Crispian Riley-Smith Fine Arts Ltd

Felix of Nola hiding from soldiers behind a spider's web in a ruin

Circle of Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner
(Ebbs 1712- Augsburg 1761)

Pen and black ink, black wash, heightened with white, on blue paper
119 x 158 mm. (4 5/8 x 6 in.)

Provenance :
Peter Vischer (1751-1823) (Frits Lugt 2116), and his attribution to 'Sadeler' on the mount.

Circle of Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner
View full image

Hover over images to zoom in, click to view full size

Felix of Nola (died circa 260) was a priest who lived near Naples, at Nola, and was the son of a Syrian soldier. In 250 Emperor Decius persecuted the Christians, and the Emperor imprisoned Nola due to his pastoral work. Nola managed to escape. He heard that the Bishop Saint Maximus of Nola was in hiding and went in search of him. Finding him ill and helpless he assisted the Bishop home. A further attempt was made to capture Felix, but he eluded them by hiding in a ruined building where a spider's web was spun across the entrance which deceived his pursuers. In the present drawing Felix is shown hiding from his pursuers. On the death of the Bishop of Nola Felix was elected, however he refused to take up the position and instead chose to live the life of a simple priest1. He died on 14th January, which is his saint's day.

The subject of this drawing was identified by Miss Hbner of the Graphische Sammlung in Augsburg. The reason for the traditional attribution to Sadeler on the mount, presumably the family of 16th Century German engravers, by the collector Peter Vischer is not apparent. Attributions to Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner have been suggested and his finished style can be compared to these drawings2, as well as Joseph Christ (1732-1788)3 and Vitus Felix Rigl (died Augsburg? 1799)4. The present drawing was most probably for a calender of saints, so far unidentified. This type of representation was not uncommon, and indeed Baumgartner himself contributed a number of drawings and oil sketches to Joseph Giuliani's calender5 of 1753.

1 D. Attwater, Dictionary of Saints, Penguin, 1983, p. 127.
2. Galerie Siegfried Billesberger, Johann Wolfgang Baumgartner Zeichnungen, 1995, no. 30.
3. R. Biedermann, Meisterzeichnungen Des Deutschen Barock, Augsburg, 1987, nos. 107-8.
4. R. Biedermann, op.cit., nos 168-9.
5. Tgliche Erbauung eines wahren Christen, Augsburg, and Galerie Siegfried Billesberger, op. cit., nos. 21-8, and A. Laing, Imagination und Imago, in Festschrift Kurt Rossacher, Salzburg, 1983, pp. 147-152