Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)

A study for The Retreat from Marignano

Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
A study for The Retreat from Marignano
signed 'F. Hodler'
pencil, coloured chalks, pen and red and black ink on light brown paper, the upper edge arched
13¾ x 19 in. (347 x 481 mm.)
David Schmidt, Geneva, to his son-in-law
C.D. Wyatt, Geneva.
Purchased at Christie's Geneva, 24 April 1970, lot 438.
Geneva, Musée Rath, Ferdinand Hodler - Dessins, 1963, no. 84.

Lot Essay

A compositional study for Hodler's proposal for the decoration of the Waffensaal (Hall of Weaponry) of the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum in Zurich. The competition for the commission was announced on 1 August 1896 and the entries judged on 26 January 1897, dating this relatively early composition for the central panel of the scheme to 1896. The cartoon submitted to the jury is now in the Kunsthaus, Zurich (W.E. Müller, Die Kunst Ferdinand Hodlers, Reife und Spätwerk 1895-1918, Zurich, 1941, pl. 21), while a developed study for this first composition is in the Gemäldegalerie, Stuttgart (fig. 1), W.E. Müller, op. cit., pl. 25.
Hodler was awarded first prize by the the jury, but the decision was vehemently opposed by the museum's director, and the mural was not painted until 1900, the year Hodler became a member of the Vienna and Berlin Secessions. During the intervening years, during which time he was teaching painting and drawing at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs at Fribourg, Hodler developed his original conception and produced a number of alternative designs which were submitted to the jury. By 1898 the composition no longer included a heroic central figure holding back the defeat but was dominated by retreating mercenaries carrying fallen comrades, with a single defiant halberdier guarding the rear. This was the plan that was formally accepted by the Bundesrat in Zurich on 20 November 1899.
Hodler chose as his subject the heroic but traumatic Battle of Marignano (13-14 September 1515) in which a large force of Swiss mercenaries in the service of the Duke of Milan was defeated by the invading army of King François I of France. Of the 25,000 Swiss who took the field at Marignano, 10 miles south east of Milan, only 3,000 are said to have escaped. Among them was Urs Graf (see lot 146).


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