The Artist's Despair Before the Grandeur of Ancient Ruins

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The artist's despair before the grandeur of ancient ruins by Johann Heinrich Füssli

The Artist's Despair Before the Grandeur of Ancient Ruins (German: Der Künstler verzweifelnd vor der Grösse der antiken Trümmer) is a drawing in red chalk with brown wash executed between 1778–1780 by Johann Heinrich Füssli. It depicts an artist's response to ruins, namely those of the Colossus of Constantine at the Capitoline Museums in Rome. The work was acquired by the Kunsthaus Zürich in 1940.[1]

The artist's despair may be caused by "the impossibility of emulating the greatness of the past", by the knowledge that all things must decay, or by a sense of unfulfilled longing and dislocation.[2] Distortions of perspective and the "plunge into the abyss" along the right edge conjure up a sense of nightmare.[1] SPQR may be read in the inscription on the base of the foot, while vegetation sprouts up near the hand; the artist, in a "fit of melancholy", is dwarfed by the fragments of the past.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Johann Heinrich Fuseli". Kunsthaus Zürich. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  2. ^ Edwards, Catharine (1996). Writing Rome: Textual Approaches to the City. Cambridge University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-521-55952-2.
  3. ^ Harbison, Robert (1991). The Built, the Unbuilt and the Unbuildable: In Pursuit of Architectural Meaning. MIT Press. pp. 108f. ISBN 0-262-08204-7.