Description & Technical information

This drawing is likely to be a study for a figure intended, but never used, for Adolph Menzel’s large painting of The Piazza d’Erbe in Verona (also known as The Marketplace in Verona), in the Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister in Dresden. Painted between 1882 and 1884, the canvas depicts a marketplace crowded with figures in a market square in the centre of the Italian 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.

The composition of the painting includes, to the left of centre, the prominent figures of two bird traders, one of whom holds a pole to which is attached a flying bird, while the other, also equipped with a bird on a pole, can be seen climbing up the side of a white market umbrella in order to prod his resting bird into flight. The figure depicted in the present sheet is likely to have been related to these bird traders. Although he does not appear in the final work, at least one other drawing of what appears to be the same man is known, in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, while his distinctive hat seems to have been used for the man seated in a horse-drawn cart at the right side of the painting.

As one modern writer has noted of the painting, ‘the laborers, vendors, shoppers, beggars, and children that populate this canvas come across as picturesque and often bizarre “characters” – typical specimens of the frequenters of the market at the Piazza d’Erbe – which is to say that they seem to have been viewed and portrayed by a perhaps not unsympathetic but fundamentally detached observer.’ Other studies of birdsellers in Verona appear in a sketchbook of 1881-1882, now in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin.

The present sheet was included in the 1965 Arts Council travelling exhibition 'Drawings and Watercolours by Adolph Menzel', to which it was lent by the German art dealer Wilhelm Weick.

Date:  1883
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century
Origin:  Germany
Medium: With stumping, Carpenter’s pencil'
Signature: Signed with initials and dated AM. / 83 at the lower right.

Dimensions: 21.2 x 12.2 cm (8³/₈ x 4³/₄ inches)
Provenance: Wilhelm Weick, Berlin, by 1965
Anonymous sale, Munich, Ketterer Kunst, 29 October 2010, lot 1213
Anonymous sale, Zurich, Koller Auktionen, 1 April 2011
Anonymous sale, Berlin, Villa Grisebach, 30 May 2012, lot 142
Private collection.

Exhibitions: London, The Arts Council Gallery, and elsewhere, Drawings and watercolours by Adolph Menzel, 1965, no.78 (as Old Labourer).

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints