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 Jacob Maentel  (1763 - 1863)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Maryland/Indiana / Germany      Known for: naive portrait, figure, interiors

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Jacob Maentel
from Auction House Records.
John Mays of Schaefferstown, Lebanon County
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Kassel, Germany, Jacob Maentel is believed to have trained as a physician and worked as a farmer and mercenary and served in Napoleon's army as his Secretary in Westphalia.  By 1797, he was a portrait painter living near the harbor in Baltimore, but his earliest portrait is dated 1807.  However, little is known of the actualities of his life. His birth date is allegedly 1763, but nowhere is it mentioned that he who died in 1863 was a centenarian.

Between 1800 and 1840, it has been documented that he was active in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties, Pennsylvania.  But the fact there are no legal documents such as tax records, wills, deeds or birth certificates in those areas is just part of the many mysterious aspects of this man's life. (Zellman 71) However, The Whitney Museum of American Art owns a painting of "John and Caterina Bickel of Jonestown, Pennsylvania", by Maentel.  This was painted between 1820 and 1825, and as stated in the Lebanon County History, during this time, the artist lived in Schaefferstown, from where he traveled around the South central countryside of Pennsylvania, painting affluent farmers and small town citizens.

Maentel and his wife were members of the Evangelical Church, and as followers of the Harmonist Movement, they went to New Harmony, Indiana about 1837, where he was a farmer and painter and did numerous watercolor portraits and interior subjects for family members and friends.

The prolific number of drawings he did during his career provides one of the most important records of early 19th-century rural agrarian America.  He did more than 200 portraits and documented the German-American migration to the American Midwest.

Maentel died in 1863, and is buried in Indiana near his friend Jacob Schnee, Lutheran pastor and publisher of the first newspaper (1807) in Lebanon.

Sources:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk (editor), Who Was Who in American Art
www.lebanonhistory.org

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