Peasant War Panorama

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Early bourgeois revolution in Germany
Werner Tübke , 1976 to 1987
1400 × 12300 cm
Panorama Museum, Bad Frankenhausen / Kyffhäuser GermanyGermanyGermany 

Link to the picture
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Panorama Museum in Bad Frankenhausen

The Peasant War Panorama is a monumental panorama picture of the Peasant War with the title Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany by the Leipzig painter and art professor Werner Tübke . It is located in the Panorama Museum , a building complex built especially for this purpose , on the Schlachtberg near the small town of Bad Frankenhausen in Thuringia at the foot of the Kyffhäuser Mountains . The work was created between 1976 and 1987, originally to commemorate the German Peasant War and the peasant leader Thomas Müntzer . With an area of ​​1722 m², it is one of the largest panel paintings in the world.

facts and figures

The cylindrical rotunda made of precast concrete parts , which includes the painting, is approx. 18 m high and has an outside diameter of almost 44 m. Herbert Müller was commissioned as the architect , the foundation stone was laid on May 8, 1974. The retaining wall consists of 54 prefabricated, semi-tubular prestressed concrete shells and the roof consists of self-supporting, prestressed triangular concrete shells. The rotunda and entrance building were completed in 1975.

The canvas (and with it the picture itself) is 123 m long and 14 m high. It weighed about 1.1 t unpainted and is stretched between an upper and a lower steel ring, each almost 40 m in diameter. It was woven in one piece in the Sursk textile combine in the Soviet Union . The then culture minister of the GDR, Hans-Joachim Hoffmann , who was very committed to the project, had personally ordered the screen in the Soviet Union.

The local car upholstery Günter hollow stem sewed the both ends fit together and prepared for the longitudinal sides of the rings. After stretching, a Soviet team of specialists provided the canvas with a primer based on an old Russian secret recipe.

Tübke distributed more than 3000 individual figures over the 1722 m² area, the largest of which measure over 3 meters.

The painter himself had to interrupt the work temporarily and let his colleague Eberhard Lenk do the work because the overexertion had caused a muscle tear in his thumb.

The picture is separated from the visitor hall by a surrounding ditch and railing to prevent contact and damage. During the guided tours, it is illuminated by a large number of dimly lit spotlights, while the hall itself remains in the semi-darkness. Thus, the three-dimensional effect of the round picture can unfold optimally.


Image description

Contrary to the intentions of the client (see history ), Tübke created the image of an entire epoch, the Renaissance , which in literature is often referred to as “theatrum mundi” (world theater). He was by no means limited to a temporally or spatially precisely determinable snapshot, let alone the faithful reproduction of real historical events, nor to the emphasis on individual aspects. In addition to the historical figures such as Müntzer and Luther , the painter has visualized a multitude of allegorical allusions to events (also from other epochs), but above all to human fears, superstitions , apocalyptic ideas and biblical themes in his powerful suggestive imagery. In addition, he took numerous borrowings from contemporary paintings and woodcuts. In addition, he immortalized himself in some places as a person plagued by self-doubt in view of the sheer superhuman task and thus documented the development process of his work.

The center of the depiction - the section that is reproduced in most of the pictures in the painting - is the panorama of the battle of Frankenhausen itself, with Thomas Müntzer at the center. While the fighting is still raging around Müntzer, he is already holding the flag of the Bundschuh movement down - he knows that his cause is lost. Death with the bagpipes is already approaching him. So Müntzer is not the shining hero here, but a tired, broken man.

Separated from the battle by a hedge, Tübke has grouped important personalities of the time around a fountain in the same part of the picture, including Albrecht Dürer and Martin Luther .

Tübke described Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder as his artistic role models and combined his own techniques with unmistakable borrowings from the Old Masters and (especially for this monumental work) from contemporary representations. Over several years of preparation, he has worked his way into the imagination and artistic representation of this epoch between the end of the Middle Ages and early modern times with an intensive study of sources .

Although there are larger rotundas , Tübke's work is considered unique. It is not a pictorial, documentary snapshot in the manner of a typical “battle painting”, but can be seen as a metaphorical overall representation in a panorama as a prototype of its own genre.


There are two different interpretations of the painting today. One assumes that Tübke created an allegory of the doomed GDR through his depiction. Just as Thomas Müntzer has to realize that his vision of a better future for the simple rural rural population has failed, so too has the GDR leadership's vision of a socialist state in which people are the measure of all things has failed. Eduard Beaucamp , art critic for the FAZ and one of the early supporters of Tübke in the West, said:

“The Thuringian Peasants' War Panorama (1976 to 1987) is not a didactic large-scale illustration, but a historical parable of human errors and confusions with a view of social unrest, upheavals and religious struggles of the modern age, of a world not on the move but in the tumult of a later period: world history is taking place as a Last Judgment. "
“All of these commissioned pictures are based on a deep dissent to the ideological GDR party program. The projects could be cloaked and justified with the “heritage” debate. In almost all of his "history pictures", Tübke has developed his skeptical, even historically pessimistic view and not the GDR's ideal of progress - the conception of a return of the same, which is never the same. " (FAZ, May 29, 2004)

The second interpretation hypothesis is based on a general transitoriness of all being - a point of view that is underlined by the character of the painting as a round picture. This approach is not limited to the failure of the peasant uprisings under Thomas Müntzer - the historical parallel referred to in the GDR - but in general to all social processes at this and other times. All is lost not only for Müntzer and his peasant armies, but also for the nobility, the church and the bourgeoisie. Gerd Lindner, director of the Panorama Museum , interprets the painting as follows:

“I think the work is timeless because the painter has developed an image of history that is very subjective. In a nutshell, one could say that it shows the eternal return of the same, the basic social problems remain the same, that is the basic message of the picture, presented in a total form, i.e. in a circular shape without beginning and end, so that the story as The continuum appears without any linear development, which was in blatant contradiction to the official historical image of the GDR. "

Christina Tilmann said after Werner Tübke's death:

“It's a carnival , a mask festival, but also always a deeply pessimistic dance of death on the ruins of civilization, which Werner Tübke stages. Full of admiration for the mastery of the ancestors, but at the same time permeated with the melancholy awareness that this prime of civilization is long over, replaced by a more barbaric epoch. "


Historical background

Since 1524 there were peasant uprisings in many places in southwest Germany, later summarized under the term German Peasants' War , which soon spread to Thuringia. In northern Thuringia, the farmers' most important figure to identify with was the rebellious preacher Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525), who initially pursued the same goals as Martin Luther, but later showed solidarity with the farmers who were fighting for rights. In a diatribe he called the reformer “the spiritless, gentle flesh in Wittenberg ”. Luther, who considered violent overthrow attempts blasphemous, responded in 1525 with the pamphlet Against the Murderous and Rebellious Rotten der Bawren . In May of the same year, one of the last great peasant uprisings was bloodily suppressed in the battle of Frankenhausen at the foot of the Kyffhauser . Müntzer was captured, tortured and executed.

Political background

GDR banknote 5 marks with Müntzer in the 1975 to 1990 issue

Official commissioned the painting was the Ministry of Culture of the GDR , which therefore a decision of the SED - Politburo transposed October 9 1,973th At the beginning of the 1970s, with the end of the Ulbricht era, there was also a change in the cultural-political doctrine of the SED. More diversity and acceptance of art that is not exclusively committed to real socialism should on the one hand raise the international reputation, on the other hand also facilitate the appropriation of historical figures and events as "revolutionary" predecessors of the "first socialist state on German soil", whose legacy is now more natural thanks to the GDR Legacy is realized. Thomas Müntzer was stylized as the most important early revolutionary in Germany, and the peasant uprisings of the early 16th century, according to the historical and philosophical views of Karl Marx, were elevated to part of an "early bourgeois revolution" which initiated the transition from feudalism to early capitalism . The admiration of Thomas Müntzer was expressed, for example, in the fact that he was featured on the GDR's 5- mark banknote from 1975 onwards.


Schlachtberg in front of Panorama Museum

Against this background, the SED planned a large-scale commemorative year for 1975 in view of the 450th anniversary of the German Peasant War, in order to give due expression to its sole claim to Müntzer's inheritance. At a plenum of the SED in 1972, the official application was first submitted to erect a panorama memorial on the Schlachtberg near Bad Frankenhausen in memory of the peasant battle fought there and its leader, Müntzer. The SED leadership had in mind a monumental, heroic battle painting in the tradition of the typical gigantomania of communist hero worship. The numerous panorama paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries served as a model, in particular a Russian panorama painting that was created in 1912 for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino and was housed in a specially built panorama museum in Moscow in 1962 .

After several years of discussions, technical expertise by historians and art experts, proposed changes, renewed debates, etc., the commissioned minister of culture decided to end the dispute. Contrary to the representatives of socialist realism, however, he commissioned a panorama picture that they had rejected - the associated building was already in progress.


Only the best artists were considered for such a project. Specifically, the internationally respected Werner Tübke was considered suitable. After a period of reflection, Tübke accepted the order, but set unmistakable conditions: he would remain the only contractor and he would not create a documentary correct pictorial document of a battle, but an artistic monumental work with extensive generalization. Above all, nobody has to talk him into the artistic concept and its execution. He would not paint without the acceptance of his artistic autonomy.

Time was pressing, it was 1975. Tübke's “ultimatum”, which could have been the undoing of any less important artist in the GDR, was widely accepted. As a result, the painting was not created in the "official" style of socialist realism , but in the magical realism cultivated by Tübke .


In 1976 the painter took a leave of absence as the rector of the Leipzig Art School and began to make his first sketches and smaller pictures as drafts in parallel to the intensive study of sources during the Renaissance period. The canvas was delivered as early as 1978.

Tübke presented the 1:10 version of the Peasants' War panorama to members of the Politburo in 1982 in the Albertinum . You can see Margot Honecker (2nd from left), Joachim Herrmann (3rd from left) and others. Prof. Dr. Lothar Kolditz (r.), Willi Stoph (2nd from right)

In 1979, work on the 1:10 model version, the actual original version, followed, as conceived and fixed in the contract. The work, painted on five wooden panels, each 2.46 m long and 1.39 m high, was acquired by the National Gallery of the State Museums in Berlin in December 1988 and is still in Berlin today. In 1982, 54 workers stretched and prepared the canvas. Then a total of fifteen artists drew the contours from the model version on 900 squares made of transparent film, which were then photographed. The photos were projected onto the screen with movable overhead projectors at a scale of 10: 1 and the enlarged contour drawings were recorded with a pale tempera color. This work took three months. The following year, the fifteen artists completed a kind of training in which they learned to copy Tübke's style exactly and were also supposed to acquire the technology for the big screen by transferring preliminary studies to ever larger areas. Five painters were ultimately selected by the master, including Matthias Steier . In 1983 they gradually joined Tübke, who had already painted a smaller area as a reference. The six painters worked in shifts and on weekends for over four years on mobile scaffolding that was five stories high. The constant overuse of his right arm caused Tübke to tear a muscle in his thumb while working , which forced him to take longer breaks. On August 7, 1987 Werner Tübke finally completed his part of the painting, on September 11, Lenk was the last employee to finish his work, and on October 16, Werner Tübke finally put his signature on the finished work. One of the first to see the work shortly before its completion was the historian Golo Mann in the fall of 1987 . He described his impressions as follows:

“The writer of these lines was lucky enough to visit the rotunda on the hill near Frankenhausen in October 1987, a few weeks before Werner Tübke, after twelve years of work, described his work as completed, a year and a half before it was occasionally open to the public for a celebration will be made. There were three of us, with two friendly explanators. After that we were allowed to say hello to the Tübke couple. The master was deeply exhausted, you could feel that much, in need of relaxation, but probably happy too. What could i tell him? Hardly more than what I wrote in the guest book: “Full of admiration and amazement.” When you step into the huge vault, you look straight up, and at first you are seized by something like dizziness. Then you try to orient yourself; which an hour can never be enough. It is a world that opens up there; Human world in the first third of the 16th century. If the master had models, then they were painters of that time; by no means the history painters of the nineteenth, who weren't that bad either, but with whom any comparison is out of the question. In general, the mere word fails here. Realism? Yes, yes, that too. You see the agony of someone braided on a bike. One sees executioners and hanged men. You see the lush life, lust and lust of the new, rich bourgeoisie. A printer's workshop is also right here: reality and symbol of the new great power. [...]

But whoever stands under that dome on the Frankenberg, the painting with no beginning, without middle and without end, the show in which symbols like the bursting tower of Babylon or a rainbow high above the bustle of battles are reconciled with historical figures, the magic power will be let art appear for a moment as gray on gray. "

- Golo Mann : In: Peasant War Panorama. First visit.


On the occasion of the 500th birthday of Thomas Müntzer, the state leadership declared 1989 to be the Thomas Müntzer Year. On this occasion, the “Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany” memorial with the monumental panorama picture was officially opened on September 14th of that year. Previously, excerpts from the painting had already appeared on a five-part stamp set that the GDR's Deutsche Post issued on August 22nd.

The highest political celebrities in the GDR stayed away from the inauguration ceremony. The highest-ranking politicians took part: Minister of Culture Hoffmann , one of the most important sponsors of the project, his opponent, SED cultural director Kurt Hager and Minister of Education Margot Honecker , who also represented her sick husband Erich Honecker . He can be seen as the silent patron of the panorama.


As a result of a decision by the Erfurt Regional Court , a painting made by Eberhard Lenk based on motifs from the Peasant War panorama for the Hotel “Reichental” in Bad Frankenhausen may not be shown until the expiry of the copyright blocking period. Holes were then punched in a postcard from the “Reichental” hotel, which showed this painting in a photo, in order to follow the verdict.

Special exhibitions

In addition to the monumental panorama painting “Early Bourgeois Revolution in Germany”, the Panorama Museum presents thematic exhibitions on the work of Werner Tübke, as well as special exhibitions by other artists and art movements.

  • Werner Tübke - Fascination of the Mediterranean , May 8th to September 19th, 2004
  • Michael Triegel - ars combinatoria , July 1 to October 8, 2006
  • Heinz Plank - Signs of Life , February 24 to May 28, 2007
  • Werner Tübke - The Zellerfelder Altar , October 15, 2007 to January 27, 2008
  • Horst Janssen - There are only increases ... , June 14th to September 28th, 2008
  • Rolf Münzner - graphics and drawings , February 28 to June 1, 2009
  • Werner Tübke - The Monumental Work From Sketch to Completion , June 28 to October 11, 2009
  • Erich Kissing - The Myth of Longing , February 27 to June 6, 2010
  • Fantastic art from Vienna , June 19 to October 3, 2010
  • Dopo de Chirico - Metaphysical Painting of the Present in Italy , October 20, 2012 to February 3, 2013
  • Agostino Arrivabene - Tó Páthei Máthos , June 29th to October 20th, 2013
  • Heinz Zander - Hikes on forgotten paths , March 12th to June 12th, 2016.
  • Werner Tübke - From Petersburg to Samarkand. Among strangers , June 29 to November 3, 2019

Voices and reactions

Above all, the oversized dimensions of the picture created on behalf of the government were criticized, as they were out of all proportion to the economic situation in the GDR at the time of its creation. Large parts of the population saw the picture at that time as a pure propaganda tool for the rulers, who wanted to use it to propagate their idealizing historical image of the peasant wars. This contrasts with the implementation of this idea by Werner Tübke, whose presentation does not correspond to the ideas of the politicians.

Shortly after it was erected, the associated circular building was popularly nicknamed the “elephant toilet”, disrespectful and contemptuous. Other names were " gasometer " and " silo ". The multi-million dollar prestige object appeared to the population as sheer mockery and cynicism of the rulers in view of the constantly worsening shortage in all areas of life. Critics stated - and still is today - that the expensive art project had canceled several other projects in the region, including a gym in Sangerhausen . Proponents of the project, however, refer to the currency that Tübke brought in through the sale of his paintings abroad. This criticism also extended to the - partly unjustified, partly justified - so dubbed “state artist” by the grace of the SED. Even after the fall of the Wall, Tübke said he was completely satisfied with his most famous work. Furthermore, according to his own statement, he did not see himself as an artist of the GDR, and certainly not as a state artist, but as standing outside of GDR art.

Today's meaning

After the end of the GDR, the future of the Panorama Museum was uncertain as a result of the public criticism that had arisen during Tübke's work. A closure of the museum was even discussed, but this could be averted by experts in the Thuringian Ministry of Art.

Since 1992 the concept of the Panorama Museum has been expanded beyond the presentation of the monumental painting to include similar works of art on the one hand and Werner Tübke's oeuvre on the other. The main sponsor of the museum has been the Free State of Thuringia since the fall of the Wall . At the beginning of 2008 the museum was privatized and taken over by the Panorama Museum e. V. taken over. The sponsoring association includes the state of Thuringia, the Kyffhäuserkreis and the cities of Bad Frankenhausen and Sondershausen. The museum will continue to be financed by the Free State until at least 2012 with almost 1.3 million euros annually. The museum can finance around 30 percent from its own income. With around 75,000 to 90,000 visitors annually, it attracts such a large audience as few other paintings in Germany.

In addition to purchases, donations are another important part of the collection. Two significant donations are the Albert-Leo Troost and Fabius von Gugel collections . The businessman and graphic collector Albert Leo Troost (1930–2001), who grew up in Düsseldorf, frequented artistic circles in Düsseldorf and Prague. In 2001, he donated 140 graphics, some of them large-format, to the Panorama Museum by important Czech and Slovak artists. In 2004 these works formed the core of the museum exhibition "The Inner Face ... Masterpieces of Czech and Slovak Graphics". The gift of Fabius von Gugel was preceded by a special exhibition by the artist in the Panorama Museum in 1998. After the exposition, the artist decided to transfer a large part of his painterly and graphic work to the Panorama Museum .

The Panorama Museum was included in the Federal Government's Blue Book as one of 20 “cultural memorials” in the New States .

See also



  • 1987: Tübkes theatrum mundi . Documentary film, GDR, 60 min., Production: DEFA , text: Günter Meißner, (documents the time when the museum and the painting were created with an introductory image interpretation).
  • 1988: Battle of the Picture . Documentary, GDR, 20 min., Director: Ted Tetzke, production: DEFA, (documentation of the creation of the monumental image with interview passages by Werner Tübke).
  • 1991: Werner Tübke. From the adventure of finding a picture. TV report, Germany, 60 min., Director: Reiner E. Moritz , production: RM Arts, (the film title uses a term from Tübke's 1985 essay).
  • 2012: Tübke's World Theater - 25 Years of the Peasant War Panorama. Documentary, Germany, 29:30 min., Script and director: Daniel Baumbach, production: MDR , first broadcast: October 16, 2012 on MDR, synopsis from MDR, ( memento from October 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive ).
  • 2017: Peasant War Panorama Bad Frankenhausen - The work of the century by Werner Tübke. Documentary, Germany, 29:27 min., Script and director: Daniel Baumbach, production: MDR, series: Der Osten - Discover where you live , first broadcast: March 7, 2017 on MDR television , synopsis from MDR.

Web links

Commons : Peasant War Panorama  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


Individual evidence

  1. The construction. In: Panorama Museum Bad Frankenhausen , accessed on October 9, 2016.
  2. a b c d Peter Michel: Theatrum mundi. September 14, 1989: Inauguration of the panorama picture. ( Memento from September 13, 2014 in the Internet Archive ). In: Junge Welt , 13./14. September 2014; as (PDF; 86 kB) ( Memento from August 13, 2016 in the Internet Archive ).
  3. a b Katrin Schlenstedt: The work on the mountain. ( Memento of September 14, 2004 in the Internet Archive ). In: MDR , May 28, 2004, interview with museum director Gerd Lindner.
  4. ^ Eduard Beaucamp : Werner Tübke is dead. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , May 28, 2004.
  5. Christina Tilmann: Harlequin's homecoming. In: Tagesspiegel , May 29, 2004.
  6. ^ Werner Tübke: On the work on the panorama picture in Bad Frankenhausen (GDR). In: Journal for Swiss Archeology and Art History , Vol. 42, H. 4, 1985, pp. 303-306.
  7. Golo Mann : Peasant War Panorama: First visit. In: FAZ , Saturday, May 29, 2004, No. 124, page 33, beginning of the article .
  8. Werner Tübke , Der Spiegel 26/1996; see. also Tübke and the judiciary
  9. cf. Episode of Genial Beside on October 2, 2004 ; According to the description of the broadcast from Saturday, October 2, 2004 , the embargo expires on May 28, 2074
  10. Heinz Zander - Hikes on forgotten paths. In: Panorama Museum Bad Frankenhausen , accessed on May 10, 2016.
  11. exhibition. In: Panorama Museum Bad Frankenhausen. Retrieved August 29, 2019 .
  12. Jens Brüning: 15 years ago (1987). ( Memento from February 25, 2005 in the Internet Archive ). In: DeutschlandRadio , October 16, 2002.
  13. Ingeborg Ruthe: It was the last prestige object of the GDR: In September 1989 the SED leadership inaugurated the Peasant War Panorama by the painter Werner Tübke in Bad Frankenhausen. In: Berliner Zeitung , September 19, 2009.
  14. ^ Antje Lauschner: Monumental picture in Bad Frankenhausen attracted 2.6 million visitors. In: Thüringische Landeszeitung , September 11, 2014.

Coordinates: 51 ° 21 ′ 58 ″  N , 11 ° 6 ′ 12 ″  E

This version was added to the list of excellent articles on April 24, 2005 .