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Carl Spitzweg's Sunday walk from 1841, a typical representative of the Biedermeier era

As Biedermeier the time period from the end of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 until the beginning of the bourgeois revolution of 1848 in the countries of the German Confederation called. In political history, the term Biedermeier is associated with the term restoration , which refers to the state-political development after the end of the Napoleonic era and the Congress of Vienna. The term is significant as an epoch designation in cultural history , but as such is hardly clearly outlined, since many associations with Biedermeier originate from the later 19th century and often have to be regarded as projected attributions. The opposing movement belonging to the same period of time, which sought a political revolutionary change and found expression in writers such as Georg Büchner and Heinrich Heine , is called Vormärz .

The term Biedermeier refers on the one hand to the culture and art of the bourgeoisie that developed during this time , for example in house music , interior design and also in clothing fashion , and on the other hand to the literature of the time, which is often labeled "home-made" or Be given " conservative ". The escape into idyll and private life is typical .

Origin of the term

Portrait of the fictitious character Gottlieb Biedermeier from the Munich Fliegende Blatter , the actual appearance of Samuel Friedrich Sauter modeled
Room picture by Eduard Gaertner (1849): Depiction of Biedermeier interiors in a bourgeois apartment in Berlin

The term Biedermeier goes back to the fictional figure of the loyal but bourgeois Gottlieb Biedermaier , who was invented by the lawyer and writer Ludwig Eichrodt and the doctor Adolf Kussmaul and under whose name various poems were published in the Münchner Fliegende Blätter from 1855 onwards, some of which Parodies of the poetry of the real village school teacher Samuel Friedrich Sauter were.

The name arose from two poems with the titles Biedermanns Abendgemütlichkeit and Bummelmaier's Lament , which Joseph Victor von Scheffel had published in this sheet in 1848. Biedermaier was written until 1869 , only after that the spelling with ei came up. The fictional Mr. Biedermeier was a poetic Swabian village teacher with a simple mind, who, according to Eichrodt, was helped by his small room, his narrow garden, his unsightly spots and the poor lot of a despised village schoolmaster to earthly happiness. In the publications the honesty, the small spirit and the apolitical attitude of large parts of the middle class are caricatured and mocked.

However, the revolutionary poet Ludwig Pfau wrote a poem as early as 1847 with the title Mr. Biedermeier , which denounced narrow-mindedness and double standards. It starts with the lines:

Look, Mr. Biedermeier
and his wife are walking there with their son on their arms;
his step is gentle as on balls,

his motto: neither cold nor warm.

Allegedly Eichrodt only got to know this poem much later, after he had long since published his own Biedermeier poetry. Eichrodt's assertion cannot be verified.

After 1900 the term Biedermeier , which initially had a negative connotation , was interpreted as neutral in terms of value;

Its use as an epoch designation developed from the end of the 19th century - initially in art and architectural history, but also in fashion. The first book publications with the term in the title appear around the turn of the 20th century. At the same time, the Biedermeier style became modern again - after the lavish decor of historicism in the Wilhelminian era, the sleek furniture and shapes of Biedermeier were popular again. Furniture was therefore re-manufactured in Biedermeier forms; here, especially in the art and antiques trade, one speaks of the style of the second Biedermeier period.

Today, Biedermeier can also be reduced to the cozy living culture and private cosiness of the time, as a social calm phase before the social upheavals in the middle of the 19th century and as a reaction to state control and censorship .

Political situation

Prince Metternich had a decisive influence on European politics after the Congress of Vienna, when the Biedermeier era was unfolding

After Napoleon's defeat in the Battle of Leipzig and the Battle of Waterloo and his banishment, the resolutions negotiated at the Congress of Vienna were implemented. It was about an order of Europe with the aim of restoration , i. H. the restoration of the conditions that had shaped Europe before the French Revolution . To this end, the conservative monarchs Emperor Franz I of Austria , the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. the " Holy Alliance ".

Prince von Metternich , a native of the Rhinelander who was in the service of the Austrian emperor, played an important political role . He enforced the so-called Karlsbad Resolutions of 1819, which severely curtailed any political activity. Strict censorship was introduced for all publications, including musical works. Writers like Heinrich Heine and Georg Büchner emigrated (1831 and 1835), as did Karl Marx (1843), previously editor of the Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne.

Without the Karlsbad resolutions, the Biedermeier period is inconceivable; Outside of Germany, Austria and Scandinavia, the term Biedermeier does not exist either, as social development in these countries was different.

The heavenly tones of Biedermeier

Portrait of Felix Schadow (around 1830) by Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow , an important representative of Biedermeier painting

In 1815 the Tambora volcano erupted in the Pacific , the largest eruption in the world since Lake Taupo erupted over 20,000 years ago. The volcanic dust spread globally and led to the year without a summer in 1816 and also afterwards to a significant volcanic cooling of the climate with catastrophic effects. In addition, there were noticeable changes in daylight for decades after the eruption. This was particularly pronounced in the evening and in the morning due to the then considerably increased scattering of sunlight by the volcanic dust particles and gases in the atmosphere. The Biedermeier sunsets in Europe were of unprecedented splendor - in all shades of red, orange and purple, and occasionally in shades of blue and green. The grandiose evening moods and the intense earth colors, ocher and yellow tones, for example by William Turner , which appear almost unreal outside of landscapes with corresponding natural colors such as Tuscany and the Camargue , have benefited noticeably.

Visual arts

The homecoming of the farmer by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (around 1833), an example of Biedermeier genre painting

In the fine arts of the Biedermeier period, genre and landscape painting dominated , but also portraits. Religious and historical motifs are almost completely absent. The style was realistic, the images often resembling a photographic illustration. The model was Dutch painting of the 17th century. However, the desired result was a pseudo-realism, because reality was often idealized and exaggerated, and painting sometimes overlaps with late romanticism . The watercolor technique reached a very high level; Lithography was now increasingly used for book illustrations . The painters Moritz von Schwind , Friedrich Gauermann , Eduard Gaertner , the early works of Adolph Menzel , Ludwig Richter , Carl Spitzweg , Josef Kriehuber , Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller , Peter Fendi and Joseph Anton Koch are considered to be the visual artists of Biedermeier . Richter was primarily in demand as an illustrator, he illustrated around 150 books. A special feature of the Biedermeier was the so-called room pictures , detailed descriptions of individual living rooms. In glass and porcelain painting , the era is associated with the house painters Samuel Mohn and Anton Kothgasser. The viewing glass is also typical of this period .


Fanny Elßler was a well-known ballet dancer of the Biedermeier period, lithograph by Joseph Kriehuber (1830)

In music, the term Biedermeier is rather unusual; Most of the time, the typical music of this era is spoken of as early romanticism . However, to a certain extent a Biedermeier era can also be distinguished for music, in which it was first determined by bourgeois tastes. The house music gained great importance. The piano as a house instrument became increasingly popular among the bourgeoisie. Chamber music pieces were particularly in demand ; Music societies and choral societies were founded everywhere in the cities . The sheet music publishers primarily commissioned light, cheerful works from the composers, because the taste of the customers was decisive for the sale; previously it had never been composed specifically for domestic use, only reworked. Robert Schumann set the tone in piano music . Even Franz Schubert's songs were, though after his death, loved the bourgeoisie. Lesser known figures such as Ludwig Berger , Christian Heinrich Rinck or Leopold Schefer are seen as typical Biedermeier composers . Popular were z. B. the songs of Wilhelm Müller or Alexander Fescas .

The Biedermeier was also the time of the waltz , whose stronghold was Vienna . He emerged from the danced mostly outdoors Landler . The masses flocked to the dance events, as exuberant happiness was allowed here. Composers and band masters were sometimes celebrated like stars, above all Johann Strauss senior and Joseph Lanner . Ballet was also very popular - the ballet dancer Fanny Elßler celebrated triumphs in Vienna . The outstanding female singing stars were Henriette Sontag and Jenny Lind .

The song Freut dich des Lebens , composed in Switzerland in 1793, became a folk song throughout the German-speaking area during the Biedermeier period. Usteri's third verse in particular formulates the credo of this time: "Those who carefully flee envy and resentment, who prefer frugality in the garden, will soon shoot them up to the tree that brings golden fruit."


Life and culture

Postcard motif as an example of Biedermeier fashion

The term Biedermeier primarily refers to a bourgeois culture that emerged in the first half of the 19th century. The bourgeoisie cultivated private and family life to a whole new level. The focus was not on representation, but on domestic happiness in your own four walls, which became a place of retreat. Civil virtues such as hard work, honesty, loyalty, a sense of duty, and modesty were elevated to general principles. The Biedermeier living room was the original form of today's living room , and the term cosiness was probably introduced at that time . The sociability was cultivated on a small scale, at the coffee party , at the regulars' table , with house music , but also in the Viennese coffee houses . The most popular newspaper was the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung by Adolf Bäuerle .

The civil family structure was patriarchal, with the man being the head of the family; the woman's sphere of activity was the household. The wealthier bourgeoisie employed staff, including a cook, a coachman, a nanny , and a wet nurse for babies, and sometimes a head of house. The main female pastimes were needlework and the piano, which every bourgeois daughter had to learn. Much more attention than before was also devoted to raising children and the nursery, and corresponding literature appeared with instructions on how to raise them. For the first time, it created its own children's fashion, which was not just a copy of adult fashion. The toy industry experienced its first heyday. In 1840 Friedrich Froebel founded the first kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg .

In the Biedermeier period, the domestic Christmas festival was also developed in the form it is known today, with a Christmas tree , Christmas carols and presents .


In the Biedermeier period, the theater also experienced an upswing, but instead of instruction, entertainment was required, i.e. a departure from the ideals of the Enlightenment . From the National theaters were again the Court Theater in Berlin, where certain primarily the Prussian king, which was performed at the Schauspielhaus. At the same time, a private entertainment culture arose in the Königsstädtische Theater, founded in 1824, based on the model of the Viennese suburban theaters . The German-speaking theatrical metropolises of this time were Vienna and Berlin. Between 1815 and 1830, had Schauspielhaus Berlin almost 300  comedies premiere, but only 56 tragedies. Parodies were also very popular with the public ; even Goethe and Shakespeare were not spared. In 1857 Johann Nestroy managed to perform a parody of Wagner's Tannhäuser in Vienna before the original had even premiered.

Of course, plays and operas were also censored. In Austria, the censors even sat in the audience at the performances of the Alt-Wiener Volkstheater . The playwrights dealt with the censorship differently: Many adapted like Raimund; Grillparzer, who was also a civil servant, wrote some things just for the drawer, while Nestroy was fined several times and had to serve a prison sentence.

Architecture and furniture

Palais Florastöckl in Baden near Vienna, built by Joseph Kornhäusel in 1816/17
Hofer Neustadt, built after the city fire in 1823
Biedermeier living room around 1830
Biedermeier sleigh bed around 1820/1830 in the Helgoland room in the Langes Tannen Museum in Uetersen

The main characteristic of Biedermeier architecture is the elegant, but rather simple style, whereby it was ultimately a variant of classicism . This style shaped the monumental buildings of that time, the Biedermeier the bourgeois residential areas. The most famous architect of this era was Karl Friedrich Schinkel from Berlin , but his designs were not Biedermeier. The most important architect of the Biedermeier style, on the other hand, was Joseph Kornhäusel , who left his mark above all in Vienna and Baden near Vienna , the summer residence of the Austrian emperor. Baden was completely rebuilt from 1812 after a fire. Since Kornhäusel was well known, he also received orders from the nobility.

The Hofer Neustadt is one of the largest residential area of the Biedermeier period. In particular, Ludwigstrasse , Klosterstrasse and Maxplatz are almost complete ensembles, most of which are listed. After a big fire in the city in 1823, the city was completely rebuilt. Most of the buildings are town houses, but also city palaces that have been refurbished and renovated in recent years.

The Biedermeier furniture does not follow a uniform style, but is also characterized by simple elegance. They had less of a representative character, but were intended to convey the impression of comfort, and above all to be functional. The first furniture of this kind was made in Vienna, using English furniture as a model. Great emphasis was placed on quality craftsmanship during production. The large, smooth surfaces of the furniture enabled the wood grain to have an intense effect, which is why selected grained woods were often used as veneers , whereby the wood grain was often arranged in mirror image. Popular woods in southern Germany were, for example, cherry and walnut, in northern Germany birch and mahogany. The fittings of the furniture were often kept very small, so-called key sockets made of bone were often used instead of metal key plates, and hinges were often concealed. The wooden surfaces were mostly polished to bring out the grain. Even embroidered covers were used as covers for upholstered furniture, as handicrafts were a popular field of activity for women. Small pieces of furniture such as chests of drawers , secretaries or sewing tables , but also sleigh beds are typical of the Biedermeier period . Picture clocks or table clocks with marble columns were popular as additional room furnishings . In Vienna, the furniture manufacturer Joseph Danhauser senior shaped the new living culture. The success of the bentwood furniture by Michael Thonet , who came from Boppard and was brought to Vienna from the Austrian court in 1842 , also fell into this period . He designed the furnishings for the Liechtenstein City Palace in Vienna.


Woman in a Biedermeier costume, daguerreotype by Anton Martin (around 1840)


Archduchess Sophie of Austria in typical Biedermeier fashion, lithograph by Joseph Kriehuber (1836)

After the Empire style era between 1795 and 1820, women's fashion in Biedermeier became simpler, but also significantly more uncomfortable. The waist was emphasized again from 1835, and hoop skirt and corset became indispensable items of clothing for the upper classes. As early as 1820, the sleeves of day dresses became so voluminous that they were a hindrance even when playing the piano. They are known as leg of mutton sleeves or balloon and ham sleeves. They were brought into shape with horsehair and whalebone . Patterned fabrics were very popular: checkered, striped or floral. Shimmering silk fabrics were often chosen for the evening. The typical headgear of this time was the Schute , a hood-like hat. The shoes were flat with no heels. Important accessories were a cashmere scarf and a parasol . The Biedermeier hairstyles were initially elaborate and were adorned with ribbons and bows, but from 1835 the hair was simply styled into a neck knot, the chignon , with side corkscrew curls.

Dandies with a laced wasp waist
(around 1830)


Biedermeier men's fashion was also anything but comfortable. The fashion model from 1800 to around 1830 was the dandy , the prototype of which was the Englishman George Bryan Brummell . During this time, men's clothing was also worn tightly, so that many men resorted to a lacing belt. The shirts had a so-called parricide collar that constricted the neck. In addition, long trousers , so-called pantaloons , were worn for the first time since 1815 , striped or floral vests and a frock coat or tailcoat . The headgear was the top hat . The artfully knotted tie , a walking stick, gloves and a pocket watch , possibly a lorgnon, were also important . After 1820, whiskers, upper lip and chin beards were no longer considered revolutionary, but the full beard was first seen as a symbol of liberalism and later as a symbol of a social revolutionary outlook, as with Karl Marx and Friedrich Hecker . Long sideburns , called favoris, were essential at that time .


See also


  • Joachim Bark: Biedermeier and Vormärz / Bourgeois Realism . History of German Literature, Vol. 3. Klett, Stuttgart 2001. ISBN 3-12-347441-0 .
  • Marianne Bernhard: The Biedermeier: Culture between the Congress of Vienna and the March Revolution . Econ, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1983. ISBN 3-430-11313-X .
  • Wilhelm Bleek : Vormärz. Germany's departure into the modern age 1815–1848. C. H. Beck, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-406-73533-2 .
  • Helmut Bock: Departure into the civil world. Life pictures from Vormärz and Biedermeier . Münster 1994. ISBN 3-929586-37-1 .
  • Ulrich Konrad : Again: Musical Biedermeier? In: Stage Sounds. Festschrift for Sieghart Döhring on his 65th birthday. Edited by Thomas Betzwieser u. a., Munich 2005, pp. 105-116.
  • Wolfgang L. Eller: Biedermeier furniture . Battenberg, Regenstauf 2008. ISBN 978-3-86646-018-8 .
  • Manfred Engel : Pre-March, early realism, Biedermeier period, restoration period? Comparative attempts at contouring for a contourless epoch. In: Oxford German Studies 40/2011, pp. 210–220.
  • Klaus D. Füller: Successful Biedermeier children's book authors. Christoph von Schmid, Leopold Chimani, Gustav Nieritz, Christian Gottlob Barth . Frankfurt am Main 2005. ISBN 3-631-54516-9 .
  • Georg Hermann : The Biedermeier period as reflected in its time: letters, diaries, memoirs, folk scenes and similar documents . Berlin 1913. online at
  • Johann Kräftner: Biedermeier in the House of Liechtenstein Vienna . Prestel, Vienna 2005. ISBN 3-7913-3496-4 .
  • Renate Krüger: Biedermeier. A way of life between 1815 and 1848 . Vienna 1979.
  • Konstanze Mittendorfer: Biedermeier or happiness in the house. Building and living in Vienna and Berlin 1800-1850 . Vienna 1991.
  • Hans Ottomeyer: Biedermeier's luck and end. The disturbed idyll 1815–1848 . Hugendubel, Munich 1987.
  • Hans Ottomeyer , Klaus Albrecht Schröder , Laurie Winters (eds.): Biedermeier. The invention of simplicity . Hatje Cantz, Stuttgart 2006. ISBN 978-3-7757-1795-3 .
  • Gerhard Schildt: Departure from comfort. Germany in the Biedermeier period 1815–1847 . Braunschweig 1989.
  • Friedrich Sengle : Biedermeier period. German literature in the field of tension between restoration and revolution, 1815–1848 . 3 volumes. Metzler, Stuttgart 1971; 1972; 1980. ISBN 3-476-00182-2 ; ISBN 3-476-00242-X .
  • Michael Titzmann (ed.): Between Goethe time and realism. Change and specifics in the Biedermeier phase . Niemeyer, Tübingen 2002. In: Studies and texts on the social history of literature, Vol. 92 . ISBN 3-484-35092-X .
  • Hans Peter Treichler : The mobile wilderness. Biedermeier and the far west . Schweizer Verlaghaus, Zurich 1990. ISBN 3-7263-6523-0 .
  • Angus Wilkie: Biedermeier. Elegance and grace of a new home decor at the beginning of the 19th century . DuMont, Cologne 1987.
  • Georg Himmelträger : Art of the Biedermeier period 1815-1835 . Prestel, Munich 1988. ISBN 3-7913-0885-8 .

Web links

Commons : Biedermeier  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Biedermeier  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Clive Oppenheimer: Climatic, environmental and human consequences of the largest known historic eruption: Tambora volcano (Indonesia) 1815 . In: Progress in Physical Geography . 27, No. 2, 2003, pp. 230-259. doi : 10.1191 / 0309133303pp379ra .
  2. Udo Zindel : Tambora - A volcano makes world history. SWR2 knowledge from April 9, 2015.
  3. The Museum of Applied Arts, MAK Vienna has a large collection of furniture design and its permanent exhibition an overview of hundred years of Viennese furniture production of the furniture factory Danhauser about the Thonet Brothers to the brothers Kohn . Furthermore, the MAK Vienna has been running the Geymüllerschlössel as a branch office since 1965 , which houses furniture from the years 1800 to 1840 and conveys the idea of ​​an Empire and Biedermeier summer residence to the visitor .
  4. ^ Announcement from the Berlin City Museum on the exhibition , accessed on August 2, 2014.