The giant colossus holds his arms protectively over the city. Or is he suffocating it with his sheer weight? His massive skull recalls Benito Mussolini, which makes him the personification of the fascist state. This painting by Wolfgang Mattheuer can be interpreted as a parable of fascist regimes in general or as a comment on East Germany. What appears to be a caring gesture is actually crushing the people, or rather, continually controlling and repressing them out of fear of revolt and disobedience. Whether or not the artist intended this interpretation is unclear.
In 2008 Fritz and Waltraud Mayer of Frankfurt donated several important works by prominent painters of the former German Democratic Republic – for example Wolfgang Mattheuer, Werner Tübke and Arno Rink – to the Städel’s Department of Contemporary Art from their private collection, thus filling a major gap in the museum’s holdings. The gift was accompanied by an outstandingly generous contribution towards the expansion of the Städel, and by the announcement that the Mayers intended to continue supporting the Städelscher Museums-Verein in the future.