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The Wounded Philoctetes

Nicolai Abildgaard1775

SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst

SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst

From 1772 Abildgaard spent five years in Rome thanks to a scholarship granted by the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. It was while in Rome that he created this depiction of the legendary hero Philoctetes, whose screams of pain caused by a festering snakebite made his comrades-in-arms abandon him on a Greek island during the Trojan war.

Challenging neoclassicism

The dominant and deeply rooted movement within figure painting at this time was neoclassicism with its emphasis on self-command and calm. Abildgaard challenges this pattern with his depiction of a body convulsively curved around an axis of pain; a body that feels like it is forcefully restrained within the picture field with its tense musculature and twisted limbs.

Avantgarde, pathos and Weltschmerz

The 1770s brought with them an increased emphasis on grand passions among the Northern European ”avant-garde”, and this new outlook also left its mark on Abildgaard’s circles in Rome. The interest in pathos and Weltschmerz is clearly evident in his works from this era.

In this case he used a principal work of classical sculpture as the basis for his rendition of Philoctetes’ tormented state: The Torso Belvedere in the Vatican museum served as the model for the plastic and mannered rendition of the hero’s upper body. With this move, Abildgaard’s stylistic innovation was imbued with features of a work canonised by neoclassicism – without, however, reducing the tensions in the painting.

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Details

  • Title: The Wounded Philoctetes
  • Creator: Nicolai Abildgaard
  • Date Created: 1775
  • Værktekst: Fra 1772 opholdt Abildgaard sig fem år i Rom på et stipendium, han havde fået af Kunstakademiet i København. Her udførte han fremstillingen af sagnhelten Filoktet, som på grund af sine smerteskrig over et stinkende sår efter et slangebid blev efterladt af sine våbenfæller på en græsk ø under den trojanske krig. Udfordring af nyklassicismen Den dominerende og knæsatte strømning i periodens figurmaleri var nyklassicismen med dens betoning af selvbeherskelse og ro. Abildgaard udfordrer her dette mønster med sin fremstilling af en krop, som er krampagtigt krumbøjet over sin egen smerteakse, og som med anspændt muskulatur og forvredne lemmer synes klemt sammen inden for billedfeltets afgrænsning. Avantgarde, patos og Weltschmerz Med 1770’erne kom der forstærket vægt på de store lidenskaber i den nordeuropæiske "avantgarde", og denne nyorientering satte sig spor i Abildgaards miljø i Rom. Interessen for patos og Weltschmerz ses tydeligt i hans værker fra denne tid. I dette tilfælde har han brugt et antikt hovedværk som forbillede for sin formidling af Filoktets tilstand: Den Belvederiske Torso i Vatikanmuseet har været forlæg for den plastiske og manierede fremstilling af sagnheltens overkrop, og dermed forlenes Abildgaards stilistiske nybrud med træk fra et værk, som nyklassicismen havde kanoniseret – uden at spændingerne i maleriet derved mindskes.
  • Teknik: Olie på lærred
  • Proveniens: Køb 1849
  • Provenance: Acquired 1849
  • Physical Dimensions: w175.5 x h123 cm (Without frame)
  • Dansk link: http://www.smk.dk/index.php?id=2660
  • Dansk Titel: Den sårede Filoktet
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Statens Museum for Kunst, http://www.smk.dk/en/copyright/creative-commons/
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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