The Downtrodden, Käthe Kollwitz
Käthe Kollwitz
The Downtrodden
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printing plate

Käthe Kollwitz: Zertretene (mittlere und rechte Darstellung), Druckplatte. Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Künste, Kunstsammlung, Berlin

bears relation to

Hans Holbein d. J.: Der tote Christus im Grab, 1521/22, Öl auf Lindenholz, Kunstmuseum Basel

Käthe Kollwitz

The Downtrodden, 1900

396 x 982 mm
239 x 836 mm
Physical Description
Line etching, drypoint, aquatint, and burnisher
Inventory Number
SG 4204
Object Number
SG 4204 D
Acquired in 1964 from the collection of Helmut and Hedwig Goedeckemeyer
On display, Special Exhibitions


About the Work

In the late nineteenth century, Kollwitz’s former teacher Karl Stauffer-Bern (inv. no. 60012) and Max Klinger (inv. no. 62412) took inspiration—like many other artists of the time—from Holbein’s radical painting ‘The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb’ of 1521/22 (Kunstmuseum Basel), though abandoning its original religious meaning. In the work by Kollwitz, the body of Christ has become a symbol of the oppressed proletariat. The images at the left and right address the issues of suicide and prostitution as frequent consequences of the social hardships suffered by the working lower class in the German Empire. The allegorical figure with a sword bending over the corpse alludes to the social-democratic revolution that seemed imminent in the 1880s.

About the Acquisition

Immediately after World War I, the art connoisseur and bibliophile Helmut Goedeckemeyer (1898–1983) began amassing one of the largest collections of prints by Käthe Kollwitz. He supplemented these holdings with works of late nineteenth-century French and German printmaking, illustrated books by Max Slevogt, Alfred Kubin and others, and small-scale sculptures by such artists as Aristide Maillol. His collection ultimately encompassed more than 5,000 works. Goedeckemeyer’s close ties to the Städel Museum date back to the 1920s. From 1959 onwards, he and his wife Hedwig were members of the Städelscher Museums-Verein (Städel Museum Association). The City of Frankfurt acquired his Kollwitz collection for the Städtische Galerie (Municipal Gallery) in 1964. He made several gifts to the Städel collection of prints and drawings over the years, and in 1970 presented the museum with Honoré Daumier’s “Ratapoil” (inv. no. St.P391).

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