Carl Friedrich Lessing - Study for a Painting of an Abbey Graveyard in the Snow
Carl Friedrich Lessing
Study for a Painting of an Abbey Graveyard in the Snow
Oil on canvas, mounted on card. 33 x 27 cm.
Monogrammed and dated lower right: CFL 1833 K [...].
The present work is a study in oils for the middle-sized painting “Klosterfriedhof im Schnee” in the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The motifs of the two works, both dated 1833, vary only slightly from one another. They both depict a barefooted monk in a wintery scene standing beside an open grave. The bitter cold is almost palpable in the snow that covers the gravestones, crosses, trees, and church roof, and we can imagine how the monk must have toiled to excavate the frozen earth. The Capuchin friar is shown resting upon his spade amid scattered skulls and bones, stoically surveying his handiwork. Behind him we see the candlelit choir of a Romanesque church, where mass is presumably being held for the dead. Count Athanasius Raczynski writes of Lessing's work, “It must be the hidden, mysterious thought that determines this painting's effect; it is impossible to explain otherwise how one is so irresistibly drawn towards it. One can hardly drag oneself away […]”(Geschichte der Neueren Deutschen Kunst, vol. 1, Berlin 1836, p. 166).
Private collection, South Germany.
Cf. M. Sitt (ed.): Carl Friedrich Lessing - Romantiker und Rebell, exhib. cat.:, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf u. Landesmuseum Oldenburg/Augusteum, Bremen 2000, p. 52.