Asam Brothers

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Asam Brothers ( Cosmas Damian (1686–1739) and Egid Quirin (1692–1750)). Although C. D. Asam was primarily a painter of frescoes, and his brother a sculptor, together they designed and made some of the foremost examples of Baroque architecture in Bavaria. They were supported by the Abbot of Tegernsee who sent them on a study-visit to Rome after the death of their father Georg Asam (1649–1711). On their return to Bavaria they were employed as decorators of several churches, especially after C. D. Asam demonstrated his mastery of theatrical effects and dramatic perspectives in the ceiling-frescoes of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Church of the Holy Trinity) in Munich (1715). In 1714 he started work on the Benedictine Abbey of Weltenburg, where Roman influences are plainly demonstrated, for the nave of the church is an ellipse on plan, light-sources are difficult to discern, and the rich colouring and gilding are reminiscent of Bernini's Sant'Andrea at Quirinale. However, Bernini placed the high-altar on the shorter axis of the ellipse, whereas at Weltenburg Asam set the high-altar on the longer axis. E. Q. Asam also contributed to the works at Weltenburg from 1721, and the collaboration created a stunning work, the climax of which is the stage-like aedicule of Solomonic columns within which an equestrian St George, bathed in yellow light that pours from above and behind, slays a fearsome dragon. A sculptured figure of C. D. Asam leans elegantly over the gallery high above the elliptical nave, smiling down at visitors as if in welcome.

The brothers decorated many churches, including the Pfarrkirche (Parish Church—now Dom (Cathedral)) St Jakobi, Innsbruck (1722–3), but it was in the few they designed and built that they demonstrated their mastery of spatial illusion, lighting effects, and other melodramatic aspects of design they had learned in Rome. Weltenburg is sensational, but so is the Augustinian Priory Church at Rohr (1717–25), where the Virgin rises from her coffin, carried up to Heaven by angels within an aedicule, the broken pediment of which features in its centre clouds, putti, and a sunburst of glory. At the tiny Church of St Johann Nepomuk (often known as the Asamkirche), Munich (1733–40), lighting, drama, theatrical effects, and intensity of expression reached new heights, while the delicate and fanciful Ursulinenkirche (Church of the Ursulines), Straubing (1736–41), built on a quatrefoil plan, also employs dramatic lighting sources from on high, and makes more overt the visual expression of earthly and heavenly realms. The Asams were masters of drama and illusion, rarely failing to delight the eye and move the emotions.


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