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The Trial of Gustav Graef
Art, Sex, and Scandal in Late Nineteenth-Century Germany
“Hartston’s microhistorical method of using the dramatic events of the Graef trial as a window into broader societal themes in German history follows the work of recent cutting-edge modern and early-modern European historiography. This book is a very welcome addition to scholarship on Germany, which lacks English-language studies in this mode.” —Ann Goldberg, author of Honor, Politics, and the Law in Imperial Germany, 1871–1914
Although largely forgotten now, the 1885 trial of German artist Gustav Graef was a seminal event for those who observed it. Graef, a celebrated sixty-four-year-old portraitist, was accused of perjury and sexual impropriety with underage models. On trial alongside him was one of his former models, the twenty-one-year-old Bertha Rother, who quickly became a central figure in the affair. As the case was being heard, images of Rother, including photographic reproductions of Graef’s nude paintings of her, began to flood the art shops and bookstores of Berlin and spread across Europe. Spurred by this trade in images and by sensational coverage in the press, this former prostitute was transformed into an international sex symbol and a target of both public lust and scorn. Passionate discussions of the case echoed in the press for months, and the episode lasted in public memory for far longer.
November 2017 335 pp., 6x9
Barnet Hartston is associate dean of general education and professor of history at Eckerd College. He is author of Sensationalizing the Jewish Question: Anti-Semitic Trials and the Press in the Early German Empire, and his research focuses primarily on anti-Semitism, legal culture, and the political press in Imperial Germany.
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