attributed to Franz de Paula Ferg, The Road to Emmaus

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
The Road to Emmaus
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 24.5 cm, Overall width: 33.5 cm
attributed to Franz de Paula Ferg (1689-1740)
Catalogue Number


Ferg was born in Vienna but worked in London from about 1724. In 1726 he created a series of eight etched Capricci (Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco), which help to date many smaller pictures to the London period. His late cabinet pieces contain fewer, clearly drawn figures, set in Italianate landscapes with ruins; their Arcadian mood, brilliant colour and Rococo manner made them popular with patrons. George Vertue left a detailed description of Ferg’s work, suggesting that his commercial success in Britain resulted from his ability to synthesise and imitate popular, earlier Continental painters such as Pieter Bout (1640–1689), Adrian Boudewijns (1644–1719) and Cornelis van Poelenburgh (1594–1667). Vertue described him as:

'a painter of an uncommon genius for painting Landskip & Figures in small, a mixt manner of his own, his compositions of numerous figures neatly toucht his Landskip great variety a fine curious pencil in his Trees distances & decorations many of his pieces are in competiont of Bot Bodvins – Bambook Elhamer but more particularly Polemburgh – and other preceding famous Masters in that way of painting, his pictures being always of a small size.'1

Vertue also left an account of Ferg’s unfortunate domestic life and demise:

'he came from Vienna to hamburg from thence to England. but so unhappily married to a boisterous extravagant hussy (being a long time prisoner for debt) that she kept the Man poor and indigent, slaving his spirits in misery, and bondage, debasd his genius and brought him so low, that being quite exhausted, he went out to some company the last evening of his life, and dropt down dead before he got home in the street.'2

The present composition was a popular one and at least one other version survives (fig. 1). It is possibly identifiable as the painting in an inventory of 1739 at Trewithen: ‘no.20 Christ and ye 2 Disciples at Emaus.’ This is precisely the sort of small-scale cabinet painting that might have appealed to Philip Hawkins I and would have been readily available on the London art market.

The Trewithen inventory of March 1928 records the picture hanging on the Middle Staircase: ‘Ferg – “The Journey to Emmaus” 10in by 13in – gilt frame’.

undated. Oil on copper, 25 × 33 cm. Private Collection.

Figure 1.
Franz de Paula Ferg, The Road to Emmaus, undated. Oil on copper, 25 × 33 cm. Private Collection.

Digital image courtesy of Asar Studios/Alamy Stock Photo (RFTXBM). (All rights reserved)

by Jonny Yarker


  1. George Vertue, ‘Vertue Note Books III’, ed. Lionel Cust, The Walpole Society, vol. 3, 1933–4, p. 81.

  2. Ibid.


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