Giuseppe Tominz: Napoleon of the Road

Giuseppe Tominz, Portrait of the Shipping Agent Paolo Preinitsch in the Harbour of Trieste, c. 1835, oil on canvas on panel, 135.5 x 94 cm, estimate € 70,000 – 90,000

In 2002, a three-quarter length painting, a copy of a portrait by Giuseppe Tominz, of a prominent 19th century businessman of Trieste named Paolo Preinitsch was exhibited
in the Revoltella Museum in 2022. The accompanying text succinctly stated the original portrait “could not be found”. Now, the newly discovered, original portrait is up for sale at Dorotheum.

Works by Giuseppe Tominz (1790–1866) can be found in numerous collections, including the Vatican Museums and the Austrian Gallery Belvedere. The painter is known above all for the fidelity and expressiveness of his portraits of the upper middle-class citizens of 19th century Trieste. The present painting is considered to be one of his major works.

The subject of this portrait is of particular interest. Paolo Preinitsch, born in 1761/62 in Rosegg, Carinthia, moved to Trieste at a young age and built up an important haulage business there. He left behind a considerable fortune on his death in 1840. Not least thanks to his arresting appearance – very well captured by Tominz in the painting – the successful businessman, who dominated the transport business from Trieste to Vienna, was nicknamed Napoleone delle Strade (Napoleon of the Road).

Tominz succeeds not only in characterising the successful shipping agent himself, but also vividly portrays his life’s work in the scenery in the background behind him. Preinitsch is painted in front of a pillared warehouse with two yellow stagecoaches passing by. The Via Commerciale, the trade road and only connection between Trieste and Vienna, winds up the bare hillside towards Ljubljana and beyond, while a returning stagecoach is depicted racing towards the coast. To further emphasise Preinitsch’s success, a carriage drawn by several pairs of horses is depicted struggling up the hill towards the staging post at the top of the hill, alluding to the difficulties of the transport business at the time. The stone bollard on the right furtheralludes to the sitter’s profession.

Dieter Hörwarthner studied classical archaeology in Vienna and monument conservation and building research in Berlin.


19th Century Paintings, 8 November 2022, 5 pm
Palais Dorotheum, Dorotheergasse 17, 1010 Vienna
Tel. +43-1-515 60-355, 377

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