Magdalena Beneath the Cross, 1905
About the object
The scene refers to Hansjakob's novel The Vogt auf Mühlstein (The Bailiff of Mühlstein): Magdalena, the Guardian’s daughter, is praying at the cross near her parent’s farm: a marriage to an older, wealthy man had been arranged for her, even though she is in love with a penniless young man. Marriages were often arranged for economic reasons.
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Throughout his entire life, Wilhelm Hasemann created numerous book illustrations and postcard designs as well as advertising motifs. On multiple occasions he collaborated with the folk writer Heinrich Hansjakob (1837-1916), whose writings documented the traditions and stories of the Black Forest. In this picture, as in the painting Bridal Procession in Winter, Hasemann illustrates a story by Heinrich Hansjakob, the tale of The Bailiff “auf Mühlstein.” In this story the bailiff, a prosperous farmer, marries his daughter to an older man, even though she loves another who has no money. In the Black Forest as in many other cultures, marriages were arranged even into the 19th century. In this way, property holdings could be maintained or even enlarged; such was often an economic necessity, since otherwise the farms would have been too small to secure a family’s survival. In this picture, Hasemann shows the young Magdalena praying before a crucifix at the side of the path near her parents’ farm. She prays for her love and for the ability to choose her own destiny. In the predominantly Catholic Black Forest, crosses were often placed alongside paths to offer protection to people traveling on foot from one village to another and to give them a place to pray on long journeys. In the story by Heinrich Hansjakob, this scene marks a turning point. Magdalena still hopes and prays to the Crucified Christ for grace, but in the end-as Bridal Procession in Winter shows-she is forced into a marriage with an older man, denies herself love, and finally dies unhappy. TILMANN VON STOCKHAUSEN (Transl. MELISSA THORSON)