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Study of Skeleton Playing a Clarinet for the Painting

Felix Nussbaum (German, 1904-1944)

Study of Skeleton Playing a Clarinet for the Painting "Death Triumphant", c. 1944

  • Pencil, gouache, and chalk on paper
  • 10 7/8 x 8 13/16 in. (27.7 x 22.4 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Mildred and George Weissman Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Communal Fund Gift, 1985-140
  • © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Study of Skeleton Playing a Clarinet for the Painting "Death Triumphant"

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Study of Skeleton Playing a Clarinet for the Painting "Death Triumphant"

Felix Nussbaum made this drawing while hiding from the Nazis in Brussels, just months before he was captured and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Is the figure in the drawing alive or dead? Dressed in a tattered cloth (a funeral shroud?), the figure seems to walk the line between this world and the next. Nussbaum created this sketch as a study for his last known work, a painting titled Death Triumphant or The Skeletons Play for a Dance. In the painting, a group of skeletons dance and play music in a landscape strewn with the ruins of western civilization, as Allied bombers streak across the sky.