The Granite Dish in the Berlin Lustgarten

Johann Erdmann Hummel1831

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

There are two levels of meaning to the painting of the granite dish as seen in 1831 on a slightly raised podium in the Lustgarten. At first sight Hummel — a Biedermeier painter who was often known as “Perspective Hummel” — is simply chronicling the temporary erection of the massively heavy, highly polished dish from the factory of the industrialist Cantian, thereby proudly depicting an outstanding technical achievement of his day. And yet at the same time Hummel is parodying the age of the Industrial Revolution he admired so much, showing Cantian representing industry and an uhlan cavalryman representing the state — small and distorted, upside down on the underside of the dish — while the rest of the populace of Berlin are literally standing on their heads, from petit-bourgeois to grand lady in a poke bonnet.

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