Strange Croatian Origins of Painter Franz Seraph Stirnbrand

Recently, I stumbled upon a beautiful portrait of a woman wearing a white cap on an art auction site. Intrigued to learn more about the artist, I conducted some research and discovered that he was Franz Seraph Stirnbrand and, in fact, of Croatian descent through his father.

Portrait of a noble woman with white cap, 1834.

Franz Seraph Stirnbrand (c.1788/94, Linz – 2 August 1882, Stuttgart) was a German portrait painter with an intriguing backstory. Of unknown parentage, he was given the name “Stirnbrand” (brow burn) when he was baptized, in recognition of a scar on his forehead due to a childhood accident.

Linz in early 1800s
Linz in early 1800s

Croatian parentage?

Found abandoned in a ditch near Linz, Stirnbrand was believed to be the illegitimate son of a Croatian soldier from a nearby unit. He was raised by a kind-hearted local tax official named Johann Baptist Röser. His artistic journey started with lessons from Philipp Friedrich von Hetsch and continued as an apprentice to a decorative house painter in Linz.

Croatian pandur at around the time of Sirnbrand’s birth

The Career

Stirnbrand’s financial situation prevented him from attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, so he pursued his craft elsewhere. To avoid military conscription, he relocated to Frankfurt. There, he painted portraits of Napoleon, Marie Louise, and other notable figures of the time on tobacco tins. In 1813, he traveled to Frankfurt and focused on replicating old master portraits. He later journeyed to Belgium, Paris, and Luxembourg in 1820, eventually settling in Karlsruhe for four years. Between 1824 and 1825, he resided in Rome, and had the opportunity to portray Pope Leo XII.

Stirnbrand then moved to Ludwigsburg, where he had the honor of painting Dowager Queen Charlotte Mathilde. By 1830, he successfully made a name for himself as a portrait painter in Stuttgart. Eventually, he settled in Stuttgart and made a name for himself as a portrait painter, even gaining the patronage of Duchess Wilhelmine and her sons, Count Alexander and Count Wilhelm (later the Duke of Urach).

Crown Prince Karl of Württemberg,
Crown Prince Karl of Württemberg, 1835.
Portrait of Amalie Haizinger
Portrait of Amalie Haizinger, 1850.
Portrait of Jean-Noé-Godefroy de Polier-Vernand 1782-1833 , 1823.

A Bit on Franz Seraph Stirnbrand’s Personal Life

In 1830, Franz Seraph Stirnbrand built his own home, which became a hub for artists, musicians, and theater enthusiasts. He married in 1838, adding another chapter to his interesting life story.

And this is all I was able to find on his life.

His artwork can now be found in Stuttgart museums and various castles around Stuttgart and Karlsruhe.

Also, one can find quite a few of his works on auctions. They are not all that valuable but I find them interesting and quite well done. Ok, not all of them as you can see below:


  1. Anna says:

    A great article as per usual Alan! I love these quirky obscure pieces of information that you provide! Cheers.

  2. Deborah Charms says:

    Very interesting. I love your blogs.

  3. Thank you!

  4. Thx! I just love that there is so much there below the surface 😉
    I have one more, quite unknown artist, coming up in one of future blogs.

  5. Anna says:

    Looking forward to it!

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