Gabriel von Max

 Gruss [Greeting],

Monkey Holding Bouquet,

oil on panel, c. 1900-1915

Gabriel von Max (Prague 1840-1915 Munich)
Gruss [Greeting] (Monkey Holding a Bouquet, a Posy of Pansies )
oil on panel
24 x 16 cm
circa 1901-1915
signed upper right: G v Max
inscribed upper left: "Gruss"

Exhibition History:

"Les origines du monde.  L'invention de la nature au XIXe siècle" ["The Origins of the World. The Invention of Nature in the 19th Century"], Musée d'Orsay, Paris, May 19, 2021 -- July 18, 2021

Musée d’Orsay “Origins of the World” audio guide commentary (English-language version) on Gabriel von Max’s “Gruss”:

“With this small painting, Gabriel von Max gives us an astonishing portrait -- astonishing because it is actually an ape, and, traditionally, portrait painting as well as its formal conventions were, above all, reserved for humans. If this could be considered as a portrait, it is because we can see the emotion, even the ‘humanness’ of the ape. Everything about the attitude of the little primate, from his sparkling eyes and his impish lips, appears to be proof of his human intelligence. By giving his subject a bouquet of flowers and by entitling the portrait ‘Gruss,’ ‘Greetings’ in German, Gabriel von Max accentuates the human character of the monkey even further. He also pastiches a so-called civilized form of politeness which acts in complete opposition with the animal’s wild nature. This ambivalence, characteristic of the art of von Max, contrasts with the iconography generally associated with monkeys which presents the animal as a warring or impulsive creature, as in Alfred Kubin’s drawings [e.g., “The Ape,” 1903-04] or sculptures by Emmanuel Fremiet [e.g., “Gorilla Carrying Off a Woman,” 1893]. Monkeys were also seen as a decadent or primary form of Adam subject to impulsions, as in the painting by Paul Friedrich Meyerheim [“A Darwinian Prehistoric Social Party,” 1865], also on show in the exhibition, which depicts monkeys drinking, sleeping, and feasting and behaving in contradiction with even the most basic forms of etiquette.”

Publication History:

"Les artistes descendent-ils du singe?", Beaux Arts, No. 435 (September 2020), ill. pg. 48.

Jean-Michel Charbonnier, "Rêve de Singe," Les Origines du Monde: L'invention de la Nature au XIXe Siecle, Connaissance des Arts, hors-série no. 900 (2020), pgs. 34-41, full-page ill. at pg. 36.

Claude Blanckaert, "Le Double. Variations sur le Singe," in Laura Bossi, ed., Les Origines du Monde: L'invention de la Nature au XIXe Siecle (Paris: Musée d’Orsay / Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal / Muséum national d’histoire naturelle / Gallimard, 2020) (exhibition catalogue) (editions in French and in English), pgs. 227-243, pg. 363, full-page ill. at pg. 240.

Laura Bossi, ed., Les Origines du Monde: L'invention de la Nature au XIXe Siecle. L'Abécédaire (Paris: Musée d’Orsay / Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal / Muséum national d’histoire naturelle / Gallimard, 2020), frontispiece, full-page ill.

Avant et après Darwin, Les origines du monde, L'invention de la nature au XIXe siècle, Beaux Arts Éditions (Paris: Beaux Arts & Cie, 2020), full-page ill. at pg. 33.

"Le XIXe siècle à la croisée des sciences et des arts," Le Réveil culturel, France Culture, May 25, 2021,, ill.

Etienne Dumont, "Le Musée d’Orsay consacre à Paris une exposition aux multiples 'Origines du Monde'," Bilan magazine, 6 July 2021, online ed., ill.
A reproduction of this painting as a popular postcard circulated widely in Europe during the first quarter of the 20th century:
Gabriel Max (1840-1915)
"Ein Gruss" ["A Greeting"]
vintage postcard
Münchenerkunst series, M K. No. 20, Ströfer (T.S.N.), publisher
postally used: postmarked Dortmund 29 6.17. (June 29, 1917)
The Daulton Collection
view of painting with frame:
Picture Frame for Gabriel von Max “Gruss” (Monkey with a Bouquet, a Posy of Pansies) 
Maker: Unknown, European/German 
Medium: Sawn and laminated coniferous wood; applied composition ornaments; gilded 
Date: Early 20th Century

Frame Dimensions: 

Outside edge H 50.5 x W 42.5 x D 6.7 cm (H 19 7 /8 x W 16 3 /4 x D 2 3 /4 inches) 
Rabbet (Rebate) H 26 x W 18 x D 1.5 cm (H 10 1 /4 x W 7 1 /16 x D 5 /8 inches)
Sight edge H 23.8 x W 17.7 cm (H 9 5 /16 x W 6 1 /8 inches) 
Section width 13.3 cm (5 1 /4 inches)

The frame of Gruss appears to be the original frame for the painting, no doubt intended to elevate the subject matter.

The frame was professionally conserved/restored in 2019-2020.  (The above view of the frame is before conservation.)

Description of the frame from the framing and gilding conservator's report, April 7, 2020:

"The frame is designed in the manner of Rococo revival style. It consists of three individual elements/sections: the outer or main frame, the central frame, and the inner frame. The outer frame has an ogee profile with pierced corner and center cartouches and swept top edges. The background between the cartouches is incised with a cross-hatched pattern. The central frame consists of a frieze section and raised, stepped molding at the inner edge. The frieze is beautifully incised with a rocaille-like pattern in corners and diamond pattern in centers. The inner frame is a simple flat molding with a cove sight edges. The ornaments on the outer frame are made from applied cast composition material (compo), a putty-like mixture of chalk, protein glue, linseed oil, and rosin. The surface finish on the outer and the central frame consists of gesso, red bole, and gold leaf applied in watergilding technique, except for the narrow outer edges, which are oil-gilded. The highlighted areas are burnished. The inner frame has a different surface finish altogether. It is oil-gilded over gesso and black bole/paint, although not with the gold leaf but rather with the so-called Dutch Metal, an imitation leaf made mainly from copper. The surface is intentionally abraded to expose the black color underneath the leaf. The prominent perpendicular stripes appear to be painted on additionally, as if to suggest the frame was gilded in water-gilding technique, although that is clearly not the case. There appears to be a layer of clear or lightly tinted coating."


Jack Daulton

The Daulton Collection