CHRIST, Johann Friedrich
Study at Jena, 1720-4; Halle, 1726-9; M.A., Leipzig (in absentia), 1728; habilitation, 1731.
- Professional Experience:
Tutor, Jena, 1721-4; Lecturer, Meiningen, 1725-6; Privy Cabinet Secretary, Meiningen, 1725-6; Hofmeister, 1726; lecturer and student, Halle, 1726-9; tutor, Leipzig, 1729-31; extraordinarius (history), 1731-9; ordinarius (poetry), 1739-56.
Leben des berühmten Mahlers Lucas Cranach, in Franckische Acta erudita et curiosa 5 (1726) 338-55; Noctes Academicae Observationibus ad rem litterarium miscellis et coniecturs expositae (Halle, 1727/9); Disquisitionis litterariae et politicae de restituenda prudentiae civilis vera methodo item de doctrina Nicolai Machiavelli praeparationem... (Leipzig, 1729); De Nicolao Machiavello libri tres (Leipzig, 1731); Imagines Musarum e simulacris antiquis (Leipzig 1739); De gemmis scalptis antiquis liber singularis, in J. E. Hebenstreit, Museum Richterianum continens fossilia, vegetabilia marina (Leipzig 1743); De murrinis veterum liber singularis (Leipzig 1743); De Phaedro eiusque fabulis prolusio (Leipzig, 1746); Aquilae iuventas secundum verba Horatii Flacci libro III. Temporibus suis contra interpretem errores restituta (Leipzig, 1746); Anzeige und Auslegung der Monogrammatum..., unter welchen berühmte Mahler, Kupferstecher u. a. dergleichen Künstler auf ihren Werken sich verborgen haben (Leipzig, 1747); Fabularum veterum Aesopiarum libri duo (Leipzig, 1749); “Praefatio,” in Dactyliothecae universalis signorum exemplis nitidis redditae chilias, sive scrinium milliarium premium, ed. P. D. Lippert (Leipzig, 1755-62); Abhandlungen über die Litteratur und Kunstwerke vornemlich des Alterthums (with J. K. Zeune) (Leipzig 1776).
Christ’s early education was wide-ranging, but his focus was on Western European literature and art, but it was his father’s wish that his son study the law and follow him into government service. By the age of 18 he showed a preference for Latin but in 1720 he began studying philosophy, history, and law at Jena. His prodigious intellect and broadly-based humanism drew the noble Johann Christoph von Wolzogen (1666-1734), prime minister of Saxe-Coburg-Meiningen, who employed him as tutor to his oldest son, which Christ did both at Jena and Halle. His studies were interrupted when he was named a Privy Cabinet Secretary in Meiningen, then Hofmeister for Wolzogen’s younger sons, whom he accompanied to Halle in 1726 and completed his studies there. In order to assert the importance of artists’ biographies as a basis for art history, he announced a project to publish catalogue of such biographies, but he published only a life of the Renaissance painter and printmaker Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). Even before he had graduated he began giving lectures and in 1729 was invited to the court of Count Heinrich von Bünau (1697-1762) in Leipzig to lead the education of his son. Once Christ completed his habilitation, he was named extraordinarius in history. In 1733 he took leave to accompany Bünau’s son Rudolf on his Grand Tour, during which he made professional associations, researched in libraries, and began to collect art. After becoming ordinarius in 1739 he published his iconography of the Muses, a study of the vasa murrina (1743) and ancient gems (1743). He catalogued the gemstones in the Museum Richterianum in Leipzig. In 1747 he drew not only from his collection but his researches in Europe a lexicon of artists’ monograms. His study of Macchiavelli’s impact on German political thought remained a standard German view of the author of The Prince. His extensive interests led him to continuous and wide travel in England, France, and Italy building his collection of manuscripts and art which frequently served as a resource for scholars in Germany. He was a true polymath, reading on an unlimited variety of subjects from Latin poetry to the natural sciences, and was the first German university teacher to apply evidence from archaeological monuments and physical remains of the ancient world to the study of classical literature. In the last year of his life he published Latin introductions to Philipp Daniel Lippert’s work on rubbings made of gemstones (“Dactyliothecae”).
His publications were limited but his great contribution to classics was the establishment of archaeology as an academic discipline distinct from but complementary of philology. He is also important as an influential teacher, not only of the sons of noblemen, but also of men like Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-81), Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729-1812).
Konrad Bursian, ADB 4 (1876) 140-2, 8 (1878) 794; R. Dohme, “Johann Friedrich Christ,” in: Metzler Kunsthistoriker- Lexikon, ed. P. Betthausen et al. (2007) 50-1; Edmund Dörffel, Johann Friedrich Christ, sein Leben und seine Schriften. Ein Beitrag zur Gelehrtengeschichte des 18. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1878); J.A. Ernesti, Opuscula oratoria (Leiden, 1767), 171-82; E. Fischer, “Johann Friedrich Christ,” in W. Killy & W. Köhlmann (ed.), Literaturlexikon (2008) 411-12;K. Hellwig, Von der Vita zur Kunstlerbiographie (Berlin: De Guyter, 2005) 30-7, 39-43, 49-52, 55-57; W. Herrmann, “Johann Friedrich Christ,” in Archäologenbildnisse, ed. Reinhard Lullies & Wolfgang Schiering (Mainz: Zabern, 1988) 3-4; C. G. Heyne, Sammlung antiquarischer Aufsätze, 1 (1778).