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Falke, Jakob, Ritter von

    Full Name: Falke, Jakob, Ritter von

    Other Names:

    • Ritter Jakob von Falke

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 21 June 1825

    Date Died: 08 June 1897

    Place Born: Ratzeburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

    Place Died: Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, Croatia

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): aesthetics

    Career(s): curators


    Museum curator; historian of taste and esthetics. Falke studied classical Philology at Erlangen and Göttingen and worked initially as teacher. He joined the Germanisches Nationalmuseum as curator in Nuremberg in 1855. In 1858 he became of Librarian (archivist) and advisor of the art collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein in Vienna. During his time in Vienna, Falke became interested in the contemporary design movement of useful arts, already flourishing in England. Writing articles in newspapers, such as the Wiener Zeitung, from 1860, Westermanns Monatshefte in 1862, and Gewerbehalle, 1863 onward, he framed the issues of art in terms of industrialism, commoditization and the aspiration of the middle class. Like other arts-and-crafts movement theorists, Falke identified good design based upon an object’s function. He saw the excellence of form in simple utensils derived from triumvirate of their purpose, material and technical fabrication. In 1860 he published Das Kunstgewerbe, writings which mirrored the ideas were in vogue in England in the Journal of Design and Manufactures, published by Henry Cole. His friendship with Rudolf Eitelberger von Edelberg led to the two of them founding the Kaiserliches Königliches österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie (now the österreiches Museum für Angewandte Kunst) in Vienna in 1864, with Falke the museum’s first deputy curator. In 1866 Falke published Geschichte des modernen Geschmacks integrated modern esthetics with living. Die Kunst im Haus published in 1871, was the first guide in the German language for interior decoration, written in an analytical and discursive way for a general audience. Although a Renaissance historian, he suggested people avoid the style for the daily living. He was knighted by the Kaiser in 1874. Falke wrote a social history of classical Greece and Rome, Hellas und Rom: eine Culturgeschichte des classischen Alterthums in 1878. Aesthetik des Kunstgewerbes (1883) is his clearest example of his own aesthetic of applied art (Ottlinger). At Eitelberger’s death in 1895, Falke succeeded him as director Museum für Kunst. Falke’s household esthetics fell out of favor with the advent of the highly decorative Jugendstil movement. His older brother, Johann (1823-1876) was an economic historian and Falke’s son, Otto Falke, was also a prominent art historian and museum director in Berlin. Falke’s Imperial Museum for Art and Industry was modeled on the South Kensington Museum (modern Victoria and Albert Museum), the first applied arts museum in Europe. His popular works on taste followed the lead Charles L. Eastlake had launched with his Hints on Household Taste, 1868 and Gottfried Semper in Germany. He died in Lovrana, Italy, which is present day Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, Croatia.

    Selected Bibliography

    Geschichte des modernen Geschmacks. Leipzig: T. D. Weigel, 1866; Geschichte des fürstlichen Hauses Liechtenstein. 3 vols. Vienna: W. Braumüller, 1868-1882; Die Kunst im Hause: geschichtliche und kritisch-ästhetische Studien über die Decoration und Ausstattung der Wohnung. Vienna: Gerold, 1871, English, Art in the House: Historical, Critical, and Aesthetical Studies on the Decoration and Furnishing of the Dwelling. [authorized American edition, translated from the 3d German edition.] Boston: L. Prang and Company, 1879; Aesthetik des Kunstgewerbes, ein Handbuch für Haus, Schule und Werkstätte. Stuttgart: W. Spemann 1883; Hellas und Rom: eine Culturgeschichte des classischen Alterthums. Stuttgart: W. Spemann, 1878-1880; “Das Kunstgewerbe.” in, Wien, 1848-1888. 2 vols. Vienna: Gemeinderathe der Stadt Wien/C. Konegen, 1888; Geschichte des Geschmacks im Mittelalter und andere Studien auf dem Gebiete von Kunst und Kultur. 1892.


    Falke, Jakob von. Lebenserinnerungen. Leipzig: G.H. Meyer, 1897; Österreichisches biographisches Lexikon 1815-1950 1, p. 284; Ottillinger, Eva B. “Jakob von Falke (1825-1897) und die Theorie des Kunstgewerbes.” Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 42 (1989): 205-23; Ottillinger, Eva B. “Falke, Jakob von.” Dictionary of Art 10: 772; “Falke, Jakob, Ritter von.” österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815-1950 1: 284; Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie 3. 2nd ed.(2006): 225; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. 2nd Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 86-87.


    "Falke, Jakob, Ritter von." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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