- Museum number
Object: The woman with the spider's web between bare trunks
A woman, her right hand raised to her forehead, gazing into the distance is seated between two tree trunks and surrounded by lush foliage; behind her, a spider's web. 1803
Woodcut on laid paper
- Production date
Height: 171 millimetres
Width: 119 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Antony Griffiths and Frances Carey, exhib.cat., BM, London, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe', 1994, no.133:
'Around 1803 Friedrich made a number of drawings which his brother Christian, a furniture maker by trade, cut onto woodblocks. Three of them - this print, 'The woman with a raven', and the 'Boy sleeping on a grave' - are all virtually the same width, and the blocks have passed together into the collection of the Kunsthalle in Hamburg. Börsch-Supan has made the reasonable suggestion that all three were intended to illustrate some text, perhaps a volume of the poems that Friedrich is known to have been writing in these years. The fourth woodcut, a self-portrait seen in profile, may have been intended as a frontispiece.
The three prints have their origins in the Mannheim Sketchbook, now dismembered but so-called after the fact that some of the eleven surviving sheets are now in the Kunsthalle in Mannheim. The source for this woodcut is a page that is now in Dresden, drawn in pen and grey wash, and dated 5 October 1801 (Börsch-Supan 51). It shows a woman seated by a tree trunk in the same pose as in the print, though in reverse. But there are no spider's web, thistles or other dense foliage, all significant new elements which were added in the print.
All three prints were exhibited in Dresden in March 1804. There is no contemporary explanation of their symbolism. This print is frequently called 'Melancholy', and is related to other compositions by Friedrich showing scenes of mourning (see Koerner pp.87-90). The woman looks at the setting sun, amid flowers that allude to the brevity of human life and a thistle that shows its sorrow. The spider's web suggests that art too is ephemeral.'
A woodcut portrait of Caspar David Friedrich from a block equally cut by his brother, Christian, was exhibited at the British Museum in 2011/12, see G. Bartrum (ed.), exhib.cat., BM, London, 'German Romantic prints and drawings from an English private collection`, 2011, pp.66-7, no.12.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994/5 Sep-Jan, BM, German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe, no. 133
1995 Jan-Mar, Lancaster, Peter Scott Gall, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Mar-May, Edinburgh, NG Scotland, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 May-Jun, Newcastle, Northumbria Univ, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Jul-Aug, Plymouth City Mus & AG, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Sep-Oct, York City AG, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
1995 Nov-Dec, Nottingham, Djanogly AG, German Printmaking Age/Goethe
2002/3 Dec-Mar, BM, Albrecht Dürer and his Legacy, no. 258
2008 Jun-Aug, Gateshead, Shipley Art Gallery, Before Depression
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number