Wilhelm Kandler

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Interior of the Old New Synagogue in Prague (1838)

Emperor Maximilian I in the studio of Albrecht Dürer in Nuremberg (1841)

View of Schreckenstein Castle, steel engraving after drawing by Kandler (c. 1850)

Wilhelm Kandler (Czech: Vilém Kandler; * 28 February 1816 in Kratzau; † 18 May 1896 in Prague) was a Bohemian painter and author.


Kandler was a son of Michael Kandler, a goldsmith and painter. His talent for drawing was already evident in his childhood. Since his father in the small town of Kratzau was only poorly able to obtain enough orders to support his large family, he planned to emigrate to Poland. From a trip to Warsaw in 1823, where he was supported by Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich Romanov and received an advance of 700 rubles to start his own business in Kalisch, his father returned seriously ill, so that the emigration became obsolete. In 1824 the family moved to Komotau. In 1827 there was another move to Saaz, where the father got a job as a drawing teacher at the new town school. After Michael Kandler had realized that he himself could contribute only little to the further artistic education of his son, he introduced Wilhelm in 1830 to the painter Joseph von Führich, whom he knew from Kratzau, and who campaigned for Wilhelm’s admission to the Prague Academy of Arts. In the same year the Kandler family moved from Saaz to Prague. In 1834 his father’s health had deteriorated to such an extent that he was hardly able to complete commissions. As a result, Wilhelm Kandler had to discontinue his education at the Academy of Arts. In order to provide the family with a livelihood, Michael Kandler sought employment for his son as a pattern draftsman in a calico factory. During this time, Father Franz Hocke, who had learned of the family’s plight and Wilhelm Kandler’s talent, ordered a painting from him for the church in Kozel. The successful completion of the order brought Wilhelm Kandler commissions from art dealers for landscape paintings, and the book printer Gottlieb Haase also ordered drawings for religious pictures from him for his Panorama of the Universe. Also commissioned by Haase, Kandler drew a panorama of Prague, which was subsequently engraved by Jacob Hyrtl. Together with Karl Würbs, Wilhelm Kandler created further views of Prague as well as commemorative sheets for the coronation of Ferdinand I and Maria Anna. The income from these works also enabled Wilhelm Kandler to continue his studies at the Academy of Arts. Kandler received several prizes for his compositions and model studies. After the death of his father, Wilhelm Kandler became the breadwinner of his large family on 1 March 1837.

On the initiative of Eduard Gurk, Kandler was commissioned by the Society of Patriotic Friends of Art, together with Anton Lhota, to copy the tempera paintings of the legends of the country’s patron saints Wenceslas and Ludmilla in the staircase of the great tower of Karlstein Castle, which date from the Carolinian period. Under Gurk’s direction, Kandler and Lhota also restored and completed the mosaic paintings in St. Vitus Cathedral. With the construction of the Stations of the Cross on Laurenziberg according to designs by Führich and the painting of the station chapels by Munich painters, fresco painting in Prague, which had fallen into oblivion since the Josephine reforms, was revived. Wilhelm Kandler was then selected to train as a fresco painter under Johann Baptist Müller and Josef Holzmaier and, after completing his training, was commissioned to paint the St. Raphael Chapel of the Care and Employment Institute for the Adult Blind founded by Alois Klar. After completing the two-year work, Kandler applied for the directorship of Klar’s artist foundation, which, however, was given to Emanuel Max. In the early 1840s, Kandler was finally appointed as Max’s second successor as director of the Künstlerstiftung. In August 1843 Kandler went on a journey to Rome, where he met Caspar Scheuren in Venice. On his further travels via Padua, Bologna and Florence he met the painters Heinrich Stohl and Amilcare Daverio as well as the architects Franz Krüger and Friedrich Eugen Schuback. Friedrich August Stache and the pensioner Karl Mayer made it possible for Kandler to study in Rome, and the ambassador Rudolph Graf von Lützow granted him free study and lodging in the legation hotel. In Rome Kandler made contacts with Friedrich Overbeck, Wilhelm Achtermann, Gebhard Flatz, August Ahlborn and Johann Martin von Wagner. Through the engraver Joseph von Keller Kandler made contact with Emil Braun, who later gave him numerous commissions. For the design of an engraving of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Kandler travelled to Naples and visited the Bourbon Gallery, where he took Marcello Venusti’s portrait as a starting point. Kandler experienced the times of turmoil in Rome after 1848, the desecration of the Austrian legation hotel, the murder of Pellegrino Rossi, the flight and return of Pope Pius IX, the siege and conquest of Rome by the French, the erection of the Austrian coat of arms on 21 March 1850, which, like that of Pope Pius IX, was painted by Kandler.
Kandler described these events in excerpts in a diary published in Libussa in 1859 and 1860. After seven successful years of study in Rome, Kandler returned to Austria-Hungary in 1850 and was able to present his paintings in the small Redoutensaal of the Imperial Hofburg in June 1850. He spent a few months in Vienna, after which he went to Prague, where he presented his works in the Waldstein Palace in a benefit exhibition for the military hospital Karlsbad.

Despite the general acclaim for his paintings, his commissions in Prague remained poor and Kandler planned his return to Rome. This changed when Ferdinand I, on a visit to Kandler’s exhibition in Prague, acquired the two large paintings Gregory IX and Jacob Molai and commissioned the artist with the plans for the restoration of the castle chapel in Reichstadt. The former emperor was taken with Kandler’s designs and also entrusted him with their execution. Subsequently, Kandler received numerous commissions for frescoes and paintings, so that he was able to make a good living from his artistic work in Prague.

Kandler was mainly active as a church painter, but he also devoted himself to professional history, genre and landscape painting as well as architecture. He produced his paintings in watercolour, gouache, fresco and oil. In addition, he wrote a number of essays for the pocket book Libussa.

Works (selection)

  • Loth’s escape from Sodoma
  • The sermon of St. Prokop, for the church in Kozel
  • Frescoes The Holy Family, The Finding of St. Ivan by the Bohemian Duke Udalrich, Dome painting God the Father in the Moment of the Creation of Light surrounded by Angels, Main painting Christ with some Saints, The Three Evangelists Lucas, Marcus and John, The Four Angels symbolizing the Elements in the Service of the Church, St. Raphael’s Chapel of the Clares Care and Employment Institution for the Adult Blind in Prague
  • Duke Spitignew holds court in front of the city gate of Prague, purchased by Count Desfours-Wallsee
  • St. Catherine of Siena, altarpiece for the town of Jindřichův Hradec (Rome 1844, completed 1848)
  • The Holy Trinity, altarpiece for the parish church in Nadějkov near Tábor (Rome 1844, finished 1847)
  • The prophet Jonah delivers the sermon of punishment in Nineveh before the king and the people (Rome 1844)
  • Christ in Emaus, purchased by the spa doctor Eduard Hlawaček from Karlovy Vary
  • Wall cartoons The Holy Trinity with choirs of angels, Bořivoj is baptized by the Slavic apostles Cyril and Methodius, The Mother of Grace surrounded by the Bohemian patrons and angels, The Martyrdom of St. Wenceslas, as sketches for frescoes, for the Baptistery Chapel in the Teyn Church in Prague (Rome 1841).
  • Pope Gregory IX, at the head of his cardinals, confronts the rebels in 1240 and, by his appearance, overcomes the rebellious masses
  • Jacob Molai, surrounded by his fettered religious, defends himself before the royal judges and cardinals, side piece to Gregory IX (Rome 1847)
  • St. Joseph with the Christ Child, altarpiece for the church in Kratzau, created as a votive picture for the scholarship obtained (Rome 1847).
  • St. Adalbert, for the church at Skalsko, commissioned by Princess Isabella of Thurn and Taxis (Rome 1847, completed 1848)
  • St. Peter meeting St. Paul in front of Rome, Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg riding to his grave in Speyer, sketches for large oil paintings
  • Charles IV of Bohemia discovers the Karlovy Vary sparkling water named after him, with life-size figures (Rome 1849)
  • Panorama of the siege of Rome, from the point of the attack by the French (Rome 1849), commissioned by the bookseller Josef Spithöver, drawing and etching in copper
  • St. Aegydius, St. John the Baptist, Madonna, altarpieces for the church in Strmilov, commissioned by the imperial government (completed in Prague in 1852)
  • Restoration of the Zákupy Chateau Chapel, plans and execution
  • Wall and ceiling paintings in the Zákupy chateau (together with Josef Navrátil)
  • St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary, altarpiece in gold ground, sculptural picture of the Saviour on the cross for the Protestant St. John’s Church in Stralsund
  • The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, side altarpiece for the newly built Catholic church in Moscow
  • Frescoes God the Father with the Holy Spirit and Adoring Angels (dome painting), St. Helena, St. Constantine (murals), Church in Františkovy Lázně
  • Frescoes God the Father with the Holy Spirit and the Adoring Angels (cupola painting), The Four Evangelists (murals in gold background), Chapel of the Military Hospital in Carlsbad
  • The Austria, central sign on the ceiling of the dining room in the military hospital in Karlovy Vary
  • Dome fresco The Madonna with the Infant Jesus and a choir of angels, high altar painting St. Carolus Borromeo in front of the cross giving a sermon on the time of the plague in Milan, in the new Carolus Chapel of the Sisters of Mercy at Prague
  • The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, high altarpiece for the Provost Church in Jindřichův Hradec
  • Frescoes The Four Moments from the Activity of the Gendarme in his Sacrificial Profession(Rescue from Fire and Water Danger, Rescue of a Poor Woman in Winter, Fight with Highwaymen) and Portraits of the Founders of the Gendarmerie Prince Felix von Schwarzenberg, Baron von Kempen and Baron von Kronenberg in the School Hall of the Imperial-Royal Gendarmerie Building in Prague
  • three-year restoration of the interior of the Hofburg Chapel in Prague. Kandler created a cycle of paintings in relation to the high altarpiece. The ceiling shows The Flood, Noah’s Sacrifice and Moses’ Law on Mount Sinai. Below the ceiling on the pilasters of the chapel in niches were Ten Old Testament figures, on the boxes in the fillings, painted grey on grey Five representations from the life of the Saviour, the Apostle Princes Peter and Paul, the Four Evangelists, as well as the Four Doctors of the Church, in the middle of which the allegorical figure of the Mother Church is enthroned. Above the imperial box Kandler painted chiaroscuro St. Anne and Joachim and next to the pulpit Moses and Elijah
  • Christ on the cross, votive picture for the school hall of the Komotov model secondary school
  • St. Jacob, The Saviour giving the blessing, for the church of St. Jacob in Žatec
  • Drafts of the fresco paintings for the side chapels of the Teplá Collegiate Church
  • Design of the richly ornamented gothic pulpit hat, executed by Schmidt and Heidelberger in Prague
  • Main altarpiece of the parish church of St. Wenceslas in Machov
  • Altarpieces of St. Anthony of Padua (main altar) and Wenceslas (side altar) in the parish church of Göhren, 1870 (not preserved)
  • The Liebotschan Gate in Saaz, see old engraving
  • TheCoronation of the Virgin Mary, high altarpiece of the monastery church of the same name of the former Capuchin monastery in Saaz/Žatec


  • Aeneas Sylvius and the Piccolomini in Bohemia with the engraved view of the altarpiece of the Neuhausen Provost Church Sta. Katharina of Siena. In: Libussa, Volume 1853
  • The ancient water conduits of the Campagna of Rome. In: Libussa, Volume 1854
  • The Carnival in Rome (with a steel engraving by C. Mayer after Kandler’s picture). In: Libussa, Volume 1855
  • The Octoberfeste and Raphael’s Country House in the Villa Borghese at Rome. In: Libussa, Volume 1857
  • The old statue of the Virgin Mary in the town of Neuhaus. In: Libussa, Volume 1858
  • Kandler’s letters from Rome of the years 1844-1850, rich in personal details and historical highly interesting details. In: Libussa, volumes 1859-1860


  • Constantin von Wurzbach: Kandler, Wilhelm. In: Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich. 10.Part. Kaiserlich-königliche Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Vienna 1863, pp. 429-435 (Digitalisat).
  • Kandler Wilhelm. In: Austrian Biographical Dictionary 1815-1950 (ÖBL). Vol. 3, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1965, p. 213 f. (Direct links to S. 213, S. 214).

Web links

Commons: Wilhelm Kandler– Collection of pictures, videos and audio files