Spitzweg simply loved remote but sunlit corners of old cities like the one he chose here to provide us a snapshot. A man has come to present a young woman with a bouquet of flowers. He has dressed up, and wears a light frock coat and white gloves. He has just taken off his gray top hat to greet the young woman. The hair of his forehead is curled. In a slight bow he is standing at the foot of the steps to a city house of apartments and shops. The day's newspaper is in his back pocket. The beloved lady prettily dressed in blue, white and red has just left the house and walked through the arch of ivies to go and fetch water in two large pails at the St Florian fountain in the alley at left. She looks surprised by the young man's intent, has lowered her eyes and the gesture of her right hand seems to express indecisiveness. It both points at and wards off the beautiful bouquet in Biedermeier style, apparently made of everlasting strawflowers. But her cheeks are red, so she must be a little excited. The title of the painting, The Everlasting Bridegroom, seems to question the seriousness of the young man's proposal. The scene has an audience. It was really witnessed by the painter when he visited the city of Bern in Switzerland, and neighbors followed the meeting too. From one of the windows upstairs, glove maker Adele Schalusy, envious as her name suggests, looks down on the couple, and a floor below her there is yellow faced dressmaker Neiderl, also jealously watching the couple. Perhaps he too is interested in the beautiful young woman. At the well, two laundry women are stretching their necks to see what is happening. And Saint Florian who protects people from the danger of fire has his eyes on the two main characters of the comic scene, too—hopefully not to extinguish the fire of love?

When Spitzweg lived in Switzerland during the early 1840s, he worked intensively on this subject, painting it in different compositions until he finally settled with the composition shown here. He then repeated it several times. The painting today is as popular as it was then. It inspired Horst Wolfram Geißler (1893 — 1983) to write a book with the title "The Everlasting Bridegroom. A Spitzweg novel," that was published in 1917.


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