Ruins of the abbey Altzella
  • Richard Müller
  • Tschirnitz / Bohemia 1874 -1954 Dresden
  • Ruins of the abbey Altzella, 1937
  • Pencil and black chalk, partly smeared, framing lines, on paper
  • signed and dated: Rich. Müller 1937
  • cat. rais. Z 1937. ..
  • 430 × 360 mm

Near Nossen in Saxony lies the former Cistercian abbey known as Altzella Monastery. It was founded in the 12th century by the Margrave of Meißen, but was abolished by one of his descendants as early as 1540, despite the fact that the dynastic burial grounds of the House of Wettin had meanwhile been established there. Numerous residential and work buildings were erected, in addition to the abbey church, on the approximately 18-hectare plot of this once-prosperous monastic community. Most of the buildings have long fallen into romantic ruins, however, which have inspired numerous artists going back to the 19th century. During his visit to the monastery park in 1937, Richard Müller was likewise unable to ignore the powerful effect that the gabled façade of the former storage building had on him. He distorted the typical view of this gabled façade several times, however, leaving even today‘s viewer confused about his ways of seeing. Müller turns the day nearly to night by depicting a dark, threatening sky over the walls, which he reinforces by placing inexplicable artificial lighting on the lower gable wall. In contrast, however, the horses‘ coats and the pigeons‘ feathers shine in the sunlight, which somehow seems to be completely missing from the trees and bushes. The light-dark contrasts are also emphasized by dead tree trunks and branches in front of the surreal, glowing wall, as well as by the symbolic juxtaposition of black and white horses. The arched entryway at the foot of the wall, which has the appearance of a dark throat but is actually an open doorway, completes the mystical appearance of this drawing.

In the Middle Ages, this building served mainly as a place to store, on successive levels, the grains procured from the peasants‘ harvest tax. Empty beer and wine vessels, wagons, and carriages were kept on the barn floor of the basement. Yet in 1937, only the perimeter walls and gable ends of this building remained.