“Manfred auf der Jungfrau” is the name of the painting. But there is no mountain climber standing there, but a young man in a theatrical red robe who is pulling his hair out. In the eyes fear and madness. What’s going on here? The archaic mountain hiker seems to be wondering that too, wrapped warmly in fur and leather, with staff and gaiters.
The large format hangs as an eye-catcher in the (currently closed) Romanticism exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zürich. Ford Madox Brown depicts Lord Byron’s famous romantic verse drama “Manfred” from 1817, which not only drove him to congenial creation.
Sublime natural beauty against human despair is Brown’s motto: white, virgin snow, wonderful morning light, an eagle as a free master of the air and a down-to-earth hunter contrast with Manfred in his mountain-unsuitable outfit, ruffled by spirits, doubts and wind. Incidentally, Manfred does not fall. “My brain is staggering – but my foot is firm,” he says and can be saved – for the time being.
«Manfred» is considered the romantic drama par excellence. The full text of Lord Byron’s dramatic poem in 3 acts from 1817 can be found in German translation here: https://www.projekt-gutenberg.org/byron/manfred/titlepage.html