Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Deathly Visitor

A lot of artists (me included) portray death in the form of crazed skeletons and zombies, wielding swords and attacking the living. But I find Adolph von Menzel's understated vision even more chilling.

In his little drawing "Der Besuch des Todes" (The Visit from Death), he shows the uninvited guest, waiting outside the door and gently pulling the bell rope.

It's daytime, and the birds are singing outside. Maybe he has been waiting all through the night. But he is patient. His thin heel is slipping out of his shoe. He is a frail skeleton, hunched over, not quite filling the fine coat and hat that once marked him as a gentleman.
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From the book of drawings: Das graphische Werk in zwei Bänden

-----Added later:
Here's the drawing mentioned by blog reader Christian Schlierkamp in the comments.

"Imaginary View in Menzel's Studio After His Death"

Christian says: "Before he did it a photographer visited his studio and asked him whether he could take photos. As he wanted to shoot the studio from a certain angle Menzel stopped him and asked him not to photograph:
'I still have a drawing in mind that I want to do: This place after Death has visited it and I'm gone. If I see all that in a photo I'm losing the point of doing a study of it.'"

6 comments:

The Surfin' Squid said...

Heh, that is almost comedic in its understatement. I still don't think I'd like to be walking down the hall and suddenly come across that scene, though.

Lee Smith said...

"He'll come to your house and he won't stay long. You'll look in the bed and find somebody will be gone."
Deathdonthavenomercy

Christian said...

That reminds me of a drawing Menzel did 50 years later, in 1895:
It is called "Kehraus" ("last dance"), and shows his studio how he imagined it to look like after his death. You find it in Singer's "drawings of A. Menzel"
http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924020534875

the drawing is Plate XXIV

Before he did it a photographer visited his studio and asked him wether he could take photos. As he wanted to shoot the studio from a certain angle Menzel stopped him and asked him not to photograph:
"I still have a drawing in mind that I want to do: This place after death has visited it and I'm gone. If I see all that on a photo I'm loosing the point in doing a study of it."

BB said...

Scary thought...great drawings.

Tyler J said...

To me it looks as if Death is removing his shoes, in the polite tradition of removing footware before entering a friends house or sacred place. Perhaps Death has manners and respect given the task at hand..

(I almost said, "given the grave task he must undertake", but then someone would have wanted to choke the life out of me).

Albert. S said...

A charming drawing, indeed. It says so much in just 3 tints. I couldnt fathom it in colour.