The Symbolism Of Martin Zeller's The Orator

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Painted around 1920 by German expressionist Martin Zeller, The Orator captures the fleeting moment in which the titular speaker basks in the climax of his great and powerful message. While he stands just to the left of center, his body takes up the entire length of the picture and covers the span of the entire left side. With his arms and legs spread wide on a raised orange-brown platform, he throws back his head toward to sky to summon a great miracle, message, or magic. Or perhaps he himself is the miracle as the people around him flock to get a better view of his splendor. They each lunge at him with gusto in what appears to be a cramped room, paying to mind to the people standing beside him. Every man is for himself in this attempt to soak …show more content…
After the Treaty of Versailles named Germany as the sole cause and loser of the First World War, the country sank into a deep economic depression as it was forced to pay off immense reparations as payment for starting the war. Of course, this destroyed the economic stability of the people as it created rampant inflation that would only worsen in the decades following. The story of The Orator is thus clearly a story about a people devastated by a failing economy and national identity best seen in the pale and bony hands of the audience that hand limply from their reaching arms. They are the hands of a people in desperate need of good news that they hope the speaker can provide. While there is no clear light source in the painting, the light seems to be coming out from the speaker himself as he is bathed in light. On both sides of the canvas, those with their backs to the viewer are covered in shadow while those nearest to the orator and facing him, particularly from the front, have light streaked upon them. For light to be pointing left toward the speaker and right toward his audience, there must either be two light sources (which is unlikely in such a small, cramped space) or the light must be coming from the speaker himself. He is bathed in light, his message one that is meant to illuminate and foreshadow. He is their messiah, their god in full regalia. After the darkness caused by the aftermath of WWI, the orator alone is capable of bringing light to the people through his blessed message. This is where the orator becomes an oracle as, unbeknownst to Zeller in 1920, he predicts the rise of strong leader who would in 10 years’ time bring Germany out of the depression through his

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