Count Berthold von Imhoff

2012-09-24
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Count Berthold von Imhoff was a famous painter of religious art works. He was born Jan. 14, 1868, in Karlsruhe, Germany. During the time he lived in Reading, approximately 1900-1913, he was a member of St. Paul's Parish. He painted many churches in the area, and the 1908 postcard below shows some of his work in St. Paul's Church.

The 1909 book Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County Pennsylvania by Morton Montgomery contains a listing for Berthold J. Imhoff. The excerpt below describes his interior painting of St. Paul's Church, including the sanctuary shown in the postcard.

... St. Paul's church, Reading, is his masterpiece. The architecture of the church is Romanesque, and this necessitated rich colors and heavy ornamentation.

Above the main entrance is a picture representing the parable of the Prodigal son. The center of the ceiling shows three large compositions, 12x18 feet, "The Descent of the Holy Ghost," "The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin" and "The Coronation of the Virgin," these forming the last three mysteries of the rosary, the preceding twelve being depicted in the painted windows.

There are two other large compositions, "The Adoration of the Magi" and the "Death of St. Joseph"; eight panels, each containing a single figure; small medallions showing the symbols of the rosary and the instruments of the passion.

The sanctuary arch, as is fitting, is marvelous in both execution and design. The main composition is 40x25 feet.

In the center the risen Savior sits enthroned, and on either side but a little below him are the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Baptist. Between heaven and earth is the Holy Spirit surrounded by the cherubim.

On the earth, grouped about the cross, are the apostles and evangelists, Saints Peter and Paul standing a little higher than the others. Other figures appear, all tending to bring out more fully the subject of the whole composition, "The Church of God." There are about fifty figures in all, and they occupy five of the seven panels.

In each end panel is an angel, one bearing the pillar at which the Savior was scourged, and the other the spear that pierced His side, and the sponge with which they quenched His thirst.

In this work Mr. Imhoff has used the best models, and his historical accuracy is above question. If he left no other work than St. Paul's, Mr. Imhoff's fame as an artist would be complete.

Years later, Imhoff produced the large work which adorns the ceiling of St. Peter's R.C. Church in Reading. The murals in St. Paul's were destroyed during renovations. However, it's thought that Imhoff painted the existing Stations of the Cross in the Church.


Completed in the mid-1920s, the series of canvasses that adorns the ceiling of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church depict 224 life-size saints, martyrs, virgins and other significant Catholics.

Count Berthold von Imhoff's home during is stay in Reading between 1900 and 1913 (Ccorner of 11th and Green).

In all Berthold von Imhoff ended up painting thousands of frescoes and murals in hundreds of churches in eastern Pennsylvania and throughout midwestern Canada and the United States.

Imhoff died of a stroke Dec. 19, 1939, in his studio near St. Walburg, where there is a statue of him today.

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