12/9/12

Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel, The Studio Wall

Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Date: 1872
Technique: Oil on canvas, 111 x 79 cm

As a student in the plaster class at the Berlin Academy, which he attended sporadically in 1833, the young Menzel was delighted by the "many beautiful casts". In 1848 he also drew plaster casts in the Altes Museum, as well as painted several studies of horses, partly after cadavers. Menzel started collecting plaster casts and hanging them in his successive studios. In 1852 Menzel painted a first, smaller version of The Studio Wall, which passed into the Berlin Nationalgalerie in 1906.

The deathmask visible to the left of the brightly lit torso - not far from an animal skull and above a head of Dante, who is accompanied by further symbols of the artist's existence, such as dividers and scissors - exhibits the characteristically high forehead and striking nose of Friedrich Eggers, Menzel's first reviewer and friend. The features of Goethe or Wagner, Schiller, Schopenhauer and Menzel himself have been identified in the other deathmasks. A plaster hand is painted to look as if it is reaching excitedly out of the picture.

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