Anton Raphael Mengs was born in March 1728, in the German region of Bohemia, which today is the Czech Republic. His father, Ismael Mengs, was a court painter to the Elector of Saxony and would teach young Anton oil painting and drawing.
By 1741, Mengs traveled with his father to Rome, where he would stay for most of his life. In Rome, the artist studied mainly High Renaissance Italian painting. He was apprenticed and begin to work at the studio of the painter Marco Benefial, whose work, despite carrying some Baroque traits, also maintained a Classical tradition such as in Raphael or Annibale Caracci’s artwork. These references surely were absorbed by Mengs, for many of his early works were copies of paintings by Raphael.
Upon his return to Saxony, the word regarding Mengs’ artistic prowesses quickly spread through the land, and hence, he soon was appointed as court painter to the Elector of Saxony, like his father. Despite this distinguished occupation, Mengs was plenty able also to maintain his international career, as well as to spend some time in Rome.
After his conversion to Catholicism, Mengs would become the director of the Vatican painting school. He became regarded as a master upon the completion of Parnassus. Mengs was invited to times to go to Spain, under the invitation of Charles III, King of Spain. There the artist produced what is often considered his most notable artworks, especially the banquet hall ceiling, at The Royal Palace of Madrid. Following the completion of this work in 1777, Mengs returned o Rome.
Anton Raphael Mengs died in 1779, in Rome. He left behind the surprising number of twenty offsprings, seven of whom were aided financially by the King of Spain.
Mengs was very close with German art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who was a pioneer Hellenist, as well as responsible for stating the difference between Roman, Greco-Roman, and Greek art. Both had a keen appreciation for classical antiquity; they would work together to unestablish the Rococo to raise a Neoclassical dominance. Mengs’ friendship with Winckelmann undoubtedly helped to preserve the artist’s relevance through time.
Mengs often stated that he was the first Neoclassicist. However, some scholars may argue that he was, in fact, the last gleam of Baroque art.