Hoelderlin and Daphne Picture

These two statues can be seen in front of the Bremer Übersee Museum, right next to Bremen's central train station. They were both created by sculptor Markus Lüpertz.

The male statue represents Friedrich Hölderlin, a German poet and writer who lived around the turn of the 19th century. He was very unconventional in his opinions and in what he wrote. He was also supposed to be mentally infirm, and spent much of his life in an asylum and later under close psychological monitoring. He did, however, create a life's work that was so unique and groundbreaking that he did get granted a whole category of literature for his own.

The Female statue shows Daphne, who was a water nymph in ancient Greek mythology. The story goes that the god Eros wanted to punish the god Apollo for making fun of his archery skills. So Eros used two arrows to prove his skill with the bow: one golden arrow that sparked the love to Daphne in Apollo, and one leaden arrow that made Daphne completely unsusceptible for the god's advances. As the Apollo's relentless pursuits became to much for the nymph, she asked her mother Gaia, Goddes of Earth (or her father Peneus, God of Rivers, depending on the version) for relief. She was turned into a laurel shrub, thus giving her peace. Apollo deemed the laurel as holy after this and wore a crown of laurel twigs henceforth. Daphne is usually depicted in the moment of being transmogrified into the laurel, just as shown here.

Friedrich Hölderlin spent much of his time interpreting Greek mythology and writing about his findings. He saw the tragic and the moral lessons in the old myths, which stood in sharp contrast to the romantic views society had back then, thinking the old stories where about beauty and heroism.

With this in mind, the two grotesque statues actually make sense: the genius, but insane, writer and his subject the de-mystified and tragic nymph… Too bad that obviously the general public is oblivious to this deeper meaning, as the graffiti shows.
Continue Reading: Peneus