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“Mein Freund ist mein und ich bin sein, der unter Rosen sich weidet” [“I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feeds his flock among the lilies”]. Pencil drawing, brown wash and white heightening, on brownish paper, on the artist’s original mounting; decorative border and inscription in pen and brown ink. 22 x 23.6 cm. Monogrammed and dated: EB 1837. With a dedication in the artist’s own hand: “Für Frau Direktorin Schadow”.
The motto of this intimate, sensitively observed scene is taken from chapter six, verse three of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. In ancient times it was assumed that the author of this selection of tender, occasionally erotically tinged verses, which sing of the love between man and woman, was the biblical King Solomon. As the Christian tradition developed, the text came to acquire a pronounced religious connotation, the consequence of which was that the bridegroom was identified with Christ while the bride was regarded as the personification of the Church.
The author of the present work, Eduard Bendemann, made the drawing in 1837 immediately prior to his marriage to Lida Schadow, the daughter of the famous Berlin sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow, at the time of his first artistic successes. Bendemann belonged to a respected Jewish banker’s family and grew up in Berlin in a highly cultivated, art-loving environment. He turned to painting in 1826 and studied under his later brother-in-law, Wilhelm Schadow, whom he followed to the Düsseldorf Academy in 1827. Bendemann initially worked as a portrait painter and quickly came to be regarded as an important representative of the up-and-coming Düsseldorf School of painting.
From 1829 to 1831 the artist spent two years in Rome in the company of Schadow and other painters in his circle. Following his return he achieved considerable initial success with his biblical history paintings. Throughout his life Bendemann remained faithful to the genre of monumental historical painting.
The present early work with its very delicate draughtsmanship reveals a reverent, more sensitive aspect of Bendemann’s talent. It is clear from the inscription that the drawing was designed for a close member of the family, it being dedicated to Charlotte, née von Groschke, the wife of his teacher, Wilhelm Schadow. Its linear refinement is greatly influenced by the Nazarene ideal of art which had been conveyed to the artist by Schadow. The pair of lovers sat in a blossoming bower are dressed in mediaeval costume. The young man, whose gentle, finely carved face is inclined slightly downwards, wears a king’s crown and puts his arm around his bride in a loving, almost submissive gesture. Bendemann’s drawing technique is extremely concentrated, comprises varied linework and demonstrates great sensitivity. The subtle, delicate washes and the sparing use of white heightening enhance the aesthetic quality of this precious sheet. With light, accurate strokes of the pen the artist has added a decorative border on a separate sheet of mounting paper. This is unquestionably a true gem of German Romantic draughtsmanship. Verso with inscription in pencil: “Nachlaß W. Schadow”. Provenance: C. G. Boerner, Düsseldorf, 1960.