Snowy high mountain landscape. In the left foreground, a soldier in a winter coat with fur collar and cap in back view, observing the artillery fire (visible through rising clouds of smoke) on a mountain range with binoculars mounted on a tripod. On the right, in the foreground, a snow-covered escarpment; in the background, more snow-covered mountain peaks.
This documentary painting, likely made in November 1915 (see the counterpart by Karl Ludwig Prinz in the cross-references), illustrates the events of the war in the high alpine area of the South Tyrolean Dolomites, which was fought with particularly heavy losses and under the most extreme conditions. In the center of the picture and the observer is an elongated mountain range, the Col di Lana, closed by a peak, Monte Sief, which is under heavy artillery fire. The Col di Lana became infamous as the Col di Sangue, or Blood Mountain, because of the heavy casualties from fighting, avalanches, cold and disease. The attempt of the Italian troops to drive the Austrians from their positions culminated in mutual attempts to blow up the enemy positions by undermining the mountain. During the night of April 16-17, 1916, the Italians used 5 tons of explosives to blow up the Austrian positions on Monte Sief (the crater is still clearly visible today, see cross-references), killing hundreds of Austrian soldiers. Nevertheless, the Austrians were able to hold Monte Sief and thus continue to block the advance of the Italians. In memory of those killed on both sides, a chapel on Col di Lana today commemorates the fighting and urges peace.
The painting is a particularly coherent, if somewhat downplayed, illustration of the battle in the high mountains, which Adams characterizes as dominated by the majestic mountain scenery. It entered the holdings of the Imperial Army Museum Vienna (KBI153) from the artist via the War Press Quarter and was shown at the 1916 Great Berlin Art Exhibition (#1089) and illustrated in its catalog (p.63), and shown again at the 1917 Adams Exhibition (#52) at the Vienna Künstlerhaus. It disappeared from the museum holdings in 1945 and was written off as a war loss (destruction by bombing or looting). The illustration from the 1916 Berlin catalog is the only document of this Adams work. The counterpart of the war painter colleague (and Adams’ friend) Karl Ludwig Prinz (see cross-references), which was likely created at the same time, has also vanished.
The painting compared with today's topography
Counterpart: Karl Ludwig Prinz, Col di Lana November 1915
1916 Berlin Great Berlin Art Exhibition (#1089), Ill. in catalogue p.63.
1917 Vienna Künstlerhaus (EL vol 61 1916/17 #520) exhibition John Quincy Adams No. 52.
APH, catalog raisonné JQA 1995, p. 128, cat.#94, fig.#67.
1915 From the artist to Army Press Quarters and to k.u.k. Army Museum Vienna.
1915-1945 Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM) Vienna KBI151.
1945 lost (destruction or looting).