Heinrich Hoffmann

Going to Church in the Black Forest, 1905 - 1915

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In this painting, Hoffmann takes up the theme of church-going and captures the richness of the folk costumes. The young women at the front are wearing straw hats, followed by a group wearing traditional »Schäppel« or bridal crowns. They were worn by unmarried women on special holy days and for one last time at their wedding.
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The Heidelberg painter Heinrich Hoffmann frequently depicted the traditions and customs of the Black Forest. In this scene Hoffmann shows how important Sunday churchgoing was for the people of the Black Forest. It was always a special event, and often involved wearing traditional costume. Hoffmann depicts a group of women in traditional dress leaving church after the service. He includes only part of the building in the painting, making the church itself impossible to identify; however, the setting is bound to be a larger, more prosperous community, for even the part of the building shown here indicates a sizeable village church. The dresses of the women may indicate its location in the Elz valley. A few young girls in straw hats along with an older woman lead the way, followed by a group of women wearing the wedding crowns typical of the Black Forest, the “Schäppel.” This headdress was worn by young, unmarried women on feast days and for the last time on the day of their wedding. The “Schäppel” symbolized the purity of the bride. Almost every village in the Black Forest had its own traditional wedding crown-a custom that still continues today. The women and girls fashioned these colorful crowns out of various materials including glass beads and little metal plates that would move and sparkle in the sun. The wedding crowns were derived from the cult of the Virgin Mary, and in the 18th century Marian crowns were often fashioned in cloisters. The tradition of the bridal crown developed in many parts of Switzerland and continues to this day. The collection of the Augustinermuseum in Freiburg includes many such wedding crowns, although they are quite fragile and for reasons of conservation can only exhibited under strictly controlled conditions. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)

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