Unlike oil paintings, graphic portraits are far more mobile and often produced in high volume. They can be sent out, bound into books and collected. The exhibited series of mezzotints show portraits of scholars from Göttingen who, between 1741 and 1755, were featured in the book “Bilder-sal heutiges Tages lebender und durch Gelahrtheit berühmter Schriftsteller” (‘Portrait hall of famous living and learned writers of today’), which was published in Augsburg. The engraver Johann Jakob Haid (1704-1764) created the prints whilst the theologist Jakob Brucker (1696-1770) wrote the corresponding short biographies.
A MARKETING CAMPAIGN OF THE EMERGING UNVIVERSITY
Among hundreds of scholars portrayed in the “Portrait hall”, eight are from Göttingen. This is a comparatively high number and highlights the status of the young Georgia Augusta among the more than thirty German universities. The reputation of the University was not based on established traditions but rather on the new works of the prestigious scholars, which in turn was the best advertisement for attracting students.
The “Portrait hall” follows a long tradition of collecting graphic images of famous scholars. What was new in this publication, however, was that only living persons were included because of their literary achievements. A clear shift in the perception of scholars is evident in the 18th century. It was less the social origins of the individual, but rather individual merit that established careers and membership in the community of academics.