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Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder

(1759 Berlin – 1835 Dessau)

Satyr on Horseback, Abducting a Nymph. Etching. 35.4 x 28.9 cm. Martens 173 III.

The wonderful countryside around Dessau with its ancient oak forests and marshlands full of lush vegetation along the rivers Elbe and Mulde was a source of inspiration to the etcher and draughtsman Carl Wihelm Kolbe in the creation of his Arcadian compositions. After teaching for many years at the famous Philanthropinum in Dessau, Kolbe decided to go to Berlin and pursue a career as an artist at the local Academy. At the request of Leopold III Kolbe returned in 1795 to Dessau, where he was appointed court engraver in 1798. Shortly afterwards he produced this early etching, which shows a naked satyr armed with a spear abducting a nymph on a galloping horse. Part of a series entitled Blaetter grösstentheils Landschaftlichen Inhalts published in 1795–96 it radiates an atmosphere that is positively Dionysian. Kolbe has rendered the abduction of the nymph with considerable panache and the natural surroundings are also portrayed in a state of feverish upheaval. The crown of the mighty oak on the right, exposed to the forces of nature, bends to the wind, just as the nymph must bow to the powerful physical desire of the satyr. Kolbe‘s highly original inventions are in a quite different class to the idealized classical landscapes of such contemporaries as Johann Christian Reinhart and Josef Anton Koch. Kolbe developed a very personal Arcadian concept of landscape that is imbued with great spirituality and a magic all of its own. A brilliant, rich impression with narrow margins around the inky and distinct platemark. Minor traces of handling in the margins, otherwise in excellent, pristine condition.

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