The Role of Nazarenism in the Renewal of Late Medieval Works: Johann Gruss the Elder’s Restoration of The Feast of the Rose Garlands by Albrecht Dürer


This article focuses on the restoration of Dürer's famous painting The Feast of the Rose Garlands (National Gallery in Prague). The restoration work was done by Johann Gruss the Elder in 1839 – 1841. Gruss was a painter from Litoměřice in northern Bohemia. His work shows a degree of skill and knowledge of contemporary Nazarene art, which he applied in a somewhat stiff and simplified form. He was most influenced by the paintings, drawings and prints of Joseph Führich. The inspiration he drew from Führich's work to repain the face of the Virgin in Dürer's Feast of the Rose Garlands turns out to have been the correct choice: Führich's clearly defined period style (in which Führich equalled the work of Dürer) was something that Gruss, an artist of far more humble talent and limited abilities, could easily imitate. He Gruss sought inspiration directly in the works of the Old Masters and tried on his own to transfer their style to the provincial Nazarene style of the 1830s, he would most certainly have been unsure and would have fumbled artistically and the outcome would have been inconsistent. Modelling his work on Führich thus ensured the stylistic consistency of Gruss's additions.