Conrad (Witz)

Switzerland • XV century−1445

Biography and information

Swiss painter. Worked in Basel and Geneva. Moving from Gothic principles to the art of the Renaissance, V. reached a large plastic credibility in the figures, interior, urban and Alpine landscape, authentically and poetically captures the surroundings of Geneva (part of a huge altarpiece, circa 1435, Picture gallery, Berlin-Dahlem, Public art collection, Basel, and other meetings: folds the altar of St. Peter, 1444, Museum of art and history, Geneva).

Konrad WITZ, born, apparently, in the late 14th and 15th centuries in the württemberg town of Rottweil, creatively internalized the idea of Lochner on the scenic transmission of light by contrasting oppositions of light and dark spots. On the leaf “the Altar of St. Peter” (1444) depicting the Evangelical episode of the “miraculous catch”, the figure of Christ in a red robe seems almost surround on the background of the smooth surface of the lake. Due to the dark and muted tones of the front and middle plans picture red looks luminous, and the light seemed to have come from the figure of Christ. The landscape is also divided into light and dark areas, and under the dark ridges of distant mountains, the trees, buildings and fields as would grow on the surface of the picture, speaking for her plane.


First Vits sought not so much to create the illusion of the real world or to embody in painting three-dimensional form, how to pass by means of painting the reality of the matter that makes up the object. So light it is a feature of the landscape in the perception of the viewer. “Miraculous catch of fish” is one of the first in the history of art, monumental landscapes, some of which (lake Geneva, with the wall of the harbour and mount Petit salev depicted in the background) and you can contemplate in our days.


The use of color for the image light is not limited to simple distribution of tones between the dark background and “glowing” figures or objects. Traditional gold background, a symbol of Heaven acquired an additional function: it was to emphasize the volume of the figures.


In the stage of “King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba” from leaf “Hillegersberg the altar” (1435) Vic put both characters on a gold background with filigree ornament. Blue, red, green and white tones of the garments and restrained okhranye shades of hands and persons run out of the color scheme of this composition, but they all look dazzling sparkling at the expense of the rich, Golden background, is particularly striking due to the exquisite mosaic pattern. Vic was aware that abstract Golden background will emphasize the contours of the figures and make them almost tangible.


In this work, Vic put together two separate art directions: traditional use of gold background and a new technique scenic transmission of light with a special color scheme. If you compare “King Solomon” with the traditional use of the gold background to the work of a representative “soft” style, like master Bertram, it will be immediately obvious the differences and similarities between them. Master Bertram also knew that the Golden background makes the figures and objects are more “tangible”. But Vic, in contrast, used the gold not so much to denote a sacred space, how to create vertical decorative background, the contrast which clearly stand out horizontal benches, covered with a cloth saturated red. The illumination of the space in which is placed sitting on the bench of king Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, depends on this gold background.