Lady with a black cape
  • Franz Skarbina
  • Berlin 1849 - 1910
  • Lady with a black cape, 1896
  • Carpenter´s pencil on creme paper, partly smeared
  • signed and dated: F. Skarbina 96
  • 268 × 189 mm

In his depiction of a Woman with a Cape, Skarbina once again comes startlingly close to the drawings of his great idol in Berlin, Adolph von Menzel. In the same manner as his role model, Skarbina’s use of a coarse and greasy carpenter’s pencil enables him to achieve an especially picturesque effect even in the medium of drawing. With her profil perdu, or lost profile, the elderly lady clarifies Skarbina’s role as an observer who always gives his models their own life because he knew how to approach them sensitively while remaining at a comfortable distance. The model does not seem to be aware of the artist, yet Skarbina understood exactly how to use this fleeting snapshot for a very detailed characterization of the woman portrayed. Her softly modeled facial features, with her slight double chin, captivate the viewer’s attention even though her backside, with its sweeping cape with dark black accents taking up more than half of the pictorial plane. Realism and Impressionism almost balance each other out here. Coming from the tradition of Menzel and inspired by the French, Franz Skarbina was a poetic realist who helped himself to the real world like a “marble quarry” – to reference Fontane – and artistically embellished the fragments he extracted from that metaphorical quarry. The concept of pars pro toto, which applies to this portrait of a woman with a cape, also applies to all the figural representations presented here: the unfinished becomes the means by which Skarbina expresses his own view of things.