Born in 1769 into a commercial family active in Frankfurt am Main, Heinrich Mylius left his native city at age nineteen for what was to become a highly successful and well-regarded career as a cloth merchant, banker and leader in realms of culture and society in the distant city of Milan. This volume draws together numerous lines of research on topics in one way or another related to Mylius, his time, and the relevant cultural, social and commercial structures whose long-term development shaped his world and framed his choices. Editors Magnus Ressel and Ellinor Schweighöfer have divided the contributions into three parts, beginning with commerce and communication between Lombardy and Germany from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Ressel’s own chapter in Part One looks at the role of particular migration patterns and connections on both sides of the Alps, as well as earlier experiences of international commerce such as the Great Regensburg Commerce Company, in forming the context for Mylius’ activity. Ralf Banken studies immigration between Northern Italy and Germany, especially Frankfurt, in the 17th and 18th centuries, showing how the quest for better earnings and more convenience drove the shift from Italian products such as citrus fruit to colonial goods such as coffee and tobacco, bringing about a reorientation of supply routes to take advantage of Dutch imports. Meanwhile the Italian presence in Southern Germany encouraged interest in Italian markets. Giovanna Tonelli points out the profound effects of the 18th-century change in Lombardy from a Spanish dynasty to an Austrian Habsburg one, including an increase in exchange with the German-speaking areas, also in view of the possible challenges from a dynamic kingdom of Savoy-Piedmont-Sardinia to the West. Habsburg policies for improving commerce, conceived before and after the publication of Pietro Verri’s Enlightenment classic »Considerations on Commerce« (1763), included building roads, bridges and canals, all coming to fruition just in the period when Mylius was settling in Milan. Claudio Besana considers the general trends of 19th-century German merchant migration to Lombardy, which tended to result in longer stays and stronger ties than the Swiss counterpart. Indeed, descendants of Heinrich Mylius, as well as of Adamo Kramer, Eraldo Krumm, and other immigrants, helped determine Lombardy’s precocious turn to industrial development in the second half of the century.

Part Two deals with the main figures in this German-Lombard exchange in the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Stefano Levati discusses how fallout from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic invasions determined a widespread turn away from established aristocratic elites and the associated cultural values, accompanied by a revaluation of the mercantile ethos involving work, frugality and individual responsibility. Mylius helped drive the change by his prominent role in Milanese society, including leadership of the Chamber of Commerce and the Società per l’Incoraggiamento. Monika Poettinger explores the activities, during the French domination under Napoleon, of Mylius and his network, who managed to survive and grow in spite of repression and controls. Smuggling of English cotton and other products was rife in spite of the high risks, and contributed to laying the basis for the survival and development of connections throughout the period and into post-Napoleonic times. Ellinor Schweighöfer looks at Mylius’ hitherto little recognized activities as a patron in his native city of Frankfurt, and the role of his widespread network in this context. Staying mostly behind the scenes, he carried out much of the work through his representative Eduard Rüppell. With major contributions directed to education, public health, natural science and the arts, the emerging European consciousness of an international elite began to take root. Wolfgang Bunzel focuses on the Brentano family, which originated in the Lake Como region and eventually settled permanently in Frankfurt. Beginning with a move to Nuremberg in the 17th century, they underwent a long process of social and cultural assimilation and integration into the chosen region, so that by the early 19th century prior ties with Italy were largely abandoned, and German affiliations prevailed. Fully settled within the new home, they began to diversify their activities beyond the highly profitable export business in East and West Indian goods, to pursue interests in arts and letters.

Part Three directs the gaze more intensely to literature, arts, science and transalpine philanthropy, as well as to political activism and regional roots. Marina Cavallera discusses Enlightenment Milan and Lombardy in the age of the »Caffé« literary journal, the Verri brothers and Cesare Beccaria. Economic and social improvement are lively topics for discussion, and the Habsburg administration is ready to make changes. The international community of merchants and entrepreneurs is involved, not only in meetings with the intellectual leaders of the moment, but in practical matters directed to increasing agricultural productivity. The Habsburg connection facilitates communication and exchange with the transalpine world, source of many of the newest ideas and procedures. Alexander Auf der Heyde diverts the discussion to the impact and significance of artworks by Francesco Hayez, a Venetian-born painter working in Milan, best regarded for his scenes in the style known as historical romanticism, often featuring Venetian episodes. Praised in Italy by Jacopo Mazzini as a »democratic genius«, in German lands he was seen as a leading exponent of the historical identity of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, newly formed as a part of the Austrian Empire following the Napoleonic Wars, until the advancing Risorgimento dampens German enthusiasm for the »Italian« artist. Christiane Liermann Traniello’s chapter turns the focus back to Mylius, and especially, on three figures from the Italian side of his network who apparently shared his views on progress, public welfare and active citizenship informed by education and belief in the divine. Francesco Hayez is featured here mainly for his expressive portraits of significant figures including members of the Mylius family. Exemplifying the shared values of individual freedom with commitment to the common welfare is Alessandro Manzoni, whereas courageous resolve in actions involving national partisanship brings to mind Carlo Cattaneo. In the final chapter, Viola Usselmann addresses the connections Mylius maintained to current musical culture, involving, among much else, relations with Felix Mendelssohn. The particular importance for him of music in times of mourning suggests an investigation, carried out here, of connections with, for instance, the composers Vincenzo Schira and Jószef Müller and the poet/translator Samuele Biava.

Attractively printed, the volume makes a distinguished contribution to the relevant fields.

Zitationsempfehlung/Pour citer cet article:

Brendan Dooley, Rezension von/compte rendu de: Magnus Ressel, Ellinor Schweighöfer (Hg.), Heinrich Mylius (1769–1854) und die deutsch-italienischen Verbindungen im Zeitalter der Revolution. Die Lombardei und das nordalpine Europa im frühen 19. Jahrhundert, Stuttgart (Franz Steiner Verlag) 2021, 366 S., 17 Abb. (Aurora, 8), ISBN 978-3-515-12596-3, EUR 68,00., in: Francia-Recensio 2023/1, Frühe Neuzeit – Revolution – Empire (1500–1815), DOI: