Alexander Rothaug

The Death of Achilles,

black chalk, heightened with white, pencil, and pen on paper


Alexander Rothaug (Vienna 1870-1946 Vienna)

Study for The Death of Achilles

Studien zu: Achilleus stürzt vom Pfeil des Paris getroffen

[Study for: Achilles felled by the arrow of Paris]

black chalk, heightened with white, pencil and pen in black on light brown wove paper

25,3 x 34,7 cm 


ex coll. artist Ernst Fuchs (Austrian, 1930-1915)




Achilles has been struck down by the poisoned arrow in his heel and is already on his knees, his head thrown back. In this study, Rothaug looks at his hero as if through a magnifying glass, zooming in on details again and again to further analyze the anatomy. His system of construction lines and points, also presented in his 1933 treatise Statik und Dynamik des menschlichen Körpers [Statics and Dynamics of the Human Body], can be clearly seen here.

In October 2017, a corresponding monumental version (218,8 x 163,8 cm) of the same composition en grisaille (brown ink and oil over black chalk) on canvas sold at Christie's in New York.  See 19th Century European Art, Christie's, New York, Auction 14994, October 31, 2017, Lot 47.

"Alexander Rothaug was active as a painter, stage designer and illustrator in Munich and his native Vienna in the waning years of the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th. Trained at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts by the Orientalist painter Leopold Carl Müller, Rothaug would go on to create his own distinctive style which defies easy classification. With an enduring interest in depicting ancient Greek, Roman, Germanic and Norse mythologies, Rothaug’s work blends the Classicism he had been taught at the Academy with elements of Jugendstil and also the arresting, atmospheric Symbolism of Franz von Stuck, under whose sway the artist fell during his time in Munich.  Paintings on the scale of The Death of Achilles do occur within the artist’s oeuvre. Rothaug created monumental paintings for theater buildings, ceiling paintings, and a group of large wall-mounted paintings still in situ at the Grand Hotel de l’Europe in Bad Gastein depicting scenes from Wagner’s Ring cycle. The present work may be preparatory for a commission for one of these monumental works, as in areas where the underdrawing is visible it is clear that Rothaug was still working out the specifics of the composition. The preparatory nature, and the fact that it may have been a part of a larger cycle of pictures, perhaps depicting the life of Achilles or the history of the Trojan War, likely explains why the work has not been signed. The complex, carefully detailed musculature was a particular interest of Rothaug’s, and the artist published a treatise on the depiction of the human body titled Statics and Dynamics of the Human Body in 1933."  (Christie's catalogue entry.)




Jack Daulton

The Daulton Collection