25r; Michael Miller
Heinrich Schwemminger (Vienna 1803-Vienna 1884)
The Expulsion from Paradise
Graphite, pen and brown ink on blue laid paper
286 x 260 mm, 11 1/4 x 10 3/16 in.
This impressive drawing on an only marginally vertical sheet blue paper shows Schwemminger’s mature command of human anatomy, perspective, line, and pictorial narrative. In bringing together the elements of human form, drapery, distant landscape, and the expressively schematized rock formations which fill the foreground like theatrical flats, Schwemminger has reduced his graphic repertory to a spare, dark grey line, showing only slight variations of density over the blue support.
The artist, it appears, has directly reprocessed Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s treatment of the scene in a slightly rectangular horizontal field, introducing his own personal ideas about composition and dramatic expression to create quite a different effect. Both compositions are constructed on a slow and powerful progression of the three figures from the viewer’s left to his right, as the angel, armed with the fiery sword of scripture, drives the first couple from paradise. In both treatments the angel’s action is solemn but definite, while the couple’s movement is complicated by contrasts in Adam and Eve’s separate movement and ponderation. The resemblances between the attitudes and gestures of the figures make the relation between them clear, but there are numerous differences – reversals and other changes of attitude – which make Schwemminger’s conscious reinterpretation equally apparent. By using the slightly vertical field, Schwemminger has introduced a vertical spatial element, which makes his design and narrative treatment more subtle and complex than his model’s. By moving the arm and sword of the angel farther back behind the figure and presenting the figure as stepping forward in careful perspective, he has enhanced this vertical element, which contrasts with Adam’s broad stride to the right, but is echoed in Eve’s more vertical stance, with her halting gait, as she shudders in inward anguish beside her more openly emotive companion. With these refinements Schwemminger has created a more intimately expressive scene than Schnorr’s.
While Schwemminger’s draftsmanship shows the clear linear quality favored by the Nazarenes, he has mitigated the Nazarene facial types of his early, dated drawings in this style (for example the Madonna and Child now in the Ashmolean Museum, or his studies of St. Rosalia Crowned by Angels), in favor of fuller, more expressive features. Schnorr’s Expulsion was published in the second fascicle of his immensely popular series of woodcuts, Die Bibel in Bildern, which began to appear in October 1852. While the publication of the second fascicle may taken as a terminus ante quem for Schwemminger’s drawing, we should not rule out the possibility that he may have seen a drawing executed earlier. If Schnorr’s drawing were executed in reverse in relation to the print, it could possibly explain some of the reversals in Schwemminger’s treatment, which, however, could be explained equally well as Schwemminger’s deliberate modifications.
Provenance: Heinrich Schwemminger, Vienna; antiquarian book market, Canada; North American art market.
Related Literature: Friederich von Boetticher, Malerwerke des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, II.2, pp. 695f.; Ursula Mayr-Harting, “Three Drawings by Heinrich Schwemminger (1803-1884),” The Ashmolean, 31, Christmas 1996, pp. 13ff.
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