Adolph MENZEL (Breslau 1815 - Berlin 1905)

Studies of a Man with his Head Bowed

Carpenter’s pencil on Whatman paper.
Signed with initials and dated A. M. 81. at the upper right.
126 x 194 mm. (5 x 7 5/8 in.)


This drawing is a study for a man seated at a pew in the centre of Menzel’s gouache of A Sermon in the Parish Church of Innsbruck (Kanzelpredigt in der Pfarrkirche zu Innsbruck) of 1881, today in a private collection and on loan to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. The artist spent the summer of 1881 on a tour to Frankfurt, Baden-Baden, Fribourg im Breisgau, Switzerland, the southern Tyrol and various cities in Northern Italy, returning to Berlin via Innsbruck and Munich. In Innsbruck, Menzel visited the then parish church (now the Cathedral) of St. Jakob, the setting for the small gouache painted later that year. Built in the first quarter of the 18th century, the Catholic church of St. Jakob is regarded as one of the most significant late Baroque buildings in the Tyrol. The fresco paintings and stucco decoration of the interior were the work of the brothers Cosmas Damian Asam and Egid Quirin Asam, while the magnificent pulpit seen in Menzel’s gouache was the work of the Tyrolean sculptor Nikolaus Moll, and was completed in 1725. 

Menzel had a longstanding interest in Baroque buildings and their interiors – a development of his earlier studies of the interiors of 18th century Prussian palaces and buildings from the time of Frederick the Great - and produced drawings and gouaches of churches throughout his career. As Marie Ursula Riemann-Reyher has noted in her description of the gouache: ‘With a few exceptions…Menzel’s church interiors are peopled by congregations and vergers, and appear as places of urban communication. From the hand of the priest in the pulpit, raised in blessing, the eye moves downwards to where the congregation is only partly paying attention as a server moves the purse and bell in front of them on the end of a long pole…In the gigantic area of the parish church…only the two pillars and a small part of the wall between is visible. The pillars, which are depicted much larger than their actual size, alone create the impression of a colossal church of resplendent colour.’

As one modern scholar has noted, ‘a sketch [Menzel] considered failed could be unceremoniously crossed out. Very often he only crossed out the face of the figure. One can speculate about the reasons for this. The most straightforward one would be that Menzel was dissatisfied with his attempt at capturing a facial expression. But it is also conceivable that he was only really interested in the gesture, the movement of the body, or the drape and hang of a piece of clothing – that the head was incidental to the motif.’

Other preparatory figure studies by Menzel for the Sermon in the Parish Church of Innsbruckare in the Kupfertichkabinett in Berlin, the Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg, and elsewhere.

Amsler & Ruthart, Berlin (their label on the old backing board)
Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot [Tajan], 18 May 2006, lot 209
Private collection.


Studies of a Man with his Head Bowed


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