The Torso of Bavaria

Photograph/Alois Locherer Image Source/Wikimedia Commons

Photograph/Alois Locherer
Image Source/Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published in August 2013.

Alois Locherer was the leading photographer of the erstwhile Kingdom of Bavaria in Germany. His documentation of the making of this statue marked the very beginning of event photography in the country. In this image, Locherer photographed a group of 14 men gathered around the torso of Bavaria, all of whom believed to be artists, engineers and draftsmen. The sculpture of Bavaria was designed by Ludwig Schwanthaler. Interestingly, the composition of the photograph was apparently inspired by Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, which was published in 1726, and became widely readable in German popular culture in the 1850s.

While Locherer extensively photographed the making of the statute, only five motifs have been found from his Bavaria series. In fact, this particular photograph is more than 150 years old. Additionally, it is the only one out of the five images to be dated with certainty. It was made on 7 August 1850. It survives, despite having faded considerably over time.

For many, it serves as a reminder of a bygone era of German history. While, for others, Locherer’s intact visual document marks the start of photojournalism and documentary photography. Alois Locherer is today celebrated as the most important Germany calotypist.

Tags: 1850, Alois Locherer, August 2013, Bavaria, Germany, Germany 1850, Gulliver's Travels, history, Ludwig Schwanthaler, Story Behind the Picture