With bare upper bodies, the two men are standing close together, one behind the another. Only the older man is seeking physical contact. The younger of the two is looking into the distance and not responding to the touch. The imbalance of closeness and distance lends the painting a certain uneasiness, which Hofer underscores with severe shapes, a green translucency of the skin and the static frontality of the figures. The initial title of ‘David and Jonathan’, taken from the Old Testament, echoes the notion of a homoerotic male friendship. The painting was defamed in the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition of 1937.
Thanks to a donation by Frankfurt entrepreneur Ernst August Teves (1919–1986), a painting that had already been acquired for the Städel Museum in 1928 found its way back into the collection. In 1937 it was labelled ‘degenerate’ and confiscated. In the early post-war years, neither public nor foundation funds were available to repurchase it. The painting’s reacquisition was finally made possible in 1966 by a generous private donation from Teves, who was a longstanding member of the Museums-Verein’s managing committee.