Outer Staircase of a Gothic Ruin

Outer Staircase of a Gothic Ruin


Domenico Quaglio

(German, 1787-1837)

Gray and brown wash and framing lines in pen and black ink

Watermarks: Whatman/Turkey Mill

Support: Cream(3) wove paper

Sheet: 24.1 x 16.8 cm (9 1/2 x 6 5/8 in.); Image: 23.2 x 15.2 cm (9 1/8 x 6 in.)

Anonymous gift in honor of Leona E. Prasse 1980.218

Catalogue raisonné: Trost 195



Quaglio was recognized as the finest German topographical painter of his generation, and he showed a special affinity for dramatic buildings of the Gothic period. In this watercolor, a young family pauses in the archway of what appears to be a ruined Gothic church. Ivy encroaches upon the stairs, and a dense forest may be seen in the distance. Views of ruined churches juxtaposed by untamed nature frequently appeared in the landscapes of German Romantic artists who believed that nature signified the presence of God. Here, Quaglio contrasts the immensity of the Gothic ruin with the delicacy of the tiny infant. A major component of German Romanticism was the renewal of Gothic architecture as a symbol of Germany’s glorious past. The association of Gothic architecture with Germany was in fact based on the false assumption that a Germanic tribe, the Goths, had originated the style. Nevertheless, medieval ruins and Gothic buildings infiltrated landscapes of the period as symbols of that which was essentially German.

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