7484

Ignácz  Ritter von Wechselmann 1894
Seated half-length to the right, full face, wearing white tie evening dress with decorations and a ring on his left hand which rests on his knee, his right arm leaning on the arm of the chair, holding a pair of lilac gloves in that hand, all against a dark brown background
Oil on canvas, 104.2 x 84.5 cm (41 x 33 ¼ in)

Inscribed lower left: László F. / 894

Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum (Hungarian Natinal Museum) Történelmi Képcsarnok (Historical Gallery)


De Lászlό first met Ignácz Ritter von Wechselmann in 1892 when he purchased the genre picture the Hofbräuhaus [11699] at the annual Winter Exhibition of the Hungarian Fine Art Society in Budapest that year. The picture featured the artist’s future wife, Lucy Guinness whom he had met during his studies in Munich. De László recalled in his autobiographical notes for Rutter: “My ‘Hofbräuhaus’ was a great success and I sold it for 1,500 florins to Herr Ritter von Wechselmann, a well-known architect of the old school, who had come to Hungary from Germany in the early sixties, when Budapest was beginning to build. He loved art and bought many fine pictures. He had no children, but a very plain wife. We became great friends later on.”[1] The artist depicts him as an elegant man; the lilac gloves infuse colour against the blackness of his suit. De László intended to exhibit this portrait at the Nemzeti Szalon in 1907, though for reasons unknown it was not included.[2] 

Ignácz Ritter von Wechselmann
 was born in Nicolai (Prussian Silesia), 23 September 1828.[3] He was educated in Berlin and then moved to Vienna, where he became the friend and assistant of of the architect Ludwig von Förster.[4] In 1856 he moved to Budapest, where, as von Förster’s representative, he superintended the building of the great Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest. The Synagogue, built in the Moorish style, is still the largest in Europe.[5] Many of the monumental buildings erected in Budapest between 1870 and 1890 were designed by him, often in cooperation with the famous architect Miklós Ybl, builder of the Opera House. His work included palaces, such as the Festetich Palace, and the Castle Bazaar,[6] both based on the plans of Ybl, as well as churches, villas and factories. In 1886 he was decorated with the Order of the Iron Crown, third class, and shortly afterwards he was ennobled.

At an unknown date he marriaed Zsófia Neuschloss (1838-1914). Her portrait [55], at present untraced, was painted by de László in 1903; he also painted her sister-in-law, Madame Emil Neuschloss [111283].                                                                                                                        

Failing eyesight compelled Wechselmann to retire in 1890 and he devoted himself to philanthrophy. His greatest acts of charity were to bequeath in his will one million Crowns to the Institute for the Blind to establish a boarding school for blind children, and two million Crowns for meritorious teachers in state schools. Half of the beneficiaries were to be Jews and the other half Christians. The board of directors of the Jewish community was entrusted with the administration of these bequests. Wechselmann died in Budapest 17 February 1903.

PROVENANCE:
Donated to the Hungarian National Museum
 by Zsófia Wechselmann, widow of the sitter, in 1903

LITERATURE:
Az Országos Magyar Szépművészeti Múzeum Állagai, IV., Magyar Történelmi Képcsarnok (The collections of the National Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts, Vol. IV, The Hungarian Historical Gallery), Budapest, 1915, p. 359
•Rutter, Owen,
Portrait of a Painter, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1939, pp. 128, 209
•Rózsa, György Dr.,
Selected Piantings of the Historical Gallery, Corvina, Budapest, 1977, pp. 24, 39, pl. 52

•DLA039-0108, letter from Ignácz von Wechselmann to de László, 25 October 1894
•DLA039-0109, letter from Ignácz von Wechselmann to de László, 29 November 1894
•DLA039-0110, letter from Ignácz von Wechselmann to de László, 7 December 1894
•DLA039-0111, letter frrom Ignácz von Wechselmann to de László, 5 September 1895
•DLA039-0112, letter from Ignácz von Wechselmann to de László, 21 December 1897
•DLA066-0056, letter from Emil Neuschloss to de László, 6 March 1903
•NSzL149-0010, letter from de László to Lajos Ernst, 21 March 1907



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[1] Rutter, op. cit., p. 128. In 1900, when de László returned to Budapest with his wife Lucy, they hoped to buy back the painting which meant so much to them. “One of the first visits we paid was to the widow of Ritter von Wechselmann.... but unfortunately Frau Wechselmann declined our offers to buy it back.” p. 209. (In fact Wechselmann was still alive at the time -he died in 1903)

[2] NSzL149-0010, op. cit.

[3] His name in Hungarian is Lovag Wechselmann Ignácz

[4] Ludwig Christian Friedrich von Förster (1797-1863), Ausrian architect who planned the Dohány St. Synagogue in Budapest (1854-1859) and the Miskolc Synagogue in 1863

[5] The Synagogue was restored in 1996

[6] The Bazaar and its neo-renaissance gardens were restored in 2014. It contains exhibition spaces, restaurants and shops