Jan Massijs (1509-1575), Musizierendes Paar, 1565. Kunstmuseum Basel. Photo/Foto: TES.

A Great Benefactress

The Kunstmuseum of Basel presents around half of the paintings of the collection of the Professor Jakob Bachofen-Burckhardt Foundation, established in 1904 by Louise Bachofen-Burckhardt (1845-1920) after the death of her husband Johann Jakob Bachhofen (1815-1887).

Louise donated the pictures to this Foundation in 1904 to prevent disputes among her (grand) children and in particular their partners.

And indeed, the French Count Boniface Jules Raymond de Castellane, married to a granddaughter of Louise, did an unsuccessful (legal) attempt to acquire the paintings after her death in 1920.

They included works by Bartolomeo Vivarini, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Memling, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Jan Van Goyen, Nicolaes Maes, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Van Goyen and many other artists from the late Middle Ages to the dawn of the twentieth century.

End good, all good, because the Foundation donated its collection of 303 paintings to the Kunstmuseum in 2015.

A hundred years after the death of Louise, the Museum throws the spotlight on one of Basel’s most important art collectors and her activities in the booming art market around 1900.

Louise was a talented musician and committed art collector and lover, but was bound to follow the steps of her thirty years older husband Johann Jakob, the famous Roman Law expert, antiquarian and above all author of Matriarchy or Mother Right (Mutterrecht Basel, 1861).

Johann was mainly interested in his Roman antiquities and inscriptions, and during their trips to Italy, the museums of Art in Florence and Milan were not visited.

The period after 1887 compensated the previous decades and Louise became a dedicated art collector, advised by the German director of the Royal Museums Wilhelm von Bode (1845-1929).

Although not all acquisitions were a success and some even falsifications, the collection of Old Masters contributed to the present-day holdings.

Louise also inspired later Basel patrons and perhaps even the Foundation of other famous museums and Basel as a city of arts and museums.

The catalog of the exhibition not only shows an overview of the collection but also published the first biography of this forgotten benefactress. (Source and further information: A Passion for Painting. Louise Bachofen-Burckhardt-Collection, Kunstmuseum Basel).