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6Gelehrte Herren

ca 1942
Painting, tempera on cardboard, 100 x 70 cm

Gelehrte Herren

The painting ”Gelehrte Herren” (Scholarly gentlemen) is one of a series of anonymous portraits that were completed during the National Socialist period. In these paintings, Jeanne Mammen was probably trying to capture types of people rather than specific individuals. She portrayed them as caricatures, using the styles of cubism and expressionism, exaggerating single typifying characteristics. Here the image is constructed of mostly red and blue geometrical shapes that can be recognized as two men. The left is positioned frontally, the right in halfprofile. The left wears a hat and his face is in subdued colors, as if he is partially fading into the shadows of the background. His hat is pulled down low over his face and his eyes are positioned so close to each other that his forehead seems to be wrinkled in a mixture of astonishment, wonder and doubt. His mouth is hidden by a thick mustache. In front of him is a sort of stack of books that he is holding in front of his chest. Perhaps he represents a bookworm, hiding behind his books without stepping forward. In the foreground is the man on the right, whose forehead, nose and beard are painted in lighter colors, as if illuminated. His eyes are rounder: the left is narrow and high, while the other eye is pointed downward and to the right. He appears clownish because his mouth is open and his tongue is sticking out, over a crooked, spotted bow tie. His open mouth suggests that he is the speaker and the other appears to be listening. One reading of the work is that the ”scholars” who were speaking out at the time left a bad impression on Jeanne Mammen, while the voices of reason retreated into their learning and remained entrenched in silence.