Description & Technical information

This large present sheet is an unused study for the prominent figure of a paver in the foreground of Menzel’s large painting of The Piazza d’Erbe in Verona (also known as The Marketplace in Verona), painted between 1882 and 1884 and today in the Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister in Dresden. One of Menzel’s last significant works as a painter, The Piazza d’Erbe in Verona measures over a metre in length, and depicts a marketplace crowded with figures in the centre of the city of Verona. Menzel made brief visits to Northern Italy in the summers of 1881, 1882 and 1883, spending some time in Verona on each trip, and the painting was begun after the second of these visits. When the finished painting was exhibited at the Verein Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists) in 1884, it was shown alongside a large number of preparatory drawings for the composition. About twenty-five individual drawings for the painting are known, together with several studies in two sketchbooks. 

Menzel drew numerous studies for the three pavers in the foreground of the large painting, many of which remained unused. Most of these drawings were based on initial studies in a sketchbook used during the artist’s trip to Verona in 1881. It has been suggested that, for figures of the pavers, Menzel may have been influenced by Gustave Courbet’s 1849 Realist masterpiece The Stone Breakers; a massive painting, destroyed during the Second World War, which he may have seen on one of his visits to Paris.

Other drawings by Menzel for the group of pavers in the foreground of The Piazza d’Erbe in Verona are in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, the Kunstmuseum in Bern, the Kupferstich-Kabinett in Dresden, the Städtische Wessenberg-Galerie in Konstanz and a handful of private collections.

The first owner of the present sheet was the Prussian businessman and collector Gustav Henneberg (1847-1918), who settled in Zurich and there established the Seidenfirma Henneberg company. He assembled an impressive art collection, which included numerous drawings by Menzel, and which he displayed in his lavish house, known as the Galerie Henneberg, on the Alpen-Quai in Zurich. In October 1903 Henneberg sold over a hundred drawings by Menzel from his collection, including the present sheet, at auction in Munich.

Date:  1882
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  Germany
Medium: Carpenter’s pencil, With stumping
Signature: Signed with initials and dated A. M./ 82 at the lower right.

Dimensions: 22.6 x 30.3 cm (8⁷/₈ x 11⁷/₈ inches)
Provenance: An unidentified collector’s mark (not in Lugt) stamped in green ink twice on the verso
Gustav Henneberg, Zurich
His sale, Munich, Galerie Hugo Helbing, 27 October 1903, lot 42 (‘Rückenansicht einer Arbeiters. Nur der Rücken mit dem Ansatz der Hose ist dargestellt. Der Arbeiter scheint ein Pflasterer zu sein – eine seltene Faltenwurfstudie – jeder Schatten wie jede Lichtstelle ist genau beobachtet. Armansätze sind angegeben. R. u. signiert: A.M. H. 21 1/2, B. 30 cm.’)
Herman Shickman Gallery, New York
Purchased from him in c.1972 by Joseph Goldyne, San Francisco and Sonoma
Private collection.

Literature: Heidi Ebertshaüser, Adolph von Menzel: Das graphische werk, Munich, 1976, Vol.II, p.1202; Petra Kuhlmann-Hodick and Tobias Burg, ed., Menzel in Dresden, exhibition catalogue, Dresden, 2005-2006, pp.240-241, no.258.
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints