Natter, Lorenz (DNB00)

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NATTER, LORENZ (1705–1763), gem-engraver and medallist, was born 21 March 1705 at Biberach in Suabia (Natter, Treatise &c., p. xxix). At his native place he for six years followed the business of a jeweller, and then worked for the same period in Switzerland, where he had relatives. At Berne he was taught by the seal-cutter Johann Rudolph Ochs [q. v.] He next went to study in Italy, and at Venice finally abandoned his jeweller's business and took to gem-engraving. His first productions were principally seals with coats of arms. On coming to Rome he was, he tells us (ib. p. xxviii), at once ‘employed by the Chevalier Odam to copy the Venus of Mr. Vettori, to make a Danae of it, and put the [supposed engraver's] name Aulus to it.’ For this engraved stone, as well as for others copied by him from the antique, Natter found purchasers. Writing in 1754, he says that he is always willing to receive commissions to copy ancient gems, but declares that he never sold copies as originals. It is fair to notice that Natter's productions frequently bore a signature. His usual signature on gems is NATTEP or NATTHP. He also often signs YΔROΣ or YΔROY, a translation of the German word natter, a water-snake, and this was by some supposed to be an ancient Greek name. At Florence he was employed by Baron De Stosch, who doubtless was not scrupulous about disposing of Natter's imitations. Here also from 1732 to 1735 Natter was patronised by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, for whom he made a portrait of the Grand Duke himself, and one of Cardinal Albani. In 1733 he made at Florence a portrait-medal of Charles Sackville, earl of Middlesex (afterwards of Dorset). This is signed L. Natter F. Florent. (Hawkins, Med. Illustr. ii. 504; reverse, Harpocrates). In 1741 (or earlier) he came to England to work as a medallist and gem-engraver, bringing with him from Italy a collection of antique gems and sulphur casts. In 1743 he left England and visited, in company with Martin Tuscher of Nuremberg, Denmark, Sweden, and St. Petersburg. Christian VI, king of Denmark, gave him a room in his palace, where he worked at gem and die cutting for nearly a year. He was well paid, and presented by the king with a gold medal. Walpole (Anecdotes of Painting, ‘Natter’) says that Natter visited Holland in 1746. Natter does not mention this visit, but he was certainly patronised by William IV of Orange and his family, and made for them portraits in intaglio and portrait-medals, the latter executed in 1751 (Hawkins, Med. Illustr. ii. 663, 666). He returned to England in or before 1754, and appears to have remained here till the summer of 1762.

During Natter's two visits to England he was patronised by the royal family, and in 1741 made the medal ‘Tribute to George II’ (Hawkins, op. cit. ii. 566, signed l. natter, and l. n.) He was much patronised by Sir Edward Walpole (H. Walpole, Letters, ed. Cunningham, ix. 154) and by Thomas Hollis. He engraved two or three seals with the head of Sir Robert Walpole, and produced a medal (Hawkins, op. cit. ii. 562, 567) of him with a bust from Rysbrach's model, and having on the reverse a statue of Cicero with the legend, ‘Regit dictis animos.’ This medal was engraved in ‘The Medalist’ (Hawkins, u.s.), with the legend altered to ‘Regit nummis animos.’ Natter, when at Count Moltke's table in Denmark, mentioned this alteration, and some one suggested ‘Regit nummis animos et nummis regitur ipse,’ a motto which was afterwards engraved on the edge of some specimens of the medals, one of which is in the British Museum. For Hollis (who speaks of this artist as ‘a worthy man’) Natter engraved, for ten guineas, a seal with the head of Britannia, and also a cameo of ‘Britannia Victrix,’ with a head of Algernon Sydney on the reverse. He also engraved a portrait of Hollis in intaglio, and a head of Socrates in green jasper, which latter Hollis presented to Archbishop Secker in 1757 (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. iii. 479–480). A portrait of Natter drawn by himself, ‘exceeding like,’ is mentioned in Hollis's ‘Memoirs,’ p. 183. Natter also worked for the Dukes of Devonshire and Marlborough, and drew up for the latter a catalogue of the Bessborough gems, which were incorporated with the Marlborough cabinet. This was published in 1761 as ‘Catalogue des pierres gravées tant en relief qu'en creux de Mylord Comte de Bessborough,’ London, 4to, with plates. On the title-page Natter is described as fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He projected, but did not carry out, a work on glyptography, called ‘Museum Britannicum.’ According to Ruding (Annals of the Coinage, i. 45), Natter was employed as engraver or assistant-engraver at the English mint at the beginning of the reign of George III, but he cannot be right in stating that he was so employed in the fourth year of this reign, i.e. 25 Oct. 1763–24 Oct. 1764. In the summer of 1762 Natter went in the exercise of his profession to St. Petersburg, and died there of asthma late in the autumn of 1763 (according to Walpole, Anecdotes, on 27 Dec.; according to Allgemeine deutsche Biog. on 27 Oct.).

Numerous gems engraved by Natter are described by Raspe in his ‘Catalogue of the Tassie Collection.’ Among these may be mentioned No. 1706, pl. xxv., ‘Birth of Athena;’ No. 9116, pl. li., ‘Bust of Paris in Phrygian Cap,’ apparently copied from a fine silver coin of Carthage (B. V. Head, Guide to Coins of Ancients, iii. C. 41); No. 11043, ‘Head of Augustus;’ No. 15787, onyx cameo with portrait of the Marchioness of Rockingham; Nos. 15785–6, cameos of the Marquis of Rockingham. Among Natter's best imitations of the antique was his copy of the Medusa, with the name Sosikles, at that time in the cabinet of Hemsterhuys, a correspondent of Natter's on glyptography (King, Antique Gems, &c., p. xxviii). He also copied the ‘Julia Titi of Evodus.’ A description of his works preserved in the Imperial Cabinet at St. Petersburg is given in J. Bernouilli's ‘Travels,’ iv. 248. Natter's talents as a gem-engraver were warmly eulogised by Goethe (Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert, ii. 100). H. K. Köhler (Gesammelte Schrifte, 1851, p. 119) remarks on his freedom from mannerism. Charles William King (Antique Gems, &c., i. 467), while calling him ‘one of the greatest of the modern practitioners of the art,’ considers that his works ‘differ materially from the antique, particularly in the treatment of the hair’ (ib. p. 436).

As a medallist Natter was decidedly skilful, though he produced comparatively few works. Natter published in 1754 ‘A Treatise on the Ancient Method of Engraving on Precious Stones compared with the Modern,’ London, fol. This was also published in French in the same year (‘Traité de la méthode antique de graver en pierres fines,’ &c., folio). In this interesting treatise Natter gives from his own experience practical instructions in gem-engraving. He strongly advises beginners to copy from the antique. Godefrid Kraft of Danzig is mentioned by him as a pupil of his in the glyptic art.

Nagler and Bolzenthal (Skizzen, p. 251), followed in Hawkins's ‘Medallic Illustrations,’ give Natter's name as ‘Johann Lorenz.’ There seems no authority for the ‘Johann;’ Natter on his gems and medals and on the title-pages of his publications uses only the christian name ‘Lorenz’ (Laurent, Laurentius, &c.).

[Natter's writings; P. Beck's art. ‘Natter’ in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie; Hollis's Memoirs, pp. 81, 182–4; Hawkins's Medallic Illustrations, ed. Franks and Grueber; King's Antique Gems and Rings, and his Handbook of Engraved Gems; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum, iii. 763, 764.]

W. W.