Caspar David Friedrich
Morning in the Riesengebirge

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on canvas, 108 x 170 cm
    • Schloß Charlottenburg, Berlin
    • 1810/11; . .

After settling in Dresden, the capital of the central German state of Saxony, Friedrich seldom left. Except for vacation trips along Germany's northern seacoast, he spent the rest of his life in the area of softly rising mountains, called the Riesengebirge.

In this picture, he has captured the first rays of the sun floating down on the undulating hills of eastern Saxony. Friedrich was an avid hiker and loved to climb to the top of these hills. As is true for many areas of Germany, the highest peaks of the Riesengebirge would usually be crowned with a cross, so this scene could be merely a landscape painted true to life.

But Friedrich was imbued with a deep religious mysticism. So his cross is exaggerated in height, and comes with a corpus (body), the figure of Jesus can be clearly seen. It would be most unusual for an outdoor mountain cross to be a crucifix (the proper term for a cross containing a corpus). So Friedrich demands from his viewers more than just contemplation of the scener. The landscape takes on a symbolic force, perhaps the dawn of redemption?

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