Johann Esaias Nilson (Augsburg, November 2, 1721 - April 3, 1788) was a German painter, miniaturist, draughtsman and engraver. He hailed from the prominent Nilson family of artists. His first contact with the arts took place at the St. Anna Evangelical School in Augsburg, under the instruction of engineer, draughtsman and engraver Johann Thomas Kraus (1696-1775), who taught him the basics of architecture and perspective theory. Simultaneously, he started miniature painting under the guidance of his parents, painter Andreas Nilson (1690-1751) from Gothenburg in Sweden and the miniature painter Rosina Barbara Nilson. In addition, he completed an undocumented apprenticeship with Hieronymus Sperling and his wife.
Augsburg had become an important hub for printing, copper engraving and the art trade in Germany since the Renaissance. In 1741, at the age of 20 and not able to make a living by painting alone, Nilson became a designer for local copperplate publishers, including J.G. Hertel. Most of the engravings he produced were genre subjects, landscapes, portraits, devotional illustrations, frontispieces and decorative and template sheets.
In 1752, Nilson inherited both his father’s craft business and the license to practice his own profession, in accordance with the guild rules. In the same year he founded his own copperplate publishing business. In 1761 he was appointed Electoral Palatinate Court Painter by Karl Theodor of the Palatinate. Five years later Nilson joined the Catholic Kayserlich Franciscan Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences in Augsburg, whose president he became in 1778. From 1769 until his death in 1788, he was a Protestant director at the Augsburg City Art Academy.
Johannes Esaias Nilson is one of the most important representatives of the Augsburg style, as the (South German) Rococo was called; it is generally referred to as the Augsburg School. His works are found in many museums and private and public collections around the world: Augsburg, Nurenberg, Ulmann, Vienna; Grand Duke Ernest Louis von Hesse collection; the Staedel Institute in Frankfurt, Stattsgalerie in Stuttgart, art collections in Weimar and the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the MET in New York and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
Three-quarter-view portrait of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, King of Poland and Lithuania holding a royal staff, presented in an oval cartouche with the inscription Dignissimo in the lower part. Below are an allegorical figure of the Polish community with a laurel wreath and five putti, a five-field coat of arms showing the eagle, the Lithuanian knight on horseback and the Polish ciolek (bull calf) in the middle. Description under the cartouche with the portrait: Dignissimo; on the banner (within the composition): Confederatio Generali / Poloniae at Lith and under the composition with Geniusz in Polish costume and laurel wreath in hand: Stanislavs Avgvst / DG Rex Poloniae et Lith: / Natus d: 17.Jan: 1731. Elect: d : 7. Sept. Coron: d: 25. Nov: 1764. Warsov.
Signature: in plate: J. E. Nilson inv. sculps. et execud A. V.
Sources: Benezit; Thieme/Becker "General Artist Dictionary", Leipzig, 1999; Wolfgang Augustyn: Nilson, Johann Esaias, in Neue Deutsche Biographie Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1999.
Artist: Johann Esaias Nilson (1721-1788).
Signature: in plate: J. E. Nilson.
Medium: Copper engraving on paper.
Condition: Very good condition.
Dimensions: 24 x 19 cm. / 9 ½ x 7 ½ in. (visible)
Frame: 44 x 38 cm. / 17 ¼ x 15 in. Gilt wood and stucco 19th century. Good general condition with minor imperfections.