Mündler, Otto

Full Name: 
Mündler, Otto
Date Born: 
1811
Date Died: 
1870
Place Born: 
Kempten, Germany
Place Died: 
Paris, France
Home Country: 
Germany
Overview: 
Dealer and historian of Italian and Old Master paintings. Mündler studied languages at Munich and Erlangen Universities. He decided to move to Paris to become an art dealer in 1835, and developed close friendships with prominent members of the European art community of the 1840's, including Giovanni Morelli (q.v.), Emmanuel Sano, and Ralph Nicholson Wornum (q.v.). In 1850, he published his first essay on old Master paintings in the Louvre, proving his ability to conduct art-historical research and exposing him as a major critic of the Louvre's administrative policies. He questioned the research of Frédéric Villot (q.v.), the Director of the Louvre, pointing out the errors in the catalog that he published in 1849. Mündler, like Morelli, believed that the best approach to understanding art was through the method of connoisseurship. He collected the signatures and monograms of painters in order to compile a dictionary that he never completed. Mündler's previous training in religious studies allowed him to make detailed and insightful observations about religious images. In 1855, Sir Charles Eastlake (q.v.), the first Director of the National Gallery in London, appointed him as a traveling agent for the National Gallery in London, allowing him to travel throughout Europe to investigate new acquisitions. The written record of his contact with dealers, painters, and their provenances became a handbook of useful information for collectors and museum directors. Between 1855-57 Eastlake and Mündler acquired 59 painting from Italy, 1 from The Hague and 23 in England. The somewhat unfair criticisms of the collector Lord Elcho (1818-1914, the future 10th earl of Wemyss), led to Mündler's dismissal in 1858 and the elimination of his position. He returned to Paris to work as an art dealer and advisor to German museums. He wrote several museum catalogs in the last years of his life, including one of the Galleria Sabauda in Turin for Giovanni Morelli and Giuseppe Molteni, and a catalogue of the Louvre. In 1869, Mündler published a revised edition of the attributions of Jacob Burckhardt's Cicerone, which Morelli used as a template for his 1893 publication Kunstkritische Studien.
Bibliography: 
Die Galerie zu Cassel in ihren Meisterwerken. Nach den Originalgemälden radirt. Leipzig: A.E. Seemann, 1870; Beiträge zu Jacob Burckhardt's Cicerone. Abtheilung: Malerei. Leipzig: A.E. Seemann, 1870; Essai d'une analyse critique de la notice des tableaux italiens du Musée du Louvre : accompagné d'observations et de documents relatifs à ces mêmes tableaux. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1850.
Sources: 
Dowd, Carol Togneri, ed. The Travel Diaries of Otto Mündler: 1855-1858. Walpole Society [publications] 51. London: Walpole Society, 1985; Anderson, Jaynie. "Mündler, Otto." The Dictionary of Art; Borenius, Tancred. "Eastlake's Travelling Agent for the National Gallery." Burlington Magazine 83 (1943): 211-16.
Contributor: 
LaNitra Michele Walker