Wilhelm Hasemann

Karfunkelstadt, 1906

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Because the inhabitants of these dwellings were engaged in the gemstone grinding business, this settlement near Haslach was called »Karfunkelstadt« (literally »Carbuncle Town« after the gemstone). The mixed woodland depicted in the painting still provides evidence of the original vegetation of the Black Forest.
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One of Wilhelm Hasemann’s most interesting pictures is the painting Karfunkelstadt, since it documents the early landscape forms of the Black Forest. Several houses stand at the timberline of a gentle valley with meadows below. The trees extend up the mountain slope to the hilltop, and the foliage already shows its autumn colors. Today, dark fir trees are most closely associated with the Black Forest, but originally there were large expanses of mixed forest, as seen in this image. Around 1800, settlement and early industrialization led to extensive deforestation, and some views of the Black Forest from this period show only bare mountains and hills. Only systematic reforestation by the Grand Duchy of Baden, founded in 1806, led to the changed landscape now associated with the Black Forest. In Hasemann’s painting the original vegetation of the mixed forest is still clearly visible. The juxtaposition of extensively tilled pasture meadows and forest areas is typical of the Black Forest, but since this form of agriculture produced low yields, many people also pursued other trades. In the valley known as the Fischerbacher Hintertal near Haslach in the Kinzig valley, three houses bearing the name “Karfunkelstadt” still exist today. The archaic word “Karfunkel” refers to red gemstones such as garnet or ruby. The inhabitants of this valley earned money by polishing and drilling gems to be set or strung. The story of the gem polishers is handed down in the narrative Die Karfunkelstadt by Heinrich Hansjakob (1837–1916), in which the folk writer idealized the hard life of the people in this rural area. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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