Philipp Otto Runge: portrait of Wilhelmina Sophia Helwig

Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810), portrait of Wilhelmina Sophia Helwig,
oil on canvas, 1807;
height: 116 cm

The painter Philipp Otto Runge sojourns in Wolgast from 1806 to 1807, the city of his birth. While there he produces a series of family portraits, also of his 16-year-old niece Wilhelmina Sophia Helwig, whom he affectionately calls 'Mienchen' in his letters. Wilhelmina stands on a parapet, framed by roiling skies hung low with cloud, against a vista of fluttering treetops. Her left hand rests gently on the balustrade. She appears unmoved by the spectacle of nature. She faces out of the picture a little askance, an effect heightened by the slight curvature of her right arm. Her head is bowed toward the inflowing light, lending her body a delicate shimmer. The lush colourfulness of the background with its violets and greens juxtaposes with the fragile pastel hues of her clothing and complexion.

But the indefinacy of her gaze, a confluence of longing and melancholia, creates a bond with the scenery and indicates a symbolic connection between the turmoil of nature and the young woman's emotions.

This conflation of meaning between landscapes and human forms is typical of the artist Runge. The tumescing blossoms on the rose nestled against the body of the subject emphasise the symbolic potency. Runge uses the various stages in the growth of the flower to represent the sequence of human life that even Wilhelmina is unable to escape.


Text: B.F.

The exhibit refers to:

Western Pomerania until 1945

Look here for the original exhibit:

Pommersches Landesmuseum

Pommersches Landesmuseum

Rakower Straße 9
17489 Greifswald