Konrad Witz is a German painter of the first half of the 15th century. He was born in Rottweil, an important center of trade, which was independent of any feudal or ecclesiastical authority. We do not know anything about the artist’s training. Historical records provide only a few very scarce bits of information about his life and work. In 1434 ‘Master Konrad of Rottweil’ was admitted to the Basle Guild of Painters, and the same year he was granted citizenship of Basle. The last we hear of him is in the inscription on
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, in which Witz gives his name and date of 1444. The Miraculous Draught of Fishes is the left wing of an altarpiece dedicated to St. Peter, it ranks amongst the milestones of Early Renaissance painting.
Witz boldly dealt with the problems of transforming three-dimensional reality into two-dimensional painting, and of portraying interior and exterior spaces in correct perspective. Although in his interiors perspective is not mathematically correct, they suggest remarkable depth, e.g. Madonna and the Saints in a Church. Whether the panel was executed by Witz himself or by his apprentices, its lighting effects and sense of realism make it one of the most exciting inventions of the 15th century. The idea of portraying the family of Christ, together with additional saints, in a church interior is equally striking. Mary’s female companions are St. Barbara, identified by her tower, and St. Catherine, to whom Infant Jesus was betrothed.
Witz tried to capture landscape and architecture with the greatest possible faithfulness to life. His significance can be compared in various respects with that of Masaccio in Italy and Jan van Eyck in Netherlands. Konrad Witz died in 1445 in Basle or Geneva.
Konrad Witz by Lippold-Heissig. Dresden. 1955.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.