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WILHELM REUTER
(1768 Hildesheim – 1834 Berlin)

Hero and Leander. Pen lithograph after Ulrich Ludwig Friedrich Wolf, on wove paper. 38.2 x 31.6 cm (image), 53 x 42.8 cm (sheet size). 1818. Winkler 934, 4 I (of IVb); Dussler (Wolf) 3. Watermark: “I. C de R. IM-HOF; GR. MED.”

The painter and lithographer, Wilhelm Reuter, was active from 1790 in Berlin, where he was appointed royal court painter in 1798. In Paris he took a keen interest in the still relatively new printing technique of lithography and from 1804 published the series entitled Polyautographische Zeichnungen der vorzüglichsten Europäischen Künstler (cf. Winkler 968), which is regarded as the most significant early lithographic work in Germany. The print on offer here with the depiction of Hero and Leander was originally intended as the first print for the planned second volume in the series.

The composition is based on a design by the Berlin painter, draughtsman and engraver, Ludwig Wolf (1776–1832, Berlin), who studied at the Berlin Academy, where he enjoyed the patron­age, among others, of Asmus Jacob Carstens. His works were regularly displayed at the Berlin Academy exhibitions. Wolf’s chosen medium, pen on marble, is highly unusual and testifies to the artist’s penchant for experimentation, which is charac­ter­istic of the early years of lithography. Wolff presents the dramatic moment suprême in the fated history of Hero and Leander with distinct narrative pathos, the influence of the ballad written by Friedrich Schiller in 1801 being readily apparent here. The priestess Hero is stricken by despair as she discovers her dead lover, whose corpse has been washed ashore on the coast of the Hellespont. The grieving little Amor with his broken bow symbolises the fateful end of the couple’s love.

This imposing, highly expressive print is on offer here in the very rare first state with letters and an olive-brown tone plate on white paper. A superb, contrasting impression with the full margins. In impeccable condition.