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Presentation in Berlin on 22 November: For the first time, a sketchbook by Caspar David Friedrich was auctioned

Photo: Jens Kalaene / dpa

A sketchbook by the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) has gone under the hammer at Berlin's Grisebach auction house – and has been auctioned off for just over 1.8 million euros. The auction price was 1.45 million euros, the gross price with buyer's premium for the auction house is 1.819 million euros.

Previously, the value of the "Karlsruhe Sketchbook" had been estimated at up to 1.5 million euros. Initially, there was no information about new owners. The booklet belonged to a family in Karlsruhe for more than 200 years, hence the name, although it shows sketches from a trip to Dresden.

Friedrich, who was born in Greifswald, repeatedly put the sketchbook in the pockets of his travelling coat between mid-April and early June 1804, according to the auction house. The drawings were made in Dresden. Among other things, fine pencil drawings of trees, branches and tree trunks can be seen. The artist had adopted several motifs in his major works, such as the sketch of an oak tree in his early work »Hünengrab im Schnee«.

The last of six sketchbooks that was still in private hands

According to the auction house, it is the last known hardcover copy of a sketchbook by the artist that is still in private hands today. Only six of the 20 of these booklets have survived. Four of them – some of them incompletely bound – are kept by the National Museum in Oslo, another by the Kupferstichkabinett in Dresden.

Shortly before the auction, it was announced that the sketchbook was to be protected as a cultural asset. The Berlin Cultural Administration initiated a procedure for the »Karlsruhe Sketchbook« to be entered in the Register of Nationally Valuable Cultural Assets of the State of Berlin. This means that there is an export ban for the duration of the proceedings.

The 1923 painting »Clouds over the Sea I« by Lyonel Feiniger was also sold at the auction for 1.9 million euros. The painting had previously been estimated at up to 1.2 million euros.

In autumn, Florian Illies published a book about Caspar David Friedrich entitled »Zauber der Stille«. SPIEGEL critic Elke Heidenreich thinks it's smart, easy and impressive. Watch the literature column as a video here.