Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl

Study for "Saint Cecilia"

circa 1889,

oil on canvas

Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl (1860, Temesvar, Austria-Hungary - 1933, Rome)
Study for the painting "Saint Cecilia," also known as "The Dream of St. Cecilia"
circa 1889
oil on canvas laid down on board
34 x 60 cm
The Daulton Collection

For the finished painting, "Saint Cecilia" (1889), see: Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl, 1860-1933 (London: Mathiessen Fine Art Ltd., 1987), pg. 36 (illustrated).

For a closely related oil study, see: Adolf Hiremy Hirschl: Disegni, Acquerelli e Pastelli (Rome: Galleria Carlo Virgilio, 1981), fig. 7, pg. 28; see also Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1860-1933 (Città di Castello: Petruzzi Editore, 1991) (catalogue of the exhibition of the same name at Museo Civico dí Sansepolcro, Italy, November 1991), pgs. 14-15.

Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music and musicians.  However, Hirémy-Hirschl's interpretation creates a supernatural atmosphere that seems to lie somewhere between Pagan and Christian, with his palette and tone perhaps suggesting the afterlife.  See Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1860-1933 (1991) at pg. 14.

"St. Cecilia of 1889, one of the artist's masterpieces, cannot be considered a religious work in the strictest sense of the term: on the seashore, lying between flowers and rocks, she dreams, surrounded by five angelic female musicians.  There is an elegant style that presages the Jugendstil, academicizing, but just permeated with Pre-Raphaelism (in a comparable form the theme is found in John William Waterhouse only in 1895). The painting lives on the refined rhythmic curves of the bodies and wings [and] of the instruments ... (on the one hand, these rhythms bring it closer to the late fifteenth century, on the other hand to a contemporary like Thorn-Prikker; the closest work, however, is Previati's Maternità from 1890/91)."  Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1860-1933 (1991) at pg. 14 (translation from the original Italian by Jack Daulton). 

The finished painting was awarded the Reichel Prize in Vienna in 1889 and received honorable mention the following year in Berlin.

The painting may show the influence of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's funerary sculpture "Beata Ludovica Albertoni" (1671-74).

The subject of Saint Cecilia was apparently important to Hirémy-Hirschl, as he painted other versions and other studies. See Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1860-1933 (1991) at pg. 14.


Jack Daulton
The Daulton Collection
Los Altos Hills, California