Oil on panel. 66 x 42 cm. Signed with a monogram and dated.
St Cecilia was a very popular painting, much discussed among scholars, partly because of the mystery, which is connected with the painting. (Hormayr’s Archiv, 1823, no. 38, p. 197ff. Friedrich Schlegel, Die heilige Cäcilia von Ludwig Schnorr, published in Friedrich Schlegel, Ansichten und Ideen von der christlichen Kunst, edited by Hans Eichner, Friedrich Schlegel, Kritische Ausgabe, Munich 1959, vol. IV, p. XLVII and p. 263 - 267. Alexander Graf Strasoldo-Graffemberg, Ludwig Ferdinand Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1788 – 1853), Freiburg/Breisgau. 1986, p. 82 - 90, no. 9, p. 202.)
According to Strasoldo-Graffemberg (p. 86), Schnorr painted St Cecilia following the story of the visionary Countess Lesniowska, who saw “an unknown woman, who bore the name of Jesus shimmering in blood-red on her chest.”
The poet and philosopher Friedrich Schlegel (1772 – 1829) introduced Schnorr to the Countess, who wished her vision to be documented. Schnorr named the unknown woman St Cecilia, inspired by a dream. After taking notes of the Countess’s vision and producing several sketches, he composed St Cecilia (Strasoldo-Graffemberg, p. 86-87).
Friedrich Schlegel documented the execution of the painting in his notes Die heilige Cäcilia von Ludwig Schnorr (Hormayr’s Archiv, 1823, no. 38, p. 197 ff). Later, this event was widely discussed amongst Schlegel experts (see: Literature in Strasoldo-Graffemberg, 1986, p. 202). “If you were to start with the basic idea of the painting, with Cecilia’s sympathy for people’s fate, her loving care for the harmony of life, for the music of emotions and the art of sounds, then you could not help but admire the excellence and the importance of Schnorr’s artistic achievement.” (Friedrich Schlegel, 1823; in: Hormayr’s Archiv, 1823, no. 38, p. 197ff).
Schnorr shows in this picture the influence by the new search for religion and its confluence with occultism, which was popular among the intellectuals of his time. The Nazarene artists in particular showed a new interest in the Roman Catholic church and some converted to this religion, including Schnorr himself. Johann Scheffer von Leonhardshoff (1795-1822), another Nazarene artist, devoted a major part of his work to the subject of St Cecilia.
Schnorr wrote to his father on 6th of August 1823 that he had to make some smaller versions due to the great public interest for his first painting (Landesmuseum Linz). One of them is now in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien. Another version was executed as a gouache and was supposed to have been presented to the Czar Alexander I of Russia (Strasoldo-Graffemberg, 1986, p. 89). The present painting was previously unknown and is now the third known version (Strasoldo-Graffemberg, written communication, Wachtberg, 4 December 2000).
We are grateful to Count Strasoldo for the above information.