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Friedrich Olivier

(1791–1859, Dessau)

Daniel’s Prayer. Pen and point of brush and dark brown ink, brown wash, white heightening, on greyish-green paper, Daniel’s nimbus in gold. 15.8 x 26.4 cm. “Dan. 6.11.” inscribed at the bottom right. Circa 1813–16.

In the past this magnificent drawing was thought to be connected with the designs for Friedrich Olivier’s illustrated bible, which was first published in 1834. Stephan Seeliger, however, has correctly assigned it to the artist’s early Viennese years. In stylistic terms, the work is strikingly similar to Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s point-of-brush drawing Scene in Prison (Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, inv. no. NI. 965) of 1813 and his Jesus and the Sleeping Disciples on the Mount of Olives (Kupferstich-Kabinett Dresden, inv. no. C-1908-497) of 1816.

The drawing is executed in an extremely careful, concentrated manner and in its linearity and formal reduction is reminiscent of the drawing style of Italian predecessors of the Quattrocento; the use of coloured paper is also a reference to Venetian prototypes. The different poses and emotions of the individual protagonists are rendered with great subtlety. Olivier uses very simple means to achieve the maximum atmospheric and dramatic effect. The nocturnal scene, observed with great intensity of feeling, radiates a magic all its own. Immersed in prayer, Daniel looks heavenwards with a fervent, almost pleading gaze, while envious lookers-on creep unnoticed into the room. The gold-highlighted aureole around Daniel’s head glowing effectively in the darkness is evidence of the drawing’s tremendous sophistication. The present sheet is indubitably a precious jewel of early Romantic German draughtsmanship. According to the old inscription on the verso from the estate of Prof. Schuchardt, Weimar; collection of Heinrich Friedrich Haendcke (1824–1895), Radebeul (Lugt 1228 a).

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