Artibus et Historiae no. 56 (XXVIII)

2007, ISSN 0391-9064

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JENS CHRISTIAN JENSEN - Replica or Copy — The "Cross by the Baltic Sea" as an Example in the Discussion of the Authorship of Paintings by C. D. Friedrich

In several cases there are variations of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings and for years there has been disagreement within the scholarly Friedrich-research about their status in his oeuvre and as to whether they are replicas executed by Friedrich himself or copies by other artists. In the first part of the study Jensen comes to the conclusion that throughout his entire life Friedrich was compelled to be concerned about his livelihood, especially after his marriage in 1818 and the birth of his two daughters and a son. The artist could not afford to decline a commission or a request to purchase even if it concerned replicas of existing pictures. On the basis of this fundamental problem the next section of the paper presents four known versions of "The Cross by the Baltic Sea" (see I—IV). In addition to this, there is a drawing in a Friedrich's letter to the painter Luise Seidler, dated 9 May 1815 (VI), and a gouache in private collection (VII). These works are contrasted with a version that came to light in an auction in Berlin in 1998 (V). Whenever possible, infrared-reflectograms respectively infrared-photos of the paintings have been published. In the conclusion Jensen states that the painting V is the one which C. D. Friedrich mentions in his letter to Madame Seidler on 9 May 1815. It was a private commission and the small format of version V corresponds with this fact. The larger versions — especially II — on which the artist may have collaborated partially, have the character of an epitaph, which V does not possess. The composition and the execution in version V are strikingly unique. Finally, the author again dwells on the question of possible copyists who probably executed the versions I—IV.

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