With their naked torsos, the two exhausted-looking men stand close together. Their relationship seems unclear: while the dark-haired man seems to seek closeness, the one in front looks into the distance without reacting to or reciprocating the touch. Among other aspects, this tension between closeness and distance leads to the picture’s perturbing effect. Unlike the more open title used today, the Old Testament title “David and Jonathan” used before 1931 implied a homoerotic male friendship. With this reference to the story of an intimate love between the king’s son Jonathan and the shepherd David, Hofer drew on a theme that was particularly prevailing in 1920s Berlin. Then, the city was considered a worldwide centre of gay and lesbian life. However, Hofer’s piece speaks above all of the existential tragedy of a life that was legally and socially unacceptable.
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.
Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.
The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.
Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:
The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.
Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.
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