From Oscar Wilde, 1974
Anselm Kiefer (German, born 1945)
Watercolor and gouache on paper; 15 5/8 x 11 3/4 in. (39.7 x 29.8 cm)
Gift of Cynthia Hazen Polsky, in memory of her father, Joseph H. Hazen, 2000 (2000.96.3)
As inscribed, Kiefer pretends the rose pictured here in delicate watercolor was a gift for his then wife, Julia, from Oscar Wilde ("von Oskar Wilde / für Julia"). Kiefer thus links his romantic floral subject to the great writer's witty and bittersweet fairy tales—particularly The Nightingale and the Rose (1888). In Wilde's story, the songbird impales herself on the thorn of a rosebush so that her song and blood will infuse the plant and give birth to a red flower. The rose produced by the nightingale's sacrifice is then plucked by a feckless student of philosophy to give to his unrequited love. In turn she rejects his offer, choosing instead the jewels proffered by another suitor, and the scholar turns back to the only kind of knowledge he comprehends—philosophy.