Eye Candy for Today: Ludwig Richter’s Genoveva

Genoveva, Ludwig Richter, 19th century watercolor
Genoveva, Ludwig Richter (details and alternate image), 19th century watercolor

Genoveva, Ludwig Richter, watercolor on paper, roughly 12 x 7 in (31 x 18 cm); in the collectin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version of th elarge image.

This painting by 19th century German painter and printmaker Adrian Ludwig Richter depicts the legend of Genoveva, a woman falsely accused of adultry while her husband was off to war. Condemmed to death, she sought refuge in the forest of Ardennes, where she and her son found shelter in a cave and were fed by a deer for six years.

In the version of the painting in the images above, bottom, I’ve done something I’ve often complained about others doing: taking an image of an artwork and cranking up the saturation to make it look “better” and “more modern”. Hopefully, in this case, I’ve done so judiciously with the intention of giving an indication of what I think the painting may have looked like when originally painted.

It’s my understanding that many watercolors from the 19th century are faded, partly from exposure to light for pigments that were less than lightfast, and partly from exposure to sulpher compounds from the pollution caused by the burgeoning industrial age, which interacted in particular with lead-based whites, yellows and reds. I’m just guessing that the painting was originally more vibrant than it is at present (perhaps even more than my rough approximation).