Caspar David Friedrich, The woman with the spider's web, a woodcut


British Museum

British Museum

This print is related to other compositions by Friedrich (1774-1840) showing scenes of mourning. It is taken from a number of drawings by Friedrich that were cut onto blocks by his brother Christian, who was a furniture maker by trade. In a letter to his brother of 2 April 1816, Caspar recommends that his brother should study Dürer's woodcuts as a model from which to work, and mentions somewhere else that Dürer was one of the great artists who had undertaken a craftsman's apprenticeship.

This print is often called Melancholy: its connection with Dürer's Melancholia is essentially one of mood. There is a similarity of pose and a suggestion of the passage of time in each: the setting sun in the background of Dürer's print is indicated by the fall of light across the woman's face in Friedrich's work, although her lament seems to relate more specifically to the brevity of life and its ephemeral nature, suggested by the flowers and the spider's web, than the woman in Dürer's print, whose inertia and numerous attributes indicate the more complex iconography that was so typical of Dürer's art. The ease with which Friedrich could transform such well-known images into his own Romantic idiom emphasizes the total familiarity that he had with Dürer's work.

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  • Title: Caspar David Friedrich, The woman with the spider's web, a woodcut
  • Date Created: 1803/1803
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 171.00mm; Width: 119.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: woodcut
  • Registration number: 1981,0725.2
  • Producer: Print made by Friedrich, Caspar David. Block cut by Friedrich, Christian
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased through Karl & Faber. Purchased through C G Boerner


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