A wooden Bridge in Amsterdam
  • Adolph von Menzel
  • Breslau 1815 - 1905 Berlin
  • A wooden Bridge in Amsterdam, 1876
  • Carpenter’s pencil on paper
  • monogrammed and dated on the lower left: A. M. 76.
  • 127 × 204 mm

On 12 October 1876, Adolph von Menzel traveled from Berlin to Amsterdam in order to gather inspiration in an authentic setting for illustrations planned for Heinrich von Kleist’s Der zerbrochene Krug, among other reasons. Naturally, he always carried sketchbooks of various sizes as well as his beloved carpenters’ pencils on his strolls through the city there, so he could immediately capture in sketched form anything that caught his attention.

Just as Menzel prized all that is multifaceted and complicated about the human form, such as hair or wrinkles, so must he have been excited in this instance by the uneasy density of the multi-gabled silhouette of townhouses pressed together. To that he added the wooden bridge with its old iron railings, which so strikingly obstructed the view and provided delightful contrasts of light and shadow for the draftsman.

Most painters surely would have chosen a different standpoint with an open view onto the opposite side of the canal, but not Menzel, who succeeded in tremendously compressing the view in this way.

On a trip to Austria also in the 1870s, Menzel drew a similar scene – in the same square format and of the same size, down to the millimeter – with a wooden bridge over the old dam at the Traun River in Gmunden1.

Dr. Ursula-Marie Riemann-Reyer has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this drawing.

  1. Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, June 2014: Modern Art, cat. no. 6, ill. p. 15