Eduard (Valentin Joseph Karl) Ille
Niflunga-Saga Picture Cycle
in the Berg Palace, Baveria, Germany
Eduard Ille (June 17 1823—Decemeber 17, 1900) was a painter, illustrator and poet, who lived in Munich all his life. After graduating from high school, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Moritz von Schwind. After trying unsuccessfully to work in the field of religious painting, he turned to illustration in the 1850s. During this time, he provided drawings for woodcuts for L. Bechstein's Deutsches Sagenbuch 1853, M. Schleich's Punsch and J. J. Weber's "Illustrirte Zeitung". Through his work on "Hauschronik", he was gradually drawn into full-time employment at the Munich magazines Münchener Bilderbogen and Fliegende Blätter (Flying Leaves), the latter of which he became co-editor in 1863 and played a large part its extraordinary success with his fresh and imaginative stylized caricatures. In addition, Ille also produced an independent series of woodcuts: The seven deadly sins, a series of 8 drawings cut in wood, 1861; Lamport's living picture book with moving figures, 1863; Little Red Riding Hood, composed in 6 pictures, 1872; Grimm's Kinder- und Hausmärchen  in pictures, as well as illustrations for other works.  In 1868 the Munich Academy honored him with the title professor.
Eduard Ille King Ludwig II
 During his life, Ille executed several important works of art commissioned by the Bavarian King Ludwig II. His murals at Schloß Berg include Lohengrin 1865, Tannhäuser 1865, Niflunga Saga 1867, and Parsifal 1869. An oil painting titled Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1866) also formerly hung there. Ille also executed murals in the King's dressing room at the Neuschwanstein Castle from the life of Walter von die Vogelweide and Hans Sachs. He also wrote some dramas and opera texts, as well as numerous occasional poems and verses for the "Flying Leaves" and for series he drew.  His extensive art collection and a valuable collection of his own drawings were auctioned off in 1901 at Mössel, Berlin.
Translated from portions of Gunter E. Grimm's "Niflunga-Saga. Zu einem Gemälde von Eduard Ille" (2015),  Paul Hermanowski's  Die Deutsche Götterlehre und ihre Verwertung in Kunst und Dichtung   (1891), pp. 193ff, Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis der Gegenwart (1925) and a contemporary newspaper account (Dec 25, 1867)
The Tempera Painting "Niflunga-Saga" by Eduard Ille, 1867.
A relief-like frieze of  an assembly of the Old Norse gods  is found over the entire large sheet of 21 images in total. (Heimdall, Eir, Vidar, Uller, Iduna, Bragi, Njord, and Tyr are seated to the left of Odin, enthroned at the center; while Frigga, Thor, Freyr, Freyja, Baldur, Forseti and Vali are seated to the right of Odin.
 Detail of the Frieze of Old Norse Gods, left (above) and right (below) of Odin. 
 Eduard Ille's Niflunga-Saga as described by Paul Hermanowski (1891):
"For the painter who desires to depict the "Niflungen saga" as Eduard Ille does for King Ludwig in watercolor, it is not inappropriate to first present the Aesir and Aesir.  Up in the top middle, we find Odin seated on his throne, grasping his spear upright in both hands. A thick, wispy beard frames his face. One does not notice that he is missing an eye. A helmet-like cap covers his head. A long cloak envelops his figure. On either side are the wolves at his feet and the ravens on the armrests of the seat.
There now follow to his right, Frigg with a distaff and spindle in her hands, and to his left, Thor, dressed in battle garb, gripping in his iron-clad fists the mighty club-like hammer, the handle of which is long rather than short. A helmet adorns his head. He also buckled on the power belt. Behind him are his two long-horned bucks in front of the two-wheeled chariot.
Now come Freyr and Freyja. Both are wreathed and dressed in long robes. Freyr has a sheaf of corn in his right hand and a bowl of fruit in his left. A sickle hangs from his belt. Freyja has a torch in her right hand. A precious jewel adorns her neck and breast, and a cat sits on her left side.
This is followed by Baldur, the judge's staff in his right hand, his head surrounded by a halo, also in a long cloak-like robe. Beside him sits Forseti, his son, raising the index finger of his right hand and holding in his left arm a magistrate and a tablet of the law.
The last picture on the right shows Vali armed as a warrior. His left hand rests on a powerful round shield, with his right he holds a bow. On the ground lies a quiver with arrows.
As on the right, deities are all seated on Odin's left. There we first see the battle god Tyr. A helm tipped with mighty eagle wings covers its head. He rests his chin on the hilt of the mighty sword, which he grips in his right hand. On the edge of his large rectangular shield he has placed the stump of his left arm.
To the left, in front of him sits Njördr, with a trident, the reed-crowned hair and the dolphin under his right foot marks him as a sea god. His torso is bare. Then Bragi and Idun follow. A wreath adorns Bragi's rich, curly hair. His beard is full. A wide cloak envelops him. With both hands he grips the strings of the harp, which is on his knees.
Next to this old man sits the youthful Idun, handing him an apple with her left hand, while holding the bowl filled with apples with her right.
Uller now follows, dressed in a fur coat and hat. He has his bow over his left shoulder and the quiver with arrows on it hangs on his back. He has already strapped his ice skate under his right foot, he is just about to stop the left foot from getting one too. A hound looks up at its master for prey.
Then comes the silent but strong Vidar. He put his finger to his mouth as a sign of silence.
After him we see Eir, the goddess of Ieechcraft. She holds a healing herb in her right arm. Health-bringing plants are also at their feet. There is a bowl on the left knee. With both hands she holds a rune tablet in the right one.
Heimdall forms the end of the left-hand side or the beginning of the entire upper frieze. From its perch on a bridge-like ledge, the rainbow arches. A ruffled robe covers his torso. Listening sharply, he peers out into the distance. He has his sickle-like horn in front of him on his right knee. He seems to want to put it near his mouth; for the giants may already be approaching."
The individual songs of the Edda are  implemented scenically on the middle level of the picture. In the center is the title of the painting "Niflunga Saga", then in two medallions, the two Eddic songs "Fafnismal" and "Gudrunarkvida." The pictorial scenes are garnished with all kinds of elements of the Bavarian Berghütten-romantic style with its Alpine charm.  Above, two bare elk skulls, garnished with a sword-axe and morning star, grin down. Below, two griffin-headed dragons support scultured pillars on which two fantasy coats of arms are hung.

 The reverence that Ille shows his king here is unmistakable: Ludwig II was the owner of eleven hunting lodges and Berghütten (mountian-lodges).  Louis' declared model was the French "Sun King" Louis XIV. Hence the choice of the Norman shield type  —round at the top and tapering at the bottom — and three golden lilies on a blue background, the floral emblem of the House of Bourbon. The rose in the middle of the shield could be reminiscent of the "Geldern rose", a medlar flower. The Geldern coat of arms is based on the 878 AD legend of Wichard and Lupold von Pont's fight with a dragon. The second coat of arms, with its red base color, could be reminiscent of the coat of arms of the English king Richard III. But since any legendary or historical connection is lacking, it is more likely a fantasy coat of arms.

The names of Eddic songs appear in gold letters on a green background. The names "Sigrdrifumal", "Brynhildar", "Helreidh" (Brunhilde's Hel-Ride), and "Drap Niflunga" (Murder of the Niflunge) refer to the images in the semi-circular arches, in addition the names of the characters depicted in the scenes are written in the manner of a schoolmaster. In the center is the scene with the murder of Sigurd. As is well known, Hagen killed Siegfried, who was kneeling at the spring, by throwing a spear from behind.

Eduard Ille is best known for a series of paintings based on medieval legends.  He first came into contact with the Nibelungen legend as a student of Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, who became famous for his Nibelung frescoes in the Munich Residence (the former royal palace of the Wittelsbach monarchs of Baveria), which he painted between 1827 and 1867. During this time, Schnorr was a professor at the Munich Art Academy. In 1846 he left Munich and went to the Dresden Art Academy.

Ille's own interest in the Nibelung legend came about 20 years ago later, in 1865, when his unfinished painting "The Song of the noble knight Tannhäuser" aroused the interest of the Bavarian King Ludwig II,  a lover of art. The king liked the work so much that he instructed Ille to complete the picture immediately, and commissioned pictures of Lohengrin and Hans Sachs. The pictures still hang in the living room and study of Berg Castle on Lake Starnberg, which is privately owned by the Wittelsbach family. Ille's estate is located in the Munich literary archive Monacensia and consists of sketches, seals and 55 volumes of diaries and appointment calendars, that Ille composed between 1842 and his death in 1900, containing meticulous accounts of his daily life. This diary is a primary source for information about Ille's day-to-day work and about artistic life in the residential city of Munich at the time.

At the beginning of March 1866, Ille was promised an audience with the king. But in mid-March the royal adjutant informed him that the king was so overwhelmed with political business that he could not receive the painter,  but after the completion of the new picture of Hans Sachs, the king might take the opportunity and have the pleasure of getting to know him. Ille found the cancellation of the royal audience humiliating, mainly because it had been delivered by a domestic. However, in mid-December, Ille reported that the court secretary Lorenz von Düfflipp conveyed the king's "great satisfaction" with the Hans Sachs painting and gave him the order to "paint a picture, in the manner of the 3 previous paintings, of the old Nibelung legend from Norse mythology".  Ille's reaction was "half happy and half grieved". Over the next few days, he read up on the Nibelungenlied and its relationship to the Nordic version in Hyacinth Holland's flowery “History of German Literature”, published in 1853. He learned that the original version of the epic has been lost, but that the Poetic Edda has "the basic plan sketched out here and there", which he characterized as "very brittle, heavy and tough material". There is an undated eight page sketch within Ille's records titled "Das Nibelungen-Lied", in which Ille describes his research and presents his assessement of the Nibelungenlied: “As a national epic, it rightly claims a very excellent rank and remains, as Franz Horn puts it, 'an eternal pillar around which brave Germans like to gather'." The reference here is to Franz Christoph Horn's book The Poetry and Eloquence of the Germans from Luther's Time to the Present. The sketch shows that Ille was well acquainted with the German version of the legend. The royal commission, however, was about the representation of the Nordic variant. Richard Wagner's "Ring" tetralogy, based on Nordic myth, was likely tacitly behind the royal request. In January 1867, Ille read the relevant sources of Nordic mythology.

All the while Ille kept company with Harbni-Gesellschaft, a Munich association of culture-loving and charitable people founded in 1850. Their playful rituals were reminiscent of the baroque language societies: all members of the association, posing as a knightly order, assumed knight names; Ille's nickname was Eduard Wörgl von Brixlegg. His Hans Sachs picture was duly honored in thier circle. Incidentally, he learned that the king had spoken of him and his art in a "completely exalted" manner. The Court secretary Düfflipp informed him again that the king was extremely satisfied and has the intention of speaking to him; an audience had been reserved for the next few days. This time, however, Ille was skeptical. In a diary entry on March 7th, he wrote: "I want to see if the king really receives me this time! I'd love it, but I won't believe it until I'm there.” He remained in anticipation at home, but had to note: "No king's call rang out to me". And a day later he thinks he knows why: the king's bride  Princess Sophie was reported to be ill, "which is probably why he doesn't see me". However, this may be a false conclusion, since the extremely shy Ludwig often avoided contact with strangers and put forward all sorts of excuses. While Ille continued to work on a painting of the Thirty Years' War, he further deepened his study into the Nibelungen material, reading Wilhelm Grimm's heroic songs, Karl Simrock's translation of the Edda, and excerpts from the sources with the still hopeful thought "that I am well in the saddle if the king calls.”

 The Berg Palace— Berg Schloss, circa 1886

At the end of March, Ille examined the illustrations Ludwig Schwanthaler created for the northern gable group of Walhalla completed in 1842 - as a model for his picture of the Niflunga Saga. His work on the Sigurd painting began in May. Ille was then busy with the study of Norse weapons to create an authentic atmosphere. In September he came to the main picture of the complex, the assassination of Sigurd, which he painted early in the morning “with seriousness and zeal”. In October a cabinet servant inquired when the king could get a photograph of the picture – which upset the artist greatly. In this respect, the information sent by Hofrat Düfflipp News that the king was satisfied with the photographs, certainly had a reassuring effect. His friend Hyacinth Holland also looked at his picture “very approvingly”. On December 3, Ille noted in his diary that he celebrated the "completion of my picture".  35  official photographs of the "Niflunga"-picture were made. On December 18,  a great sigh of relief was felt in his beloved Harbni Club, as his friends congratulated him on his new picture cycle. The year of completion is found at the bottom right of the picture next to the Artist's signet: 1867.

After Ille had created the final image in the series of legends, the "Parzival" painting, the king wished the painter to depict the life of Louis XIV of France. But Ille refused - in all deference, because he was reluctant to paint the destruction of Heidelberg and the devastation of the Palatinate by the French General Mélac. He even accepted the king's disfavor for this. But the king was apparently on Ille's reaction prepared. He told Leinfelder that he was not ungracious, as Ille had feared, "because" - literally - "he could have expected something like that from Ille's stubborn head".  Nevertheless, he does not seem to have forgotten Ille's refusal, because the next royal commission came five years later. Now, with unmistakable irony, the king asked the artist whether he would now be “so gracious” as to decorate the dressing room in Neuschwanstein “with pictures from poems by Walther von der Vogelweide”. Ille was certainly happy, but this joy was somewhat clouded by the king's impatience. In the autumn of 1880, the king sent a letter via the court secretary to all the painters involved in painting the palace, informing them that “his Majesty would arrive at 12 o'clock on Christmas Day" to Neuschwanstein. By then, all pictures should be finished. So Ille needed the help of a painter friend to implement the color sketches.

 The literary historian Hyacinth Holland, who survived his friend Ille by 15 years, in his obituary, characterized the style of the Niflunga-picture cycle, emphasizing the "architectural framework strictly adapted to the respective subjects and times" and the "continuous, highly attractive juxtaposition within the pictorial narrative". It surpasses the other picture-cycles in terms of the number of scenes. "Tannhäuser" offers 5, "Lohengrin" 11, "Hans Sachs" 9, and "Parzival" 19 individual scenes, while the Niflunga-picture groups 21 individual scenes in a multi-subdivided, columned hall. The structure of the picture is strictly symmetrical. It consists of three levels, a frieze, a middle level and a lower level with large painted scenes on a base. The emblem tradition emerges: the inscriptio in the middle of the picture, the picturae on three levels, the subscriptio at the bottom edge of the picture, and in the names distributed across the picture. The text embedded in the base explains the seven scenes above it, shown on the lower level, with quotations from Simrock's translation of the Edda.  The frieze is demonstrably based on Ludwig Schwanthaler's Walhalla Frieze as the most important marble gable group since antiquity, as Albert Müller 1865 in his monograph on Walhalla states. The theme of the Walhalla frieze was the Teutoburg Battle. With Schwanthaler, Arminius is the central figure, with Ille, Odin, the father of the gods. Oddly enough, he and the others depict Nordic gods in ancient robes in classical fashion. "Niflunga-Saga" is not a watercolor, as often stated, but a tempera painting, using a technique in which paint pigments are bound with a water-oil emulsion. A big advantage of Tempura is its resistance to aging and its slow drying that allows for longer rework.