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Kestner, August

    Full Name: Kestner, August

    Other Names:

    • Georg August Christian Kestner

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1777

    Date Died: 1853

    Place Born: Hanover, Germany

    Place Died: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Career(s): art collectors


    Collector and early art historian. Kestner was the son of a Hannoverian government official, Johann Christian Kestner and Charlotte Buff (Kestner). Kestner studied law in Göttingen between 1796 and 1769. As a student, he also attended the classes of the classicist Christian Gottlob Heyne and Johann Dominico Fiorillo. He served as an examining judge in Hannover immediately after graduation. He toured Italy between 1808-9 and, in 1811, visited the famous “museum” created by Boisserée brothers, Sulpiz Boisserée and Melchior Boisserée in Heidelberg. Kestner was appointed an envoy of the Hannoverian king to Rome in 1817 where he spent most of the rest of his life. He met fellow northern European classical scholars, including Theodor S. Panofka, Eduard Gerhard, and Otto von Stackelberg (1787-1837) with whom he formed a group known as the Roman Hyperboreans’ Association (Hyperboreisch-römische Gesellschaft) in 1822. In 1825 he was named the chargé d’affaires. In Rome he published his first book of criticism in 1818, anonymously, called über die Nachahmung in der Malerei criticizing the art stance of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his art historian colleague, Johann Heinrich Meyer. Kestner was a founding member of the Deutsche Bibliothek in 1821. In Rome he remained in close contact with the expatriate artists who, in addition to Stackelberg, included Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869). Perhaps most importantly, Kestner was founding member and long-time officer of the Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica, later named Deutsches Archäologische Institut or DAI, the scholarly body for classical research in Italy in 1829. He first served as General Secretary from 1838 onward. In 1843 Kestner authored Wem gehört die Kunst? In 1843 he was promoted to ambassador to Naples for Hannover and a member of the Accademia di San Luca. Kestner was made Vice-President of the DAI in 1844. He was made a member of the Deutscher Künstlerverein (Rome) in 1846. His collected studies on all the arts appeared in 1850 as Römische Studien. After Kestner’s death his collections, including Italian paintings and Egyptian sculpture and artifacts passed over to his nephew, Herrmann Kestner (1810-1890), who shortly before his death donated some to the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum in Hannover and established the Kestner-Museum in 1889.Throughout his life, Kestner wrote for the Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Kunstblatt. His writing is important for the value it places on the burgeoning romantic view of art, in opposition to the cold classicism much of Germany still espoused.

    Selected Bibliography

    Römische Studien. Berlin: Decker, 1850; edited, Goethe und Werther: Briefe Goethe’s, meistens aus seiner Jugendzeit, mit erläuternden Dokumenten. Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta’scher, 1854; über die Nachahmung in der Malerei. Frankfurt: [s. n.], 1818; Wem gehört die Kunst? s.l.: s.n., 1843.


    “Geschichte des Kestner-Museums.”; Mlasowsky, Alexander. Herrscher und Mensch: Römische Marmorbildnisse in Hannover. Hannover: Kestner-Museum, 1992; Aschoff, Hans-Georg. Auf den Spuren von August Kestner. Hannover: Kestner-Museum, 2004;


    "Kestner, August." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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