Ferdinand Ruscheweyh nach Peter von Cornelius, Scene am Ausgang der Kirche, 1825, Kupferstich, 522 x 663 mm (Blatt), 335 x 416 mm (Bild). Frankfurt am Main, Freies Deutsches Hochstift – Frankfurter Goethe Museum, Inv. Nr. III-14159/005
The 'Faust' drawings by Peter Cornelius are characteristic examples of Nazarene graphic art. The artist began the cycle in Frankfurt am Main in 1810, two years after the publication of the drama, but he did not finish it until 1816, when he was in Rome. Executed in large format and using pen and ink, the total of twelve drawings were used from the outset as engraver's models for a series of 'Pictures for Goethe's "Faust"'. The compositions were engraved in copper by Ferdinand Ruscheweyh and the first edition was published by Johann Friedrich Wenner in Frankfurt am Main in 1816. The drawings came into the possession of the Städel in 1836 from the publisher's estate.
Cornelius arrived in Rome in 1811 and joined the circle of the Nazarenes. He was already able to present his colleagues with examples of his 'Faust' drawings. These included the fifth scene outside the church. Bearing in mind that the drawing would be reproduced as a copperplate engraving, the artist executed it in grey pen and ink with fine lines down to the smallest detail. Providing the backdrop for the scene which dominates the foreground is a cobbled square in front of the facade of a church, for which Ulm Minster served as model. Faust's vain advance - "Lovely lady, may I offer you / My arm, and my protection too?" - prompts the virtuous Gretchen to reply: "Not lovely, nor the lady you detected. / I can go home unprotected." The artist is clearly trying to let his figures speak through their effusive movements.
Cornelius prepared all his 'Faust' drawings with smaller pencil studies and with model drawings which concentrate on the silhouettes of the figures. He developed this minutely structured drawing with its three-dimensional design from the tradition of the Old German masters, especially the prints of Albrecht Dürer. Cornelius thus continued the academic-classicist language of forms and reinterpreted it in his own way. Goethe, who saw the first drawings in Weimar in the spring of 1811, praised them in particular for their sensitivity to a historical world which was regarded at the time as belonging to the Middle Ages.
In the graphic style and narrative character of the scenes and in his moralising attitude to the love affair between Faust and Gretchen, Cornelius differs fundamentally from his French contemporary Eugène Delacroix, who interpreted Goethe's work a few years later.