Count Alexander von der Mark, an illegitimate son of Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, died before he had reached maturity. His tombstone, of architectural dimensions, is layered vertically to create depth and tiered horizontally in a series of zones situated one above the other, all centering on the life-size figure of the sleeping youth. He has taken off his helmet and his sword is slipping from his hand. In keeping with the ideals of Lessing and Herder he is shown both at ease and at rest. A corner of the draperies leads the viewer’s gaze down to a relief on the front side of the sarcophagus which shows Saturn wresting the youth from Minerva’s hands and taking him off into the underworld. Meanwhile Minerva, the goddess of knowledge and of the skills of war, is trying to lure him back and send him instead towards a military future, symbolized in the shield and battle trophies. At either end, on the narrow sides of the sarcophagus, are the figures of Sleep and of Death, linking together short-lived and eternal sleep, life and death. Up above, in a shallow, semi-circular niche are the Three Fates, the goddesses who determine human destiny: the youthful Clotho spins the thread of life, the aged Atropos cuts it off — despite Clotho’s attempts to prevent this — and Lachesis reads in the Book of Destiny. Thus human life and death alike are bound up in a higher order of fate which no individual can ever escape.


  • Title: Tombstone for Count Alexander von der Mark
  • Creator: Johann Gottfried Schadow
  • Date Created: 1788 - 1790
  • Physical Dimensions: w370.0 x h623.0 x d277.0 cm
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Technique and material: Marble
  • 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 / Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Andres Kilger
  • Collection: Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist biography: Johann Gottfried Schadow is known as the most important German Neoclassicist sculptor. Due to his humble beginnings, he started his apprenticeship with Tassaert, a rather mediocre sculptor. For three years he studied in Rome where he markedly found his style. In 1788 he returned to Berlin and succeeded his master as sculptor to the court. Schadow created a variety of church monuments and memorial works but also worked as a porcelain painter at the royal porcelain factory. In 1795 he moulded the quadriga of the Brandenburg Gate and the allegorical frieze on the facade of the royal mint in Berlin. Schadow was appointed as director of the Berlin Academy and had great influence on Prussian arts, for instance, through his writings on the proportions of the human figure or on national physiognomy. Schadow’s art was distinctly Neoclassicist and naturalistic in character but his work also displayed a Romantic element. Busts of Frederick the Great in Stettin (Szczecin), Blücher in Rostock and Luther in Wittenberg are some of his most prominent works.
  • Artist Place of Death: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Place of Birth: Berlin, Germany
  • Artist Dates: 1764-05-20/1850-01-27

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