Caspar David Friedrich - Tetschen Altar

by Laura Gerstmann


Against a dramatic cloudy sky, a wooden cross with a figure of Jesus is enthroned on the top of a rock formation. The rocks, adorned with fir trees, block the view of the light source, which casts bright rays and intensifies the emotionally charged mood of the picture.

German Romanticism in particular is an epoch that still stands for Christian and national art. Common motifs were and are here often politically, religiously adapted to meet national stereotypes. The "Tetschener Altar" is a painting that corresponds to this stereotype, especially through the combination of landscape painting and religious motifs. 


By transgressing the genre boundaries of painting, the painting triggered many discussions and led to a dispute with Friedrich Wilhelm B. von Rahmdor. At the time of the painting's presentation in Dresden, Rahmdor was a Prussian diplomat and a painter himself. His reproaches were not only directed at C.D. Friedrich's painting technique, but also at the fact that the latter had elevated a landscape painting to an altarpiece. Since landscape paintings at that time were considered "lower" compared to religious depictions, Rahmdor considered the "Tetschen Altar" a downgrading of religious art. Thus, Caspar David Friedrich's painting represented a prototype of German Romanticism, albeit a much debated one. 


Caspar David Friedrich - Tetschen Altar

Oil on canvas, 1807/08, 115 x 110 cm, Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden