Our art collection includes around 10,000 objects—paintings, sculptures, graphics and handicrafts from the 14th to the 21st century. We show some of the artworks permanently or temporarily in exhibitions, while other objects are stored in our depots. The custody also administers all works of art in the facilities, faculties and institutes of the university, whether mobile or building-bound. From a painting in the professor's office to a monument in the public space—we manage the entire art collection of our university.
Artwork of the Month
Johann Georg Ziesenis (1716–1776) based on: Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
Portrait of Helene Fourmet (1614–1673)
around 1756, handwritten on sticky notes on the top of the stretcher: «No. 15 The second wife of Rubens, Helene Formann, knee piece, from Ziesenis, after the somewhat larger original by Rubens in Munich, re. there Helene Fourment.»; top right: «17. Rubens 2nd Mrs. Copie von Ziesenis»; below: «No: 17.»
Oil on canvas, 74 x 60 cm
Inv. No. 4666/90
The painting shows the almost life-size half-length portrait of a young woman in a 17th century costume. Her black dress is modelled according to the Spanish fashion of the Counter-Reformation, lace trimmings and elaborate applications signify her high social status; Hairstyle and headgear are fashionable and extravagant. She has turned her body a little to the side, while her head is slightly bowed, her gaze is directed at the viewer. Some architectural pillars can be seen in the darkened background, which was an often occurrence in portraits of the nobility.
The work in the custody's collection is a copy from the mid-18th century. The portrait painter and later Hanoverian court painter Johann Georg Ziesenis created it around 1756 in Düsseldorf, where he copied works by Rubens, van Dyck and other Flemish and Dutch artists in the electoral gallery. Copying was part of the academic training of artists in the 18th century. For Ziesenis, who had already completed an apprenticeship in Copenhagen, this offered the opportunity to study the portrait culture of the Dutch. A total of twelve copies were made at the time, including the portrait of a lady based on a painting that was initially considered to be an authentic work by Peter Paul Rubens, but has since been identified as a (partial) copy (Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, inv.no.325). The original painting, which is now in the Louvre in Paris (inv.no. RF 1977 13) portrays Helene Fourment, the second wife of the artist, whom he married after the death of his first spouse Isabella Brant; on the original painting Helene is portrayed in full figure, accompanied by their son Franz. This painting, made shortly before Rubens‘ death, is his last portrait of Helene.
The provenance of the painting can be fully traced from the artist, who kept it in his own possession during his lifetime, through the portrait collections of the Hanover archivists Georg (I) and Georg (II) Kestner to Lilly Wüstefeldt, the latter's foster daughter. She donated it alongside 19 other paintings—including a total of five copies by Johann Georg Ziesenis—to the Leipzig University Library in 1916. The custody is currently researching the paintings from the Lilly Wüstefeldt Foundation. The results are to be presented to the public in an exhibition.
Academic equipment has been the foundation of our art collection since our university was founded in 1409. It grew more and more over the centuries: through commissioned furnishing buildings, through transfer of portraits by professors and rectors, through gifts, bequests and foundations. This collection was not intentionally crafted, but has naturally grown over time.
Insignia and University's Historical Objects
Valuable insignia are the most precious possessions of our university. We present these objects, from the splendid golden scepter to the artfully designed small university seal, in our permanent exhibition in the Rectorate Building. With the rector chain, a newer insignia was added to the collection in the middle of the 19th century. This collection area also includes flags, trophies and Studentica (objects of students’ use).
Monastery and University Church of St. Paul
After the Reformation, our university received a considerable inventory of medieval paintings and sculptures through the donation of the St. Paul monastery and the church. In addition to the frescoes of the Dominican monastery and sculptures from the monastery property, such as those of Thomas Aquinas, Dietrich von Wettin and the Apostle Paul, there were also some early tombstones and the Pauline altar. The epitaphs of the St. Paul University Church were made later—between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Portraits of important members of the university elite, famous scientists and scholars are accumulated in portrait galleries. The Professors' Gallery in the University Library includes portraits from the 16th to 18th centuries. Today we are exhibiting a large part of it on the first floor of the New Augusteum. The Ordinaries Gallery of the Faculty of Law contains almost complete portraits of all juridical ordinaries from the 16th to the 19th century. The Friendship Gallery of the Leipzig publisher Philip Erasmus Reich has private origins with portraits of important personalities from the 18th century. We are showing almost all of these in the Art Holdings in the Rectorate Building.
In the 19th century, the university commissioned representative monuments and busts to equip the new main building in order to honor people who had made special contributions to the university. A “bust grove” will be set up in the foyer of the new Augusteum (in planning).
The rich graphic holdings in our collection encompass a wide variety of bundles. In addition to the graphic collection of the Karl Sudhoff Institute and the drawing estate of W. G. Tilesius von Tillenau (see our research project), the hand drawings by B. and C. Genelli as well as the works of the Leipzig copper engraver Johann Friedrich Bause are particularly noteworthy.
Art of the GDR
During the GDR era, the «Karl Marx University» sponsored exhibitions by contemporary artists: new buildings were to be adorned with socialist art. So new artworks were created under ideological auspices, such as the facade relief «Aufbruch» or the mural «Working Class and Intelligence» by Werner Tübke. The art collection of the former German University for Physical Culture and Sport (DHfK) was transferred to our holdings at that time. These include outstanding works of art such as Willi Sitte's «Long Jumper» from 1976 or the «Portrait of the Figure Skater Katharina Witt» by Heinz Wagner (1986). We also have important works from the Leipzig School—by Wolfgang Mattheuer, Werner Tübke, Bernhard Heisig and Heinz Zander. The university also received artists’ bequests, for example from H. E. Strüning and Rudolf Oelzner.