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Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt from the Middleton Watercolor Album

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Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt from the Middleton Watercolor Album

Made by: Unknown

Currently in storage


About this object

Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was the second son of a prominent Pomeranian family. His father, a Prussian army officer, died during his early youth, leaving his mother to determine his education. Alexander was therefore prepared for a high-profile career in civil service. After briefly studying economics in Frankfurt (Oder), he headed to Berlin, where he developed a passion for botany. A year spent at the University of Göttingen furthered his interest in science, particularly in mineralogy and geology. Alexander trained in these subjects before joining the mining department of the Prussian government in 1792. In order to devote himself to scientific exploration, Alexander resigned from his post in 1797. Between 1799 and 1804, he and French botanist Aimé Bonpland traveled across Central and South America, collecting geodetic and meteorological data. Upon his return, Alexander moved to Paris and concentrated on the publication of his discoveries. In 1829, Alexander was invited to visit gold and platinum mines in Russia and Siberia. His trip, which lasted a single summer, took him from St. Petersburg to the Asian frontier. While in the capital, Alexander was introduced to the Middletons—Williams Middleton remembered him as a “stout old gentleman” who enjoyed being “surrounded by a group of eager listeners.” During the last twenty-five years of his life, Alexander focused on writing Kosmos, a treatise on the laws and structure of the universe. Four volumes were published during his lifetime. He died working on the fifth, at age ninety.

The bust-length portrait portrays Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt facing partly right, with eyes looking slightly left, against a neutral background. He wears a brown coat over a brown waistcoat and white shirt with a white cravat.

Category:
PAINTINGS
Object name:
Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt from the Middleton Watercolor Album
Made from:
Watercolor on paper
Made in:
Place made unknown
Date made:
ca. 1829

Detailed information for this item

Catalog number:
52.39.12
Signature marks:
Inscription __Baron Humboldt __Bottom of page __In cursive
Credit line:
Museum Purchase, 2004
Featured in publication:
"Hillwood: Thirty Years of Collecting, 1977-2007","Sèvres Then and Now: Tradition and Innovation in Porcelain, 1750-2000"