CARL SPITZWEG (German 1808 - 1885)
    Die zwei Spezi (The Two Bosom Buddies), circa 1875-80
    Oil on canvas
    14 x 8-1/4 inches
    Signed at lower right (monogram), S in rhombus
    Inscribed on verse, Die zwei Spezi

    Private Collection, London, Onterio

    During the mature phase of his successful career as Biedermeier Germany's most famous genre painter, Carl Spitzweg produced more than a dozen views of the alt stadt at night. Although he had treated the subject earlier in his career, Spitzweg returned to the motif with its narrow cobble-stoned streets, clock towers, bridges, and nocturnal denizens when he sought to exploit fully its picturesque potential. In works such as the present Die zwei Spezi, Spitzweg's skill as a colorist, and as a storyteller, are central to the success of the painting. He captured the mood of a sleepy city by mixing the peculiar blue of the night sky with precision, perhaps one could even say the precision of a pharmacist, which was, in fact, the profession for which he had originally trained. Complete with tiny touches of white for the stars, the sky is painted in nearly perfect complementary contrast to the orange roofs and golden stuccoed walls illuminated by gas lamps.

    In the present work, the two bosom buddies in their uniforms and tricorne hats have linked arms in support of one another as they make their way through town. As Siegfried Wichmann noted in his 2002 catalogue raisonné on the artist, Spitzweg often populated his paintings with men in uniform, soldiers as well as night watchmen. Soldiers had been a lifelong presence in Spitzweg's world, for he had lived through three wars. He had seen Napoleonic troops as child. In 1866 he lived through the conflict between the Prussians and Austria, and after that, the French were fighting the Germans.

    A slightly larger version of this composition in a private collection is included in Wichmann's catalogue, Carl Spitzweg. Verzeichnis der Werke Gemälde und Aquarelle, Stuttgart, Besler Verlag, 2002, as no. 1529 (ill.), 46.5 x 26.4 cm. or 18-¼ x 10-3/8 in. titled Heimkehr (Städtchen - Mondschein -Zwei Betrunken) [Going Home (Little City View - Moonlight - Two Drunks)].

    Spitzweg's best-known work is familiar to bibliophiles worldwide. He is the author of an often reproduced image of a bespeckled antiquarian on the top of a ladder with his nose in a book.

    Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2006
    9th-10th Thursday-Friday
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