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Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman

German Romanticism

Ferdinand Fellner
German, 1799–1859
The Ghost of the Bavarian Hiesel Appears to a Poacher, c. 1825–1830
Pen and India ink with wash over pencil
10 5/16 x 8 9/16 in, 26.19 x 21.75 cm (sheet)
Watermark: Fortuna (similar to Heawood nos. 1364–5)
Provenance: Acquired from Joseph Fach, Frankfurt am Main, 1984
Inscriptions: (verso) "Aus Familien Besitz"
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2007.15.33


Prior to his career as an artist, which only began belatedly at the age of twenty-six, Ferdinand August Michael Fellner had studied to be a lawyer. In 1825, Fellner traveled to Munich and enrolled in the Academy, where he befriended the newly appointed professor of history painting Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld around 1827 and subsequently collaborated with the elder artist on designs for frescos depicting scenes from the Nibelungenlied for the Königsbau.1 It is likely that Fellner’s early association with Schnorr, who was at the time engaged in producing designs for his famous Bibel in Bildern (Picture Bible), gave rise to Fellner’s interest in creating book illustrations.

While the present sheet has not yet been connected with any known book illustration, its technique resembles autograph works by Fellner for this purpose. The broad handling of wash and masterful use of the reserved paper to generate the drawing’s highlights can also be seen in Fellner’s preparatory drawings for Wilhelm Hauff’s historical romance Lichtenstein: Romantische Sage aus der württembergischen Geschichte (Lichtenstein: Romantic Saga from the History of Württemberg), first published in 1826.2 Even closer are Fellner’s drawings for Hauff’s Mann im Mond (The Man in the Moon) of the previous year.3 As with the Herman drawing, Fellner has defined the outlines of his figures not through shadow but through a thin highlight, which makes his figures appear as if they glow from within.

The subject matter of the Herman drawing also suggests that it may well have been intended as a book illustration. It depicts the ghost of Matthias Klostermayer appearing to a fellow hunter—and presumably from his muffled face also a poacher—in the woods. Klostermayer was an eighteenth-century German Robin Hood affectionately known to his contemporaries as the Bavarian Hiesel—Hiesel being slang for Matthias. Klostermayer’s exploits eventually earned him larger-than-life status, his admiring countrymen attributing to him such feats of strength as swimming across the flooded and freezing Lech Rive, taming a wild mastiff—which can be seen at lower left in Fellner’s image—and catching bullets with his bare hands. Eventually, Klostermayer’s luck ran out and he was caught, convicted, and executed by the Bavarian authorities in 1771.4 However, his adventures were not soon forgotten and provided material for popular folk songs, poetry, and plays, the most famous of which was the figure of Karl Moor in Friedrich Schiller’s Die Räuber (The Robbers) of 1781.

Victoria Valdes
John Hawley


1. Nanette Sexton, in German Master Drawings of the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge, MA: Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1972, no. 17.

2. Several illustrations for this text are in the collection of the Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden (inv. C 1910–1994 and C 1910–1995).

3. One particularly close example from this series is in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

4. Ludwig Tieck, Mathias Klostermayr oder der Bayersche Hiesel, 1791; reprint Frankfurt am Main, 2005.


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