- Museum number
- Object: Die Carmagnole
Figures dancing and singing around a guillotine in a narrow German street with tall half-timbered houses behind; a boy on the left bangs a drum near a stream of blood in the central gutter of the cobbles; before mid-March 1901. 1901
Etching, drypoint and aquatint with brush etching and sandpaper, printed on copperplate paper
- Production date
Height: 580 millimetres
Width: 405 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Kollwitz's inspiration for the scene is said to have been Charles Dickens' 1859 novel 'A Tale of Two Cities' which is set in London and Paris during the French Revolution (1789-1792), and in particular the scene in Book III, chapter 5 where the heroine, Lucie Manette, encounters a wild crowd of Parisians including a woman known as The Vengeance:
'presently she heard a troubled movement and a shouting coming along, which filled her with fear. A moment afterwards, and a throng of people came pouring round the corner by the prison wall, in the midst of whom was the wood-sawyer hand-in-hand with The Vengeance. There could not be fewer than five hundred people, and they were dancing like five thousand demons. There was no other music than their own singing. They danced to the popular Revolution song, keeping a ferocious time that was like a gnashing of teeth in unison. Men and women danced together, women danced together, men danced together, as hazard had brought them together. At first, they were a mere storm of coarse red caps and coarse woollen rags; but, as they filled the place, and stopped to dance about Lucie, some ghastly apparition of a dance-figure gone raving mad arose among them. They advanced, retreated, struck at one another's hands, clutched at one another's heads, spun round alone, caught one another and spun round in pairs, until many of them dropped. While those were down, the rest linked hand-in-hand, and all spun round together: then the ring broke, and in separate rings of two and four they turned and turned until they all stopped at once, began again, struck, clutched, and tore, and then reversed the spin, and all spun round another way. Suddenly they stopped again, paused, struck out the time afresh, formed into lines the width of the public way, and, with their heads low down and their hands high up, swooped screaming off. No fight could have been half so terrible as this dance. It was so emphatically a fallen sport - a something, once innocent, delivered over to all devilry - a healthy pastime changed into a means of angering the blood, bewildering the senses, and steeling the heart. Such grace as was visible in it, made it the uglier, showing how warped and perverted all things good by nature were become. The maidenly bosom bared to this, the pretty almost-child's head thus distracted, the delicate foot mincing in this slough of blood and dirt, were types of the disjointed time.This was the Carmagnole'
'La Carmagnole' was a popular song and wild dance thought to have originated during the French revolution and much reprised during the nineteeenth-century on the occasion of republican victories. The name referred to a short jacket worn by the working-class 'sans- culottes' revolutionaries and was originally adapted from costume worn in the Piedmont village of Carmagnola. Kollwitz, who reported in a letter to Max Lehrs of 16 March 1901that she had finished work on the plate, has given the dance a contemporary feel and moved the action to her homeland by setting it in a dark 'Gasse' with tall and rickety half-timbered buildings reminiscent of the Gängeviertel area in Hamburg and the Speicherviertel in her hometown of Königsberg (now known as Kaliningrad).
This impression is from the fifth state of the edition of 1901 printed by Felsing in Berlin. In 1917, Kollwitz sold the plate (with three others, see Knesebeck, I, p.34) to the publisher Seemann who issued an unsigned edition printed by L. Angerer in Berlin in 1917 (Knesebeck states VI to IX).
Additional lit.: F. Carey and M. Egremont, 'Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz' (Birmingham, Ikon, 2017), cat. 12.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017 13 Sep-26 Nov, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2017-2018 15 Dec-11 Mar, Young Gallery, Salisbury, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2018 24 Mar-17 Jun, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2018 30 Jun-30 Sep, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
2019-20, 2 September-12 January, London, BM, G90, Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired by Galerie St Etienne at auction in Germany in 2011. The previous owner acquired the print in 1979 from the Sheldon Ross Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number