At the Crossroads (the World or the Cloister)
Emil Rau, whose career awaits serious study, was born in Dresden in 1858; his death date is unknown. He attended the academy in Dresden and by 1879 entered the academy in Munich, where he settled and worked primarily as a genre painter, specializing in contemporary Bavarian subjects. Typical is his joyful and picturesque Test of Patience, which, like this example, is signed and dated 1888, the year before Rau reportedly was awarded a gold medal in London.
A published list of Rau’s principal works cites this painting with its German title, Am Scheidewege (Welt oder Kloster). It describes the story thus: “At the train station a peasant girl between two nuns at table with a young couple on their honeymoon trip”. The meaning is clear: the young girl is confronting the dilemma of deciding between a religious and a secular life. Rau and his audience undoubtedly saw a parallel between her modern quandary and the mythic choice of Hercules, who, at the crossroads, had to decide between an arduous life of virtue and the easy path of pleasure.
Sir D.J. Tata Collection.
Emil Rau (1858–?) Signed and dated lower right: E RAU München 1888
Oil on canvas
151 x 204 cms.