Zöllner’s fitting inscription: altius volantem arcuit, of which no admirer of Kant can be indifferent. If only his head were drawn better!” [Reicke 1860, 25]

“Sein Bildnis ist vor dem 20. Bande der Allg. Deutschen Bibliothek, vor dem 39. Bande der neuen Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften, von Lips vor dem 1. Band des Jenaischen Literatur-Repertoriums, wie auch von Bause in Leipzig in Kupfer gestochen [125] worden. Einige Studirende, zum Theil jüdischer Nation ließen ihm zu Ehren eine große goldene Medaille prägen, und an Statt des Honorars überreichen. Sie hatte jedoch nicht seinen Beifall, weil sein Bildiß nicht getroffen und sein Geburtsjahr unrichtig angegeben war. Das Abramson ohnlängst eine andere Denk¬münze auf ihn geprägt und sie mit Zöllner’s passen¬der Inschrift: altius volantem arcuit, versehen hat, kann keinem Verehrer Kant’s gleichgültig sein. Wäre nur sein Kopf richtiger gezeichnet!”


Will [top]

On the Schleuen engraving, Georg Andreas Will [bio] writes:

“Immanuel Kant, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Königsberg, a man of 64 years, (born 1724) is without doubt one of the most astute and first philosophers of this century, and along with that a skillfully animated man in society and a refined tease. His image at the front of the 20th issue of the Allgemeine deutschen Bibliothek, in which he still looks young, portrays this character and, I think, especially a searching philosophical gaze.” [1788, 15-16]

“Herr Immanuel Kant, Professor der Logik und Metaphysik zu Königsberg, ein Mann von 64. Jahren, (geb. 1724) ist außer Zweifel einer der scharfsinnigsten und ersten Philosophen dieses Jahrhunderts, dabei in artiger munterer Mann in Gesellschaft und ein feiner Spötter. Sein Bildniß vor dem 20sten Theil der allgemeinen deutschen Bibliothek, in welchem er noch iung erscheint, giebt däucht mich, diesen Charakter und besonders einen [16] forschenden philosophischen Blick zu erkennen.”


Reusch [top]

From Christian Friedrich Reusch [bio], a former student and later a regular dinner guest of Kant’s, we learn that the Hagemann bust left in Königsberg was made ...

“... from Carrara marble with a pedestal from blue Silesian marble, for which we collected about 100 Frd’or. This bust quite resembles the Kant of that age, and moreover was very cleanly worked so that one clearly recognizes the delicate features, such as the veins on the temples.” [1848, 8]

... von cararischem Marmor und ein Piedestal von blauem schlesischen Marmor beschränken, wozu etwa 100 Frd'or zusammenkamen. Diese Büste ist dem damaligen Alter Kant's nach sprechend ähnlich, überdem sehr sauber gearbeitet, so daß sie die Feinheit der Züge und der, in den Schläfen vortretenden Adern sehr wohl erkennen läßt.”


Hagen [top]

“Kant’s bust is not one of the artist’s successful works. When he asked the philosopher whether he should reproduce him faithfully, the latter replied: ‘You must not make me as old and ugly as I am now.’ [Scheffner 1816, 264]. Hagemann forgot this admonition, however, when he modeled the portrait, unreasonably emphasizing the unattractive lower part of the face.” [1833, 292]

“Kants Büste gehört nicht zu des Künstlers gelungenen Arbeiten. Als er den Philosophen fragte, ob er ihn ganz treu nachbilden sollte, so erwiederte dieser: "So alt und häßlich, wie ich nun bin, dürfen Sie mich eben nicht machen" *). Hagemann indeß vergaß diese Mahnung, als er das Brustbild modellirte, und hob das Unschöne der unteren Gesichtstheile sogar über die Gebühr hervor.”


Heß [top]

The medical student Jonas Ludwig von Heß (1756-1823) spent a semester in Königsberg when Hagemann was also in town preparing a clay model of Kant’s bust and often Heß and William Motherby would visit Kant while he was sitting for Hagemann. Eventually Heß contracted with Schadow to produce a bust for him as well, which was sent to Hamburg, where he lived. In his memoire, Heß wrote that this bust “was a very good likeness” [Heß 1816, 234].

The Hamburg bust, which presumably no one in Königsberg would have seen, and certainly not Kant, depicts a much older looking man than the Königsberg bust.


Schubert [top]

The Döbler painting was the most successful representation of Kant, according to Friedrich Wilhelm Schubert (1799-1868), whose life in Königsberg barely overlapped with Kant’s, but who apparently had canvased those who had known Kant directly. Near the end of his Kant biography in volume 11.2 of the Rosenkranz/Schubert edition of Kant’s Sämmtliche Werke, Schubert provides a list of the representations of Kant known to him [1842, 204-210][see], where he writes of the Döbler painting:

“The most successful oil painting was done by the painter Döbler of Berlin, a student of the well-known portrait painter Edmund Francis Cunningham, who spent a long time in Königsberg as part of an extensive tour. Kant sat for him in 1791, thus at the time of his highest intellectual flowering and still in full possession of his powers; the painting became the property of the local Todtenkopf Lodge. It is a bust portrait in half life size and has not yet been copied for publication. As I agree with Kant’s still living contemporaries that this is the most faithful picture, I have had a copy made, with the owner's kind permission, which the good local painter Stobbe has captured just as skillfully as Karl Barth [207] engraved it, which will serve as the true adornment of this biography.”

“Das gelungenste Ölgemälde lieferte der Maler Döbler aus Berlin, ein Schüler des bekannten Portraitmalers Edmund Francis Cunningham, der auf einer grösseren Reise sich längere Zeit in Königsberg aufhielt. Ihm sass Kant 1791, also in dem Zeitpunkte seiner höchsten geistigen Blüthe, und noch in vollem Besitze seiner genialen Kraft; das Bild wurde Eigenthum der hiesigen Todtenkopfloge. Es ist ein Brustbild und in halber Lebensgrösse und bis jetzt zur Veröffentlichung noch nicht copirt gewesen. Da ich es in Ubereinstimmung mit den noch lebenden Zeitgenossen Kant’s für das treueste Bild halte, so habe ich mit geneigter Erlaubniss der Besitzerin eine Copie anfertigen lassen, die von dem wackeren hiesigen Maler Stobbe eben so geistvoll aufgefasst, als von Karl Barth [207] trefflich gestochen, zur wahren Zierde dieser Biographie gereichen wird.”