- Das einzig authentische Porträt des Alten Fritz?: Is the only true likeness of Frederick the Great to be found in Hogarth's Marriage A-la-Mode? by Bernd Krysmanski
This short monograph is in fact a long essay, provided first in its original German and followed by an English translation by Brian Nattress. Adorned with many illustrations, some in color, it makes the well-reasoned argument that the flautist in the fourth plate of Marriage A-la-Mode is none other than Frederick the Great.
Mr. Krysmanski begins noting that Frederick was an ugly man, particularly because of his Slawkenbergian nose. He was also well known for his love of music and his proficiency with the flute. He was quite openly gay. Of course, his official portraitists idealized his features, but in a fine analysis of the levée scene, Mr. Krysmanski convinces us that "Frederick the Great appears as a flautist behind a singing Italian castrato and in front of a painting of … a homoerotic scene," namely Jupiter abducting Ganymede. Hogarth divided his scene between the adulterous wife, steeped in heteroerotic imagery, and the indifferent husband, surrounded by homosexual images, especially the flautist and the castrato. Above their head, "the eagle in the Ganymede picture is depicted seizing his victim from behind, thereby violently spreading out Ganymede's legs with its claws … certainly a coded reference to anal homosexual sex. … And this picture … is directly assigned to the flautist, who also has a matching aquiline nose and plays upon a phallic symbol, the flute, blowing if not kissing it with his lips."
Mr. Krysmanski then argues that Ho-garth might have learned about Frederick's facial features from various German and French artists whom he visited in Paris in 1743 while seeking engravers for the Marriage series. He also establishes Hogarth's possible hostility toward Frederick, culminating twenty years later in The Times, Plate 1, in which the artist portrays him "as a fiddler, once more characteristically … with a prominent nose." If true, Mr. Krysmanski concludes, "it is very likely that Hogarth's representation is the most realistic depiction of the Prussian king that was ever painted or engraved by any artist."
The monograph is rounded out with a very substantial thirteen-page bibliography of Hogarth studies and nine pages of advertisements for Mr. Krysmanski's other authored or edited publications on the artist.