Sign In Sign out

The Nightingale’s Lesson

Philipp Otto Runge

The Nightingale’s Lesson

Philipp Otto Runge
  • Date: 1804
  • Style: Romanticism
  • Genre: literary painting
  • Buy Handmade Oil Painting Reproductions
    Order Oil Painting

This is one of the first major works by Runge which he painted to express his love for his new wife Pauline, the daughter of a Dresden shoemaker. He made two versions, the first in 1802-03 and the second, more elaborate one, in 1805; only the later work survives. Like Friedrich's Tetschen 'altarpiece', it had an elaborate frame - in this case a painted frame-within-a-frame that was to be read as part of the work. Its various motifs - twining plants, oak leaves and small children - function as hieroglyphs, supporting the allegory. Though it was certainly not what would normally be understood as a landscape, it was based on an aspect of the natural world - one heard, not seen. One will look in vain for a nightingale in it, and it is immediately clear that this is a metaphorical equation of the idea of the young songbird with the human child.

Runge took his subject from an ode by the poet Friedrich Klopstock, in which Psyche - the female personification of the soul, shown as is usual with butterfly wings - instructs Cupid (Love) in song in an oakwood at evening, as the nightingales begin to sing; thus the theme is interwoven with the sound of birdsong.

More ...

Court Métrage

Short Films