Will a $2 Million Caspar David Friedrich Sketchbook Remain in Germany?

The sketchbook has been nominated for protected status as a cultural asset, despite selling at auction.

Caspar David Friedrich, The Karlsruhe Sketchbook. Photo by Christian Hagemann via Grisebach.

On 30 November, an 1804 sketchbook belonging to the German Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich sold at Grisebach auction house for €1.8 million ($1.9 million). However, ahead of the auction, the sketchbook had been nominated for protected status as a nationally valuable cultural asset by Berlin’s Senate Department for Culture, which, if granted, would prevent its exit from the country.

The Karlsruhe Sketchbook has been in the family of the contemporary and friend of Friedrich, Georg Friedrich Kersting, for more than 200 years. The roughly seven-by-four-inch sketchbook is made up of 20 sheets of woven paper, including 33 pages of pencil drawings washed in sepia. Individual pages have been inscribed and dated by Friedrich. It is the first sketchbook of Friedrich’s—of which six of 20 are believed to survive—to ever be offered for sale. Ahead of the auction, the item was shown in Berlin, Zurich, and New York.

Caspar David Friedrich, The Karlsruhe Sketchbook. Photo by Christian Hagemann via Grisebach.

Caspar David Friedrich, The Karlsruhe Sketchbook (1804). Photo by Christian Hagemann via Grisebach.

Auctioneer Daniel von Schacky sold the sketchbook for above its €1.5 million ($1.58 million) high estimate to an anonymous bidder. Only after the legal proceedings are concluded within the Department of Culture will it be known whether the bidder could take the item out of Germany, depending on whether or not it is deemed a significant cultural asset.

Caspar David Friedrich’s popularity had waned by the time of his death in 1840, when he passed away in poverty, but the “Germany Century Exhibition” held in Berlin’s National Gallery in 1906, which included 93 works by Friedrich, began a renaissance for his reputation. He is perhaps best known for his painting, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818), currently held in the Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg. Friedrich is considered a pioneer of modernism and one of Germany’s best known artists.

Next year marks the 250th anniversary of Friedrich’s birth and several museums in Germany are putting on retrospectives to celebrate the artist, including “Art for a New Age” at the Hamburger Kunsthalle and “Infinite Landscapes” at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.


More Trending Stories:  

Art Critic Jerry Saltz Gets Into an Online Skirmish With A.I. Superstar Refik Anadol 

The Old Masters of Comedy: See the Hidden Jokes in 5 Dutch Artworks 

A Royal Portrait by Diego Velázquez Heads to Auction for the First Time in Half a Century 

How Do You Make $191,000 From a $4 Painting? You Don’t 

In Her L.A. Debut, South Korean Artist Guimi You Taps Into the Sublimity of Everyday Life 

Two Rare Paintings by Sienese Master Pietro Lorenzetti Come to Light After a Century in Obscurity 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.
Article topics