Fidelis Bentele | Georg Bentele-Ücker

Fairy tales, myths, legends – two sculptors as storytellers

Exhibition as part of the Oberstaufen Winter Magic: 27 December 2023 to 06 January 2024

When it’s cold outside and the winter evenings are long, we like to cosy up inside, read and pass the time with stories. The Raunächte around Christmas and the turn of the year in particular are full of myths, customs and rituals. The two Oberstaufen sculptors Fidelis Bentele and Georg Bentele-Ücker have repeatedly made figures and motifs from legends, myths, local history and fairy tales the subject of their works of art, thus becoming storytellers themselves. In a temporary exhibition, we are showing a selection of works that would otherwise lie dormant in depots, with the aim of providing inspiration for the quiet time between the years and shortening the long winter period a little.

New building at Hugo-von-Königsegg-Straße 6
next to the Haus des Gastes

Opening times:
daily from 2 to 6 pm

Admission: free

Saturday, 30 December 2023, 5 pm

Breathing space and eye-opener with Pastor Andreas Waßmer

The works of the Oberstaufen sculptor Fidelis Bentele and his adopted son Georg Bentele-Ücker are able to speak to the viewer in a special way. Looking at them opens your eyes inwards. Allow yourself to pause for breath, let the sculptures take effect on you and feel what they have to tell you. Pastor Andreas Waßmer will guide you through the current pop-up exhibition, give you food for thought and look forward to talking to anyone who is interested.

Supporting programme:

Wednesday, 27 December 2023, 3 pm

A fairytale hour with storyteller Carola Miller

For children aged 4 and over with parents and grandparents (contribution towards expenses: €4/person)

Tuesday, 02 January 2024, 4 pm

The miracle of the Oberstaufen nativity scenes with Peter Scheu

After a shipwreck in the English Channel in 1952, three nativity scenes by sculptor Fidelis Benele sink to the bottom of the sea with their cargo. Two of them were washed back ashore years later – one in Denmark, the other in the Azores. The honorary curator of the Bentele estate, Peter Scheu, reports on the miracle of the Bentele nativity scenes. The Bentele expert, who is more familiar with the work of the artists Bentele and Bentele-Ücker than almost anyone else, talks about their life and work and has many an anecdote to share.

Skulptur "Der Märchenerzähler" im Märchengarten Ludwigsburg

The tradition of storytelling

Stories have travelled from one person to another and have connected us for as long as humans have existed – with different means of expression and technical aids depending on the time. Orally, through music and preaching. In writing by letter, postcard, book and newspaper; through graphics, photography and sculptures; through theatre and film. All the way to the multimedia Internet and social media, through which stories spread around the globe at breakneck speed today. The visitor encounters all these facets in the exhibition and they have different effects.

Left: Bentele’s “storyteller” welcomes visitors at the entrance to the fairytale garden in the baroque garden of Ludwigsburg Palace.

The sculptor as storyteller

Fidelis Bentele was already dreamy as a child and fancied the fantastic and mysterious. He actually wanted to become a musician or actor, but then turned to carving and sculpting. He knew how to merge reality, dream and imagination in his sculptures, expressing his feelings and insights in a creative process with skilful craftsmanship. As visual artists, he and his adopted son breathed life into wood and stone in a creative process of creation, telling stories and thus conveying their view of the world.

The miracle of the Oberstaufen nativity scenes

There is an almost unbelievable story surrounding three nativity scenes that Fidelis Bentele made on behalf of the Archbishop of Chicago. On their way to the USA at the turn of the year 1951/52, they were lost in the English Channel on a damaged ship. One of them reappeared years later, at the turn of the year 1955/56, under adventurous circumstances on the Danish island of Röm and found its way back to Oberstaufen.

Read more about the fate of the nativity scenes and help us to continue writing this incredible story.

Biblical stories and characters

One of the oldest surviving literary works is the Holy Scriptures – a collection of stories by different narrators that characterise our Christian culture. We encounter biblical stories and figures in abundance in the works of Fidelis Bentele and Georg Bentele-Ücker: from figures of saints, crucifixes and Stations of the Cross to nativity scenes and tombstones. For the two sculptors, religious themes were not only relevant in the context of commissioned works. Time and again, they explored Christian values and existential experiences. Bentele was also inspired by Buddhist religious teachings.

Allgäu legends and folk beliefs

Fidelis Bentele, born in Buchenegg/Oberstaufen, and Georg Bentele-Ücker, from Obermaiselstein, grew up with Allgäu legends and folk beliefs and felt a deep connection to nature and its elements. Their work features forest, water, fire and mountain spirits, trolls, witches and souls, as well as quirky, cranky owls. In some cases, the viewer cannot always clearly distinguish these from biblical figures, quaint types from the Allgäu mountains and real characters. The boundaries between imagination, fiction and the real world are blurred here.

These peculiar, sometimes gloomy and sinister-looking figures contrast with the naive and endearing figures of the two sculptors, as can be found among the fairy-tale and fountain figures, for example, or among figures playing music of various kinds.

Skulptur von Fidelis Bentele
Bronzeskulptur "Die Berggeister" von Fidelis Bentele im Staufenpark in Oberstaufen

Telling and passing on local history

The two sculptors have repeatedly taken up themes and events from local history. With the “Butz”, they depict an important figure of the Oberstaufen Fasnaziestag. With the “mountain spirits”, which can also be seen in Staufenpark, it is not clear whether they are mystical figures or rebellious farmers who set fire to Oberstaufen Castle. The “Avalanche” tells the story of the serious avalanche accident that claimed many victims in the Grosses Walsertal and the nearby Bregenzerwald in January 1954. Bentele-Ücker later used his works to convey socio-political criticism of supra-regional events and developments.

Relationships with storytellers and poets from the region

Fidelis Bentele cultivated friendships with numerous celebrities from Germany and abroad. These included well-known literary figures from the region around Oberstaufen. He had a friendship with the Swabian poet and storyteller Arthur Maximilian Miller from Kornau near Oberstdorf, which also resulted in joint projects. He was also in contact with the writer Gertrud von Le Fort, who lived in Oberstdorf, and made a portrait bust of her. His cordial friendship with the controversial writer Natalie Beer from Vorarlberg, with whom he also worked, raises questions.

Porträtbüste des Künstlers Fidelis Bentele von Gertrud von Le Fort
© Heimatmuseum Oberstdorf e.V.
Gipsrelief aus dem Zyklus "Der kleine Prinz" von Fidelis Bentele

Fairy tales

Fairy tale figures are among the favourite motifs that the two sculptors liked to take up. Numerous figures of shepherds and fountains are also reminiscent of figures familiar to us from fairy tales. The sculpture “Brüderchen und Schwesterchen” based on a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales, which is located in front of the Oberstaufen school, is passed by pupils, parents and wandering guests every day. Among other things, the exhibition shows works from a cycle that deals with the modern art fairy tale “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Exupéry.