Pietà (Mother with dead Son), 1937-1939

Bronze, 379.5 (h) 286 (w) 396 (d) mm, Seeler 37 II.B.1.

Käthe Kollwitz, Pietà (Mother with dead Son), 1937-1939, bronze, Seeler 37 II.B.1., Cologne Kollwitz Collection © Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln

In 1937, on the anniversary of her son Peter’s death, the artist wrote in her diary:

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I am working on the small sculpture that is the result of my sculptural experiments to portray old age. It has become a kind of Pietà. The mother is seated, her dead son lying on her lap between her knees.«
Käthe Kollwitz, Diaries, 22 October 1937

Käthe Kollwitz emphasised on several occasions that the group was not a religious work, despite the reference to ecclesiastical art.

The group is integrated with the plinth and is dominated by the voluminous draped figure of the mother. The »Pietà« has a clear, in some areas relief-like, frontal view. Mother and son share the same silhouette. His body seems to merge with the mother’s in an almost embryonic posture. Any pathos – something which was common in memorials of the First World War – has been avoided in this »Pietà«, likewise in her »Mourning Parents« which she finished in 1932.

In 1993, a version of the sculpture, executed by Harald Haake four times its original size, was installed on the initiative of Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor at that time, at the Neue Wache in Berlin, which is the central memorial site of the Federal Republic of Germany for the victims of war and dictatorship.

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