After moving to West Berlin in 1963, the Bohemian-born artist Markus Lüpertz developed a narrative painting style that differs clearly from the spontaneous abstraction of the 1950s and early 1960s. His 'dithyrambic painting', i.e., 'Bacchanalian' or 'drunken' painting, caused a stir at the start of the 1970s, especially when the artist started to introduce military items such as steel helmets, canons or Wehrmacht uniforms into his works. Since then clear references to tradition, at times of a political nature, have formed a basic theme in his oeuvre. Occasionally references to the history of literature and music are also found. For example, the painting entitled Men without women. Parsifal, which forms part of a larger series, as is often the case with this artist, was doubtless inspired by Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal.
At the 1996 Salzburg Easter Festival Lüpertz exhibited a series of paintings based on Giuseppe Verdi's Otello at the Galerie Ropac. The two paintings reproduced on the right belong to this series. The identical format and the identical method of framing indicate that they are a pair. Just as in Verdi's adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy in 1883, the plot is limited to three protagonists: Othello the Moor, admiral of the Venetian fleet, his beautiful young wife Desdemona and the schemer Iago. In Othelloballett the three protagonists are shown standing beside each other as if on a stage, with amphora-like bodies that are surely meant to be understood as symbols of human fragility. On the left we recognise Desdemona, at the centre Othello and on the right Iago. Evidently it was above all the bloody denouement of this drama about jealousy that interested Lüpertz. Othello theatralisch depicts the murder of Desdemona by Othello. A blood-red tongue extending from Othello's head is about to do his naked wife to death.