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The Heads of the Seven Main Heroes of the Iliad. Etching. 25.8 x 46 cm. Circa 1796. Andresen 25, Griffiths/Carey, German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, London 1994, p. 135, no. 85.
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This impressive depiction of Homeric heroes can rightly be described as a monument of German Classicism in the age of Goethe. Tischbein uses a concentrated and forceful etching technique to create a very powerful and realistic characterisation of the main protagonists in the Iliad. Pictured from left to right are Menelaus, Paris, Diomedes, Ulysses, Nestor, Achilles and Agamemnon. In his portrayal Tischbein drew on prototypes of ancient sculpture while providing them with a character of their own. The artist has sublimated the expressive power of the ancient models and given them greater individuality. At the same time the vivid and strikingly portrayed character heads reveal Tischbein’s interest in physiognomic studies. The tight sequence of heads in profile gives the portrait gallery a tremendous presence. Only Menelaus and Agamemnon, at either end of the row, are shown in three-quarter view, thus loosening up the composition and making it livelier.
The depiction served as an illustration for the work Homer nach Antiken gezeichnet, which Tischbein had begun in Naples and was published by Dieterich in Göttingen in 1801. A superb, contrasting impression with large margins. Minor foxing, otherwise in excellent condition.