Lot 12
  • 12

CASPAR DAVID FRIEDRICH | Sonnenblick im Riesengebirge (Sunburst in the Riesengebirge)

500,000 - 700,000 GBP
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  • Caspar David Friedrich
  • Sonnenblick im Riesengebirge (Sunburst in the Riesengebirge)
  • oil on canvas
  • 25.5 by 31.5cm., 10 by 12½in.


Graf Friedrich von Hahn, Schloss Basedow, Mecklenburg (probably acquired from the artist); thence by descent in the von Hahn family at least until 1949 (together with a second painting by the artist, Hochgebirgsgipfel mit treibenden Wolken (Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds), now in the Kimbell Museum (fig. 1))
Fritz Nathan, Zurich; thence by descent to the present owner


Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Deutsche Malerei und Zeichenkunst im Zeitalter Goethes, 1949, no. 34 (loaned by the von Hahn family; titled Hochgebirgshalde)
Tübingen, Kunsthalle Tübingen, Die Kunst des Handelns: Meisterwerke des 14. bis 20. Jahrhunderts bei Fritz und Peter Nathan, 2005-06, no. 39, illustrated in the catalogue


Carl von Lorck, 'Fünf neuentdeckte Bilder von Caspar David Friedrich', in Die Kunst für Alle, 56, 1941, p. 147, illustrated, p.150, discussed
Charlotte Margarethe de Prybram-Gladona, Caspar David Friedrich, 1942, p. 92, note no. 568
Carl von Lorck, Vom Geist des deutschen Ostens. Diskurse zur Kunst und Strukturanalyse des deutschen Ostens, Berlin, 1967, p. 104, discussed
Werner Sumowski, Caspar David Friedrich - Studien, Wiesbaden, 1970, pp. 54 & 114
Helmut Börsch-Supan and Karl Wilhelm Jähnig, Caspar David Friedrich. Gemälde, Druckgraphik und bildmäßige Zeichnungen, Munich, 1973, p. 44, mentioned, pp. 455-56, catalogued, p. 456, no. 448, illustrated


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd., 13 and 14 Mason's Yard, St James', London, SW1Y 6BU: UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and is securely attached to what would certainly appear to be the artist's original keyed wooden stretcher. This is ensuring a stable structural support. Paint Surface The paint surface has an even varnish layer. The paint surface has an overall pattern of raised lines of craquelure which are stable. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows very small spots and lines of retouching above the lower edge and a tiny spot within the sky in the upper left quadrant. A few further tiny spots of retouching are also visible under ultraviolet light. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition and no further work is required.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

'...thus it is a great merit, maybe the greatest thing the artist is capable of, when he touches the spirit and arouses thoughts, feelings and emotions in the beholder, even if these are not his own.'
Caspar David Friedrich

Dated by Charlotte Margarethe de Prybram-Gladona to 1820 and by Helmut Börsch-Supan to the 1830s, the present work belongs to the seven hitherto unrecorded oils discovered by lawyer and art historian Carl von Lorck (1892-1975) between 1941 and 1943 during his cultural survey of East Prussian noble houses. Both in date of execution and compositionally, particularly in its symbolic pictorial vocabulary, it comes close to Friedrich's Landscape with Mountain Lake, Morning (lot 8).

In July 1810 Friedrich took a walking tour with Georg Friedrich Kersting in the Riesengebirge (Giant Mountains). Located south-east of Dresden, the range runs between Silesia and Bohemia, along the border of what are today the Czech Republic and Poland. The experience provided a rich source of inspiration, and the basis for many subsequent works from his career.

The rocky tumbling foreground symbolises the transience of earthly life (the solitary hut a reminder of the smallness of humankind in the face of nature, the dead tree a memento mori), the upright firs the faithful who will inherit eternal life, denoted by the sun-illuminated uplands in the beyond. The brightening sky as a harbinger of divine sanctuary in the face of adversity is a device found throughout Friedrich's oeuvre, famously in the Eismeer (The Sea of Ice). Friedrich's aesthetic legacy is a profound one, and can be felt in the landscapes of succeeding generations of artists, from Ferdinand Hodler to Gerhard Richter. 

Of equivalent dimensions, the present work and Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds also share a common provenance (fig. 1). For over a century both were lost in obscurity in the von Hahn family seat of Schloss Basedow, until their discovery in 1941 by Carl von Lorck.

Mountain Peak with Drifting Clouds remained in the von Hahn family until it was sold in these rooms on 25 November 1981, subsequently becoming the first painting by Friedrich to enter a museum collection outside of Europe. However the present work was acquired by Fritz Nathan, and it remained in his collection until his death. Nathan's association with Friedrich is legendary: in 1930 he famously brokered the sale of Friedrich's Kreidefelsen auf Rügen (The Chalf Cliffs at Rügen) from the collection of Julius Freund in Berlin to the Swiss collector and art patron Oskar Reinhart from Winterthur.

This work has been requested on loan for the 2020–21 exhibition Caspar David Friedrich and the Düsseldorfer Malerschule at the Kunstpalast Düsseldorf and the Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig.

We are grateful to Professor Helmut Börsch-Supan for his assistance in the cataloguing of this work.