Collection of Adolf Stern, Berlin;
Dr. Harry David Salinger, Los Angeles, California, then by descent;
Irene Saltern, Newport Beach, California, then by descent in the family until 2016.
Berlin: Akademische Austellungen, 1830, No. 278.
Helmut Börsch-Supan, Die Kataloge der Berliner Akademie-Austellungen 1786-1850, 1971, Vol. 2, p. 26.
Thieme-Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildende Kunst, Leipzig 1924, Vol. 17, P. 332.
Friedrich von Boetticher, Malerwerke des Neunzenten Jahrhunderts, 1895 (1941 Edition) Vol. I/2, P. 592.
Born in Berlin in 1807, Eduard Holbein studied at the Berlin Academy and was
a student of Carl Begas during the 1830s. He participated in the Academy
exhibitions with Ruth and Boaz (1830), The Completed Pilgrimage (1836),
Jeptha’s Daughter (1838) and finally a Madonna in 1839. He also executed
decorative program depicting The Twelve Patriarchs in the Berlin
Schlosskapelle and five works, (Christ and The Four Evangelists ) for the church
of St. George in Frankfurt an der Oder. Holbein was a prolific illustrator and
produced designs for a number of popular German Romantic histories. In 1851
he became an instructor at the Berlin Academy where his students included
Hans von Marées and Max Liebermann.
The Book of Ruth , along with those of Esther and Judith are the only books in
the Bible that are named for women. In each case they are about women
overcoming adversity. Esther is an orphan who finds favor in the Persian court.
Judith, a widow, decapitates the Assyrian general Holofernes and saves her
people, while Ruth, also widowed, is a Moabite finding her way in an alien
Jewish culture. Ruth follows her mother-in-law, Naomi to Bethlehem where
they seek a better life. In Israel, they manage a meager subsistence by gleaning
the fields of the prosperous landowner Boaz. He in turn, notices Ruth and
instructs his workers to leave more grain in the field for the gleaners. Ultimately,
Ruth and Boaz--after giving deference to other male relatives who would have a
claim to her hand--marry and become the grandparents of King David and by
extension the ancestors of Jesus.
The story of Ruth is one of an individual’s assimilation of another culture. In
one of the more moving passages in the Old Testament, Ruth exclaims to
Naomi, “…whither thou goest, I will go: and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: (Ruth 1:16 KJV)
The Lukasbund, or Brotherhood of St. Luke was founded in 1809 by a group of
young Viennese artists who were disaffected by their academic training there
and sought to form an artistic society in the manner of a medieval guild. They
were dedicated to imbuing their art with a spirituality and purity following the
examples set by Medieval and early Renaissance art. In 1810 the group moved
to Rome to form a colony in the abandoned monastery of San Isidoro, where
they could live a cloistered existence. Although they looked back to art of earlier
eras, they were seen, at the time, as being quite radical rather than conservative
and were pejoratively labeled ‘Nazarenes’ due to their adoption of biblical
dress. In their artwork they sought to revive large-scale religious frescoes in the
manner of Italian artists such as Perugino and his student Raphael. Additionally,
they sought to fuse an earlier Gothic spirituality of the North with the simplicity
and monumentality found in the works in Italy. The principal motivation of the
Nazarenes was a reaction against Neoclassicism and the routine education of the
academy system. They hoped to return to art which embodied spiritual values,
and sought inspiration in artists of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance,
rejecting what they saw as the superficial virtuosity of later art. The dedication
and eccentricity of the Nazarenes attracted a number of new German and
Austrian members many of whom were to later return across the Alps and
disseminate the ideals of the Lukasbund. The movement had a profound affect
on artists in Germany, and as far afield as England with the Pre-Raphaelites later
in the century.
The theme of assimilation is a common thread amongst the Nazarene painters.
The members of the Lukasbund were dedicated to the reconciliation of Northern
German and Southern Italian art. In addition to their physical adoption of a
monastic lifestyle in a ruined monastery, spiritually a number of them actually
converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism. A recurring theme in Nazarene
works is the melding of the two disparate cultures. Most notable are Franz
Pforr’s, Sulamith and Maria, 1811 (Schweinfurt, Museum Georg Schäfer), and
Friedrich Overbeck’s, Italia and Germania, 1811-1828 (Munich, Neue Pinakothek.)
The two works began as a collaborative commemoration between the two artists, the
first was ended by Pforr’s early death and the latter was not completed until 1828.
Overbeck produced a drawing in 1818, Ruth in Boaz’ Field (fig. 1, Lübeck, Museum of
Art and Cultural History) in which we see the iconographic symbolism.As Cordula Grewe
asserts in her 2009 publication Painting the Sacred in the Age of Romanticism,
…we can detect a double agenda in Overbeck’s iconography: On the
one hand, the young husband inserts his own marriage into the family line of the
Old Testament patriarchs, thus emphasizing the purity and Christian nature of
his union. Simultaneously, he interweaves this personal trajectory of reviving
religious art, elevating biblical typology into the matrix of his existence as both
husband and artist. Ruth and Boaz not only prefigure the marriage of Christ and
Ecclesia, but also of the painter and his ideal, Italia. Guided by the Bible, life
and art become one, at least in Overbeck’s imagination. Overbeck’s wedding
drawing is thus the logical conclusion of the allegorical circle mapped out in
Pforr’s Sulamith and Maria. P.93
The story of Ruth is also taken up by number of Nazarene and their followers in the
north in the 1820s. In Munich, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld exhibited Ruth in Boaz’ Field,
1829, (fig. 2, London, National Gallery), but closer to Holbein, his fellow Berliner, Julius Hübner
exhibited a Ruth and Boaz at the Berlin Academy in 1825 and Ruth and Naomi,
(fig. 3, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin ) in 1832.
Holbein’s contact with the Nazarenes most likely came through his teacher Carl
Begas who had spent two years in Rome 1822-24 before returning to Berlin and
teaching at the Academy. In Rome, Begas was known to have associated with
members of the Lukasbund. Though most biographies place Holbein in Begas’
studio from 1832-1838, his entry of Ruth and Boaz in the 1830 Academy
Exhibition already identifies him as a Begas pupil. Additionally, there would be
no escaping the lingering presence of Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow, an
original member of the Lukasbund who taught at the Berlin Academy from
1819-1826 before taking on the Directorship of the Academy in Dusseldorf.
Adolf Stern was a prominent Jewish architect who maintained a large collection
of art and antiques in Berlin. His wife Elspeth was apparently a friend with
Albert Einstein’s wife Elsa. As a gesture of honor to one of it’s most famous
citizens on his 50th birthday, the city of Berlin offered to build a country house
for Einstein. The land that was offered in Caputh, a resort area outside Potsdam,
belonged to the Sterns and their house was nearby. When the Sterns, their
daughter Irene and son-in-law Dr. Harry Salinger, a prominent judge were
forced to flee Berlin it is thought that Einstein was able to assist them in
emigrating to the United States. Ruth and Boaz was inherited by the Salingers in 1953.