Wilhelm Leibl - The three women in the church

by Alexandra Tuschka


It is as if one could smell the wood, perceive the shine of the clay jug, run over the wrinkled skin of the old woman. Leibl spent four years perfecting this painting in order to evoke precisely this impression in the viewer. Two elderly women and a young one sit on a prayer bench. Thanks to the attention to detail, the interior can be identified in the parish church in Berbling, near Leibl's hometown.

However, there are some compositional inconsistencies: The young woman, dressed in splendid Miesbach mountain costume, is too tall in proportion. Her costume contrasts with the simple striped and pure black clothing of the older one. The hands of the three ladies are also shown too large in their proportions. This makes them particularly conspicuous and they can be related to each other in terms of content. Thus the youngest one holds the book in her hand and seems to leaf through it little sympathetically. The older woman behind it leads this to itself, and already seems to grasp some contents. The last in the alliance needs no more book, in order to manufacture a connection to God.


Possibly the way to the faith is represented in this picture. Even if the three ladies are not to be seen in any direct interaction with each other, one can relate them to each other in this way: The young life is still earthly arrested. This is also well seen by the splendid clothing, on which obviously value was placed. In the middle, the turn to faith is accompanied by a distraction from earthly goods. Not for nothing the rearmost woman appears in front of a white window and is thus the only really, at least compositionally "illuminated".


Wilhelm Leibl - The three women in the church

Oil on wood, 1887 - 1882, 113 x 77 cm, Kunsthalle in Hamburg

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