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Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-1884), Studies for Scenes from the Nibelungenlied

Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-1884)
Studies for Scenes from the Nibelungenlied
Various media and sizes

These drawings for scenes from the Nibelungenlied by the Viennese artist Heinrich Schwemminger represent one of his favorite subjects and a popular one throughout the nineteenth century. They were included in an album compiled by the artist as a memento of his career. All sheets are listed below with their present location. Those with Michael Miller are available to purchase please inquire for prices.

Click here for Schwemminger’s biography.

Boetticher lists four groups of Nibelungen illustrations, all presumably oils, which were either exhibited at the Vienna Academy or sold directly to the private collectors mentioned. Two in the first group are dated 1844 and 1847, but Boetticher mentions no dates for the others. While the style of the study for Kriemhild’s Dream (sold) resembles Schwemminger’s late Nazarene style of the 1830’s, the others correspond to the more plastic approach he developed after his return from Rome and are compatible with a dating to the mid-forties. Schwemminger, of course, was not alone in following the influential examples of Peter Cornelius and Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. In 1812-13 Cornelius, attempting to recapture an essential German character in art, which he feared had been lost in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, made a series of six drawings of scenes from the Nibelungenlied (Städel, Frankfurt), which reached a wide audience through prints published in Berlin in 1817 and completed by other artists in 1821. Schnorr, beginning in 1827 and continuing on until 1867, painted mural decorations in the Königsbau of the Residenz in Munich, initially for King Ludwig I. This large-scale project cast a broad shadow in the southern German world. (Schnorr’s stylistic influence also appears in Schwemminger’s drawing of the Expulsion from Paradise, which is also in our album.)

Another event is symptomatic of just how much the Nibelungenlied was in the air: Richard Wagner began his prose draft of Ring: der Nibelungen-Mythos in the autumn of 1848.
Bibliography: Friedrich von Boetticher, Malerwerke Des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Beitrag Zur Kunstgeschichte, Dresden: F. v. Boetticher, 1891; Ursula Mayr-Harting, “Three Drawings by Heinrich Schwemminger (1803-1884), “The Ashmolean, 31, Christmas 1996, pp. 13ff.

Several of these drawings are now in major museum collections in Great Britain and the United States, among the the Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Florida.


Album Fol./Location Title Medium Dimensions
loose/private collection, UK Recto: Reclining Woman, a study for Kriemhild’s Dream of the Falcon, from the Nibelungenlied; verso: Venus and Cupid over a Reclining Woman Recto: pen and black ink over graphite on cream laid paperVerso: graphite and pen and brown ink (palimpsest) 234 x 317 mm, 9 3/8 x 12 7/16 in.
11v/Michael Miller Study of a Bearded Man (Gunther, from the Nibelungenlied) Graphite, black crayon, and red and white chalk on brown wove paper, inscribed ”
195 x 169 mm, 7 5/8 x 6 11/16 in.
12r/Michael Miller Recto: Study of a Nude Woman with Raised Arms (Rhine Maiden); verso: Drapery Studies Recto: Graphite, black crayon, and red chalk on buff wove paper, inscribed ”
verso: black crayon
280 x 209 mm, 11 x 8 3/16 in.
27v B/Michael Miller Recto: Study of Siegfried’s Head (from the Nibelungenlied); verso: Two Bearded Men (Huntsmen Looking On) Recto and verso: graphite on cream wove paper; signed, l. l., HS; inscribed, l. r. ” Siegfr… bey Bru[nnen]” 105 x 118 mm, 4 1/8 x 4 11/16 in.