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Ary Scheffer (10 February 1795 – 15 June 1858) was a Dutch-French Romantic painter.[1] He was known mostly for his works based on literature, with paintings based on the works of Dante, Goethe, and Lord Byron, as well as religious subjects. He was also a prolific painter of portraits of famous and influential people in his lifetime. Politically, Scheffer had strong ties to King Louis Philippe I, having been employed as a teacher of the latter's children, which allowed him to live a life of luxury for many years until the French Revolution of 1848.

Ary Scheffer
Ary Scheffer selfportrait.jpg
Self-portrait by Scheffer
Born (1795-02-10)10 February 1795
Died 15 June 1858(1858-06-15) (aged 63)
Nationality Dutch, French
Known for Painting
Movement Romanticism



Statue of Scheffer on the Scheffersplein in Dordrecht created by Joseph Mezzara after a design by Scheffer's daughter Cornelia.
Scheffer's house in Paris, now Musée de la Vie romantique (Museum of Romantic Life).

Scheffer was the son of Johan Bernard Scheffer (1765–1809), a portrait painter born in Homberg upon Ohm or Kassel who had moved to the Netherlands in his youth, and Cornelia Lamme (1769–1839), a portrait miniature painter and daughter of the Dordrecht landscape painter Arie Lamme, after whom Arij (later Ary) was named. He had two brothers, the journalist and writer Karel Arnold Scheffer (1796–1853) and the painter Hendrik Scheffer (1798–1862). He was taught by his parents and attended the Amsterdam drawing academy from the age of 11. In 1808 his father became court painter of Louis Bonaparte in Amsterdam, but he died a year later. Encouraged by Willem Bilderdijk, he moved to Lille for further study after the death of his father. In 1811 he and his mother, who had a large influence on his career, moved to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts as a pupil of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin. His brothers followed them later.[2]

Scheffer started exhibiting at the Salon de Paris from 1812 on. He started to become recognized in 1817 and in 1819 he was asked to make a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette. Perhaps because of Lafayette's contacts, Scheffer and his brothers were politically active throughout their lives and he became a prominent Philhellene.[2]

In 1822, he became drawing teacher to the children of Louis-Philippe, the Duke of Orléans. Thanks to his connections with them, he was able to obtain many commissions for portraiture and other work. In 1830, riots against the rule of King Charles X resulted in his overthrow. On 30 July, Scheffer and influential journalist Adolphe Thiers personally rode from Paris to Orléans to ask Louis-Philippe to lead the resistance, and a few days later, he became "King of the French".[2]

That same year, Scheffer had a daughter Cornelia. He registered the name of her mother as Maria Johanna de Nes, but nothing is known about her and she may have died soon after Cornelia's birth. Considering that his own grandmother's name was Johanna de Nes, it has been speculated that he kept Cornelia's mother's name a secret not to compromise a noble family's reputation. Cornelia Scheffer (1830–1899) became a sculptor and painter in her own right.[3] Scheffer's mother did not know of her namesake granddaughter until 1837, after which she took care of her until she died only two years later.[2] Scheffer became associate member of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands in 1846, and resigned in 1851.[4]

Under the reign of Louis-Philippe, Scheffer and his family prospered. He and Hendrik were inundated with art commissions, and they taught a large number students in their Paris workshop, so many that the works produced during this period that bear his signature cannot be verified to actually have been made by him.[2]

Scheffer was made commander of the Legion of Honour in 1848. As a captain of the Garde Nationale he escorted the royal family in their escape from the Tuileries and escorted the Duchess d'Orléans to the Chambre des Députés where she in vain proposed her son to be the next monarch of France. Scheffer fought in the army of Cavaignac during the popular uprising in Paris, but he was so shocked by the cruelty and hatred from the government's side and the misery of the lower classes that he withdrew from political activity and refused to make portraits of the family of Napoléon III. On 16 March 1850 he married Sophie Marin, the widow of General Baudrand, and on 6 November of that year he finally became a French citizen. He continued his frequent travels to the Netherlands, and made trips to Belgium, Germany and England, but a heart condition slowed him down and eventually ended his life in 1858 in his summer house in Argenteuil.[2] He is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre.


When Scheffer left Guérin's studio, Romanticism had come into vogue in France, with such painters as Xavier Sigalon, Eugène Delacroix and Théodore Géricault. Scheffer did not show much affinity with their work and developed his own style, which has been called "frigidly classical".[5]

The Shades of Francesca di Rimini and Paolo Malatesta Appearing to Dante and Virgil

Scheffer often painted subjects from literature, especially the works of Dante, Byron and Goethe. Two versions of Dante and Beatrice have been preserved at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, United Kingdom,[6] and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, US.[7] Particularly highly praised was his Francesca da Rimini, painted in 1836, which illustrates a scene from Dante Alighieri's Inferno. In the piece the entwined bodies of Francesca di Rimini and Paolo Malatesta swirl around in the never-ending tempest that is the second circle of Hell. The illusion of movement is created by the drapery that envelopes the couple, as well as by Francesca's flowing hair. These two figures create a diagonal line that intersects the majority of the canvas creating not only a sense of movement, but also giving the painting an air of instability.[original research?] Francesca clings to Paolo as he turns his face away in anguish. There are an additional two figures in the image: hidden in the background, the poets Dante and Virgil look on as they make their way through the nine circles of Hell.

Scheffer's popular Faust-themed paintings include Margaret at her wheel; Faust doubting; Margaret at the Sabbat; Margaret leaving church; The garden walk, and Margaret at the well. In 1836, he painted two pictures of Goethe's character Mignon: Mignon desires her fatherland (1836), and Mignon yearns for heaven (1851).[8]

Temptation of Christ, 1854

He now turned to religious subjects: Christus Consolator (1836) was followed by Christus Remunerator, The shepherds led by the star (1837), The Magi laying down their crowns, Christ in the Garden of Olives, Christ bearing his Cross, Christ interred (1845), and St Augustine and Monica (1846).

One of the reduced versions of his Christus Consolator (the major work today to be found in the Van Gogh-museum, Amsterdam), lost for 70 years, was rediscovered in a janitor's closet in Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Dassel, Minnesota in 2007. It has been restored and is on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.[9]

Scheffer was also an accomplished portrait painter, finishing 500 portraits in total. His subjects included composers Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, the Marquis de la Fayette, Pierre-Jean de Béranger, Alphonse de Lamartine, Charles Dickens, Duchess de Broglie,[10] Talleyrand[10] and Queen Marie Amélie.

After 1846, he ceased to exhibit. His strong ties with the royal family caused him to fall out of favour when, in 1848, the Second Republic came into being. Scheffer was made commander of the Legion of Honour in 1848, that is, after he had wholly withdrawn from the Salon. Shut up in his studio, he produced many paintings that were only exhibited after his death in 1858.[11]

The works first exhibited posthumously include Sorrows of the earth, and the Angel announcing the Resurrection, which he had left unfinished. By the time of his death, his reputation was damaged and was further undermined by the sale of the Paturle Gallery, which contained many of his most celebrated achievements: though his paintings were praised for their charm and facility, they were condemned for poor use of color and vapid sentiment.[11]

Friends and familyEdit

Jesus and Angel by Scheffer. Between 1848 and 1858.
French translator, writer, and literary critic Louis Viardot by Émile Lassalle (1813–1871), dated 1840.
Christ Weeping Over Jerusalem (1851) by Scheffer

At various times Maurice Sand, Scheffer, Charles Gounod, Hector Berlioz were in relationships with Pauline Viardot — in letters they claimed that they were in love with her.[12] She wrote in one letter:

Louis and Scheffer (Scheffer was the best friend of Louis Viardot, husband of Pauline Viardot) has always been my dearest of friends, and it is sad, that I was never able to respond to the hot and deep love of Louis, despite all my volition."[13]

She was married to Louis Viardot at 18 years old, when her husband was a director of an Italian opera house in Paris and a friend of Scheffer. Scheffer was a confidant of Pauline Viardot and a friend of her family until his death.[13][14]

In 1850 Scheffer became a French citizen and married Sophie Marin, the widow of General Marie Étienne François Henri Baudrand, who died on 7 September 1848. Marin died six years later (1856).[15]

His younger brother Hendrik Scheffer, born in The Hague on 27 September 1798, was also a painter.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^   Wood, James, ed. (1907). "Scheffer, Ary". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Scheffer, Arij (1795–1858) in the Biographical Dictionary of the Netherlands: 1880–2000 (in Dutch)
  3. ^ Scheffer, Cornelia (1830–1899) in the Biographical Dictionary of the Netherlands: 1880–2000 (in Dutch)
  4. ^ "A. Scheffer (1795–1858)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Murray, P. & L. (1996), Dictionary of art and artists. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-051300-0.
  6. ^ Smyth, Patricia. "The Vision: Dante and Beatrice". The National Inventory of Continental European Paintings. VADS. Retrieved 8 February 2018. 
  7. ^ "Dante and Beatrice". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 11 November 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018. 
  8. ^ "Ary Scheffer – Societyschilder in Parijs". Dordrechts Museum. 
  9. ^ Wagener, Anne-Marie; Pleshek, Tammy (March 31, 2009). "Scheffer's Painting of Christ the Comforter Discovered in a Church in Rural Minnesota" (Press release). Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minneapolis Institute of Art. Retrieved 9 February 2018. 
  10. ^ a b   Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Scheffer, Ary". Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company. 
  11. ^ a b   Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Scheffer, Ary". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 316. 
  12. ^ Журнальный зал >> Author:Ирина ЧАЙКОВСКАЯ "Полина Виардо: возможность дискуссии". Chapter: "Безобразная красавица".
  13. ^ a b Журнальный зал >> Author:Ирина ЧАЙКОВСКАЯ "Полина Виардо: возможность дискуссии". Chapter: "Монашка или женщина-вамп?"
  14. ^ Barbara Kendall-Davis. P. 397.
  15. ^
  16. ^   Bryan, Michael (1889). "Scheffer, Hendrik". In Armstrong, Sir Walter; Graves, Robert Edmund. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers (L–Z). II (3rd ed.). London: George Bell & Sons. 

Further readingEdit

  • Morris, Edward (1985). "Ary Scheffer and his English Circle". Oud Holland. 99 (4): 294–323. JSTOR 42711190. (Subscription required (help)). 

External linksEdit