Monday, October 31, 2016

Death at the Door

Adolph Menzel, Death as an Unwelcome Guest;
1844/1845. Watercolor and gouache.
5.1 x 3.6 in.© bpk/ Kupferstichkabinett/SMB/Volker-H. Schneider

Who is that at the door? It's Death, of course, coming to collect. He wears a heavy coat and tilts his hat forward so that he won't be recognized. The thin heel of his foot comes out of his slipper.

Not just yet. Death is banished out the window with a hail of wine bottles. Good riddance to you until another year!

These two paintings are published together for the first time, and in color, in my new book of drawings and watercolors by Adolph Menzel. The book contains 130 images, including 32 pages of color.

Here's the link if you'd like to order a signed copy from my website store. 
Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings. You can also get a copy from Amazon.


Susan Krzywicki said...

Love the idea that fun living can keep Death least for a time.

Daniel New said...

I was staring at these two pictures for awhile (in my new awesome book) and was wondering if you thought the changing tree in the background has any significance?

Paddy's Block said...

Daniel, maybe this has something to do with the notes. On the first painting it says: 1844 Plusquamperfectum (old form for Plusquamperfekt). Which means more or less: Your time is more than finished up. On the second painting it says: 1844 Plusquamperfect (now he uses the normal form), maybe to pick up on the first painting. And: 1845 Immerdar solche Vertheidiger, u.s.w. ... which means: Always those rebellious etc. ... Verteidiger (today without the h) is normally translated into 'protectors', but in context death seems really frustrated with people taking on the fight. My guess is, that Menzel did not paint the second picture right after he finished the first. First painted in 1844 late fall without the leaves on the tree and second 1845 in early fall with a year in between. Maybe he wanted those paintings to be seen as a series and for reference he put the date of the first painting on the second with the same note. I do not have an idea what that 'etc.' would be mean. Gives me a feeling of having won against death for the time (maybe fought off an illness) but somehow it cost a lot of strength, being tired, playing it down because you know, that it may come back. Just a theory.

Paddy's Block said...

Aaand picking up on my mistake: on the second painting it says 'Perfectum' (not Plusquamperfectum as I wrote). Perfectum also describes fullfilled actions (present perfect). Maybe as in 'all is done and over'. Does still serve my theory, but sorry for that.