Medieval revival

Medieval revival

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Title: Medieval town by a river.

Author : SCHINKEL Karl Friedrich (1781 - 1841)

Creation date : 1815

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 95 - Width 146

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage location: Alte Nationalgalerie website

Contact copyright: © BPK, Berlin, Dist RMN-Grand Palais - Jörg P. Anders

Picture reference: 04-507199 / NG 1968

Medieval town by a river.

© BPK, Berlin, Dist RMN-Grand Palais - Jörg P. Anders

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

National consciousness and anti-Napoleonic wars

In a Germany devoid of political unity but united in its desire to escape Napoleonic domination, the Battle of Leipzig (October 18, 1813) marks the culmination of what German historiography calls the wars of liberation ("Befreiungskriege ") Anti-Napoleonic. For a few months, German military, political, literary and intellectual circles formed a tacit alliance, sealed by a patriotic fever in which the awakening of "national feeling" was commonly diagnosed. A phenomenon unprecedented in its magnitude, a mixture of religious, artistic and political devotion, the patriotism of these years was based on a few great idealized motives: the German language, the origin of which a whole generation tried to grasp (which we think of the collections of popular tales of the Brothers Grimm, published in 1812 and 1815); medieval art (or Gothic style), which establishes itself as a privileged place for identity and political projections.

Image Analysis

After the turmoil

In a fictional landscape, under a dark stormy sky, rises, luminous and proud, the western facade of a Gothic cathedral. We think of Strasbourg, Reims or Cologne. The left tower is not completed. It is surmounted by scaffolding, on which flies a white flag adorned with the imperial eagle. The storm seems to have passed for a few moments, the clouds let appear here and there the blue of the sky. On the left, halfway up the painting, stands a fortified castle. Below on the right, a medieval town where a stream spanned by a bridge winds bathes in new light. In this landscape that a rainbow crosses right through, Schinkel stages the return of a prince and his army. The people rush to cheer the victorious ruler and his retinue - a barely hidden allusion to the return of Frederick William III of Prussia after the anti-Napoleonic wars.


Gothic and political revival

In 1815, the staging of a Gothic cathedral was not without political implications. "It's German architecture, it's our architecture," Goethe said of Strasbourg Cathedral as early as 1772, thus helping to establish the thesis (since rejected) of a Germanic specificity of the Gothic style. It was also during the anti-Napoleonic wars that the patriotic and national project was born across the Rhine to complete the construction of Cologne Cathedral, interrupted around 1510, a project closely linked to the memory of the imperial cities in the Holy Roman Empire and to aspirations. to the unity of the German nation at the beginning of the 19th century. With Schinkel, and this is less paradoxical than it seems, the patriotic dimension of this recourse to forms and contents borrowed from the medieval world finds a complementary expression in the evocation of ancient Greece. Her Medieval town by a river was conceived in 1815 as a pendant to a painting entitled Greek town by the sea : ancient Greece and the medieval city understood as two ideals of political and social organization.

  • Germany
  • Decorative Art
  • Franco-German special issue
  • furniture
  • campaign
  • cathedral
  • Gothic
  • national story
  • patriotism
  • patrimony
  • Middle Ages
  • propaganda


Helmut BÖRSCH-SUPAN,Bild-Erfindungen. Karl Friedrich Schinkel Lebenswerk, t. XX, Munich-Berlin, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2007 Carl Gustav CARUS,Landscape painting in romantic Germany, Editions Klincksieck, Paris, 2003. Pierre WAT,Birth of Romantic Art: Painting and Theory of Imitation, Flammarion, Paris, 1998.

To cite this article

Bénédicte SAVOY, "Medieval revival"

Video: Science in the Dark Ages. Medieval Science History part 1.


  1. Arasar

    It is true! Great idea, I agree with you.

  2. Kigaran

    A good post, after reading a couple of books on the topic, still did not look from the outside, but the post somehow hurt.

  3. Janyd

    Totally agree with her. The idea of ??a good, I agree with you.

  4. Mur

    It is a pity that I cannot speak now - there is no free time. But I will return - I will definitely write what I think on this issue.

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