The story of Iphigenia is embedded in Greek mythology about the Trojan War.
Her father wants to sacrifice her to avoid disaster at sea. But the goddess Diana saves the girl and lets her serve as a priestess on Tauris. There, Iphigenia longs for her homeland. In the large-format version, Anselm Feuerbach shows the ancient figure as a modern human being. The heaviness of the contemporary clothing, Iphigenia's posture, and the dark colors of the painting radiate melancholy. The girl becomes the personification of longing
Before Feuerbach, no one had ever depicted Iphigenia gazing at the sea. He devoted himself to the subject for 17 years and constantly had his Italian lover Nanna pose as a model. Feuerbach did not use the original by Euripides as a model, but Goethe's stage play (1786). In it, Iphigenia is considered the ideal image of man.
In Feuerbach's monumental images of women, a fantasy of power is projected onto the woman, which can be interpreted as an expression of the fear of female sexuality. Through the women's movements in the late 19th century, a new danger emanated from the female sex for men. Inequality of opportunity and male supremacy were questioned for the first time. The story of Iphigenia is that of a strong and honorable woman. At the end of the narration, through honesty and courage, she is able to break an ancient curse and thus save her family.
Anselm Feuerbach - By the Sea (Modern Iphigenia)
Oil on canvas, 1875, 197 x 113.5 cm, Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf