Hagen and the Danube Nymphs, n.d.Ferdinand Fellner (German, 1799–1859)
A native of Frankfurt am Main in western Germany, Ferdinand Fellner spent many hours while he was a law student teaching himself the rudiments of painting. After his acceptance to the bar in 1825, he immediately enrolled at the Munich Academy under its director, the Nazarene painter Peter Cornelius. He ultimately became a printmaker, providing drawings for publishers in Stuttgart after he moved there in 1831. These drawings, which concentrate on literary subjects, are highly prized.
This drawing depicts an episode from the German national epic, the Nibelungenlied. In the story, the hero Hagen has stolen the clothing of the water nymphs, promising to return it only after they tell his fate in battle. At this moment, they have just foretold his defeat and death. Hagen bows his head at the news, while one of the embracing nymphs buries her head in her sister’s shoulders. Even though the episode is Germanic, the pose of the nymphs has classical overtones related to ancient and modern sculptures of the Three Graces. Their magic cloud obscures the background of the Gothic setting as moonlight highlights Hagen’s costume and the surrounding rocks.