Konrad Witz

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Saint Christopher by Konrad Witz (c. 1435), at the Kunstmuseum, Basel Konrad Witz 004.jpg
Saint Christopher by Konrad Witz (c. 1435), at the Kunstmuseum, Basel

Konrad Witz (1400/1410 probably in Rottweil, Germany – winter 1445/spring 1446 in Basel, Switzerland) was a German-born painter, active mainly in Basel, Switzerland. His 1444 panel The Miraculous Draft of Fishes (a portion of a lost altarpiece) has been credited as the earliest extant faithful portrayal of a landscape in European art history, being based on observation of real topographical features. [1]

Rottweil Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Rottweil is a town in southwest Germany in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Rottweil was a Free Imperial City for nearly 600 years.

<i>The Miraculous Draft of Fishes</i> (Witz) painting by Konrad Witz

The Miraculous Draft of Fishes is a 1444 oil on wood panel painting by the Swabian artist Konrad Witz, on view in the Museum of Art and History in Geneva, Switzerland. Originally part of a now dismantled altarpiece known as Peter's Altar Table, the panel depicts the miraculous catch of 153 fish as reported in the Gospel of John and shows a scene of the disciples, who had been fishing at the edge of a lake, recognising the stranger who had called out to them from the shore as the resurrected Jesus. Peter is shown wading toward Jesus to greet him. In this painting Witz takes the revolutionary step of moving the scene from the biblical Sea of Galilee to his local area, around Lake Geneva. With this move, Witz was able to base his rendering of the far landscape on his own observation of actual topographical features rather than rely on imaginative interpretation as earlier artists did. He further brought the landscape to the fore of his work; here the range is not simply a footnote seen through a window or detail visible beyond a crucifixion scene. The painting is renowned for its naturalistic representation of the Graian Alps and the snow-capped peaks of Mont Blanc and Le Môle seen in the distance. In this regard the work is the earliest known faithful portrayal of a landscape in European art history.

Altarpiece Artwork (painting, sculpture or relief) behind the altar

An altarpiece is an artwork such as a painting, sculpture or relief representing a religious subject made for placing behind the altar of a Christian church. Though most commonly used for a single work of art such as a painting or sculpture, or a set of them, the word can also be used of the whole ensemble behind an altar, otherwise known as a reredos, including what is often an elaborate frame for the central image or images. Altarpieces were one of the most important products of Christian art especially from the late Middle Ages to the era of the Counter-Reformation.

Witz is most famous for painting three altarpieces, all of which survive only partially. The earliest is the Heilspiegel Altarpiece  [ fr ] of about 1435 (today mostly in the Kunstmuseum, Basel, with isolated panels in other collections). The next is the Altarpiece of the Virgin (c. 1440), which has been associated with panels now in Basel, Nuremberg, and Strasbourg (Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame). Witz's final altarpiece is the St. Peter Altarpiece of 1444, painted for St. Peter's Cathedral, Geneva, and now in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, which contains his most famous composition, the Miraculous Draft of Fishes.

Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame Museum in Strasbourg, France. Upper Rhenish arts from the 11th to the 17th century, including artworks from Strasbourg Cathedral.

The Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame is the city of Strasbourg's museum for Upper Rhenish fine arts and decorative arts from the early Middle Ages until 1681. The museum is famous for its rich holdings of original sculptures, glass windows, architectural fragments and building plans of Strasbourg Cathedral, as well as for its considerable collection of works by Peter Hemmel von Andlau, Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden, Nikolaus Hagenauer, Ivo Strigel, Konrad Witz, Hans Baldung and Sebastian Stoskopff.

St. Pierre Cathedral Church in Switzerland

St. Pierre Cathedral cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, was built as a Roman Catholic cathedral, but became a Reformed Protestant Church of Geneva church during the Reformation. It is known as the adopted home church of John Calvin, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. Inside the church is a wooden chair used by Calvin.

Geneva Large city in Switzerland

Geneva is the second-most populous city in Switzerland and the most populous city of Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Situated where the Rhône exits Lake Geneva, it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

The painting of St. Christopher (Kunstmuseum, Basel; illustrated) does not seem to be related to these major altarpieces. Other independent works by Witz and his followers can be found in Naples, Berlin, and New York (Frick Collection).


  1. Borchert, Till-Holger. Van Eych to Durer: The Influence of Early Netherlandish painting on European Art, 1430-1530. London: Thames & Hudson, 2011. 58. ISBN   978-0-500-23883-7

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