Adam Johann Braun

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The birching painting

Adam Johann Braun (1748 - 1827) was an Austrian painter, engraver and graphic artist. He was born in Vienna. From 1762 he studied painting under Frister and Martin van Meytens at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, and became its member in 1789 with the painting "Zauber der Musik". Adam Johann Braun was especially known for his genre motifs that were often of gallant high society scenes (often painted on copper) in style of the Dutch 17th-century masters. He died in Vienna in 1827.

The birching painting[edit]

One of his genre scenes painted on copper is a fine example of spanking in painting. It shows a nun punishing a girl with a birch rod. The girl is dressed in a fine white dress. She also wears jewelery and is obviously from a wealthy family. She is kneeling at a family altar to receive her punishment. The nun has raised the girl's skirts to expose her bare bottom for the birching, and holds the skirts in this position. (As usual for the 18th century, females did not wear any underwear, so none had to be removed.) The artist captured the moment immediately before the first stroke of the birch, and placed great emphasis on the unmarked pink, almost white, complexion of the girl's buttocks and thighs.

Two other girls in the room witness the scene with looks of pity. One of them appears to be crying. In the foreground, a letter is torn open on the floor. It is obviously the reason for the punishment, perhaps a love letter.

In 2009, the painting was on auction at Hotel des Ventes Geneve under the title "Le doux châtiment" (and with the artist's second name spelled Johan). In 2010, the painting reappeared in a new frame for sale by Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts (Vienna) under the title "Birching in girls boarding-school".