Archive for the Brocken Category

Welcome to the Walpurgishalle, 1901

Posted in 00s, 10s, Brocken, chromolithograph, Postcard, SFW on 30 April 2011 by redwitch1

Here is something special for Walpurgisnacht. As I wrote here (five years ago!):

Walpurgisnacht is celebrated in Germany on 30 April (Beltane or May Eve). On this night witches are thought to fly to a plateau on Brocken Mountain deep in the Harz Mountains … The plateau is known as the Hexentanzplatz, the witches’ dancing place … it is here that Goethe set the witches’ sabbat in his Faust (1808, 1832). By the turn of the century a thriving tourist industry had prompted the publication of numerous witch-themed postcards.

You will find these postcards here, here, here and here. Later in 2006 I explained that, “By the 1920s, another tourist gimick was added: Brocken ‘money’ (Brocken or Thale Notgeld).” You will find images of Brocken money here and here.

[Walpurgishalle, 1901 (postcard no. 7)]

And now I can add the Walpurgis Hall (Walpurgishalle), which was built at the Hexentanzplatz by the Berlin architect Bernhard Sehring in old-Germanic style in 1901. Carved across the front of the building above the doorway to the Walpurgishalle is a frieze. The head of Wodan crowns the pediment, flanked by the Ravens Hudin and Munin (which symbolize his thoughts and memories) and the wolves and Gari Freki, who are his guards and agents.

[Walpurgishalle, 1910]

Today the Walpurgishalle is a museum. Hermann Hendrich (1854–1931) created five large paintings for the interior of the hall showing scenes from the Goethe’s Faust. These are

[1] Irrlichtertanz (Erring light dance) [postcard no. 3]
[2] Mammonshöhle (Mammon’s Cavern) [postcard no. 5]
[3] Hexentanz (witch dance) [postcard no. 6]
[4] Windsbraut (wind bride) [postcard no. 4]
[5] Gretchenerscheinung or Gretchentragödie (Tragedy of Gretchen) [postcard no. 3]

[Irrlichtertanz (postcard no. 2)]
[Gretchenerscheinung (postcard no. 3)]
[Windsbraut (postcard no. 4)]
[Mammonshöhle (postcard no. 5)]
[Hexentanz (postcard no. 6)]

Reproductions of these paintings were published in a book (which I don’t have) and a series of postcards (which were hugely popular, and which I do have). Three more images appear in the postcard series:

[6] “Hexenfahrt” (witch journey) [postcard no. 1]
[7] Walpurgishalle—Hexentanzplatz [postcard no. 7]
[8] “Sternenreigen” (star dance [lit. roundelay]) [postcard no. 8]

[Hexenfahrt (postcard no. 1)]
[Sternenreigen (postcard no. 8)]

For an insight into the paintings, which can be seen much more clearly in the photos by Raymond Faure. You will find a page of his excellent photos of the Walpurgishalle here. This panorama below might help orient you.

[Panorama of the interior of the Walpurgishalle]

Invisible Brocken Witches, ca. 1899

Posted in 19thC, Brocken, chromolithograph, Postcard on 24 July 2009 by redwitch1

Here is another German postcard celebrating the witches of Brocken Mountain, specifically the plateau known as the Hexentanzplatz [the witches’ dancing place]. Can you see the witches? If you are not a witch, then “Bitte gegen das Licht halten” [please hold against the light].

Now you should be able to see thirty figures in five groups. In the sky, at top-left is a goat with search-light eyes illuminating the way, followed by six witches on brooms and a devil and witch closely embraced. Immediately below the hotel (with windows nicely illuminated), and slightly to the left, is a couple, four single witches (one on a broom, another wearing a pointy hat), a cat and a dog. Immediately below them, and slightly to the right, are seven figures, two of whom are embracing, while one is on a broom. Immediately below this group, is a witch and a goat, to the left of whom is the final group: of three witches and a cat. So, we have: 24 witches (3 male), 1 devil, 2 goats, 2 cats and a dog, quite a crowd!

[detail of top-left]

The postcard is captioned “Gruss vom Hexentanzplatz” [Greetings from the witch’s dancing place], “Bitte gegen das Licht halten” and “‘Meteor’ D. R. G. M. 88690” at the top-right and “No. 200” at the bottom-left. “Meteor” was a Berlin publisher (i.e. Berlin, Internationaler Verlag “Meteor”), while D.R.G.M. stands for “Deutsches Reich Gebrauchsmuster” [German Reich Registered Design], so “88690” is a copyright number. I presume “No. 200” is a series number. This card has not been posted, but other cards with this copyright number are postmarked 1899 or 1900 (if you Google “88690” and “Meteor” you will find this epilepsy-inducing page of Hold-to-light postcards, among many others).

And, for the record, I justify including this fabulous card on the basis that at least some of our witches are attractive and a few are nude. Admittedly, most are misshapen lumps, but Venus herself is nearly mono-breasted in the Tannhäuser card published by Meteor (click on no. 16 here). So, clearly, the publisher did the best they could to depict twenty-one sexy witches, but the task was beyond them. I have another HTL (hold-to-light) Brocken postcard, with fewer—and sexier—witches, but I haven’t scanned it yet, so you will have to wait and see that invisible sexy witches are possible!

Departure of the Witches, 1878

Posted in 19thC, Brocken, Falero, Painting, PSFW on 21 March 2009 by redwitch1

Like his Muse of the Night (1880), Luis Ricardo Faléro’s “Departure of the Witches” is signed and dated but not titled: so it has a number of modern names. (Given the subject-matter it is no surprise that this painting is now known as the “Vision de Faust” or “Faust’s Vision,” though I prefer “Departure of the Witches” for obvious reasons.) It has also changed hands twice in recent years.

The painting was referred to in Master Painters of the World. Biography, Art Education and Art Work of One Hundred & Eighteen World-renowned Artists, with … Reproductions of Their Famous Paintings (Chicago: The White City Art Co., 1902) [available online here]:

Another example of the fantastic invention of Luis Falero is presented in “The Departure of the Witches.” This is a section from one of his famous pictures whose suggestion he derived from his studies of the Faust legend, and is a composition worthy of those creative geniuses in ancient art who followed the lead of Holbein and made “The Dance of Death” a vehicle for the free fling of their fecund imagination. The idea is, of course, that the witches and warlocks and their hideous attendants making their annual aerial flight to their common congregation place upon the Brocken, as veraciously detailed in the old legend.

This large canvas (145.5cm x 118.2cm [57 1/4 x 46 1/4 inches]) has appeared at auction twice this millennium: on 18 October 2000 and 28 October 2003. The most recent of these was as lot 85 at Sotheby’s New York sale of “19th Century European Art including The Great 19th Century Ateliers: Ingres to Bouguereau” [Sale: N07930] with an estimate of 100—150,000 USD.

The Sotheby’s catalogue (online) tells us that the painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1880 [no. 380] and that it has been discussed by Francis Jourdain in “L’art officiel de Jules Grevy à Albert Lebrun,” Le Point, revue artistique et littéraire [Paris] 37 (April 1949): 14 (where it is illustrated). The Sotheby’s catalogue continues:

Luis Falero trained in Paris as a portraitist and developed a fascination for painting highly detailed renderings of the female nude. His hyper-realist style often set women in fantastical or mythologic settings, which gave Falero the freedom to explore wild scenes of otherwise indecorous subjects. Vision de Faust, like other examples of Falero’s best work, was awarded entry into the Salon and the artist was much admired for his engrossing visions.

The Faust legend, immortalized for European culture by Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, enjoyed renewed interest for 19th century society due to the popular Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Marlowe’s Faust, in Renaissance style, was a morality play in which the pride of a tragic hero causes his downfall. For the nineteenth-century Romantic, however, Faust became a new type of hero, whose rebellious desire to experience the breadth of life, including its forbidden behaviors, was considered the greatest of human achievements. Virtue, for 19th century culture, lay in an unending pursuit of life’s unknowns, due in part to the prodigious efforts of Goethe.

Falero’s Vision de Faust presents Faust’s dream as he experiences an adventure through the Satanic realm where witches and demons journey to a communal gathering. Satan, or Mephistopheles, was seen by the Romantics as the dark shadow that enabled humans to see the brilliance of heavenly light; only by knowing the depth of his darkness, could one appreciate the greatness of the light. The faces and striking poses of Falero’s demonic women bring the darkness to an entrancing level of detail, a truly captivating vision.

Falero’s “highly detailed renderings” of spectacularly attractive witches are unlikely suggest demonic forces to a modern audience, even if Faust and Mephistopheles were present in the painting to provide a theological context. Modern Western societies value beauty over almost every moral attribute, we strive to be beautiful and we reward the beauty of others.

So, if Venus were to take pity on the admirers of this painting—as she did on Pygmalion—and bring Falero’s sexy witches to life, they would step out of this canvas, in front of a camera, and be set for life! (And we would have another representative of Venus to read about in Who every week.)

[UPDATE 2 May 2009: for the original study by Falero for this canvas, see my later post here; for a study of one of the details from this painting see here.]

[UPDATE 9 May 2009: to see all my Luis Ricardo Faléro Pages see here.]


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