One of the Nazarenes: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

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Two hundred and fifteen years ago, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872) was born. The German painter, who was inspired by Albrecht Dürer, created a significant body of work, including his famous Picture Bible and his portrait of Clara Bianca von Quandt, shown above.

1. Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld spent 10 years in Italy, during which he was a leading member of the Brotherhood of St. Luke. The group of German and Austrian artists favored Biblical and literary themes and painted in a style similar to that of the Renaissance masters. Because the members sported "long hair like Christ's" and maintained monk-like appearances, they earned the nickname "the Nazarenes."

2. Sections of two of Schnorr's largest works were destroyed in war. He designed stained glass windows for St. Paul's Cathedral in London that "broke new ground" and established design principles that were used for the next 50 years. The window at the west end—once described as "solemn and impressive"—was destroyed during World War II. Also destroyed during WWII was a "whole cycle" of Schnorr's encaustic wall paintings for the Bavarian royal palace in Munich, though his Niebelungen frescoes survived.

3. The portrait shown above—modeled after Raphael's portrait of Jeanne d'Aragon—depicts Clara Bianca von Quandt, the daughter of the writer August Gottlieb Meissner and the wife of Johann Gottlob von Quandt, a wealthy merchant, art critic, and collector of old German masters. According to a source, Schnorr "adored" Clara and his depiction of her "expressed his wildest nationalist and erotic fantasies." The lute in the portrait is "no mere prop;" Clara played the instrument during her sitting.

4. Schnorr devoted approximately 35 years to the creation of his Picture Bible, for which he designed at least 200 woodcuts. The images depicted all the "crucial moments" of the Bible, from Genesis through to Revelation. The Bible was printed in both Germany and England. The plates have often been used in other contexts.

5. Schnorr's son Ludwig was a heldentenor (a German term for tenors with "rich, dark-toned, powerful, and dramatic voice[s]") who became famous for originating the role of Tristan in Tristan und Isolde. Richard Wagner himself requested that Ludwig and his wife Malvine play the lead roles in his opera, but Wagner lost both performers shortly into the run. Ludwig died after just 6 weeks (only 3 performances) at the young age of 29. Malvine couldn't bear to continue her career without him and retired soon after his death.

A larger version of Schnorr's portrait of Clara Bianca von Quandt is available here.

Fans should check out Schnorr's work in the NY Public Library; portraits of Schnorr as well as his artwork on Wikimedia; the collection of his work at WGA; and 240 images from his Picture Bible.

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