The outstanding 16th-century Silesian painter and engraver was born in the Netherlands sometime between 1520 and 1530 and died in 1576 in Wrocław.
Tobias Fendt - also Fhend, or Vendt - was educated at the Lambert Lombard’s workshop in Liège. The first record of him in Wrocław comes from 1565, when he created a painting for Magdalena Mettel’s epitaph marked with his signature.
The next year he was awarded a degree of master craftsman, and in 1569 he received citizen rights. Fendt made a polychrome of a baptismal font at the Saint Mary Magdalene’s Church in Wrocław in 1570. He became a senior craftsman of the guild in 1571, and a year later bought a house in Wrocław located on today’s Wita Stwosza Street. The painter was married to Eva Adam. A year before his death, he was awarded the emperor’s privilege for his publication of copper engravings dedicated to Rudolf II. Fendt passed away in 1576, and following his death his wife married Simon Frobenius from Nysa.
Fendt signed his works with the monogram "TF" inscribed into the digits of a painting's date. Wizja Ezechiela / Ezekiel’s Vision, a painting from the former epitaph of Magdalena Mettel in the Saint Mary Magdalene Church, is considered the most outstanding among his confirmed works, and is in the collection of the National Museum in Wrocław. It contains this signature, rendered as "15 TF 65". Fendt’s second confirmed work is the polychrome of the baptismal font at the Saint Mary Magdalene Church - today, it is also at the National Museum in Wrocław. In creating it, Fendt cooperated with Hans Fleiser, a Dutch sculptor who settled in Wrocław.
The painter published Monumenta sepulclorum cum epigraphis ingenio et doctrina excellentium virorum... at his own expense in 1574, dedicated to Emperor Rudolf II. It is a collection of 129 copper engravings modelled after drawings collected by Seyfried Rybisch during the latter's travels in Italy.
Fendt is associated with the paintings Chrystus zapowiada Sąd Ostateczny / Christ Announces the Last Judgement (1567) from the epitaph of the Mohrenberg family, today at the National Museum in Wrocław; Józef przedstawia faraonowi Jakuba / Joseph Introduces Jacob to Pharaoh (circa 1567) from the epitaph of Andreas Nauck in Świdnica, and Wskrzeszenie Łazarza / The Raising of Lazarus in Trzebnica (1569). In addition, the series of prints Genesis, produced circa 1570, is associated with the Wrocław painter.
Fendt’s style strongly corresponds with works of Dutch Romanist painters such as Jan van Scorel, Lambert Lombard and Frans Floris. The fascination with Dutch painting traditions manifests in elaborated landscapes with antique ruins in the background. Joseph Introduces Jacob to Pharaoh, the painting from Świdnica, shows the artist’s thorough knowledge of perspective and rules of painted architecture. Fendt’s painting compositions are often multi-figurative. The figures’ dynamic depiction is emphasized by their vivid gestures. The painter also presents the then-current subject of the male act (Ezekiel’s Vision) by shaping strongly muscled bodies. That painting’s palette is rather light, with dominant reds and yellows prevailing on the figures’ robes.
Tobias Fendt was one of the leading artists working in Silesia in the third quarter of the 16th century. Till this day, his Ezekiel’s Vision is considered the outstanding achievement of Mannerist painting in Silesia.
Author: Jakub Jagiełło, November 2010.