The Ruins of Castle Riffenstein in Switzerland
  • Friedrich Salathé
  • Basel 1793 - 1858 Paris
  • The Ruins of Castle Riffenstein in Switzerland
  • Watercolour over pencil and pen with black ink,
    traces of watercolour on the borders
  • 330 × 305 mm
Private collection, Switzerland
Galerie Kurt Meissner, Zurich

After training as a landscape painter under Peter Birmann in Basel, the young Salathé moved at the age of 22 to Rome, where he led a varied life as an artist and made important contacts to German and Swiss colleagues as well as patrons. Nevertheless, he never cut off his ties to his home in Basel, to his family and old friends, bringing in steady commissions for preparatory studies of Swiss city views and landscape panoramas. This would remain unchanged when Salathé moved to Paris in 1823 and founded a flourishing studio, which in turn served as a gathering place and training ground for numerous young German-speaking artists.

In 1851, Salathé renewed his intensive collaboration with the Swiss art firm Bleuler and made sought-after studies for views of his homeland, still famous today.

The unfinished state of this watercolour reveals the artists’s method of drawing, in which the various sections of the sheet were coloured in one after another, moving forwards from the background. At the same time, it serves as an exemplary illustration of the cursory nature of many of his works on paper.

The ruin depicted lies on the southern slope of the cliff with which it shares a name, Rif(f)enstein, between Reigoldswil and Titterten in the canton of Basel-Landschaft. This mountain castle was built sometime around 1200, but had already been abandoned and left to decay in the fourteenth century.