Johann Baptist Laule

Portrait of Maria Kreuzer, née Laule, in Traditional Dress, 1841

About the object

The woman depicted here is wearing a Furtwanger costume, the yellow straw hat that stands out against the dark background is particularly striking. Yellow top hats were worn in the area around Furtwangen. The woman depicted here may have been related to Laule, although he came from St. Gallen.
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Johann Baptist Laule was one of the most important clock shield painters after 1850; his pupils included Hans Thoma, who completed a four-week apprenticeship with him. Laule, however, also devoted himself to portrait and landscape painting. In this work he depicted an older woman by the name of Maria Kreuzer. Her maiden name “Laule” may indicate that she was related to the artist; however, since he came from St. Gallen and had moved to Furtwangen in the Black Forest by the time the picture was made, the occurrence of the same name could be a coincidence. The woman’s clothing is likewise associated with the region around Furtwangen: the bodice embroidered with flowers, white puffed sleeves, and colorful fringed shawl are stylistic features typical of the traditional dress of that area. A particularly striking element is the bright yellow straw hat, which stands out clearly against the dark background of the image. With the emancipation of the bourgeoisie after the French Revolution, hats became an important and popular accessory—for women as well, who increasingly played a role in the public sphere. At first they wore the same hats as men (“yellow men’s straw hats”), then headwear specific to women began to develop. The long black ribbon tied in a large bow beneath the chin is also a characteristic feature. Yellow top hats like these were worn in the region around Furtwangen. Between St. Peter and Neustadt the hats had a similar form, but were orange in color, while in Glottertal, Simonswäldertal, and Prechtal they were coral red and very tall. Hat fashions in the Black Forest were closely related to the local straw industry; as a trade, the manufacture of woven straw hats developed in the region probably around the beginning of the 18th century. Along with clockmaking, it represented an important source of income, above all for economically disadvantaged inhabitants of the Black Forest. MIRJA STRAUB (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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