Carl Spitzweg - Monk in a Rocky Landscape
Monk in a Rocky Landscape
Oil on panel. 9.8 x 14.8 cm.
This small painting follows all the conventions of this artist's depictions of monks and hermits. Wichmann sees in this composition the influence of the visits to the valleys of Meran and Brixen, which he relates in so many of his letters. Spitzweg made several versions of this work. In a detailed expertise for this work made in 2004, Wichmann states that four or five copies exist, which can be differentiated only through examination of the brushwork and panels. In the 2002 catalogue raisonné, when Wichmann assumed the existence of two other signed versions, one is listed under the title "Der Einsiedler bei der Weinprobe" in private ownership.
Spitzweg varies the arrangement, density and form of the trees in the background of the work in each version. On closer examination, one can see grimacing faces within their branches, which are more or less obvious in each copy. Spitzweg mentioned during his lifetime that he enjoyed painting these droll, hidden faces.
The fact that the artist made so many versions of the work indicates that the composition must have been important for him. Wichmann dates the work to around 1875-78, thus ascribing it to the artist's later period.
Spitzweg was known to be a passionate cigar smoker, and not only the enjoyment and inspiration provided by the cigars themselves, but also the wood of the boxes they came in left their mark on his œuvre. Spitzweg valued the smooth, durable wood the cases which took well to grounding. The present work is painted on the lid of a cedarwood cigar case made by “Murias”, recognisable by the branded mark on the reverse. According to Wichmann, the material of the work was analysed in 1990 by Prof. Dr. Kühn in Munich. The oil based pigments were applied directly to the panel without grounding. They were made using lead white, iron oxide pigments, yellow lacquer, Berlin blue, madder's lacquer and black pigment, all of which were in use during Spitzweg's lifetime.
Prof. Dr. Siegfried Wichmann, Starnberg, 12.08.2004.
Private collection, Germany.
Cf.: Siegfried Wichmann: Carl Spitzweg - Verzeichnis der Werke, Stuttgart 2002, p. 366, no. 840.