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    Painting on spiders' webs is a miniaturist art form which began in the  middle of the 18th century, in the Pustertal region which was Austrian at the time.
Monks were the originators of this art, painting on supports made entirely of spiders' webs, or caterpillars' silk.
The  painting was carried out using Chinese ink or watercolours.

Later a few paintings were found at Salzburg, and towards the end of the 19th Century, in northern Tyrol, particularly at Innsbruck.  Whilst the Pustertal miniatures had religious themes and were mostly destined for convents, presbyteries and houses of the bourgeoisie, the artists of Innsbruck painted landscapes and folk costumes, and  military feats at the time of the wars of independence.  These works were destined for tourists and art merchants and were exported in great number to Germany, and especially to England and North America.  The Buritt Monte Santo museum at Huntsville, Alabama, has several collections.

The practice of this art by the artists was short and is summarized over the three following periods: 

1 The old period 1740-1830

The practice of this art form did not last long.  The painter Elias Prunner was the first artist to practice this miniature art form, and in 1765 he painted for Empress Maria Theresa. 

The most significant artists of this period are:

  • Johann Burgmann U1830

  • Elias Prunner

  • Johann Ruep de Taufers  U1780

  • Ignatz Faber U1796

  • Johann Georg Prunner

  • Johann Hofer

These painters all are localised in the valley of  Pustertal

2 The intermediate period 1830-1870

The painters Qualities Käsebacher de Schwaz, Andreas Freiberger and the academic painter, Baronne Marie Sternbach living Hall in the Tyrol are mentioned in the writings as artists who ensured the practice and the transition about the third time.

Over this period I have few information to give you, do not hesitate to contact me if you have some data and why not a painting. Thank you in advance.

3 The last period 1870-1920

Epoch north-tyrolienne

After religious themes, the favoured subjects were scenes of daily life.  The industrial revolution gave many ideas to the artists because they would call on young peasants to collect the spiders' webs.  On declaration of war in 1914 the practice obviously had to stop, and from 1920 onwards no new work has been found.

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The Madonna and the child Cathedral of Chester by Elias Prunner



In Brixen, in the Neustift abbey, two tables are on "cobweb"; both are watercolours and extremely damaged.



Unsigned painting





Maria and the child signed Prunner. Oldest and most known of the tables on cobwebs.

Not signed painting third time

Not signed painting


1790 Johann Burgmann painting on caterpillar silk.