Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Ludwig von Schwanthaler

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
Ludwig von Schwanthaler

by Gerhard Gietmann


Founder of the modern Romantic school of sculpture, b. at Munich in 180 2; d there, 1848. He received a thorough classical education but even as a boy was fond of modelling in wax; then, led by patrtotism, he took to the painting of battle scenes and with Pocei he drew up the scheme of a procession of romantic knights proceeding to a tournament. King Maximilian I commissioned him to design mythological reliefs for an epergne, which was never wholly carried out and was later melted down. A few wax models that have been preserved are very fine. Schwanthaler made a great many reliefs, taken from the stories of the Greek gods and heroes, for the salons of the Glyptothek at Munich. Before they were actually executed he visited Thorwaldsen at Rome. At a later date he spent a considerable length of time at Rome, where he was honored by a large number of commissions from King Louis I of Bavaria. He prepared the models of the twenty-five statues of artists of the Pinakothek and made the drawings for the Greek poets intended for the new palace. He modelled a "Triumphal Procession of Bacchus" on a frieze 143 feet long for the palace of Duke Maximilian. This was followed by the large reliefs at Ratisbon for the princes of Thurn and Taxis. He carried out in a free manner one of Rauch's designs, the victorious "Germania", on one of the pediments of the Walhalla near Ratisbon. A design of his own, the "Battle of Arminius," is executed on the other pediment.

Entirely his own composition also is the "Bavaria" as protectress of the arts on the pediment of the exhibition hall. The colossal statue of Bavaria, 62 feet high, above the Hall of Fame at Munich greatly added to his reputation. He constantly received commissions both from near and far for monuments in honor of rulers, generals, and artists. The impatience of those who gave him commissions, especially the insistence on haste of King Louis and of the architect Klenze, led Schwanthaler into the error of overproduction and perfunctoriness. On the other hand he exhibited an astonishing inventive faculty which seemed never to repeat itself, which showed freshness and animation in the presentation, and a grasp of monumental size and classic beauty in the general conception of works that usually were arranged in cycles. It must be acknowledged that the execution of the details was frequently faulty. He exhibited great skill in the treatment of medieval and modern dress. Contrary to his natural inclination he was constantly obliged to treat antique subjects, but he brought to his task a classically-trained mind and taste.

LUBKE, Gesch. der Plastik (Leipzig, 1871) II, a carefully-considered judgment; PECHT, Gesch. der Munchener Kunst (Munich, 1888); VON REBER, Gesch der neueren Kunst, II (1864).

G. GIETMANN