GALLERIES/Florian Härb and Martin Grässle
Vikings arriving at a Castle (Scene from the Nibelungen?)
80 × 100 mm. (3 ⅓ × 3 ⅞ in.)
Signed, lower left, Alexander Rothaug
€16,500 / $19,500
PROVENANCE:Private collection, Vienna.
FURTHER INFORMATION:Born in Vienna into a family of artists, Alexander Rothaug initially trained as a sculptor, before studying painting at the Academy of Fine Arts at Vienna from 1885 to 1892. His teachers included the Orientalist painter Leopold Müller. Following his graduation, and having won several awards, Rothaug moved to Munich where he worked for the satirical magazine Fliegende Blätter, to which he would regularly contribute illustrations and poetry for the following twenty-five years.
Back in Vienna in 1897, Rothaug set himself up as an independent painter. With the help of his older brother, the landscape painter and stage designer, Leopold Rothaug (1868-1959), Alexander received commissions for monumental theatre decorations, including theatre curtains, at Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Graz and Vienna . In addition to his theatre work, Rothaug contributed to the ceiling decorations of the Kurhaus (spa) at Meran (1914). Between the wars, Rothaug also supplied paintings for churches in Vienna and its surroundings. In circa 1910 he executed large-scale paintings based on Richard Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen for the Grand Hotel de l'Europe at Bad Gastein in Salzburg . Rothaug developed a highly idiosyncratic style, amalgamating elements of Jugendstil (art nouveau), Hans Makart's late style and perhaps Böcklin's symbolism with dramatic narratives invariably based on the careful study of the human figure, often the female nude. For his subjects, Rothaug regularly drew both on classical and German mythology, as well as the Old Testament.
The subject of our drawing, one of the largest known pastels by the artist, cannot be identified with certainty. It is clearly inspired by Nordic mythology, such as the Nibelungen saga. One is tempted to link the scene with the story of Siegfried, the dragon slayer, but there is no scene mentioned in the Nibelungen that features Siegfried and his men arriving in a boat at a castle defended by a dragon. However, often Rothaug's compositions touch on more generic themes, such as the Times of the Day, the Seasons or more abstract concepts such as 'Stillness,' 'Change' or 'Lost Time,' rather than depict a specific subject matter. This evinces from his numerous illustrations for the Fliegende Blaetter, whose titles often refer to such more generic ideas.
Comparable compositions of Nordic mythology can be found in several illustrations in the Fliegende Blätter, such as the The Viking Ship (Das Wikingerschiff) of 1900 , or another, untitled, Viking scene of 1915 . A date of our drawing to that period, but almost certainly before 1920, appears justifiable.
 For a large-scale sketch for the curtain of the theatre at Graz, see H.G. Ludwig, Alexander und Leopold Rothaug. Zwei Wiener Maler um 1900, Munich, 2009, pp. 70-71, no. 18, illustrated.
 For a series of watercolours for these unpublished Nibelungen paintings, see ibid., pp. 88-122, all illustrated.
 Fliegende Blätter, Munich, 1900, vol. CXIII, nos. 2866-2891, p. 250, illustrated.
 Ibid., 1915, vol. CXLII, nos. 3623-3648, p. 107, illustrated.