• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 5858

    Old Masters & 19th Century Works of Art

    10 July 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 401

    August von Heckel (German 1824-1883)

    Tannhauser in the Venusberg

    Price Realised  


    August von Heckel (German 1824-1883)
    Tannhauser in the Venusberg
    signed 'A.v.Heckel inv.' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    35 x 51¾ in. (88.9 x 131.5 cm.)

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    The legend portrays Tannhauser as a knight and poet who found the Venusberg, the subterranean mountain home of Venus, and spent a year there worshipping the goddess. After leaving the Venusberg, Tannhuser is filled with remorse, and travelled to Rome to ask Pope Urban IV if it would be possible to be absolved of his sins. Urban replies that forgiveness is as impossible as it would be for his papal staff to blossom. Three days after Tannhauser's departure Urban's staff blooms with flowers; messengers are sent to retrieve the knight, but he has already returned to Venusberg, never to be seen again.
    This was made famous in Wagner's opera Tannhauser in 1845.

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    Pre-Lot Text