The Spill: Quick Bite

Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re winding down the merry month of May with Eduard von Grützner’s (1892), The Catastrophe. This slapstick portrayal of two, possibly tipsy monks shows off Grützner’s eye for detail and skill with a paintbrush. Let’s zoom in and take a closer look…

The Catastrophe (1892) by Eduard von Grützner, Milwaukee Art Museum

Starting with the monks, note their brown tunics and matching zucchetti (skullcaps), faded blue aprons, and Birkenstock-like sandals. The standing monk has paused in his task of filling wine bottles, note the funnel and bottle in one hand. Notice his other hand, pressed to his temple in an oh-drat expression, after discovering his fellow monk sprawled out on the floor.

Close-Ups of The Catastrophe (1892) by Eduard von Grützner, Milwaukee Art Museum

The other monk gazes at the broken wine bottles. Despite losing a sandal, this fallen monk looks more stunned than hurt, the wine however, is a complete loss. Good thing multiple barrels are on hand 😉

Moving clockwise let’s take a quick tour of the wine cellar starting with the tiny, grated window in the background. Although only a weak amount of light streams in, Grützner does not shirk on the details. Note the silhouettes of a bench, bottles, and other barrels in the shadows.

The Catastrophe (Close-Up of Window; 1892) by Eduard von Grützner, Milwaukee Art Museum

Moving down the steps and to the floor, note the various types of brick, stone, and tile. It’s unclear if the fallen monk slipped on the stairs or if the newish terracotta tiles took him down. The wine splatter, however, makes it look like a crime scene. Considering the loss of two wine bottles, this is a crime!

The Catastrophe (Close-Up of Tiles & Wine Splatter; 1892) by Eduard von Grützner, Milwaukee Art Museum

We wrap up our tour with a gorgeous carving on the main cask. Notice the exquisite details Grützner has incorporated into this showstopper of a wine barrel. The woman in the flowy gown and holding a jug is perhaps, Amphictyonis, the Greek goddess of wine and friendship.

With arms outstretched she invites us to sample this nectar of the gods. Grützner, always mindful of the details, has a glass at the ready in the lower right corner. His entire painting is chocked full of these delightful tidbits of which we’ve only covered a few. I encourage you to zoom in and discover more hidden gems.

The Catastrophe (Close-Up of Wine Barrel; 1892) by Eduard von Grützner, Milwaukee Art Museum

Fun Arty Fact: Zucchetto (plural = zucchetti) in Italian means “small gourd” and is also the name for the colorful skullcaps worn by some Christian clerics. The color of a cleric’s zucchetto depends on his position in the Church. For example, the pope wears a white zucchetto, cardinals wear red, bishops and abbots wear purple, priests and deacons wear black, and friars and some monks wear either black or brown.

Pope Francis wearing his zucchetto, photo

(cropped) by Günther Simmermacher, Pixabay.

Artist Background:  Eduard Theodor Ritter von Grützner (1846-1925) was born into an upper class, Roman Catholic family in Groβ-Karlowitz, Prussia (modern-day Poland). When Grützner was 18 years old, he moved to Munich and enrolled in art classes with Bavarian painter, Hermann Dyck (1812-1874). Within a year, Grützner transferred to the Akademi der Bildenden Künste München (Academy of Fine Arts in Munich) where he studied at length with painter, Karl von Piloty (1826-1886), a leader in German Realism.

Left: Portrait of Eduard von Grützner (1883; artist unknown), Wikimedia Commons

Right: Three Monks Having a Snack (1885) by Eduard von Grützner, Wikimedia Commons

At age 24, Grützner left the Akademi to set up his own workshop in Munich. Known for his genre paintings, Grützner’s monks-in-humorous-situations were a popular favorite, as well as Sir John Falstaff, the gregarious, brew-swilling character from several of Shakespeare’s plays. Over the course of his career Grützner received many accolades and awards. At age 40, he was granted the title of professor by Luitpold (1821-1912), the Prince Regent of Bavaria, and at age 70, he was knighted.

Left: A Cellarer with a Bunch of Keys (1889) by Eduard von Grutzner, Wikimedia Commons

Center: Dominicans at the Wine Tasting (1896) by Eduard von Grützner, Wikimedia Commons

Right: Falstaff with Wine Jug & Mug (1896) by Eduard von Grützner, Wikimedia Commons

During the latter part of his career, Grützner was influenced by Asian art and he began adding Chinese porcelain and the Buddha to his paintings. Grützner died in 1925 at the age of 78, just a month shy of his 79th birthday. If you’d like to view more of his work, click on this Eduard von Grützner link, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Left: Eduard von Grützner (1904) in front of his Don Quixote Painting, Wikimedia Commons

Right: Visit to the Wine Cellar (1906) by Eduard von Grützner, Wikimedia Commons

That concludes our look at Eduard von Grützner’s Catastrophe. I’m off next week on holiday, but I’ll be back in two weeks with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂

Cover photo by minka2507, courtesy of Pixabay.


AskArt: Eduard von Grützner

Artnet: Eduard von Grützner

Britannica: Karl von Piloty

Britannica: Sir John Falstaff

Britannica: Wine

Hat Guide: Zucchetto

Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum: The Catastrophe (1892) by Eduard von Grützner

Nineteenth-century Painters and Painting, A Dictionary (1977) by Geraldine Norman

PeoplePill: Eduard von Grützner


Sammlung Pinakothek: Eduard von Grützner

WikiArt: Eduard von Grützner

Wikimedia Commons: Eduard von Grützner

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