This painting that hangs in the Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf is one of the most emblematic works of the artist Pieter von Cornelius, who in his time is one of the members of the artistic group of Los Nazarenos.
Who were the Nazarenes? There were several German painters from the beginning of the 19th century who came together to confront the current neoclassical and academic art with their works. Among them was Cornelius, the author of this 1813 work, but there were also Friedrich Overbeck or Fran Pforr. All of them wanted art to return to the path of purity and thought that this was only possible by painting religious or patriotic scenes, and doing it in a style inspired by styles of the past.
The Wise Virgins and the Foolish Virgins by Cornelius
All of them converted to Catholicism and moved the brotherhood of San Lucas to Rome, specifically to the abandoned monastery of San Isidoro sul Pincio. There they began to live together, letting their hair down and dressing almost like monks, hence their nickname "Nazarenes", something that was originally born with a mocking intention.
Stylistically they have as a reference the great works of Filippo Lippi or Fra Angelico such as The Annunciation or The Virgin of Humility, respectively. And they also admire the Perugino or the first works ofRafael, especially valuing his use of line and his colors in uniform and smooth masses. And they also have the old German painters, especially with Dürer.
Specifically, Cornelius seeks a renewal of religious painting, mixing those influences from the Gothic and the early years of the Renaissance, with the spirit of Romanticism that with them began to appear in German art. And to all this he added the value of symbols, of which this work ofThe Wise Virgins and the Foolish Virginsis full
However, although the references of the Nazarenes are ancient, these painters cannot ignore the centuries of art closest to them, and this is manifested in their paintings. For example, here we see that to the left of the figure of Christ is Saint Peter with the keys and he is opening a large gate, in which historians have wanted to see a resemblance to the doors made by Lorenzo Ghibertifor the Florence Baptistery.
In fact, Renaissance art fills much of the space in that painting, and even manifests itself in the postures and profiles of many characters. And in the specific case of the foolish virgins, a certain similarity can be found with the mural paintings of the Fire of the Borgo that Raphael painted in the Vatican.