This visionary portrayal of a battle was one of Rottmann’s last works. It reproduces — although more succinctly and with greater symbolism — the Marathon fresco of 1848 (encaustic on stone, Neue Pinakothek, Munich). However, this work does not in any sense depict the historical event of the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. when the Greeks decisively defeated the Persians: it has become a battle between the elements, a struggle between light and darkness. Rottmann had already transposed the events onto a cosmic level in his studies, a charcoal sketch on card and a watercolour study from 1841, and the fresco also shows the battle as an elemental struggle. In the 1820s Germany had been swept by enthusiasm for Greek resistance to Turkish rule, which struck a chord in the German consciousness of the time. In 1832 Prince Otto of Bavaria was declared King of Greece and a series of frescos on Greek history was planned for the arcades in the Hofgarten in Munich. In 1834–35 Rottmann, in order to research this work, travelled to Greece, then impoverished despite its proud past. Just as that journey perhaps destroyed Rottmann’s vision of Greece, so the failed 1848 revolution destroyed the German dream of a just state. As a review from 1849 in the Kunstblatt shows, Rottmann’s contemporaries already saw this glowering “Marathon” picture by the ageing artist as a “political landscape.”


  • Title: The Battlefield at Marathon
  • Creator: Carl Rottmann
  • Date Created: 1849
  • Physical Dimensions: w90.5 x h91.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Technique and material: Oil on canvas
  • Inv.-No.: A I 209
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-815114
  • External link: Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Prestel Verlag / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Carl Rottmann was a German landscape painter. He took his first lessons from his father, a lecturer in drawing at Heidelberg University. In 1821 he went to Munich where he became one of the selected artists commissioned by Ludwig I of Bavaria to create landscape paintings for him. The king funded Rottmann’s journey to Italy in 1826/27 to broaden his artistic horizons. During his life he completed two major work-cycles, at the Munich Hofgarten and the Neue Pinakothek. He later became a teacher himself and his apprentices included Karl Lindemann-Frommel and Karl-Ludwig Seeger. His compositions are characterized by mythologizing and heroizing depictions of nature. Well known artworks by Rottmann include Athens – 'Acropolis and Olympieion' (1836) and 'Delos bei Sonnenaufgang' (1837).
  • Artist Place of Death: Munich, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Heidelberg, Germany
  • Artist Dates: 1797-01-11/1850-07-07

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