German art historian, collector and dealer. The son of a Lutheran clergyman, he first studied theology at Leipzig but while travelling in Italy in 1869 became interested in early Christian archaeology, in which field he determined to continue. His first publications were on the sources of Byzantine art history and the mosaics of Ravenna. In 1876 he met Giovanni Morelli, whose disciple he became. Their lengthy correspondence constitutes an important source for the early history of connoisseurship. Richter published a short biography of Leonardo in 1880, then a series of articles in the Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst and finally his edition of the Literary Works of Leonardo (1883), the work that established his reputation as a scholar. This was the first scholarly edition of Leonardo’s writings, illustrated, moreover, with a selection of mostly authentic drawings at a time when books on Leonardo were normally illustrated by his pupils’ works.
Richter supported himself as a collector and dealer. He acted as an adviser to Ludwig Mond (see Mond family §(1)), whose collection is now in the National Gallery, London, and to Henry W. Cannon jr, whose collection, formerly in the Villa Doccia, Florence, was bequeathed to Princeton University. In the course of these activities Richter made many sensational discoveries, such as his identification of Giorgione’s ‘Giustiniani’ Portrait of a Young Man (Berlin, Gemäldegal.). In 1889 Richter alienated Morelli’s English friends, Sir Austen Henry Layard and Sir Frederick Burton, the director of the National Gallery, by offering them a portrait of a woman by Palma family §(1) and then retracting the offer and selling the painting to Mond for a higher price. Despite his fine book on Italian Art in the National Gallery (1883) he thereafter became known as an unscrupulous dealer. His integrity was again called into question in 1935 when he published a manuscript by Battistella on a Veronese painting that he had bought in 1885 at the Casa Monga, Verona, and which was actually a romantic forgery. Shortly before he died he had almost finished revising his Literary Works of Leonardo.
See also: Leonardo da Vinci §V.
Rome, Bib. Hertz. [complete corr. with Giovanni Morelli]
- The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci. Compiled and Edited from the Original Manuscripts by J. P. R. (London, 1883, rev. Oxford, 2/1939, 3/1977 with a commentary by C. Pedretti)
- Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Translated from the Italian of Giorgio Vasari. VI: Commentary Containing Notes and Emendations from the Italian Edition of Milanesi and Other Sources by J. P. R. (London, 1883)
- Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter 1876–1891 (Baden-Baden, 1960) [contains half the corr.; complete bibliog.]; review by E. Waterhouse in Burlington Magazine, 103 (1961), pp. 475–6
- J. Anderson: ‘Layard and Morelli’, Austen Henry Layard tra l’Oriente e Venezia (Venice, 1987), pp. 109–37
- J. Anderson: ‘Dietro lo pseudonymo’, Della pittura italiana: Studii storico-critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria-Pamphili in Roma, ed. J. Anderson (Milan, 1991), pp. 554–6
- J. Pope-Hennessy: ‘Morelli and Richter’, On Artists and Art Historians: Selected Book Reviews of John Pope-Hennessy, ed. W. Kaiser and M. Mallon (Florence, 1994), pp. 327–9