Biedermeier & Post-Impressionist Artists in Vienna : Josef Danhauser’s Game of Chess

Biedermeier & Post-Impressionist Artists in Vienna : Josef Danhauser’s Game of Chess


So the paintings, the painting from Josef
Danhauser, the title is Game of Chess is from 1839. It’s a very interesting painting from
the period of Biedermeier, which was all really concentrated in Germany, Austria, Hungary
and the Czech Republic. It was in the first part of the 19th Century and it had a big
difference to Neo-Classicism which was at the last part of the 18th and the beginning
of the 19th Century. It was dealing rather with the private life. The name of the period,
Biedermeier comes from a kind of a mocking word for a citizen, a so called “little citizen”
and so that’s why we can feel that the main topics, the main themes which were displayed,
painted by the artist at that time were especially portraits, genre scenes or some historical
scenes as well. Danhauser, he was working in Vienna. Vienna was the center of this,
of this style. He was very important because in his life we can recognize that Biedermeier
was not only a painting, a kind of a style of painting, but also for everyday life, stuff
like furniture or, or, or other applied arts. Because the Danhauser family had a kind of
furniture workshop and he was working in this as well. But we can see on that picture that
he was an expert of portrait painting. The other thing which is important about this
painting that it was a real story, a real happening, which happened a year before as
he painted. In 1838 there was a special chess game between the banker Escales and a Hungarian
noble woman. And they played because the lover of the noble woman had a big debt to this
banker and that was the way she could gain back the debts. At the end, she won the game
against the banker. Not only this living personalities, we can see on that pictures but other famous
composers, like for example, Franz Liszt or piano players from that time in Vienna. What
is special about this group portrait, it can be called a kind of a group portrait because
the figures on the pictures are very accurate and detailed and the change of the portrait
are very, how to say, very rich in details.

One thought on “Biedermeier & Post-Impressionist Artists in Vienna : Josef Danhauser’s Game of Chess

  1. Sabine Grabner in her book about Dannhauser points out that most of the often contradicting identifications with real people in this painting are unprovable. The only exception she admires is Danhauser's wife, the pensive Lady on the left. Let me add my own two pence by saying that I cannot imagine the "keyboard lion" Franz Liszt ever to have adopted such a submissive pose as here in the painting. Danhauser must have taken a Lisz-like model and then made the character fictional. Because, contrary to the assertion in the video, the scene couldn't have actually happened. Not only are there way too many elements stressing the superiority of women (think of the statue of Omphale and Hercules, the imposing way the Lady is presented, the numerical majority of women, many of whom way more dignified than the males, the Lady's win in a game where the Queen is the strongest piece); implausible occurrences (why would the man squander what looks like his entire fortune with a family to care for; also the situation on the board with a sudden checkmate snapping away a game HE has in the bag); but most importantly, three prior sketches by the artist show beyond doubt that this composition was originally imagined to be a depiction of a scene from Goethe's Götz von Berlichtingen, where an aristocratic Lady – where on earth did the idea that our Lady was aristocratic and Hungarian?!! Anything I don't know about her gorgeous outfit?? Because I'm still searching – beats a bishop in a game of chess. We see the gradual transition from the 16th century to his own time, the secularization of the losing chess player, and the shift from theater to the artist's own independent narrative. Danhauser would never have started out with a scene by Goethe if from the onset he wanted to paint an actual contemporary occurrence. Therefore, even the identification of the old chess player as Louis Peirera by Julius Leishing in 1905 (Eskeles belongs to another painting and didn't have his mansions in Vienna) is probably erroneous; as, again, the whole scene is a fictional story reversing the gender roles, made with characters partly modeled, perhaps, on real people.

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