MAULBERTSCH Franz Anton
Maulbertsch spent the first years of his apprenticeship in his father's studio in the Montfort domain of Tettnang. He is also thought to have been apprenticed to Franz Joseph Spiegler (1691- 1757) in Riedlingen. At the age of 16, he left home to study at the Academy in Vienna. Initially unsuccessful in the contests of the Academy for Painting, he won the first prize in 1750. In 1752, he was elected a member of the Academy. In the same year, his successful career as an artist commenced with his first major commission, which was to paint the frescoes and later the high-altarpieces in the Piaristenkirche in Vienna. Many commissions for ceiling paintings and paintings followed in Austria, above and below the Enns river, in Hungary, Moravia and Slovakia. In 1772, Maulbertsch was appointed Imperial Court Painter by Maria Theresia (1717- 1780); one year later he was granted the title of "art councillor" by the Academy, and in 1788, he became the director of the newly founded pensions society for practitioners of the fine arts.
The Last Supper
Maulbertsch's painting of the Last Supper is an interesting example of the Baroque style of sketching. The figures, which lean far forward or far back, the abrupt foreshortening and the countless diagonal lines make this scene of men grouped around a table appear disturbed and agitated. Jesus and the apostles are depicted with their heads out of alignment with their body axes, and both their massive limbs and expressive hand gestures emphasise the eventful and moving nature of the moment depicted. The solidity of the bodies, which are rendered in an overall dark tone, is dissolved in a white light and appears blurred and dreamlike, and despite the strongly emotional, dramatic atmosphere, the passage of time appears to be slowed down. The positioning of Jesus and Judah directly opposite each other creates a sense of drama. A knife placed on the table in front of Judah suggests the bloody outcome of his betrayal, whereas the ritually broken bread and the citrus fruits lying cut open on the table in front of Jesus symbolise the conquering of death.
Gabriele Groschner, Thomas Habersatter, Erika Mayr-Oehring (Ed.): Masterworks. Residenzgalerie Salzburg. Salzburg 2002, p. 102