Gabriel von Max


The Artist and His Wife at Dinner with Monkeys


Gabriel von Max

Selbstbildnis mit Ehefrau Ernestine und zwei Affen am Tisch [Self-Portrait at Dinner with his wife Ernestine and Two Monkeys]                        


     circa 1914  


     Mixed media (ink and gouache) on paper

     Measurements in cm: 17,7 x 26,0 (image)

                                        39,4 x 49,4 (frame)


     Verso inscribed: Ambach



Estate of the Artist

Galerie Konrad Bayer, Munich, from whom The Daulton Collection purchased this artwork in 2008.  Beginning in 2008, art dealer and connoisseur Konrad Bayer (1958-2023) offered and sold many outstanding Gabriel von Max works to The Daulton Collection.  He will be missed.  RIP.

Exhibition History:

"Gabriel von Max, Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist," Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, October 23, 2010 - January 30, 2011

"Gabriel von Max: Be-tailed Cousins and Phantasms of the Soul," Frye Art Museum, Seattle, July 9-Oct. 30, 2011

Publication History:

Im Haus des Affenmalers Gabriel Max (1980), a film by Percy Adlon

Karin Althaus and Helmut Friedel, eds., Gabriel von Max, Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist (München: Hirmer Verlag, 2010), p. 322, ill. 314.

Aleš Filip and Roman Musil, eds., Gabriel von Max (1840-1915) (Prague: Arbor vitae, 2011), ill. 247, pg. 190.

Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, ed., Gabriel von Max (Seattle: Frye Art Museum, 2011), ill. 78, pg. 102.

Nathalie Bondil, "Gabriel von Max: 'Peintre de Singes et de Madones'," L'Objet d'Art, No. 573 (December 2020), pgs. 38-47, illustrated at pg. 41.


On the verso of this work, there is an inscription:  Ambach.  Apparently, this is a reference to Gabriel von Max’s country estate in Ambach on Lake Starnberg (Starnberger See) in southern Germany (Bavaria), presumably the setting of this drawing and where it was created.  

The dark monkey at the far left appears to be Gabriel von Max's favorite monkey, a female capuchin monkey named Paly that he owned since around 1901 until its death in 1915; the other monkey appears to be a green monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus). Capuchin monkeys are New World monkeys of the subfamily Cebinae; they are considered the most intelligent of the monkeys native to the South and Central America.  

The picture was in the artist’s estate upon his death, from where it devolved through his descendants (from his son Colombo to his granddaughter Gabriele) until The Daulton Collection acquired it from a Munich dealer representing one of the principals; that dealer has consistently dated this gouache at 1915, the year that Gabriel von Max died (on November 24). The capuchin monkey Paly, shown in a bassinet at the far left of the picture, died in mid-February 1915. Therefore, this artwork can be conservatively dated no later than February 1915. Paly’s presence in the bassinet may suggest that the monkey was ill and that the picture depicts a household scene not long before the monkey’s death. The Lenbachhaus catalogue thus dates the picture at “um [about] 1914”; similarly, the Czech catalogue dates it at 1914.  Therefore, a date of circa 1914, or 1914-15, seems pretty solid.

For a 1914 albumen print photograph of Gabriel von Max, his wife Ernestine, and these two monkeys in the collection of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, see Karin Althaus and Helmut Friedel, eds., Gabriel von Max, Malerstar, Darwinist, Spiritist (München: Hirmer Verlag, 2010), p. 314, ill. 321. 

In a conversation with Jack Daulton, Dr. Jennifer Tonkovich, Curator of Drawings and Prints at The Morgan Library & Museum, once informally characterized Gabriel von Max’s
The Artist and His Wife with Monkeys as “his Potato Eaters, referencing Vincent van Gogh's famous oil painting of 1885 (see illustration below).  Dr. Tonkovich's statement prompted us to consider the issue of direct influence of van Gogh's painting upon von Max's gouache.  A comparison of the two works does reveal a remarkable similarity in composition.  In addition, a bit of research provided tantalizing evidence of the possibility that, before von Max had created the gouache in late 1914 or early 1915, he had actually seen the Van Gogh painting. The Potato Eaters (now at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) had been exhibited three times in Germany in 1914: at the Galerie Commeter in Hamburg, the Kölner Kunstverein in Cologne, and the Paul Cassirer gallery in Berlin. It is also likely that published reproductions of the painting had circulated widely in Germany before 1915.  Gabriel von Max lived and worked in the Munich area, but it’s not a stretch to suppose that he may have seen Potato Eaters, in person or via published reproduction, before he painted The Artist and His Wife with Monkeys

Regarding the possible influence of Vincent van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters on this Gabriel von Max composition, it is interesting to note that van Gogh himself once praised Gabriel Max’s work. In a postscript to a letter dated 30 October 1877, Amsterdam, to his brother Theo, Vincent wrote:


“Zag 2 phot. v. Gabr. Max, de opwekking van het dochtertje van Jaïrus & eene non in een kloostertuin, vooral het eerste was wel mooi.─” [“Saw 2 photos of Gabriel Max, the raising of Jairus’ daughter and a nun in a convent garden, the first one, in particular, was beautiful.”] (Referencing The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter, 1875, now at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Reconvalescent, 1869, now at the Hamburger Kunsthalle.) Vincent van Gogh Letter 133, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. (

Vincent van Gogh
The Potato Eaters
oil on canvas
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam


The Daulton Collection