Ferdinand Waldmüller - On Corpus Christi Morning

by Alexandra Tuschka


A crowd of children cavorts in the center of the picture by the Austrian painter Ferdinand Waldmüller. Some women, who protect the children, can be made out in the group; the only man of the scene sits a little apart at the left edge of the picture. He is already older and leans on his walking stick.

Although the painting is quite small with its 65 x 82 cm, it captivates with its attention to detail. The morning sun drenches the entire scene in a warm light; round archways can be seen on the left, the brickwork is entwined with plants - presumably we are in the courtyard of a church.

The children are excited, because it is the day of the Corpus Christi procession, as the title of the painting tells us. For this purpose, the little ones have decorated themselves prettily. Four girls are wearing their best white dresses and have braided flowers in their hair.

A boy is positioned off to the right of the group. He is wearing a suit with a blue sash. In his hands he carries a decorated candle and a song text - the utensils for the procession. The procession is about to begin. The boy is already making his way out of the right edge of the picture, where presumably the church will be. A sitting girl holds out to him the wreath of flowers she has just woven; but he laughingly declines the offer.


At first glance, the painting appears harmonious, but appearances are deceptive. A closer look reveals that four poorer children are also present; three of them can be seen as back figures. One girl in the left background of the picture is even crying. The children belong to the older woman with a red headscarf who is filling the rich girls' baskets with flowers. Her own children are weaving the flower wreaths. The wealthier woman has her decorated baby in her arms and watches the process sympathetically. The contrast of the layers, however, is most evident in the little boy in the foreground - he doesn't even have money to afford shoes. Arms folded behind his back, he sadly observes the other boy's arrogant reaction to his sister's offer.


Ferdinand Waldmüller - On Corpus Christi Morning

Oil on canvas, 1857, 65 × 82 cm, Austrian Gallery in Vienna