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Gustav Reinhold

(1798 Gera – 1849 Königssee near Berchtesgaden)

A Monk Watching a Procession of Knights on Horseback Setting Out for the Crusade. Watercolour. 19 x 13 cm. Signed and dated: “Gustav Reinhold 1835”.

Gustav Reinhold, a painter who hailed from Gera in Thuringia, formed an artistic trio together with his older and better known brothers, Friedrich Philipp (1779–1840) and Heinrich (1788– 1825). Having initially trained as a craftsman, he moved in 1820 to Vienna, where under the auspices of his brother Friedrich he devoted himself to painting and attended the Academy from 1824 to 1827. Like his brother, who belonged to the group around Overbeck, Sutter, Wintergerst and Ferdinand Olivier and subscribed to the artistic ideals of the Nazarenes, Gustav’s painting was deeply imbued with the spirit of Romanticism. In 1835 he settled permanently in Berchtesgaden. Fascinated by the sublime natural panorama of the region, he undertook journeys with his fellow-painter Friedrich Gauermann through the Salzkammergut, Tyrol and Northern Italy between 1836 and 1843. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the youngest of the Reinhold brothers should have worked primarily as a landscape artist.

In the present instance, however, he is the author of an intimate genre scene with religious overtones. Its painstaking miniaturist treatment conveys a vivid impression of Gustav’s Romantic attitude and provides an eloquent testimony of German Romanticism’s idealized longing for the Middle Ages, a period regarded as a golden era of religious sincerity. From the window of his study room an old, bearded monk in a black habit watches a procession of crusaders on horseback setting out for a port on the horizon where two sailing ships are ready to depart. The austerity of the sparse Gothic monastic cell provides an effective scenic contrast with the sunny southern landscape. The artist has rendered the cracks in the masonry and floor as well as the Gothic ornamental elements with meticulous attention to detail, depicting individual attributes such as the stool, the desk and the folios lying on it in an evocative manner. The warm crimson of the tablecloth and the sonorous black hues of the habit and stool combine to form a subtle colour harmony with the finely graduated grey and brown tones of the masonry. While the monastic cell radiates silence and devotion, the figure of the monk, whose gaze is turned away from the beholder, provides a link with the outside world in which young warriors are fearlessly riding off to defend Christianity. 

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