The New International Encyclopædia/Mengs, Raphael
MENGS, mĕngs, Raphael (1728-79). A German historical and portrait painter. He was born at Aussig, Bohemia, March 12, 1728, the son of Ismael Mengs, a miniature painter of some repute, who in 1741 took him to Rome. On his return to Dresden in 1744 he was appointed Court painter by the Elector Augustus III., who permitted him to continue his studies at Rome. There he painted the first of his larger compositions, a “Holy Family,” now in the Gallery of Vienna, and of additional interest because the model for the Madonna was Marguerita Guazzi, a beautiful peasant girl whom he married, and for whose sake he embraced Catholicism. The financial distress occasioned by the Seven Years' War caused his pension to be stopped, and he was in distress at Rome, but his fortune turned when the Duke of Northumberland employed him to paint a copy of Raphael's “School of Athens.” In 1754 he was made director of the new Art Academy on the Capitol; in 1757 he painted the ceiling in San Eusebio, and soon after the “Mount Parnassus” in the Villa Albani.
On a visit to Naples he attracted the attention of the King, who, on his accession to the throne of Spain as Charles III., invited Mengs to Madrid. During this first sojourn at Madrid (1761-69) he executed several frescoes in the royal palace, of which “Aurora and the Four Seasons” is the best. Intrigues against him and feeble health caused his return to Italy, but he was summoned back to Madrid in 1772 to complete his work in the royal palace. He painted there the “Apotheosis of Trajan,” his most important fresco, and the “Temple of Fame.” In 1775 he returned to Rome, where he died, June 29, 1779.
His fresco paintings are superior to his canvases. Good examples of the latter are a “Nativity” in Madrid, and an “Annunciation” in the Vienna Gallery. Mengs was an eclectic who endeavored to blend the beauty of antique art with that of the great Italian masters. Living at a time of extreme degradation in art, he commanded great admiration by his skill in composition and his thorough knowledge of technical processes. He exercised a profound inlluence upon his contemporaries, and trained numerous pupils. Consult Woermann, Ismael und Raphael Mengs (Leipzig, 1893).