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In its dimensions, The Cross in the Mountains is one of the largest drawings in Caspar David Friedrich’s oeuvre. The work was put on public display for the first time at the Dresden Academy exhibition, resulting in a commission from the Duke and Duchess of Thun-Hohenstein, who asked for the picture to be reworked as an oil painting and displayed in their private chapel at Schloss Tetschen.Any interpretation that seeks to understand the work in the light of the Romantic imagination’s engagement with Protestantism should focus upon the significance of the massive rock, the rotation of the cross within the space of the picture, and the diaphanous quality of the light. Thus in the use of imagery, sunlight (symbolizing knowledge of God) cannot be seen by the observer directly but is only experienced – through unshakeable faith (the rock), via light’s reflection in nature (here seen against the spherical surfaces of the vaulted banks of cloud), and concentrated in the countenance of Jesus on the cross.Symbolism such as this allows us to partake in a mediated experience of God, which from the artist’s perspective can be greatly intensified by reflecting upon the picture’s artistic arrangement and aesthetic effect upon the observer.

Details

  • Title: The Cross in the Mountains
  • Creator: Caspar David Friedrich
  • Date: 1803/04 - 1804
  • Physical Dimensions: w92 x h64 cm
  • Type: Drawing
  • Medium: Brush with sepia ink over pencil on paper
  • Inv.-No.: SZ CD.Friedrich 21
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-018511
  • External Link: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyright: Photo © bpk - Photo Agency / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Reinhard Saczewski │ Text © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Hein-Th. Schulze Altcappenberg
  • Collection: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Artist Gender: Male
  • Artist Dates: 05.09.1774 - 07.05.1840

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