Johannes Götz • Achilles Victorious
Bronze on marble base
Height (including base): 124 cm
On the base with the artist’s incised signature and the foundry stamp: “Gladbeck / Berlinˮ
Model and cast executed in 1910
This is a reduced-format version of a monumental sculpture commissioned by German Emperor Wilhelm II for the Achilleion Palace in Corfu. The Emperor purchased the Palace from Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, in 1907. Götz’s ‘Achilles Victorious’was to replace Ernst Herter’s marble sculpture ‘Dying Achilles’ (1884) commissioned by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi) as a centrepiece for the gardens of her new Palace, the Achilleion, built in 1890.
1865 Fürth - 1934 Potsdam
In 1884, on completion of an apprenticeship at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Nuremberg, Johannes Götz entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin to study sculpture. He was the master student of the sculptor Reinhold Begas, who produced a large number of Berlin’s neo-baroque monuments. Begas had been commissioned to complete a Neptune Fountain for the Schlossplatz opposite the Berliner Stadtschloss. He entrusted part of the decorative work on the fountain to Götz. This intricate piece is a fine example of the type of pompous, large-scale artwork German artists were producing towards the end of the nineteenth century. But it also testifies to the high technical standards Begas demanded of his students.
Götz’s breakthrough came in 1888 when he sold a bronze titled Balancierender Knabe to the Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The figure depicts a nude youth attempting to balance on tiptoe on a sphere. It was much lauded by the critics and Götz was awarded a bursary enabling him to study for a year in Rome. The bronze also brought him a degree of financial security from royalties generated by the sale of casts. These were made by the Gladenbeck foundry.
Later, Begas was instrumental in introducing Götz to Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Kaiser was impressed by Götz’s work. Numerous commissions for monuments in Berlin and other Prussian cities followed. Götz also worked on portrait busts and bronzes to be sold on the open market.
A colossal neo-classicist style sculpture completed in 1910 marks the high point of Götz’s career. Titled Der siegreiche Achill, the piece was commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm for his private retreat on the Greek island of Corfu. It is one of Götz’s key works. Based on the Kaiser’s own sketches, it depicts the youthful Achilles in ceremonial armour, his gaze directed into the distance. The figure is modelled according to classical principles.
A marked change took place in Götz’s style during the thirty years of Kaiser Wilhelm’s reign. Classical severity gradually took over from neo-baroque pathos but he was always at pains to harmonize his formal vocabulary with court and bourgeois conventions. He used this to strengthen his reputation over time and to secure lucrative commissions. But when the Empire collapsed, adherence to convention proved a stumbling block to success. After that, sharing the fate of other established late nineteenth-century sculptors, he saw his sculpture condemned both politically and aesthetically. Later, works that had not been lost in the second world war, or broken up, dismantled or destroyed, were consigned to oblivion.