The following discussion is note 69 to the author’s Unwilling Moderns: The Nazarene Painters of the Nineteenth Century.

Decorated initial M

uch of the literature on these friendships emphasizes their alleged homoerotic character. See, for instance, Robert Tobin, Warm Brothers: Queer Theory and the Age of Goethe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000); and Joachim Pfeiffer, (link to another website). The language in which affection was expressed in correspondences and occasional poems is sometimes—especially in the circle of the poet Gleim—playfully based on the conventional language of love; in several important cases, however, such as Wackenroder and Tieck, there seems to be no ironical or artistic distance. The language of friendship borrows the language of (heterosexual) love because the sentiments are no less fervent.

Nevertheless, while homoeroticism may always be a factor in such intense relationships (how much is usually unverifiable), one is struck by the deep spiritual and sometimes overtly religious tone of the correspondences of the Nazarene artists with their closest friends. A strong Pietistic strain seems to run through the writing (and feeling) of Protestants and Catholic converts alike. This aspect is noted by Hans Dietrich, Die Freundschaftsliebe in der deutschen Literatur (Berlin: Verlag Rosa Winckel, 1996; orig. Leipzig, 1931), pp. 34–35; and by Hans Joachim Kreutzer, "Freundschaftsbünde-Künstlerfreunde,"  in Eva Badura-Skoda et al., eds., Schubert und seine Freunde (Vienna, Cologne, Weimar: Böhlau, 1999), pp. 59–74.

Italia and Germania. Johann Friedrich Overbeck. 1811-1828. Oil on canvas, 94.4 x 104.7 cm. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlung, Munich. Click on image to enlarge it.

In addition, the socio-political implications of the cult of friendship—thoroughly documented by Michael Kohlhäufl in his rich study, Poetisches Vaterland: Dichtung und politisches Denken im Freundeskreis Franz Schuberts (Kassel, Basel, London, New York, Prague: Bärenreiter, 1999)—should not be overlooked. Like the circle around Schubert, the Lukasbrüder and the Nazarenes were not unmoved by German "patriotism." For the Nazarenes, however, friendship was not a bond, in the antique—or Jacobin manner—among citizens whose equality was predicated on identity, but an association of private, autonomous individuals. The political model it implied was most plausibly not the ancient polis, but a moderate liberal society on a Christian foundation. The representation of friendship (as sisterly love) in the full-length double portrait of Princess Luise and Princess Friederike of Prussia (1795–1797)—one of the most celebrated of European neoclassical sculptures—by Johann Gottfried von Schadow, father of the Nazarene painter Wilhelm von Schadow, appears strikingly close in this respect to that of one of the best known works by the Nazarenes, Overbeck's Italia and Germania. See note 140.

[Return to Unwilling Moderns]

16 August 2016