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The Enlightened Eye

Goethe and Visual Culture



Herausgegeben von
Gerd Labroisse
Gerhard P. Knapp
Norbert Otto Eke

Wissenschaftlicher Beirat:
Christopher Balme (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
Lutz Danneberg (Humboldt-Universitt zu Berlin)
Martha B. Helfer (Rutgers University New Brunswick)
Lothar Khn (Westf. Wilhelms-Universitt Mnster)
Ian Wallace (University of Bath)
The Enlightened Eye
Goethe and Visual Culture

Edited by
Evelyn K. Moore and
Patricia Anne Simpson

Amsterdam - New York, NY 2007

Die 1972 gegrndete Reihe erscheint seit 1977 in zwangloser Folge in der
Form von Thema-Bnden mit jeweils verantwortlichem Herausgeber.


Prof. Dr. Gerd Labroisse

Sylter Str. 13A, 14199 Berlin, Deutschland
Tel./Fax: (49)30 89724235 E-Mail:

Prof. Dr. Gerhard P. Knapp

University of Utah
Dept. of Languages and Literature, 255 S. Central Campus Dr. Rm. 1400
Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
Tel.: (1)801 581 7561, Fax (1)801 581 7581 (dienstl.)
bzw. Tel./Fax: (1)801 474 0869 (privat) E-Mail:

Prof. Dr. Norbert Otto Eke

Universitt Paderborn
Fakultt fr Kulturwissenschaften, Warburger Str. 100, D - 33098 Paderborn,
Deutschland, E-Mail:

Cover image:
Cy Twombly (b. 1928) American
Bay of Naples
1961 [Rome]
Oil paint, oil based house paint, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas.
95-1/4 x 117-5/8 inches. 241.8 x 298.6 cm.
Cy Twombly Gallery. The Menil Collection, Houston.
Photographer: Hickey-Robertson, Houston

All titles in the Amsterdamer Beitrge zur neueren Germanistik

(from 1999 onwards) are available online: See

Electronic access is included in print subscriptions.

The paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of ISO
9706:1994, Information and documentation - Paper for documents -
Requirements for permanence.

ISBN-13: 978-90-420-2124-2
Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam New York, NY 2007
Printed in The Netherlands
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements 5

Abbreviations 7


Patricia Anne Simpson and Evelyn K. Moore: The Enlightened Eye:

Visual Culture in the Age of Goethe 11


Melissa Dabakis: Angelika Kauffmann, Goethe, and the Arcadian

Academy in Rome 25
Catriona MacLeod: Sweetmeats for the Eye: Porcelain Miniatures
in Classical Weimar 41
Beate Allert: Goethe, Runge, Friedrich: On Painting 73
Margaretmary Daley: The Gendered Eye of the Beholder: The
Co-ed Art History of the Jena Romantics 93
Mary Helen Dupree: Elise in Weimar: Actress-Writers and the
Resistance to Classicism 111
Patricia Anne Simpson: Visions of the Nation: Goethe, Karl
Friedrich Schinkel, and Ernst Moritz Arndt 127



Evelyn K. Moore: Goethe and Lavater: A Specular Friendship 165

Elliott Schreiber: Towards an Aesthetics of the Sublime
Augenblick: Reading Karl Philipp Moritz Reading Goethes Die
Leiden des jungen Werthers 193
Clark S. Muenzer: Fugitive Images and Visual Memory in Goethes
Discourse on Color 219
Eric Hadley Denton: The Technological Eye: Theater Lighting and
Guckkasten in Michaelis and Goethe 239
Astrida Orle Tantillo: The Subjective Eye: Goethes Farbenlehre
and Faust 265

Heide Crawford: Poetically Visualizing Urgestalten. The Union of

Nature, Art, and the Love of a Woman in Goethes Die
Metamorphose der Pflanzen 279
Richard Block: Scribbles from Italy: Cy Twomblys Experiment in
Seeing Goethe See Language 289


Notes on the Contributors 313

Index 317
The editors wish to express their gratitude for the support that made this proj-
ect possible. The book grew from a session we organized for the German
Studies Association Conference in New Orleans (2003), and we would like to
thank the panels participants, audience, and commentator (John Lyon,
University of Pittsburgh) for generating such a productive discussion. In addi-
tion we owe special thanks to Eric Denton for his role in encouraging this proj-
ect. Significant progress on the manuscript was made during Evelyn Moores
sabbatical (200304), granted by Kenyon College, which coincided with a
period of course release for Patricia Simpson (Spring 2004), generously sup-
ported by a Scholarship and Creativity grant from Montana State University,
Bozeman. We also wish to thank our respective institutions for their continued
support. Financial assistance from both Kenyon College and the Department
of Modern Languages and Literatures at MSU helped defray the cost of repro-
ducing some of the images, and this support is gratefully acknowledged.
Further, we thank Joanna Cook (The Menil Collection, Houston) for help in
obtaining the rights to reproduce the Cy Twombly painting on the cover. Theo
Lipfert (Media and Theatre Arts, MSU) rendered invaluable assistance with
formatting other images in the book, and we thank him. We also want to
express our appreciation to John Vaio for his careful reading of various stages
of the project. Finally we would like to express our gratitude to Marieke
Schilling and the series editors at Rodopi for their careful attention to this book
during each stage of production.
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The following standard editions of Johann Wolfgang von Goethes collected
works are referenced in the chapters of this book and abbreviated as follows:
FA: Samtliche Werke. Ed. by Hendrik Birus, et al. 40 vols. Frankfurt/M:
Suhrkamp Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1985ff. References to this edition in
the volume are generally followed by set/volume and page numbers.
WA: Werke. Weimarer Ausgabe. Ed. at the behest of the grand duchess Sophie
von Sachsen, 50 vols. Weimar: H. Bhlau 18871919. References to this edi-
tion are generally followed by the set in Roman numerals, volume, part, and
page numbers.
MA: Samtliche Werke nach Epochen seines Schaffens. Ed. by Karl Richter,
et al. 21 vols. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag 1985ff. References are followed by
set, volume, and page number.
HA: Goethes Werke in XIV Banden. Ed. by Erich Trunz. Hamburg: Christian
Wegner 1950. References to this edition are followed by volume and page
Several authors consulted the Suhrkamp edition of Goethes work in English
translation: Goethes Collected Works. 12 vols. New York: Suhrkamp 19831989.
References to these volumes are documented in individual chapters.
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Patricia Anne Simpson and Evelyn K. Moore

The Enlightened Eye: Visual Culture in

the Age of Goethe
Poets, painters, and philosophers in early nineteenth-century Germany all par-
ticipated in a debate about the evolving status of visual culture in the arts and
sciences. This debate, advanced significantly by G. E. Lessings seminal essay
on Laokoon about the relationship between visual and verbal representation,
continues to interrogate post-Enlightenment models of perception and their
ability to transmit knowledge in both the aesthetic and the scientific realms.
Throughout the eighteenth century, Winckelmanns classical aesthetics inform
the production of art and literature alike.1 Scientific advances in lens technol-
ogy further complicate the debate about the role of the eye in determining
and discerning beauty, perspective, and even identity. There is virtually no
field of endeavor untouched or unchanged by the discourse on visual culture.
Artists like Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, Angelika Kauffmann, Philipp
Otto Runge, and Casper David Friedrich were engaged in the debate, along with
scientists like Isaac Newton and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, and philoso-
phers like G. W. F. Hegel, on how art is to be produced, displayed, apprehended,
and consumed.2 The relationship between the aesthetics of visual and verbal
arts has wide-reaching implications for the formation of bourgeois identity,
pedagogy, and pleasure. The purpose of this volume is to explore the ways in
which Johann Wolfgang Goethe and his concerns with vision, language, and
identity can be situated in a discussion of visual culture and the larger context
of his time. These essays cover a range of media from painting and the decora-
tive arts to theater, sculpture, and the science of seeing.
Goethe was not only a prominent participant in these debates, but stood at
their center. He belonged to the community of contemporary culture: he him-
self was a practicing amateur artist, a collector of art, and a critical participant
in the debate on the production and value of art, as well as the author of scien-
tific studies on the mechanisms of perception. The voluminous literature on
Goethe contains many inquiries into Goethe and visuality from across the

For an overview see for example German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism:
Winckelmann, Lessing, Hamann, Herder, Schiller and Goethe. Ed. by H. B. Nisbet.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1985. P. 3.
On Goethes role in the art world of classical Weimar, see Erik Forssman: Goethezeit.
Uber die Entstehung des burgerlichen Kunstverst andnisses. Munich and Berlin:
Deutscher Kunstverlag 1999. P. 298. Forssman also discusses the scholarly work on
Goethe and art from the discipline of art history. See Forssman. P. 11.

spectrum of disciplinary and theoretical approaches.3 The present collection

examines and illuminates the interconnection among various fields of inquiry
into the visual in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with Goethe
at the core. By acknowledging Goethes centrality in this debate, the essays in
this volume demonstrate the degree to which visual aesthetics determined the
cultural production of the time both in the German-speaking world and in a
wider European context.
Part I: Visions/Revisions of the Neoclassical Aesthetic
When he traveled to Rome disguised as the painter Filippo Miller on the
Grand Tour in 1785, Goethe followed in the tracks of Winckelmann. Goethes
account of the trip, Italienische Reise [The Italian Journey], not only provides the
reader with discussions on famous art works, but also reveals how a work of art
should be apprehended. While living in J. H. W. Tischbeins atelier in Rome,
Goethe was not only a subject for the artists paintings, but at the center of a
vibrant and pivotal moment in the history of artistic production: the inauguration
of the modern. The chapters in this part of the collection examine Goethes
role in the artistic production of his time, his role as muse and mentor to artists
like Tischbein and Kauffmann, as well as his controversial role in the reception
of the later Romantic artists Runge and Friedrich. Goethe influenced both
directly and indirectly the production of visual arts and the development of a
new aesthetic sensibility. This section helps locate the shifting ground of a neo-
classical aesthetics within the framework of gendered visuality.4
Melissa Dabakis takes us to Rome, the spiritual and aesthetic home for
Goethe and contemporary European artists and beyond. As Dabakis points out,
the prominent painter Angelika Kauffmann and Goethe were members of the
little-known Arcadian Academy in Rome, which Goethe joined in 1787. The
purpose of the Academy was to explore further the relationship between the sister
arts of poetry and painting. The Arcadians insisted on the affinity between the

See especially David Wellbery: Die Wahlverwandtschaften. In Goethes Erzahlwerk:
Interpretationen. Ed. by P. M. Lutzeler and J. M. McLead. Stuttgart 1985. Pp. 291318.
See also Stuart Atkins: Goethes Novelle as Pictorial Narrative. In: Essays on Goethe.
Ed. by Jane K. Brown and Thomas P. Saine. Columbia SC: Camden House 1995. Pp.
Throughout this study, we use the term neoclassical to indicate the reception of Greek
and Roman antiquity by eighteenth-century artists and writers, with particular empha-
sis on the visual arts. The term classical overlaps to some extent with both the neo-
classical aesthetic and, in a specifically German context, with aspects of Romanticism.
We want to highlight the intersection of this European neoclassical/classical movement
with the specificity of a dominant aesthetic that emerged from Weimar culture, cen-
tered on Goethe and Schiller. The articles in this collection reconfigure the intercon-
nections among the terms Klassik [Classicism], Neoclassicism, and Romanticism.

verbal and the visual arts, breaching many of the assumed boundaries between
them. The transformation of Goethes own dramaturgy, as evident in the poetic
rewriting of his Iphgenie auf Tauris [Iphigenia in Tauris], took place through
the liberating dialog of the Arcadian Academy. In turn, the influence was more
than mutual, for Kauffmann and Tischbein painted not only portraits of
Goethe, but also portraits of his literary works. This interaction demonstrates
the high degree of intimacy between the visual and the verbal forms of repre-
sentation. Kauffmann, in particular, drew inspiration from Iphigenie, specifi-
cally the scene in which Orestes emerges from the torture of his own madness.
This reciprocity points not only to an exchange between the verbal and visual,
but also symbolizes the gender equity involved in the Arcadian Academy, idyl-
lic not only for its aesthetic, but also for its politics of inclusion.
Moving from the classical idyll and high art represented by the Arcadian
Academy to a new bourgeois appreciation of the neoclassical production of art,
Catriona MacLeod analyzes the partnership of art and commerce in her work on
porcelain miniatures. Through an examination of the technology and aesthet-
ics of Furstenbergs production of porcelain figures, MacLeod provides insight
into the tactile and visual desires of bourgeois consumers of neoclassical taste.
MacLeods critical discourse dwells in the materiality of arts, decorative and
otherwise, and reveals the potential for obsession in the act of collecting, own-
ing, and holding the smooth and fragile figures. Yet she also reads the radical
reduction in scale from the colossal head, for example, of Goethes Juno, to a
piece of porcelain that fits on the dining table. The process of miniaturization
itself, MacLeod concludes, necessitates a violent repression of the human
body, referring the viewer to the classical aesthetic of Winckelmann, Herder,
and others. Just as the viewer of porcelain miniatures could hold and behold
the classical aesthetic, MacLeods essay returns the reader to a visual aware-
ness of the repressed corporeality of Classicism.
The tensions between classical/neoclassical aesthetics and Romanticism
become legible at this juncture, with Goethe cutting an imposing figure in this
debate as well. The discourse about the Romantic seems to take place in a uni-
verse parallel to Goethes classical and classicizing Weimar, though much is
posited by way of response to his own cultural practices. While gender differ-
ence overlaps many of his most urgent aesthetic concerns, Goethe remains aloof
from Friedrich Schlegels aesthetic theories. Erik Forssman, who has written
extensively on Goethe and art, maintains that F. Schlegels evaluation of art and
art theory is often the precise opposite of what Weimar was defending.5 Indeed,
F. Schlegel seems to be directly criticizing the position on art propagated by
Schillers journal on aesthetics, the Propylaen (17981800), as well the topics,
judging, and criticism associated with the art competitions, the Weimarer

Forssman: Goethezeit. P. 262.

Preisaufgaben (17991805). Goethes distance from Schlegels aesthetics can

be attributed to a variety of causes, not least of which are religious and politi-
cal, but aesthetic conflict certainly plays its part. Do Classicism and by exten-
sion Neoclassicism operate on the assumption that the beholder of a painting
brings a sufficiently classical Bildung to the act of viewing, and is therefore
capable of generating his own narrative supplements to the muteness of paint,
marble, and stone?
While the tension between Goethe and the aesthetic views of the romantic
painters is a topos for theorizing nineteenth-century art, Beate Allert argues in the
next chapter instead for both a fraught and productive interaction between Goethe
and those painters. Allert examines the specific historical role Goethe played in
the development of German Romanticisms greatest proponents, Philipp Otto
Runge and Caspar David Friedrich, and their influence on Goethe. Her focus
is artistic praxis; she orients the debate about art and classical versus romantic
aesthetics on Goethe, Runge, and Friedrich. Allert transcends the connective
tissue of biography by illuminating the visual and verbal responses of each artist
to the other in their respective works. Here there is tension, occasional resent-
ment, and uncomfortable influence, however productive their relationships
ultimately turned out to be. Allert draws new conclusions about this subtextual
debate by referencing insights gained from innovations in imaging technology;
she reads a different picture of a romantic view of Goethe, one hitherto hidden
in the layers of paint. Allerts reading of Goethes dialog with Friedrich and
Runge furthers the debate about Romantic aesthetics, subjectivity, its relation-
ship to nature, and the mutual influence of elective repulsions between the
Classical and the Romantic. Goethe criticizes the works of both Runge and
Friedrich because they express too much raw and often negative emotion; they
do not conform to the ideals of his Weimar Classicism. Allert shows that
Goethes participation in the debates on color theory as well as in contempo-
rary visual culture clearly exceeds the confines of the neoclassical moment.
At this juncture, gender reemerges as a major consideration for the reception
of visual arts in the Romantic circle of Jena. In Margaretmary Daleys contribu-
tion, she asserts through her reading of the collectively authored Die Gemahlde:
Gesprach [On Paintings: Conversation], that the eye of the beholder is always
already gendered. Though informed by the insights gained by contemporary
feminist theory, Daleys reading of this complex piece of writing finds poten-
tial common ground in the viewing and discussing of paintings in the Dresden
Gallery. The adequate interpretation of visual culture, Daley observes, is con-
tingent upon gender-blind sociability: the presence of masculine and feminine
assessments, refined in conversation, of art and poetry. This text, Die Gemahlde:
Gesprach, specifically rejects the binary opposition of gender identity, pro-
moting a different, gender-aware means of correcting masculine myopia
through feminine interpretation of the visual arts. The primary concern in this

framed discourse, the translation of one art form, such as poetry, into another,
such as painting, and vice versa, raises questions about the adequate represen-
tation of art in general.
Mary Helen Dupree continues this investigation into the gender politics of
Classicism with her essay on the theatrical performances and texts of Elise
Burger. Dupree reexamines anecdotal evidence regarding the actresses who
were Goethes contemporaries to question the marginalized status of minor
women writers and their seemingly ancillary role in the cultural phenomenon
that is Weimar Classicism. Dupree focuses first on Burgers futile attempts to
ingratiate herself into the cultural realm of Weimar. She discloses reasons for
the confrontation between Goethe and Schiller and their ideal aesthetics with
the texts and theatrical performances of the actress-writer Burger. Dupree pres-
ents a nuanced consideration of the tension between Burgers specular per-
formances and productions and the classical ideals of Goethes dramaturgy. By
looking at Burger through the lens of the anecdotal, Dupree locates her in the
milieu of personal connections among the retinue of performing and produc-
ing artists of which Goethe was the center in his capacity as actor, author, and
director, and exposes the anxiety of classicizing ideals when confronted with
the materiality of the female body. More importantly, by examining Burgers
efforts to attain recognition with Goethe, Dupree illuminates the decisive role
that gender played in the construction of a classical aesthetic. This chapter
underscores the way Elise Burger defies the socially conditioned marginaliza-
tion of women; she finds her voice as a writer and her own aesthetic sensibil-
ity, articulated at least in part as a critique of Classicism.
It is essential nonetheless to come back to the harmonizing ideals of
Neoclassicism in order to understand the productive tensions which resulted in
the creation of new literary and visual forms. Neoclassicism is never obsolete.6
Instead, its clean lines, monumental stature, and referential longevity inform
the image of the nation as it emerges in the public visual culture of Karl
Friedrich Schinkels Berlin. Schinkel and Goethe, more than any other of their

For an overview of Goethes writings on architecture and interaction with architects,
see Forssman: Goethezeit. Pp. 37125. Crucial to this discussion is Goethes essay Von
deutscher Baukunst, begun in 1771, published in 1883, and later rewritten. Goethes
perception of architecture was of course affected by his trip to Italy. In 1789, he was
appointed to the Schlobaukommission in Weimar, and Goethes theoretical and liter-
ary texts show his keen eye for buildings. His later acquaintance with the brothers
Boissere would draw him into the discussion about renewed aesthetic and political
enthusiasm for the German Middle Ages, embodied in Gothic architecture. Around
18101811, Goethe demonstrated an interest in things medieval, in spite of the older
brothers association with Friedrich Schlegel. See Forssman: Goethezeit. P. 96. Goethe
and Schinkel became personally acquainted in 1810 and developed a mutual respect.

contemporaries, are invested in the neoclassical framing of the new German

nation. In Patricia Anne Simpsons article on visions of the nation, she follows
the trajectory of neoclassical, republican, masculine iconography of form under
the influence of Jacques-Louis David, in his Oath of the Horatii, and Ernst
Moritz Arndts patriotic poetry to the persistence of neoclassical ideals in
Schinkel. But Schinkel modifies the neoclassical aesthetic by referencing the
German Gothic and incorporating female iconography in the construction of a
national visual character that can signify hope for the nation. Simpson shows
that Goethe is also negotiating the same imperatives. The Neoclassical in Goethe,
Schinkel, and Arndt is deployed in a culture of war and the reassertion of
national identity through language and art. In his festival play, Des Epimenides
Erwachen [EpimenidesAwakening], a play commissioned for the return of the
Prussian King after the allied victory over Napoleon, Goethe creates a new
vision for the German nation. He responds to the patriotic challenge by re-framing
national identity in the festival play. Goethe portrays the constitutive elements
of German national character with an antique frame. In so doing, Goethe chal-
lenges the exclusively male iconography of Arndts vision of the fatherland.
The neoclassical aesthetic and the implicit violence of an idealized model of
both art and behavior, with the regulation of social and sexual codes, remain
Part II: The Violence of Vision: Science, Technology, and
the Stage of Language
Goethes trip to Italy was critical not only to his literary and artistic identity, but
to his work on color theory as well. His position against Newton on the mech-
anisms of refraction of color proved to be one of the most controversial and
contentious debates of the time. Goethes criticism of the mechanisms of
observational bias contained in Newtons experiments reveal the great split
between psychological (subjective) and mechanistic (objective) perceptions
of visual phenomena. While Lichtenberg and others were quick to condemn
Goethes critique of Newton, Goethes observations on color began to have a
fruitful reception from the artist community. Runge, for example, concurred
with Goethes views, and William Turners theories on color as well as his
paintings were influenced by Goethes work on color. The debates on visual
culture become a means for defining the value of scientific observation and
perception. The contributions in this part of the collection examine the conse-
quences of this debate.
Influential scholarly works in this field of inquiry include those of Barbara
Stafford and of Jonathan Crary. The former, by connecting visual culture and
the advances made in science and technology in the eighteenth and nineteenth
century, has demonstrated the fascination that the visual exerted on the man of

science.7 Jonathan Crary, in his important study of nineteenth-century mecha-

nisms of perception, argues that the marriage of the visual with technology
opens up a new direction away from the totalizing optics of the eighteenth cen-
tury. Moreover, he credits Goethe with playing a major role in the profound
shift away from positivistic approaches to science.8 Goethes participation in
the debate on subjective versus objective methods of perception is crucial to
understanding the development of fields of scientific inquiry which focus not
on the object, but rather on the subject of perception. These methods of inquiry
lead to the development of studies on color, wavelength, as well as to the exam-
ination of the organs of perception the eye, the brain, and the subconscious.
This part of the volume examines the debate on the interaction among the
sciences, technologies, and art. The authors further expand the area of inquiry
to include the relationship between the visible and knowledge, the visual and
subjectivity, and the enlightened science of seeing and language. Goethes crit-
icism of Newtons theory of color is not a rejection of the mechanics of visual
experimentation, but represents instead an affirmation of the subjective aspects
of perception. The link which Goethe makes between individual perception
and the visual helps to explain why he considered his observations on the phe-
nomenon of color to be part of his autobiographical project. The purpose of
this part of the collection is to address the consequences of the connection
between the visual and the subjective from a variety of critical perspectives.
The contributions explore questions of subjectivity by engaging the corre-
spondence between visual culture and language, the relationship between tech-
nological innovation in the optical realm and its effect on cultural production,
and the sometimes elusive influence on a theory of vision.
This part of the book continues to interrogate the place of the body in the
scientific, social, and cultural pursuits of Goethes era and beyond. While the
Newtonian/Cartesian model of knowledge removes the body from the pursuit
of knowledge, Goethe conversely reintroduces the body and its mechanisms of
perception the eye, the mouth, touch, feeling, speaking back into the equa-
tion. In his work on color theory in particular, Goethe reveals the mechanisms
of scientific observation, like the camera obscura, which remove both the sub-
ject and the object from the process of perception, and remove the body and its
affective domain from the truth of scientific discovery. Goethe contra Newton

Barbara Maria Stafford: Body Criticism: Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art
and Medicine. Cambridge MA: MIT Press 1991; Voyage into Substance: Art, Science
and Nature, and the Illustrated Travel Account, 17601840. Cambridge MA: MIT
Press, 1984; Artful Science: Enlightenment Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual
Education. Cambridge MA: MIT Press 1994.
Jonathan Crary: Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the
Nineteenth Century. Cambridge MA: MIT Press 1993.

reveals the myth of scientific rationalism. Goethes extensive treatment of

Newtons color experiments as well as his engagement with visual culture on
many levels, lead to the development of new areas of scientific research.9
Frederick Amrine has earlier noted that studies by Hermann von Helmholtz,
Rudolph Steiner, and Werner Heisenberg are the most important new
re-assessments of Goethes work on the color theory.10 But Crary has credited
Goethe with initiating a new direction away from external mechanisms of per-
ception to concentrate on the body itself.11 He notes, for example, the impor-
tance of Goethe to the subjective studies of David Brewster, the inventor of the
kaleidoscope and the stereoscope, and Gustav Fechner, one of the founders of
modern quantitative psychology and others on afterimages. By staring at the
sun, they used their own body to advance their knowledge of the interaction of
light and the mechanisms of perception. Some of these experimenters went
blind as a result of this risky endeavor.12 Goethes engagement with visual cul-
ture is a powerful counterargument to Martin Jays thesis regarding the deni-
gration of vision in the eighteenth century.13 Goethes polemic against Newtons
theory on the refrangibility of color attempts to restore the primacy of visual
perception from the totalizing lens of theory. According to Goethe, the char-
latan Newton had violated Nature itself. By meticulously repeating Newtons
experiments, Goethe demonstrates the powerful effect of visual perception,
and explicitly condemns those who would bracket language, consciousness,
and complexity from the interaction of seeing and cognition.
In her essay, Evelyn K. Moore follows the itinerary of Werther, the hero of
Goethes first novel, and Johann Caspar Lavater, the author of an enormously
popular series of books on the science of physiognomy. This contribution
revises certain assumptions about the way Lavater influenced Goethe, whose
polemic against Lavater, an erstwhile friend, is in fact crucial to Goethes
understanding the issues of visuality and their ramifications. Moore argues
that Werther and Lavater, Goethes specular friends, represent the threat

See Felix Sepper: Goethe contra Newton: Polemics and the Project of a New Science
of Color. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988. Sepper provides a good
overview of the controversy surrounding Goethe and his contribution to science.
Frederick Amrine: Introduction/Annotated Bibliography. In: Goethe and the
Sciences: A Reappraisal. Ed. by Frederick Amrine, Francis J. Zucker, Harry Wheeler.
Dordrecht and Boston: Kluwer 1987. Pp. 395437, here p. 407.
Jonathan Crary: Modernizing Vision. In: Vision and Visuality. Ed. by Hal Foster.
Seattle: Bay Press 1988. Pp. 2944, here p. 34.
Ibid. P. 34.
Martin Jay: The Downcast Eye. The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth Century
Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press 1993. Jay traces the ocular and anti-
ocular tendencies of the Western cultural past, a tendency which, according to Jay, is at
its height in the enlightenment ideas of Descartes. Jay argues for the primacy of the
written word over the pictorial.

Goethe perceived in the emotional outpourings of romantic art and literature.

Further, Goethe frames this threat in visual terms, specifying the usurping and
proprietary nature of the physiognomic gaze that would subvert language,
social masks, and disguises. Moore demonstrates the fundamental violence
involved in the narcissistic appropriation of vision present in Lavaters theory
of physical attributes and human identity. Werther, like Newton, seems unable
or unwilling to allow the mechanism of perception, the eye, to be filled with
what is given to be seen. Moore traces the complex reincarnation of Werther as
narrator of Goethes Swiss journey and the ruthless critique of Werthers ways
of seeing. This visual practice isolates the eye from the body of the beholder,
effectively severing the eye and I of Werther from the vicissitudes of his own
desire. Moore argues that for Goethe imagination and its productive power lies
not in the romantic projection of feeling onto the object, but in a reciprocal
unfolding of affect. Moores work is informed by Lacanian principles that posit
the mechanism of perception as central to the constitution of subjectivity. As
Moore emphasizes, Goethe responds to the physiognomists attempt to bypass
language with unmediated observation, with an autobiographical project of
hide-and-seek that inscribes a critique of Lavater into Werther, whose narcis-
sistic eyes do not recognize a feast.
In the next chapter, Elliott Schreiber takes a different approach to the place
of Werther in aesthetic theory, focusing on the role an Augenblick [moment]
can play in both a temporal and visual sense. Schreiber reads Karl Philipp
Moritzs contribution to the aesthetics of the Augenblick within the context of
a changed perception of time in modernity and its effects on reading practices.
Departing from Moritzs responses to Werther, Schreiber explores the ways in
which Moritz employs a model from visual culture, that of perspective, to the
reading of literature. Schreiber follows the experience of nature and subse-
quently its visual and verbal representation along Moritzs itinerary on which
the role of the full moment shifts: the Augenblick is first construed as poten-
tially destructive, but later redeemed in a nearly Kantian moment of sublimity,
one in which the timeless totality of nature can be glimpsed for a moment. By
emphasizing Moritzs use of perspective, Schreiber specifies the three ways in
which Moritz challenges Lessings theorizing of the relationship between the
temporal and the spatial in his Laokoon essay.14 In so doing, he reinvigorates
the debate about the principles of imitation and autonomy in the work of art.
In his essay Clark S. Muenzer points to the productive aspects of after-
images as not just a physiological anomaly but the embodiment of perception.

Schreibers focus on the Augenblick in literature opens interesting possibilities for com-
parison with Goethes aesthetic of sculpture in his own essay on Laokoon, the effects
of which rely on die Darstellung des Moments [the representation of the right
moment]. See Forssman: Goethezeit, for a discussion of Goethes essay, esp. p. 156.

Goethes scientific experiments on color challenge the conclusions regarding

temporal and spatial, verbal and visual representation. His work on visual percep-
tion demonstrates instead the fundamental temporality involved in the act of seeing
color: its dependence on dynamic relations among colors, its further reliance on
access to memory and imagination. Muenzer places Goethes theory of color in a
Spinozan self-regulating, singular, and dynamic system of Nature, which has the
ability to reconfigure and reassemble itself in various forms. Muenzer distills
Goethes laws of polarity and contrast in this piece, but notes the traumatic moment
within every chromatic event. According to Muenzer, Goethe reclaims the
dynamism of colors relational production lost in Newtons experiments. The
ephemeral nature of colors appearance and its temporality constitute Goethes
contribution to the refinement of perception theory. What Muenzer calls chro-
magenesis, adopting Goethes own neologism that describes the production of
color, highlights the subjective nature of physiological colors. The question of the
visual, he also observes, is a question of survival. Muenzer elaborates Goethes
preoccupation with the actual fluctuation of light and its reception in the eye itself.
His work on the fugitive image provides the connective tissue between the sci-
ence of visuality and the less tangible aesthetics of the imagination and memory.
Eric Hadley Denton focuses on technological and aesthetic dimensions of light
and dark on the stage. Finding no contradiction between the pastoral and the
technological in Goethes Das Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern [Festival in
Plundersweilern], Denton brings the innovations in the mechanical aspects of
theater lighting to bear on dramaturgical traditions, with reference to the lesser
known Johann Benjamin Michaelis and his Amors Guckkasten [Amors Peep-
Show] (ca. 1769). Further, Denton attributes historical agency to the marginal
figures from traditional German farce, such as the Hanswurst, who appear in
Goethes work as bearers of light, arbiters of desire, and carriers of the Guckkasten,
the box of hidden erotic pleasures that stands not only as a metaphor for the
imagination, but also for the theater itself. Denton demonstrates the degree to
which Goethes dramaturgy references the practical demands of performance,
but also the extent to which Goethe advances the use of the audience as part of
the spectacle. He also highlights Goethes visual reclamations bringing to life
minor characters from the realm of the visual arts, etchings, and copperplates,
to bring the street onto the stage of the late eighteenth century. In an innovative
chapter on the complex development of both the practical and aesthetic aspects
of theater lighting, Denton explores the ways Goethe uses the technologies of
seeing as metaphors for the imagination. He negotiates the complex relation-
ship between the self-referential aspects of vision and the stage. There lighting
is used to calibrate the relationship between the subjective viewer, the theater-
going voyeur, and the object of aesthetic pleasure, namely the performance.
With Astrida Orle Tantillos essay on both science and literature, we return
to the question of a relationship between the gaze of science and the act of

reading with the physiology of the eye at the center of this discourse. The tem-
porality on which perception itself physiologically relies is always subject to
change. Goethes post-Enlightenment conclusions about the eyes activity
potentially invert the power hierarchies involved in an artificially stabilized
relationship between the subject and the object of observation. Tantillo, in
The Subjective Eye: Goethes Farbenlehre and Faust, recognizes that the
eye, as the mechanism of perception, is the focus of this enterprise and pro-
vides an elegant analysis of the properties of the eye as perceptive apparatus.
Tantillo furthers the discussion of polarities in the color theory, describing not
the stasis, but instead the fluidity of the subject and object relationship in the
act of observation. Tantillo reads the structure of Goethes Faust through the
scientific lens of polarity, thereby revealing Goethes fundamental modernity.
The dynamism she describes pertains literally to the activity of the retina, and
by extending this mobile vision to the reading eye, Tantillo sheds new light on
the conventional interpretation of opposition in Goethes magnum opus.
What is the relationship between the science of vision and the production of
art? Heide Crawford brings together Goethes treatment of nature and art in her
innovative reading of Urgestalten [primal forms] in the botanical essay on
plants and the later elegy Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen [The Metamor-
phosis of the Plants]. Crawford argues that the centrality of observing nature
and art in Goethes work must be read through his own interest in occult phi-
losophy. His dedication to the study of morphology leads him on a search for
natural essences, the elusive, singular ancestor that serves as a theoretical par-
adigm for all subsequent and plural incarnations of plants. This search, Crawford
argues, can be seen as part of Goethes pursuit of occult knowledge, specifi-
cally the relationships based on analogy. An example of this cognitive process
is the correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm. Again, there is a
form of reading involved here. Crawford initiates us into the presence of
occult philosophy in Goethes elegy, by focusing on the development of love in
the poem as a process that corresponds to the development of a plant. With this
elegy, Goethe seems to be responding directly to Schillers observation that
there is great difficulty in joining art and science. Through her reading of this
poem in the context of Goethes occult philosophy, Crawford underscores the
impact science had on classical aesthetics.
To conclude the volume, we bring together the present and the past, from
Goethes Italian Journey to the scribblings of Cy Twombly on Goethe in Italy.
Richard Blocks essay on this series of six images brilliantly recapitulates the
primary concerns of this volume: the nature of seeing in all its inflections, from
scientific to aesthetic practices and their epistemological status vis--vis the
immanence of language. In his carefully crafted and highly nuanced argument,
Block reads the scribble on Twomblys canvas as the blur generated by the act
of seeing and that of reading. Exposing the tensions between the sun-like

(receptive) and ink-like (productive) functions of the human eye, Block, too,
inhabits the discourse of Goethes color theory in order to relate the impulses
of seeing and writing. According to Block, Twombly glosses for us the experi-
ment and experience of vision in what has become an iconographic tradition of
envisioning Goethe in Italy and the wider implications of this genealogy of
representation. We move from the abyss of nature, art, and of scopic pleasure
to the inscription of formal heights in Goethes classical idiom. Classical Goethe,
Block implies, learned to speak/write through the pedagogy of the visual in
Italy. He writes: That is to say, learning to see in Italy or in this instance,
learning to see colors in Italy leads Goethe to discover a particular character
of German and, as we know, that discovery becomes the language of German
Like Moore, whose essay introduces this section, Block references the
problem-child, Werther, whose inability to lend form to the products of his own
observation of nature demand an overcoming that Goethe purportedly
achieved in Italy. The essays in this volume demonstrate, however, that this
experience is not prefatory, but instead is continually present in Goethes life-
long devotion to his own exploration of the neoclassical frame of representa-
tion and its principles. At the same time, the authors explore the paradox at the
heart of this enterprise. Goethes experiments in vision and in language dis-
close the tyranny of the gaze, inscribe the vanishing in the act of seeing, and
expose the ruptures in any theory of totalizing closure.
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Melissa Dabakis

Angelika Kauffmann, Goethe, and the Arcadian

Academy in Rome
Eighteenth-century Rome served as a vibrant cosmopolitan center for artists and writ-
ers who gravitated to the city in search of inspiration, camaraderie, and spiritual uplift.
Among the large group of German-speakers drawn to Rome were the painters Angelika
Kauffmann (17411807) and Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (17511829), and
the world-renowned writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe (17491832), who formed part
of the Roman circle associated with the Arcadian Academy. Upholding the belief that
painting and poetry were sister arts, the Arcadians created an atmosphere where
fruitful interactions between the visual and literary arts were encouraged. Goethe came
to Rome seeking a creative home and possibly a new identity as visual artist. Accepting
membership in the Arcadian Academy in 1786, he was free to explore the literary and
artistic sides of his creative agency.

Eighteenth-century Rome served as a vibrant cosmopolitan center for artists

and writers who gravitated to the city in search of inspiration, camaraderie, and
spiritual uplift. With its privileged place within the cultural imagination, Rome
achieved cult status as the epicenter of western civilization. By 1775, Grand
Tourists from Europe and North America flooded the city, inspired by its clas-
sical mystique and its historical grandeur.1 Among the large group of German-
speaking artists and writers drawn to Rome were Angelika Kauffmann
(17411807), Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (17511829), and Johann
Wolfgang Goethe (17491832), who formed part of the Roman circle associ-
ated with the Arcadian Academy.
The Arcadian Academy, founded in 1690, fostered personal, creative, and intel-
lectual networks among Romans and foreigners [stranieri]. Talented writers and
artists, both native-born and foreign, were attracted to the Arcadian Academy
because of its desire to reform contemporary literary traditions through an
embrace of Enlightenment principles. Upholding the belief that painting and
poetry were sister arts, the Arcadians created an atmosphere where fruitful inter-
actions between the visual and literary arts occurred. Already a world-renowned
writer, Goethe came to Rome seeking a creative home and a possible new identity
as visual artist. Accepting membership in the Arcadian Academy in 1786, he
freely explored the literary and artistic sides of his creative agency.

Christopher M. S. Johns: The Entrepot of Europe: Rome in the Eighteenth Century.
In: Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. by Edgard P. Bowren and Joseph J.
Rishel. Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Museum of Art 2000. P. 37.

The Arcadian Academy was a democratic and egalitarian institution which

supported a diverse community of members. They allowed women unprecedented
creative authority, bestowing public accolades upon them for their artistic and
intellectual achievements. Angelika Kauffman, one of the pre-eminent history
painters of the age and close friend to Goethe, was welcomed as a member of
the Arcadian Academy in 1789.2
Until recently, the Arcadian Academys portrayal in cultural histories has
been quite limited, recognized as a literary antecedent to the Enlightenment up
through the middle of the eighteenth century. Moreover, its significance for the
visual artists has been little explored.3 This essay will focus upon the Seconda
Arcadia, the period of the 1770s and 1780s, in which fruitful encounters between
contemporary writers and artists flourished in Rome. Kauffmann and Goethe
attached special importance to their membership in the Arcadian Academy as
witnessed in contemporary portraits of both artists.
Angelika Kauffmann
Born in Churn, Switzerland, in 1741, Angelika Kauffmann was endowed with
talents as a painter and musician. When she was two, the family moved to
Lombardy, where her father, a Swiss decorative artist, taught her the craft of
painting. A child prodigy at the age of 11, she painted the portrait of a local
bishop; in 1754 she attended art school in Milan. After her mothers death in
1759, Kauffmann returned to Switzerland for a short time. In 1762, she moved
to Florence, resumed her artistic career, and was elected to both the Bolognese
and Florentine Academies.4 By the age of 21, she had gained international
renown within the eighteenth-century cosmopolitan art world.
Her year in Florence marked a significant moment in her artistic career.
Joining the citys vanguard community of Anglo/German artist/intellectuals in

Hanns Gross: Rome in the Age of the Enlightenment. New York: Cambridge University
Press 1990. Pp. 5253; Rebecca Messbarger: The Century of Women: Representations of
Women in Eighteenth-Century Italian Public Discourse. Buffalo, NY: University of
Toronto Press 2002. P. 8; and Lilliana Barroero and Stefano Susinno: Arcadian Rome,
Universal Capital of the Arts. In: Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century. P. 47.
Paola Giuli: The Feminization of Italian Culture: the Poetics of Seconda Arcadia and
Literary History. NEMLA Italian Studies 19 (1995): 51. See also, Barroero and
Susinno: Arcadian Rome, Universal Capital of the Arts.
Wendy Wassyng Roworth: Biography, Criticism, Art History: Angelica Kauffman in
Context. In: Eighteenth-Century Women and the Arts. Ed. by F. Keener and S. Lorsch.
New York: Greenwood Press 1988. Pp. 217218; Angela Rosenthal: Angelica
Kauffman Ma(s)king Claims. In: Art History 15 (March 1992): P. 54. C. H. S. John,
writing in 1929, mentioned that Kauffmann had attended art school in Milan dressed as
a boy. Although not verified in other sources, this is quite possible given the limitations
upon womens artistic training to be discussed later in this paper. C. H. S. John:
Bartolozzi, Zoffany, and Kauffman. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co. 1929. P. 44.

1762, she adopted the classicizing style that would catapult her to artistic suc-
cess. In 1763, she made her first sojourn to Rome, where she met the leading lights
of the neoclassical movement: the art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann,
the painters Pompei Batoni and Gavin Hamilton, and the printmaker Giovanni
Battista Piranesi.5
Portraiture had dominated Kauffmanns artistic production until this time. In 1764,
she painted her first neoclassical history painting, an ambitious endeavor for a
young woman artist. With the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum just before
mid-century, interest in the classical world came into vogue. The neoclassical style,
in direct contrast to Baroque opulence, demanded a simplicity, austerity, and leg-
ibility in its didactic depictions of historical scenes. Within the European acade-
mies, history painting served as the most significant genre of painting, followed
by the lesser categories of portraiture, landscape, and still life. Because it depicted
scenes from antiquity, the Bible, and literature, history painting held high moral
authority in the eighteenth-century public sphere; within Enlightenment commu-
nities, its didacticism aided in the formation of modern citizens. Not surprisingly, his-
tory painting was coded a masculine artistic practice with its access to the public
realm. The more private and thus more feminine genres still life and portraiture
were less appreciated in academic circles. Whereas history painting represented an
ideal world in which noble ideas were fostered, the lesser genres, the European art
academies believed, merely replicated nature without claiming the intervention
of the intellect.
Most importantly, history painting necessitated a familiarity with the human fig-
ure. The very idea of a woman artist gazing at the nude figure (whether male or
female) and creating figure studies with either pencil or brush was in itself contro-
versial, often construed as titillating to the male viewer and belittling to women
artists. For this reason, women were historically excluded from life classes where
male or female models were employed. To draw or even look at nude antique
statuary could also be perceived as inappropriate. Although a woman artist was
free to hire a live model independent of a life drawing class, this very act could
call her public reputation as a woman and an artist into question.6
As an aspiring history painter, Angelika Kauffmann responded to such restraints
by rarely painting the male or female nude.7 Among her first history paintings
was the rare subject of Penelope at the Loom (1764) (Figure 1). Portraying her

Wendy Wassyng Roworth: Kauffman and the Art of Painting in England. In: Angelica
Kauffman: A Continental Artist in Georgian England. Ed. by Wendy Wassyng
Roworth. London: Reaktion Books 1992. P. 17.
Wendy Wassyng Roworth: Anatomy is Destiny: Regarding the Body in the Art of
Angelica Kauffman. In: Femininity and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century Art and
Culture. Ed. by Gill Perry and Michael Rossington. New York: Manchester University
Press 1994. Pp. 4243.
Roworth: Anatomy is Destiny. P. 51.

Figure 1. Penelope at the Loom. Angelika Kauffmann. 1764. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of
The Royal Pavilion, Libraries and Museums, Brighton and Hove.

protagonist as the embodiment of female virtue and strength, Kauffmann demon-

strated erudition through her knowledge of ancient literature. She depicted
Penelope as the ideal married woman who remained patient and faithful to her
husband Odysseus during his long absence from home. In adopting the balanced
and restrained style of Neoclassicism, she posited herself among a vanguard of
artists working in Rome. In this painting, Penelope, a massive and statuesque
figure, is seated at her loom, sadly pondering the fate of her husband. A dog, lying
in the foreground on Odysseuss bow, signifies fidelity, the moral theme of the
painting. In order to ward off suitors, Penelope repeatedly asserted that she had
first to finish weaving a winding sheet for her father-in-law before choosing
another husband. Each night, she would secretly undo her days work and thus
postpone the issue. Kauffmanns composition suggested a clear didactic mes-
sage: Penelope represented an exemplum virtutis, an example of feminine virtue.
Indeed, Enlightenment writers stressed the importance of the family unit, positing
women as the soul of society, and mothers as the moral core of the family.8
Committed to the representation of womens experience, Kauffmann would
return to this maternal theme many times throughout her long career.
Kauffmann assumed membership in some of the most prestigious artistic
academies in Europe. In 1765, she was elected to the Accademia di San Luca
in Rome. After moving to London the following year, she became one of the
founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768. Johan Zoffany documented
these members in his group portrait, Academicians of the Royal Academy,
17711772, in which the male members of the Academy assemble in a life class,
surrounded by casts of antique statuary, portrait busts, and two nearly nude
male models. He depicted Kauffmann and still-life painter Mary Moser, the other
female member of the Academy, in portraits which hung on the wall. Because
their presence in a life class was deemed highly inappropriate, Zoffany pre-
sented them as removed from the center of artistic power.9 During her twenty-
year residency in England, Kauffmann continued to create history paintings,
but achieved popular success as a portrait painter and decorative artist. In
1781, she married Giuseppe Carlo Zucchi, an Italian painter, and moved with
her new husband and aged father back to Italy where her reputation as a history
painter again flourished. She lived in Rome until her death in 1807.
When Kauffmann returned to Rome, she served as an important bridge figure
between the Roman and London art circles. She occupied the studio of the neo-
classical painter Raphael Mengs after his death and was at the center of the

Messbarger: The Century of Women. P. 6.
Roworth: Kauffman and the Art of Painting in England. P. 22. For a reproduction of
the Zoffany group portrait, located in The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, New
Windsor, England see: Marilyn Stokstad: Art History. Rev. ed. New York: Harry N.
Abrams, Inc. 1999. P. 937.

neoclassical tradition in Rome. Located at the top of the Spanish Steps on Via
Sistina, her studio stood in Romes favorite quarter for foreign artists. Romes
cosmopolitan community heralded Kauffmann as among its most talented artist/
intellectuals. She was multi-lingual, speaking Italian like a native, French, English,
and her native German. Hosting an international salon in her studio, she regularly
brought together a group of international literary and artistic figures, and gener-
ously promoted new talent, especially that of women.10
To be sure, women stood as a leitmotif at the center of Italian Enlightenment
discourse. Among enlightened thinkers [illuministi], women were reconceived as
modern female citizens [cittadine] and the soul of society, an image that we saw
reflected in Kauffmanns Penelope (Figure 1). Primarily cast as mothers, women
were responsible for training young enlightened citizens at home. Increasingly
Italian women appeared in public and participated in social conversations [con-
versazioni] outside the home. Kauffmann, for example, often attended the con-
versazioni of Maria Cuccovilla Pizelli, an enlightened patron of the arts who also
demonstrated an interest in modern science. Within this cosmopolitan world,
Kauffmann met Goethe in Rome in January 1787.11
Goethe had arrived secretly in Rome on 1 November 1786. Known as either
Jean Philippe Moller, a merchant, or Filippo Miller, a painter, he embarked upon
this underground journey in part to explore a career in the visual arts. He
joined a youthful community of about 80 German artists who regularly met at the
Caffe Greco (or more familiarly, the Caffe Tedesco the German Caf), which
was located off the Piazza di Spagna near Kauffmanns studio. In Rome, Goethe
finally had the opportunity to meet the German artist Johann Tischbein, with
whom he had communicated in letters. Developing a close friendship with the
artist, Goethe shared his lodgings on the Via del Corso. Having lived in Rome for
some time, Tischbein served as Goethes guide [cicerone] to the eternal city.12 In
his Goethe at the Window of His Lodgings on the Corso in Rome 1787 (Figure 2),
Tischbein rendered a casual portrait of his friend posed at an open window.
Goethes body leans longingly out the window, conveying his deep fascination with
Rome. Exposing a private moment of contemplation, the drawing communicated
the focused intensity with which Goethe engaged the city. I am living here now
with a feeling of clarity and calm that I have not had for a long time, he

Johns: The Entrepot of Europe. P. 54; John: Bartolozzi, Zoffany, and Kauffman. Pp. 45,
49, 54; Jon L. Seydl: Angelika Kauffman. In: Rome in the Eighteenth Century. P. 383.
Ornellia Francisci Osti: Key Figures in Eighteenth Century Rome. In: Art in Rome in the
Eighteenth Century. P. 90; R. W. Lightbrown: Introduction. In: Giovanni di Rossi: Vita di
Angelica Kauffmann, pittrice, 1809 (rpt) London: Cornmarket Press 1970. Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe: Italian Journey. Ed. by Thomas P. Saine et al. Trans. by Robert R.
Heitner. New York: Suhrkamp Publishers 1989. (Collected Works, vol. 6). P. 134.
Goethe: Italian Journey. Pp. 103, 109, and p. 455, fn. 158 Nicholas Boyle: Goethe:
The Poet and the Age. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1991. P. 434.

Figure 2. Goethe am Fenster [Goethe at the Window]. Johann Heinrich Tischbein. 1787.
Aquarell und Kreide ber Bleistift. 41.5 26.6 cm. Courtesy of the Freies Deutsches
Hochstift/Frankfurter Goethe Museum.

explained in his journal soon after his arrival.13 Although he experienced this feel-
ing only fleetingly, Goethe seemed poised to satisfy his two creative urges the
artistic and the literary during his stay in Rome.
The Arcadian Academy
Goethes arrival in Rome preceded by a few years the Arcadian Academys centen-
nial celebrations. Founded in 1690, one year after the death of Queen Christina
of Sweden, the Academy institutionalized the conversazioni that the Queen had
held in her Roman palace since 1656. Queen Christina had supported those writ-
ers who looked to the past to Greek, Latin, and Italian classics and who were
attentive to contemporary foreign literature. The Arcadian Academy followed
in this tradition by fostering a reaction to the Baroque literary style. During the
Seconda Arcadia (1770s1780s), the Academy enjoyed a period of fruitful
activity in which Enlightenment principles dominated and scientific and philo-
sophical inquiry flourished. Encouraging natural expression, simplicity of
verse, and elimination of bombast, the Arcadians advocated a return to the clas-
sics, a new poetic humanism. Embroiled in a contemporary ideological strug-
gle, this new classicita was understood in some quarters as promoting an
anti-Jesuit and rationalist approach to learning. It was during this heady period
that Goethe and Kauffmann became members of the Arcadian Academy.14
This new aesthetic reform was linked to Neoclassicism, a style that was gain-
ing favor in intellectual and artistic circles. The Arcadian Academy recalled a
lost classical Golden Age. Each member, known as a shepherd, was given a
pastoral name and a plot of mythical land in the Bosco Parraiso, located on the
Janiculum since 1726. Through their promotion of this classical style, the
Arcadians became a cultural phenomenon that unified Italy. Considered the first
national academy with its seat in Rome, the Arcadians boasted 56 branches
throughout the Italian peninsula, and one in Portugal.15
As a reform-minded institution, the Arcadian Academy opened its doors to
women more than any other institution in the eighteenth century. In so doing,
it publicly recognized the talents of creative women. Among the most contro-
versial acts of the Seconda Arcadia was the choice of Corilla Olimpica (Maria
Maddalena Morelli) as recipient of the Capitol laurels. Although she commanded
Ibid. 10 November 1786. P. 110.
Hans Gross: Rome in the Age of Enlightenment. New York: Cambridge University
Press 1990. Pp. 288293. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Italian Journey. P. 386.
Gross: Rome in the Age of the Enlightenment. P. 287. Giuli: The Feminization of Italian
Culture. P. 57. Edgar Peter Bowren: Painters and Painting in Settecento Rome. In: Art in
Rome in the Eighteenth Century. P. 296. Barroero and Susinno: Arcadian Rome, Universal
Capital of the Arts. P. 48. Paola Giuli: Tracing A Sisterhood: Corilla Olimpica as Corinnes
Unacknowledged Alter Ego. In: The Novels Seduction: Staels Corinne in Critical
Inquiry. Ed. by Karyna Szmurlo. London: Associated University Presses 1999. P. 165.

respect as a poet nationally and internationally, her crowning as poet laureate

divided both the Italian literary establishment and European public opinion as
a whole. Maria Maddalena Morelli (17271800), court poet to the Grand Duke
of Tuscany from 1765 to 1776, was renowned for her conversazioni to which
the fashionable world had flocked. As an improvisatrice, her extemporaneous
bursts of creative energy were praised as didactic poetry, divulging scientific
and philosophical propositions. During her pre-crowning examination, her
improvisations addressed a number of erudite topics: the preeminence of mod-
ern over ancient philosophy, the properties of light and optics, and the advan-
tages of European law over the savage world.16
Mistress to princes and clergymen, Corilla Olimpica was crowned poet laure-
ate on the steps of the Capitoline on 31 August 1776, the only woman to share this
honor with Tasso and Petrarch. The sculptor Christopher Hewetson, who would
later produce the marble bust of Kauffmann for the Pantheon, carved his Bust
of Maria Maddalena Morelli Fernandez, in Arcadia Corilla Olimpica in 1776,
to celebrate her coronation.17 During the crowning ceremony, Prince Gonzaga
(her lover and patron) extolled her pronouncements as new, surprising and
wondrous things; at the moment of divine inspiration or enthusiasm, Gonzaga
continued, she would suddenly ignite with the sacred fires of inspiration,
after which her poetry would flow like a torrent.18 Such words sparked a cel-
ebration of feminine genius and creativity that would be remembered well into
the following century in Rome.
The crowning was understood as a brazen political act both inside and out-
side the Academy walls. Her detractors within the Academy saw her as a rival
to Pietro Metastasio, a member of the Arcadian Society since 1718 and con-
sidered the father of Italian melodrama. To many in the Papal Court, Corilla
Olimpica was thought to represent an enemy of the Jesuits, and her crowning
an anti-clerical stand. Responding to the Jesuit Question, Pope Pius VI
ordered Corilla Olimpica to vacate the city immediately. The Arcadians had,
perhaps unwittingly, become ensnared in the political crossfire between the
Jesuits and anti-clerical forces in eighteenth-century Rome.19
Despite the unfortunate political consequence of her crowning, Corilla
Olimpica achieved mythic status shortly before Kauffmann returned to the city

Giuli: The Feminization of Italian Culture. Pp. 52, 53, 56, 65, fn.10. Osti: Key Figures
in Eighteenth Century Rome. P. 96. Gross: Rome in the Age of the Enlightenment. P. 295.
Figure 3. Christopher Hewetson, Bust of Maria Maddalena Morelli Fernandez, in
Arcadia Corilla Olimpica, 1776, marble, Museo di Roma, Palazzo Braschi, Rome. For
a reproduction, see Oscar Sandner: Angelika Kauffmann und Rom. Exh. Cat. Roma:
Accademia Nazaionale di San Luca. 1998. P. 182.
As quoted in Giuli: The Feminization of Italian Culture. Pp. 6061.
Osti: Key Figures in Eighteenth Century Rome. P. 96. Gross: Rome in the Age of the
Enlightenment. P. 295.

in 1781. Her close friend and first biographer, Giovanni di Rossi, had witnessed
Corillas crowning on the Capitoline and was himself elected a shepherd in the
Arcadian Academy in 1783. Di Rossi was the editor of Memorie per le belli
arti, an influential journal published between 1785 and 1788 devoted to report-
ing on new painting, sculpture, architecture, and archeology in Rome.20 In his
1809 biography of Kauffmann, he celebrated her as one of the best painters of
all time. Using language comparable to that heard during Corilla Olimpicas
coronation, he wrote: When [Kauffmann] picked up the brush she became as
a poet who takes up the lyre and, possessed by inspiration, becomes transformed;
anything might be attempted, and [the poet] knows no bounds to his [sic]
flight.21 To be sure, her brilliance as a painter was likened to the genius of native
improvisatrici, a model of female creativity long respected in Rome.
Among the first paintings that Kauffmann completed upon her return to Rome
was Self-Portrait in the Character of Painting Embraced by Poetry (1782)
(Figure 3), which represented her allegiance to Horaces theory, ut pictura poe-
sis [as is painting, so is poetry]. In Ars Poetica, Horace wrote that imitation was
important to both poetry and painting, depicting the ideal in nature and express-
ing the ethical and spiritual meaning of human action.22 Not surprisingly, these
same concerns were central to the project of history painting at which Kauffmann
excelled. Embracing the idea of poetry and painting as sister arts, the Arcadian
Academy created a cultural space where the literary and artistic spheres com-
mingled. They fostered conversazioni for artists with theoretical concerns, for
scholars committed to letters, science, antiquarianism, and religion, and for writ-
ers, like Goethe, who were deeply entranced by the visual.23
In her self-portrait, Kauffmann, dressed in white and holding a brush and
album, looks out at the viewer. She is embraced by the figure of poetry, who,
wrapped in warm passionate colors of gold and red, gazes attentively at the
artist. She holds a lyre and wears a laurel wreath, perhaps representing an hom-
age to Corilla Olimpica. The two women are represented as sisters, a fact that
is reinforced by the two Doric columns that stand side-by-side. As an accom-
plished history painter, Kauffmann was well-received within the ranks of the
Arcadian Academy. Their support of woman artists offered her public legiti-
macy within the male preserve of history painting.

R. W. Lightbrown: Introduction. In: Vita di Angelica Kauffmann, pittrice. Np.
Roworth: Biography, Criticism, and Art History. P. 212.
As quoted in Roworth: Biography, Criticism, and Art History. P. 211.
For a fuller discussion of the idea of ut pictura poesis, see Vernon Hyde Minor: Art
Historys History. 2nd edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall 2001.
Pp. 166171. Kauffmann painted another work related to this concept, Allegory of
Imitation, 17801781, oil on canvas. Private German collection.
Roworth: Kauffman and the Art of Painting in England. P. 72; Barroero and Susinno:
Arcadian Rome, Universal Capital of the Arts. Pp. 4748.

Figure 3. Self-Portrait in the Character of Painting Embraced by Poetry. Angelika

Kauffmann. 1782. Oil on canvas. The Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood. Courtesy of the
English Heritage Photo Library.

Goethe in Rome
Goethe accepted membership into the Arcadian Society on 4 January 1787. After
abandoning his various pseudonyms, he received the pastoral name, il
Chiarissimo Novello Compastore Megaglio Melpomeno [the brightest new
shepherd Megaglio Melpomeno].24 He had, at first, resisted membership into the
society, in hopes of living a quiet and anonymous life in Rome. Relenting, he

Boyle: Goethe: The Poet and the Age. P. 444; John F. Moffitt: Poet and Painter: J. H.
W. Tischbeins Perfect Portrait of Goethe in the Campagna (178687). The Art
Bulletin 65 September 1983. P. 447.

accepted the Academys offer after his friends, seemed to attach a special impor-
tance to this [invitation].25
Goethe was inducted into the Arcadian Academy after completing his play,
Iphigenia, which illustrated his reform of German poetry through emotional
restraint and the use of simplified literary passages. His experimentation with
German poetic form coincided with the literary reforms espoused by the
Arcadians. In January 1787, he read the play for the first time to his friends in
Rome Kauffmann, her husband Zucchi, and their mutual friend, Johann
Friedrich Reiffenstein.26 Goethe described the scene: The play made an
incredibly deep impression on Angelikas tender soul. She promised to create a
drawing from it, which I should keep as a souvenir. And now, just as I am
preparing to leave Rome (for Naples), I am forming affectionate bonds with
these kind people. It is at once a pleasant and painful feeling to be certain that
they do not like to see me go.27 Kauffmann, inspired by his play, shared with
the poet an intellectual and artistic affinity for the neoclassical tradition.
Meanwhile, Tischbein had begun his formal portrait, Goethe in the
Campagna in December of 1786 (Figure 4). Goethe, dressed in a flowing white
cape and a broad-brimmed painters hat, reclines on a broken obelisk with his
right hand his writing hand fully visible to the viewer. Next to him, crowned
with ivy and representing immortality, is an ancient bas-relief showing the
recognition scene from Iphigenia. The composite capital reflects Goethes
architectural studies; his beloved monuments on the Campagna along the
Appian Way an aqueduct and the tomb of Caecilia Metella occupy the
background. The clouds, plants, and rocks, depicted in great detail, reflect his
scientific interests.28 Tischbein represented Goethe relaxed in an outdoor set-
ting, suggestive of a physical and spiritual union with nature.
Tischbeins portrait captured Goethes commitment to the visual arts and lit-
erature. After his sojourn to Naples, Goethe returned to Rome in the summer
of 1787 and lived surrounded by artists. He saw the unfinished painting only
once when it was exhibited in August of 1787.29 What makes life in Rome so

Goethe: Italian Journey. P. 385.
Moffitt: Poet and Painter. Pp. 449, 454. Boyle: Goethe: The Poet and the Age. P. 445.
Goethe: Italian Journey. (15 February 1787). P. 138. In March 1787, Kauffmann
began a painting based on the meeting scene from Iphigenia in which Orestes recog-
nizes his sister. (Act III, Scene 3) This scene, engraved by J. H. Lipps in 1788, appeared
as the frontispiece to the third volume of Goethes collection, Schriften, which con-
tained the first published edition of Iphigenia. Moffitt: Poet and Painter. P. 448. The
engraving is reproduced on p. 449, fig. 9. Moffitt does not attribute the drawing to
Boyle: Goethe: The Poet and the Age. P. 445.
Goethe never saw the completed work. Moffitt: Poet and Painter. P. 443.

Figure 4. Goethe in der rmischen Campagna [Goethe in the Roman Campagna].

J. H. W. Tischbein. 1786. Courtesy of the Stdelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main.
agreeable, he wrote, is that there are so many people here who spend their
whole lives thinking about art and practicing it.30 In Italy, Goethe studied
intensely the great works of art and repeatedly returned to his favorite monu-
ments. He began his artistic training in landscape, drawing view after view of
the Italian countryside. Only after months of study did he attempt figure draw-
ing, but never with much confidence.
John F. Moffit argues that Goethe in the Campagna was originally envi-
sioned as an Arcadian subject and depicted a spiritual collaboration between
painter and poet.31 Goethe confirmed this belief: Tischbeins idea of having
poet and artist work together, thus achieving unity from the outset, merits the
highest approbation.32 The initial drawing for the painting, Idyll Eines rmis-
chen Hirten, or Idyllic Shepherd, depicted Goethe as an Arcadian shepherd, the
Illustrious New Shepherd Magalio Melpomeno Goethe.33 In the final version

Quoted in Boyle: Goethe: The Poet and the Age. Pp. 492493.
Moffit: Poet and Painter. P. 444. See also, Rudolf Bisanz: Goethe and Tischbein in
Italy: An Epigonic Painting Reconstructed. Gazette des Beaux Arts 113 (February
1989). Pp. 108, 111.
Goethe: Italian Journey. (14 November 1786). P. 114.
Moffitt: Poet and Painter. P. 448. The chalk drawing is located in a private collection
in Frankfurt/M and is reproduced in on p. 444, fig. 5.

of the painting, Tischbein characterized Goethe as a visionary, reformist writer,

struggling with the composition of the verse-play in German vernacular. He
decided to change the Arcadian Shepard of the preliminary drawing to the
Wanderer poet/playwright in the finished painting.34 In the end, Tischbein con-
ceived of Goethe as a great writer and Enlightened philosopher. The develop-
ment of this portrait traced Goethes private quest in Italy from a pursuit of
the visual arts and embrace of ut pictura poesis at the Arcadian Academy to the
full acceptance of his identity as a world-renowned writer. Indeed, by 22
February 1788, he wrote in his journal, The benefit I shall have from my
rather long stay in Rome is that I am giving up the practice of the visual arts.35
Kauffmann and Goethe shared an intimate friendship from their initial meeting
in January, 1787 until his departure from Rome in April, 1788. He would cus-
tomarily see Kauffmann on Sundays when they would visit different art collections
throughout the city. It is most pleasant to view paintings with Angelica, since
her eye is very cultivated and her technical knowledge of art is so great.
Goethe continued, At the same time, she is very sensitive to everything beautiful,
true and tender, and is incredibly modest.36 Kauffmann, eight years Goethes
elder, demonstrated much affection toward him. In June of 1787, she began a
portrait of Goethe with which she was never satisfied.37 It is not impossible to
imagine that their friendship exhibited a bit of sexual flirtation, despite the
constant presence of Kauffmanns elderly husband, Zucchi. One of Goethes
biographers, Nicholas Boyle, suggested that Goethe may have fallen in love
with Kauffmann, but instinctively withdrew from these feelings.38 To be sure,
they shared their deepest of secrets with each other. Angelica, Goethe wrote,
is not as happy as she deserves to be, in view of her truly great talent and daily
increasing wealth. She is tired of painting pictures to sell, and yet her old husband
delights in seeing such big money coming in [. . .] She would like to work for her
own pleasure, with greater leisure, care and study [. . .] But that is not how it is, and
it never will be. She talks very candidly with me [. . .] She has an incredible, and for
a woman, truly prodigious talent.39
Goethe left Rome in April 1788, after presenting Kauffmann with his favorite
cast of Juno Ludovisi and planting a pine sprout in her back garden. The parting
was painful. When they said goodbye, Kauffmann exclaimed the experience

Moffitt: Poet and Painter. Pp. 441442, 449.
Goethe: Italian Journey. P. 417.
Ibid. (22 June 1787). P. 294.
The portrait is located in the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik, Weimar. For a reproduction,
see Oscar Sandner: Angelika Kauffmann und Rom. P. 40. Figure 27.
Goethe: Italian Journey. (27 June 1787). P. 279; Boyle, Goethe: The Poet and the
Age. P. 488.
Ibid. (18 August 1787). P. 307.

pierced my heart and soul.40 The antique cast and the seedling served as
mementos of their friendship. Until her death in 1807, Goethe would regularly
hear about the fledgling trees growth from Roman travelers.
Kauffmann and the Arcadian Academy
Angelika Kauffmann was inducted into the Arcadian Academy in 1789. Within
the next few years, she completed several portraits of Arcadian poetesses and
improvisers: Fortunata Sulgher Fantastici of 179141 and The Portrait of
Signora Teresa Bandettini of Lucca, called Amaryllis of 1794 (now lost).
Teresa Bandettini Landucci (17631837) and Fortunata Sulgher (17551824)
were among the most famous improvisatrici at the turn of the nineteenth cen-
tury. Corilla Olympica dedicated her last extant verses to Landucci, whom she
identified as the heir to her poetic laurels. From written sources we know that
Kauffmann depicted Landucci as a muse reciting poetry and wearing an ivy
wreath, not unlike the image of poetry in her Self-Portrait in the Character of
Painting Embraced by Poetry (Figure 3). She gave the portrait to Landucci in
The Arcadians bestowed legitimacy upon the poetesses and improvisers in
Rome and created a model of feminine creativity that, no doubt, appealed to
Kauffmann. Madame de Stael (Germaine Necker) memorialized this feminine
genius in her extraordinarily popular novel Corinne, or Italy, published in
1807. De Stael, a novelist, feminist, and political thinker, wrote at length on
Goethe, Schiller, and other German writers, but mentioned only Goethe in her
famed novel. She arrived in Italy with her children in 1804, a refugee from
Napoleons France, and was invited to join the Arcadian Academy sometime in
1805.43 In Rome between 1804 and 1807, de Stael, as a friend of Goethe, most
likely sought out the acquaintance of Kauffmann.
De Stael imagines the beautiful Corinne, of Italian and British parentage, as
the most creative and erudite woman in Rome. In the opening chapter of the
novel, the Englishman Oswald, Lord Nevil, Corinnes eventual lover, muses

As quoted in Boyle: Goethe: The Poet and the Age. P. 511.
Located in the Galleria Palatina, Florence.
Giuli: Tracing the Sisterhood. P. 274, fn 9. The painting is described by Lady Victoria
Manners and Dr. G. C. Williamson: The Memorandum of Paintings. In: Angelica
Kauffmann, R. A., Her Life and Her Works. 1924 Rpt. New York: Hacker Books 1976.
P. 165.
Charlotte Hogsett: Marguerite Yourcenar: Daughter of Corinne. In: The Novels
Seduction. P. 247; Giuli: Tracing a Sisterhood. P. 166; Mary Jane Cowles: Speaking the
(Absent) Mother: Corinne and La Langue Maternelle. Psychoanalytic Studies 2: 4
(2000). P. 363; Letters From Goethe. Trans. by M. Von Herzfeld and C. A. M. Sym.
New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons 1957. P. 564.

that it was the first time he had witnessed honour done to a woman, to a
woman renowned only for the gifts of genius.44 Commemorating, no doubt,
episodes from Corilla Olympicas life, the novel includes a scene in which
Corinne is ceremoniously crowned on the steps of the Capitoline. The fictional
character Corinne became a model of liberation for many nineteenth-century
women despite her eventual downfall after the loss of her British lover. With
Corinne as her inspiration, for example, Elizabeth Barrett Browning examined
the creative life of a woman poet in her epic poem of 1856, Aurora Leigh.45
Corinne, or Italy was published in 1807, the year of Angelika Kauffmanns
death. The great sculptor, Antonio Canova, was in charge of her funeral. All the
artists in Rome, including the entire Academy of St. Luke, walked in the
funeral procession to the Church of Sta. Andrea delle Fratte, where she was
buried. Her bust, sculpted by Christopher Hewetson in 1795/6 in Rome was
ceremoniously placed in the Pantheon in 1808 as a tribute to her great accom-
plishments as an artist.46 To be sure, the Roman circle of the Arcadian
Academy, to which Kauffmann and Goethe belonged, facilitated some of the
greatest literary and artistic efforts by both men and women of the late eigh-
teenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Madame de Stael: Corinne, or Italy. Trans. by Sylvia Raphael. New York: Oxford
University Press 1998. P. 23.
Ellen Moers: Literary Women. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company 1976.
P. 177; English Showalter Jr.: Corinne as an Autonomous Heroine. In Germaine de
Stael: Crossing the Borders. Ed. by Madelyn Gutwirth, Avriel Goldberger, and Karyna
Szmurlo. New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press 1991. P. 189; Elizabeth Barrett
Browning: Aurora Leigh 1857. Rpt. Ed. Margaret Reynolds. Athens: Ohio University
Press 1992.
The bust is now located in the Promoteca Capitolina, Rome. It was one of 60 busts
of great artists, among them Anton Raphael Mengs (whose studio she inhabited) and
Piranesi. John: Bartolozzi, Zoffany, and Kauffman. P. 50. For an illustration of the
Hewetson bust, see Oscar Sandler: Angelika Kauffmann und Rom. P. 180. Figure 156.
Catriona MacLeod

Sweetmeats for the Eye: Porcelain Miniatures

in Classical Weimar*
Neoclassical sculpture tends to have weighty, even colossal aspirations. This paper
examines an innovative line of sculptural porcelain produced by the Frstenberg man-
ufactory in Braunschweig between 17711808, and which participates in an opposing
trend, towards miniaturization. These works, busts of classical sculptures, Roman
emperors, German aristocrats, and a canon of contemporary artists and intellectuals,
placed neoclassical taste on the dining table, thus posing questions about tactile and
visual desires. Toothsome versions of neoclassical sculpture, they came into close prox-
imity to the bodies of the consuming aristocracy or, their successors in the tasteful con-
tact with Neoclassicism, the upper middle classes. Embodying as they do the major
theorists of Classicism in Germany from Winckelmann to Herder and Lessing the
miniature busts are also examined in this essay as both fashionable and critical recon-
figurations of those writers constructions of antique and modern bodies.

Eighteenth-Century Porcelain Figurines: A Hollow World?

In the eccentric Czech porcelain collector Utz, Bruce Chatwin created a figure
who fortifies himself against the upheavals of World War II and of Stalinism by
amassing more than 1000 Meissen figurines in a cramped Prague apartment.1
Chatwins 1988 novel, which itself has a jewel-like miniature form, is a poetic
reflection on the history of this most fragile medium for sculpture, from its
quasi-mystical discovery (as a substance known as the arcanum) at the
beginning of the eighteenth century by Johannes Bttger in Dresden. The novel
highlights the affective dimension of porcelain sculpture and of its collectors,
who are said like Augustus the Strong to be vulnerable to a kind of porcelain
sickness;2 it examines the precarious, second-class status of porcelain in the
fine arts; and it considers the paradox inherent in a medium that has constantly
striven to emulate marble, yet does so via lightness, fragility, and weightless-
ness. How can this hollow, delicate miniature world, Utz and the narrator ask,
compete against epochs of gigantism (post-war Prague and its monumental

* I would like to express my thanks to Martina Droth and Alison Yarrington, organizers
of A Fragile Alliance: Porcelain as Sculpture 17001900 at the College Art
Association Conference in February 2004, for including me on the panels. I am grate-
ful to them and the other speakers for their stimulating questions and comments on this
paper and on the broader field of sculpture in porcelain in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. Thanks, too, to Cordula Grewe for her help with illustrations.
Bruce Chatwin: Utz. New York: Penguin 1989.
Ibid. P. 50.

giants, Frederick the Great and his obsession with tall soldiers, the Neoclassicism
that revered antique sculptures such as the colossal Farnese Hercules)?3
Fragile as they are, the narrator concludes, the figurines are nevertheless more
resistant to decay than human bodies, and thus serve as fetishistic objects for
(impossible) wholeness: Things are the changeless mirror in which we watch
ourselves disintegrate.4 The notion of the sculpted figure an idealized, eroti-
cized, smooth body without wrinkle or blemish as an antidote to death recalls
Herders essays on sculpture of 1770 and 1778, Plastik: Einige Wahrnehmungen
ber Form und Gestalt aus Pygmalions bildendem Traume [Sculpture: Some
Observations on Shape and Form From Pygmalions Creative Dream]. In these
essays, which privilege the haptic appreciation of artworks, Herder considers
the representation of veins, joints, and other unsightly body parts in sculpture
highly undesirable, describing such protruding elements as Zuwchse, oder
kleine Lostrennungen, die die vllige Zerstrung des Krpers weissagen, die
ein frher Tod sind [growths or small fissures that predict the complete
destruction of the body, a premature death].5 The word fetish appears in
Chatwins postmodern novel in connection with the porcelain figurines.6 If a
fetish is in psychological terms a defensive attempt to master lack or substitute
for it through artificial surrogate objects, the etymology of the word porce-
lain, of which Utz reminds the narrator,7 speaks to the ultimately uncontrol-
lable nature of the body, to the corporeal excess and corruptibility that are
ardently repressed by Herders essays. The word porcelain is derived from
the Italian porcella [little pig] the smooth cowrie shell of the same name hav-
ing been associated with a porcine body. Porcelain has also been used as a
codeword for sex.8 Shared by the words fetish and porcelain are their origins
in objects of colonial trade (magic charms exchanged between native peoples

Ibid. P. 38.
Ibid. P. 113.
Johann Gottfried Herder: Plastik. In: Werke. Ed. by Wolfgang Pross. Munich: Carl
Hanser 1987. Vol. 2. P. 434. All translations, unless otherwise indicated, are my own.
Bruce Chatwin: Utz. P. 105.
Ibid. P. 102. On the statue as a fetish object with the character of highly cathected
psychic images or internal objects that people the space of mind, see Kenneth Gross:
The Dream of the Moving Statue. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1992. P. 33.
See Janet Gleesons popular history of Meissen: Arcanum: The Extraordinary True
Story. New York: Warner 1999. Pp. 4647. Gleeson cites as an example the English
dramatist William Wycherleys bawdy comedy of 1675 The Country Wife, in which a
married woman demands china from a libertine (who lives in a china house) he
fobs her off with a promise of a roll-wagon at a later date. A roll-wagon was a tall,
thin Chinese vase. In the late seventeenth century, according to Sarah Richards, the
audience took special pleasure from the tension between the refined (porcelain) and the
gross. See: Eighteenth-Century Ceramics: Products for a Civilised Society.
Manchester: Manchester University Press 1999. P. 103.

and Europeans, and the cowrie shells used as currency in the Far East). The
relationship of Utzs fetish with commodity culture is striking, and has been duly
noted by critics. Emily Apter sees a kinship between Chatwins figurines and the
nineteenth-century capitalist culture and mechanical reproduction that are the
subject for writers such as Adalbert Stifter, Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, and
others.9 It would be a worthwhile enterprise, as I propose here, to take a step back
in the historical discourse, to the late eighteenth century, where the birth of mod-
ern consumer culture in Germany and attendant anxiety about industrialization
coincide with the notion of aesthetic autonomy, with the manufacture and mar-
keting of porcelain along innovative and distinctly modern lines and with debates
about the cultural place of mass produced copies of original antique sculpture.
This essay will explore the significance of what may appear, at least at first glance,
a trivial range of objects in porcelain that were designed to cater to neoclassical
fashion: an extensive line of miniature portrait busts manufactured by the
Frstenberg company in Braunschweig in the last third of the eighteenth century.
What role, if any, do such objects straddling art and bric-a-brac play in neo-
classical aesthetic theory or as expressions of theoretical concerns? What is
their allure, and how do they reflect and embody the desires of aristocratic and
bourgeois consumers? Do they respond to wider socio-cultural questions, or
are they merely innocuous eye candy for dilettantes of neoclassical taste?
Art and Mass Production, Monumentality and Miniaturization
Antique sculpture is a particularly interesting test case for competing dis-
courses surrounding so-called high art and its mass-produced decorative prog-
eny in late eighteenth-century Germany. Neoclassicism as a movement was
obviously reliant on reproduction. Lessing, for example, had only seen the Laokoon
statue group in prints when he wrote about it in 1766. Other writers and artists
in Germany were dependent on visits to collections of plaster casts of classical
sculptures, such as those at Kassel or at the Mannheim Antikensaal. Nevertheless,
prominent neoclassical theorists in Germany, Goethe most strenuously among
them, disparaged copying even the hint of simulation or pastiche and dis-
tanced it from the preferred term imitation. Despite the privileged place of
antique sculpture in this aesthetic, the influential British sculptor John Flaxman
was dismissed as the Abgott aller Dilettanten [idol of all dilettantes] by Goethe

Apter briefly alludes to Chatwin in her introduction to the collection Fetishism as
Cultural Discourse. Ed. by Emily Apter and William Pietz. Ithaca: Cornell University
Press 1993. P. 2. The word fetishism, deriving from a Portuguese trading term used
for magic charms exchanged between blacks and whites, did not, however, enter the
discourse of history of religions until the late eighteenth century, as noted by Wilhelm
Pietz in his essay Fetishism and Materialism: The Limits of Theory in Marx. In:
Fetishism as Cultural Discourse. Pp. 119151.

because of his collaborations with the English porcelain manufacturer Wedgwood

that helped to make antique style palatable for contemporary consumers.10
Porcelain copies of classical sculptures are an interesting subcategory to con-
sider in relation to these broader discussions. As a medium for the reproduction of
neoclassical objects, porcelain has a history that already places it in an ambigu-
ous role, one that differentiates it from other imitative media, such as plaster or
terracotta. On the one hand, like works in plaster porcelain sculptures, from their
very beginnings, were characterized as reproducible: moreover, because they were
formed in moulds, the individual mark of the artist was also being effaced.11
Their creators were designated as modelers, not as artists. Porcelain was assumed
to be a secondary medium, dependent on and imitative of a material such as mar-
ble. As such, it was not accorded the theoretical attention, far less status, which
attaches to sculpture in marble. Goethe, who wrote extensively about antique
sculpture and indefatigably promoted the training of sculptors, was reticent about
porcelain sculpture only in one brief late essay on the decorative arts is it dis-
cussed, and then in the limited context of painting techniques on glass and
enamel.12 The terms of Goethes discussion are themselves entirely consistent
with the discourse of miniaturization: the word miniare derives from the use of
red pigment in illuminations, and is not in its primary derivation related to size,
thus underscoring a connection between ornament and virtuoso technique or
micro-technology, artistic qualities thought to be on the wane in an age of indus-
trialization. As we shall see, however, technological innovations by porcelain
manufactories actually enhanced their ability to create miniatures, in a range

Goethe: ber die Flaxmanischen Werke [On Flaxmans Works]. FA I/18: 651652.
Wedgwood adapted antique style, while, as Adrian Forty shows, consciously alleviat-
ing consumers potential anxieties about technological progress. Benjamin Wests 1791
painting of the Wedgwood factory Etruria, founded in 1769, exemplifies this attitude
towards the industrialization of art, transforming what was in reality a highly rational-
ized factory into a classical scene depicting craft work by women in Greek costumes.
See the chapter on Wedgwood in Fortys history of industrial design. Adrian Forty:
Objects of Desire. New York: Pantheon 1986. Pp. 1328. On the German context, see
also Silvia Glaser: Kunst fr den gebildeten Geschmack? Vom Wandel des
Kunsthandwerks am Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts. In: Knstlerleben in Rom: Bertel
Thorvaldsen (17701844), der dnische Bildhauer und seine deutschen Freunde. Ed.
by Ursula Peters. Nrnberg: Verlag des Germanischen Nationalmuseums 1991. Pp.
On porcelain and reproduction see Malcolm Baker: The Ivory Multiplied: Small-
Scale Sculpture and its Reproductions in the Eighteenth Century. In: Sculpture and its
Reproductions. Ed. by Anthony Hughes and Erich Ranfft. London: Reaktion 1997. Pp.
6178. Famous antique sculptures were first copied in bronze, already in the fifteenth
century. See Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny: Taste and the Antique: The Lure of
Classical Sculpture 15001900. New Haven: Yale University Press 1994. P. 93. (In the
late eighteenth century, Goethe was an avid collector of Renaissance bronzes.)
WA I 49/2: 137138.

of sizes, of life-size original busts. Ludwig Giesz, in his influential study

Phnomenologie des Kitsches [Phenomenology of Kitsch], identifies two art
historical criteria for kitsch, both of which are features of much porcelain sculp-
ture: material illusionism (one medium faking another, as in porcelain imitations
of marble, basalt, or jasper), and a tendency for miniaturization.13
On the other hand, however, porcelain, unlike a purely reproductive medium
such as plaster, which was often described as an Ersatz or Surrogat for a
higher-order artwork, did enjoy an alliance in the eighteenth century, however
fragile, with sculpture.14 Flaxman was not the only prominent European artist
engaged in porcelain design, and porcelain modelers were also often academically
schooled sculptors. (The convincing imitation of classical sculpture required
high-level technical skills, and academic training.) tienne-Maurice Falconet
had been a key creative force at the Svres Company between 17571766; in
Berlin, at the close of the century, Gottfried Schadow collaborated with architect
Hans Christian Genelli and the Modellmeister J. C. F. Riese; and the noted German
sculptor Friedrich Wilhelm Doell began his career as a modeler at the Kloster
Veilsdorf porcelain manufactory in Thringen. At the Frstenberg manufactory,
whose line of neoclassical busts is the focus of this essay, the Parisian modeler
Desoches, the artist who created many of the neoclassical porcelain busts, had
been trained at the Acadmie de Sculpture.15
Porcelains ties with neoclassical sculpture and aesthetics went beyond practi-
cal professional development and exchanges. The portrait busts produced en masse
by Frstenberg respond thematically as well to the sources and theorists of Weimar
Classicism, notably to the trajectory of writings on sculpture from Winckelmann
to Lessing and Herder, all of whom are modeled by Frstenberg, along with the
antique sculptures that are the focal point of their work. This correspondence will
be examined in the second part of the present essay. Porcelain also had ambi-
tions that belie the scale of the figurines more commonly thought of as typical
eighteenth-century works in the medium. The efforts of Johann Joachim Kndler,

Ludwig Giesz: Phnomenologie des Kitsches. Frankfurt/M: Fischer 1994. P. 22.
A shortcoming of the essays contained in the exhibition catalog Kleine Gypse is that
they bundle together miniature sculptures in various media, including plaster, bronze,
cast iron, zinc, papier-mch, and porcelain, without consideration of the divergent his-
tories, properties and associations of individual materials. Kleine Gypse:
Wohnzimmerrezeption antiker Plastik; Begleitband zur Ausstellung im Haspelturm des
Schlosses Hohentbingen vom 30. Mrz bis 2. Mai 1999. Ed. by Anke Brchert et al.
Tbingen: Tbinger Vereinigung fr Volkskunde 1999.
On Falconet and Desoches, see Beatrix Freifrau von Wolff Metternich: Die
Portrtbsten der Manufaktur Frstenberg unter dem Einfluss der Kunstkritik
Lessings. In: Keramos 92 (1981). Pp. 1968. Pp. 20 and 34 respectively. On Doells
career path from Baroque porcelain modeler to neoclassical sculptor, see: Wiederholte
Spiegelungen: Weimarer Klassik 17591832. Ed. by Gerhard Schuster and Caroline
Gille. Munich: Stiftung Weimarer Klassik bei Hanser 1999. Vol. 1. P. 59.

Meissens most famous modeler, to execute a massive equestrian statue in

porcelain in its final form he planned a nine meter tall monument to Augustus
III speak to the at times colossal aspirations of the medium and its artists.16
Finally, because of its association with the Industrial Revolution, especially in
connection with innovations taking place in Britain, porcelain by the end of the
century was also viewed by Germans as a harbinger, as a symptom, and as a
desirable product of modernity. The reorganization and division of labor that
began in the luxury manufactories of ruling elites became the model for the
industrial factory system in Britain.17 In the polemical 1797 essay Kunst und
Handwerk [Art and Handicraft] Goethe writes off the master marketer
Josiah Wedgwood, whose products were flooding the German market place via
breakthrough advertising methods such as illustrated catalogs, without need-
ing to name him directly.18 Fashionable items such as Wedgwoods neoclassi-
cal porcelain are characterized in the same essay as ephemeral and hollow. In
the Italienische Reise [Italian Journey], Goethe describes mass-produced neo-
classical art as a profoundly destabilizing force, one that literally removes the
foundations from culture: Die Kunst, welche dem Alten seine Fuboden berei-
tete, dem Christen seine Kirchenhimmel wlbte, hat sich jetzt auf Dosen und
Armbnder verkrmelt [The art which provided the floor for the antique world,
and which formed domed churches above the Christian, has now crumbled on to
jars and bracelets].19 Indeed, a penchant for any reproductive art such as print-
making, according to Goethe, is an unmistakable sign of dilettantism. Furthermore,
Goethe and Schiller associate dilettantism in general with copying, ornament, and
mechanical aptitude, as well as with genres such as miniatures that are commonly
linked with technical virtuosity and reproducibility.20 At the same time, the
increase in production of miniature versions of antique sculptures in the
second half of the eighteenth century certainly expresses, too, the anxiety
about authenticity and craft in an age of increasing industrialization, since the
virtuosity they require were thought to be waning skills. If miniature tech-
niques are more commonly thought of as nostalgic glances at lost craft skills,
it is critical to note that technological innovation, in the case of Frstenberg,
Though he obsessively pursued the project for almost thirty years, and by 1761 had
completed eight hundred molds for the base, Kndler was ultimately forced to give up
because of the financial strain the work placed on him. He did successfully execute,
among other large-scale conceptions, a large eagle almost two meters in height for
Augustus the Strongs monumental porcelain menagerie, with its life-size animal por-
traits, as well as a porcelain temple centerpiece nearly four meters tall. Gleeson:
Arcanum. Otto Walcha: Meissen Porcelain. New York: Putnam 1981. Pp. 137140.
Sarah Richards: Eighteenth-Century Ceramics: Products for a Civilised Society.
Manchester: Manchester University Press 1999. Pp. 5051.
Goethe: Kunst und Handwerk. FA 1/18: 437440.
FA 1/15: 9394.
Goethe: ber den Dilettantismus [On Dilettantism]. FA 1/18: 746.

was in fact the driving force behind reproduction and miniaturization sinter-
ing processes were devised by the manufactory by which multiples in a range
of sizes and prices could be created as exact replicas of original porcelain
In short, porcelain, a favored medium for the translation of Neoclassicism into
the desirable accessories for an aesthetic lifestyle, attracts a cluster of contra-
dictory meanings by the final decades of the eighteenth century. Though he does
acknowledge the innovations of Wedgwood, art historian and archaeologist
Karl August Bttiger, in a 1792 article on antique vases (such as Wedgwoods
celebrated Portland Vase) and their imitators, dismisses Rococo tendencies in
porcelain as dubious and trivial. His anti-Rococo formulation is lifted directly
from Winckelmanns admonition to porcelain manufacturers in the 1764
Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums [History of Ancient Art] about the unwor-
thiness of their sculptural efforts: Noch werden unsere so sehr geliebten
Porcellangefe durch keine chte Kunstarbeit veredelt. Das mehrste Porcellan
ist in lcherliche Puppen geformet, wodurch der daraus erwachsende kindische
Geschmack sich allenthalben verbreitet hat [Our so beloved porcelain vessels
have still not been refined by genuine artistry. Most porcelain is fashioned into
ridiculous dolls, resulting in the spread of a childish taste].22 What makes this
last statement of particular interest is its location, in Friedrich Justin Bertuchs
highly influential late eighteenth-century Weimar fashion journal, the Journal
des Luxus und der Moden [Journal of Luxury and Fashion]. The publication of
the magazine, with its long and successful run from 17861827, marked the
emergence of a German consumer audience with an appetite for luxury com-
modities, many of them in the fashionable neoclassical style, and many of them

Wolff Metternich: Die Portrtbsten der Manufaktur Frstenberg unter dem Einfluss
der Kunstkritik Lessings. See p. 34.
Journal des Luxus und der Moden. June 1792. P. 284. It is an almost verbatim quotation
from Winckelmann, who polemicizes: Wie unendlich prchtiger mssen nicht solche
Geschirre von Kennern des wahren Geschmaks geachtet werden, deren schne Materie
bisher noch durch keine chte Kunstarbeit edler gemacht worden, so da auf so kostbaren
Arbeiten noch kein wrdiges und belehrendes Denkbild eingeprget gesehen wird. Das
mehreste Porcellan ist in lcherliche Pupen geformet, wodurch der daraus erwachsene
kindische Geschmak sich allenthalben ausgearbeitet hat [How much more magnifi-
cent such porcelain must be judged by connoisseurs of genuine taste, since their beauti-
ful material has until now not been refined by true artistry, and such precious works have
not received the mark of any worthy and instructive conception. Most porcelain is fash-
ioned into ridiculous dolls, resulting in the spread of childish taste]. Johann Joachim
Winckelmann: Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums. In: Smtliche Werke. Ed. by Joseph
Eiselein. Donauschingen: Im Verlage Deutscher Classiker 18251829. Vol. 3. P. 121.
Winckelmanns derogatory comment on porcelain comes at the end of a chapter on the
materials of sculpture. Interestingly, anxieties about the proximity of porcelain sculp-
tures to utilitarian vessels or to kitsch ornaments continue to surface in contemporary

entering the market from Bertuchs own Weimar warehouse. An irony of neo-
classical style is that while it attempted to rise above the vicissitudes of fashion,
appealing to an ideal of beauty thought eternal, its simple, streamlined forms
lent themselves particularly well to reproduction. Sculpture participated in this
trend.23 Contemporary sculptors of the neoclassical movement such as Flaxman
and Antonio Canova receive discussion in the eclectic magazine, but antique
sculptures are also mentioned in the pages of the Journal des Luxus und der
Moden in the guise of domestic objects with a close relationship to the consumers
own body in the private sphere. Antique sculptures are copied (and often minia-
turized) in a variety of imitative materials, ranging from cameo rings and buttons,
to cast iron stoves, to London fashion mannequins, to terracotta garden acces-
sories, to Phelloplastik [models in cork]. As Bttigers article indicates, how-
ever, porcelain sculpture, placed in the rubric of decorative art, and despite the
China fever of the mid-century, seems to fare poorly in late eighteenth-century
aesthetics.24 In the fashion magazine it is at once everywhere and nowhere.
Porcelain appears in Bertuchs journal as an accessory to interior design, but
chiefly in the advertising lists that appeared in the magazines Intelligenzblatt
and that publicized the newest lines from Wedgwood, Svres, or other compa-
nies. Space is also allocated to the promotion of local Thuringian porcelain,
fired from local earth, in Ilmenau and Gotha: Bertuch was an indefatigable
booster of new industries intended to compete with the foreign French and
British imports. What does the association with porcelain sculpture of this kind

porcelain art, which frequently resorts to ironic quotations of bourgeois decorative

forms (for example, Jeff Koonss explicitly whimsical 1998 Puppy Vase) and has
inspired relatively few innovative or challenging works. The most subversive of
ceramic objects may indeed originate in contempt for the medium, as one critic lately
observed of Turner prizewinner Grayson Perrys eyesore vases. See the review of the
Tate Liverpools 2004 exhibition A Secret History of Clay: From Gauguin to Gormley.
Jonathan Jones: Gone to Pot. The Guardian Review. 5 June 2004. Pp. 1617.
On the status of antique sculpture and its reproductions in Bertuchs magazine, see
Catriona MacLeod: Skulptur als Ware: Gottlieb Martin Klauer und das Journal des
Luxus und der Moden. In: Das Journal des Luxus und der Moden: Kultur um 1800. Ed.
by Angela Borchert and Ralf Dressel. Heidelberg: Carl Winter 2004. Pp. 261280.
A singular exception to the critical opprobrium on reproducibility and the decorative
arts is to found in the writings of Karl Philipp Moritz, known as one of the foundational
theorists of autonomous art, who viewed the study of antique art as desirable for
craftsmen producing, for example, porcelain table decorations. Karl Philipp Moritz:
Ein Blick auf die verschiedenen Zweige der Kunst [A Look at the Various Branches of
Art]. In: Werke. Ed. by Horst Gnther. Frankfurt/M: Insel 1993. Vol. 2. Pp. 602604.
The Swiss writer Salomon Gessner attempted to establish a porcelain manufactory
whose products would contain motifs from his works in Kilchberg-Schooren in 1763,
but it ran up high debts, and was dissolved in 1791. Annett Ltteken: Minna auf der
Zuckerdose Porzellane des 18. Jahrhunderts als literaturgeschichtliche Quelle betrach-
tet. In: Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 27 (2003). Pp. 217234. See p. 234.

do for the status of a sculptor? It was precisely the association with mass-pro-
duced neoclassical items such as the Frstenberg figurines that placed Weimar
court sculptor Gottlieb Martin Klauer (17421801), to name the figure most per-
tinent in this context, in an ambivalent role between artist and craftsman.
Though most of the busts commissioned by Anna Amalia are copies by
Frstenberg modelers of other artworks a bust of Anna Amalia is from a por-
trait by Johann Georg Ziesenis, and the modeler Desoches based many of his
busts of antique sculptures on prints from the extensive collection of Carl I of
Braunschweig a significant number of the contemporary busts were pro-
duced in collaboration with Klauer. When Goethe encouraged Klauer to under-
take original busts of prominent Weimar contemporaries (including himself),
Bertuch promoted mass production of affordable replicas in plaster and terra-
cotta and the Frstenberg porcelain miniatures of the already miniaturized
plaster busts constitute yet another vector for serialization.25
In the October 1795 issue of the Journal des Luxus und der Moden a Brief an
eine Dame ber die Kunde verschiedener Waaren des Luxus und unserer mod-
ischen Bedrfnisse [Letter to a Lady Concerning News of Various Luxury Items
and Our Fashionable Needs] is devoted to porcelain. The letter concludes with
a paragraph in praise of the nearby Gotha porcelain manufactory. Though the
factory does not produce grand-scale works, writes the author, it does create
niedliche Mundtassen, Biscuit-Figuren, Vasen [pretty cups, porcelain fig-
urines, vases], neoclassical decorative wares that enable it mit dem Geiste
der Zeit fortzuschreiten [to advance with the spirit of the times] (454). The
placement of porcelain figurines between teacups and vases is typical. Gieszs
analysis of kitsch does not mention but could have that proximity to the
body of a consumer, and the functionalization of aesthetic form, in addition to
smallness, are a common indicator of the kitsch object.

I have proposed elsewhere that Klauer occupies an ambivalent and often contentious
location between aura and reproduction, monumentality and miniaturization, aristo-
cratic patronage and bourgeois consumerism. This plays itself out in Klauers relation-
ship with Bertuch, Anna Amalia and Bertuch. Bertuch advertised and promoted his full
line of works; Duchess Anna Amalia facilitated the commercial relationship between
Klauer and Frstenberg; and Goethe presided over Klauers aesthetic education,
while criticizing him for his aesthetic descent into the decorative arts, and viewing him
as an unsuitable candidate for a public monument to Carl August. See Catriona
MacLeod: Skulptur als Ware: Gottlieb Martin Klauer und das Journal des Luxus und
der Moden. In: Das Journal des Luxus und der Moden: Kultur um 1800. Ed. by Angela
Borchert and Ralf Dressel. Heidelberg: Carl Winter 2004. Pp. 261280. On Klauer and
the partial body represented by the portrait bust, particularly in relation to the whole
body of the ideal antique sculpture, see Catriona MacLeod: Floating Heads: Weimar
Portrait Busts. In: Unwrapping Goethes Weimar: Essays in Cultural Studies and Local
Knowledge. Ed. by Burkhard Henke, Susanne Kord, and Simon Richter. Rochester:
Camden House 2000. Pp. 6596.

In the Wunderkammer, miniature sculptures in materials such as ivory had

been prestigious objects, but in the eighteenth-century Kleinplastik, as such small
sculpture was known, was increasingly marginalized. The very designation of
porcelain sculptures as Kleinkunst in eighteenth-century Germany speaks vol-
umes about their relationship to the colossal marble bodies admired and exten-
sively analyzed in the neoclassical period for example, the massive Juno bust
owned by Goethe. The small figures and busts in porcelain that were produced
serially during the neoclassical period have been relatively neglected as critical
objects of study, overshadowed by their gigantic counterparts in marble and other
media. Art historical accounts of European sculpture at the end of the eighteenth
century privilege colossal monuments even exceeding the anthropomorphic
classical scale, and hypertrophic portraits.26 Largely this has to do with the pres-
tige of the full-figure marble sculpture in the wake of Winckelmanns writings
on antique art, of course: but the assumption that the gigantic is an expression
of historical forces and sublime genius, while the miniature represents a controlled
and trivial order of closure, interiority, the domestic may also have con-
tributed to the exclusion of the latter category from critical consideration.27

Alison Wests excellent study of French sculpture of the era relates a certain virile
hypertrophy of portraiture to historical factors (the ideological upheavals of the
French Revolution) as well as to a concern with the representation of genius. In 1805,
the year of Schillers death, the sculptor Johann Heinrich Dannecker is said to have pro-
claimed of the poet: Schiller mu colossal in der Bildhauerei leben, ich will eine
Apotheose [Schiller must live as a colossus in sculpture I intend an apotheosis].
Quoted in: From Pigalle to Prault: Neoclassicism and the Sublime in French
Sculpture, 17601840. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998. P. 284, note 98.
Goethe, of course, was himself the subject of numerous colossal portraits: from Johann
Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbeins painting Goethe in der Campagna (1786/1787), to
Alexander Trippels marble bust (1788/1789) modeled after a classical Apollo, to
Heinrich Christoph Kolbes 1826 painting. Herders essays on Plastik consider the
gigantic to be the natural domain of sculpture: [. . .] so mu gleichsam jeder hohe und
starke Gott, jede Gttin der Erhabenheit und Ehrfurcht, unsrer Einbildung Kolossalisch
und wenigstens bermenschlich werden ber unsre Zwergengre [(. . .) thus every
great and potent god, every goddess of sublimity and reverence, must also appear to our
imagination colossal, at least superhuman, in comparison to our dwarf-like stature].
Pp. 532533. Yet the same era expresses a fascination with sculptural miniaturization.
I noted above the cork replicas of antique sculpture mentioned in the Journal des Luxus
und der Moden. Probably the most extreme variant of this concern are the exquisitely
refined miniscule sculptures in ivory executed in the late eighteenth century in sizes
not exceeding a few centimeters (many of the details are barely visible to the naked
eye). For examples of the latter, see the exhibition catalog: Mikrobilder: Wunder der
Bildhauerkunst. Vienna: P. W. Hartmann 1999.
For this distinction between the gigantic and the miniature, see Susan Stewart: On
Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection.
Durham: Duke University Press 1993. P. 70.

Frstenberg Portrait Busts in Weimar: Table Dcor and

Classical Emulation
The Frstenberg line in portrait busts, which goes through a hybrid transitional
phase in the 1770s, embodies several of these questions about status and scale,
albeit in the guise of whimsy. Rococo porcelain figurines can themselves reveal
a playful self-awareness of contemporary debates on taste and style. (A thematic
concern with fashion is indeed a hallmark of Rococo art, whose fascination with
novelty represents a concern that would be suspect for most neoclassical artists
and theorists.) Embodying a manifestly hybrid rococo-neoclassical style, by
virtue of this conscious juxtaposition some of the early figurines point to some-
thing that goes beyond what Hugh Honour has called, with reference to Wedgwood,
a purely decorative appropriation of antiquity, Rococo taste in antique fancy
dress.28 A 1770 Frstenberg putto, modeled by Johann Christian Rombrich,
seems gleefully malicious as he drives a chisel into the head of a marble por-
trait bust.29 Consider as well the witty and ironic self-representation of the
porcelain sculptor Carl Gottlieb Schubert, also working for Frstenberg
(Figure 1). In this figurine, scale is once more the central issue, and is expressed
in the juxtaposition of Rococo miniaturization and neoclassical gigantism. The
12 cm high figure of the sculptor, one in a series of four craftsmen, and gaily
dressed in the bright colors characteristic of earlier Rococo porcelain sculpture,
seems dwarfed by the massive neoclassical white marble bust he has created.
Rococo whimsy figures itself as the creative, mayhem-causing force behind the
new classical project that claims to transcend fashion but in the space of less
than a decade, it has been eclipsed.
Duchess Anna Amalia of Weimar bought the four craftsmen figures in 1793 as
a gift for her son, Duke Carl August.30 But the restrained antique bust being chis-
eled by the sculptor figurine, a copy of Frstenberg modeler Jean Desoches
biscuit bust of the emperor Luctator, was also one of Anna Amalias neoclassical
commissions to the factory.31 This form of sculptural practice, collecting and
display in late eighteenth-century Weimar has been documented but under-
interpreted, especially bearing in mind that Weimar is the location for theoretical
investigations into sculpture by writers such as Goethe, as well as for enormously
successful entrepreneurship involving neoclassical fashions by Goethes antag-
onist Bertuch. Between around 17711794, Duchess Anna Amalia placed the

Hugh Honour: Neo-classicism. Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968. P. 48.
See Siegfried Ducret: Frstenberger Porzellan. Braunschweig: Klinkhardt &
Biermann 1965. Vol. 3. P. 91 (Illustration 119).
Susanne Schroeder and Petra Damaschke: Tafelrunden: Frstenberger Porzellan der
Herzogin Anna Amalia in Weimar. Munich: Stiftung Weimarer Klassik bei Hanser
1996. P. 106.
Ducret: Frstenberger Porzellan. Vol. 3. P. 160.

Figure 1. Bildhauer [Sculptor]. Carl Gottlieb Schubert. 1774. Herzog Anton Ulrich-
Museum. Inv. Nr. Fr. 1186.

commissions with the Frstenberg porcelain factory in Braunschweig for small

portrait busts in biscuit porcelain. Links between the so-called Weimar Musenhof
[court of the muses] and the Frstenberg manufactory emerged from the close
familial ties between Anna Amalia and the court in Braunschweig her father, Carl
I of Braunschweig (17131780), in pursuit of the prestige and income that could

come with a porcelain factory, had founded the Frstenberg factory in 1747.32
As Siegfried Ducret has illustrated in his comprehensive Frstenberg catalog,
the production of Frstenberg figures was varied, its styles ranging from com-
media dell arte to chinoiserie and Neoclassicism, though its modelers were
derivative of those at Meissen and Berlin and have mainly been viewed as skilled
craftsmen of lesser status than contemporary masters such as Kndler, Johann
Peter Melchior, Johann Josef Niedermeyer or Wilhelm Beyer.33 Most figural work
in porcelain in the eighteenth century was intended for table ornaments. Frstenberg
was also particularly noted, however, for its large-scale and widely advertised
production of portrait busts and medallions.34 Between 17701794, the most pro-
ductive period of this production, over 135 different portrait busts were created.
Anna Amalias commissions bring together table dcor and the portrait bust
genre. She owned relatively few Frstenberg figurines, when compared with her
collection of busts. The subject matter of her commissions ranged from the Weimar
ducal family, to (partial) copies of the most celebrated antique sculptures such as
the Apollo Belvedere, the Antinous or the Laokoon group, to busts of Roman
emperors, to busts of notable intellectuals and artists (among them Goethe, Lessing,
Mendelssohn, Winckelmann, Mengs, Wieland, Herder and Gellert) by contem-
porary sculptors such as Klauer, Dannecker, and Cavaceppi or copied from older
works, paintings or prints. The audience for these works is thus assumed to have
knowledge not just of the classical statues that formed the muse imaginaire
of the cultivated European elite, but also of the theorists and artists who had been
instrumental in fashioning that canon. Conversely, it is likely that Lessing, who
was librarian to the Braunschweig court from 1770 onwards in Wolfenbttel, and
who socialized with Frstenberg artists such as the landscape painter Pascha
Weitsch, had some influence on the subject matter of the Frstenberg factory. The
list of intellectuals modeled certainly reflects Lessings friendships (Nicolai and
Mendelssohn) and cultural predilections (English figures such as Shakespeare,
Milton, and the Shakespearean actor David Garrick are included).35 In placing her
neoclassical commissions, Anna Amalia was no doubt also influenced by the advice
For details of the Weimar-Braunschweig connection, see Susanne Schroeder and
Petra Damaschke: Tafelrunden: Frstenberger Porzellan der Herzogin Anna Amalia in
Weimar. Munich 1996. Pp. 822. See also Ducret: Frstenberger Porzellan. Vol. 3,
Figuren, contains a complete catalog of the portrait busts.
Ibid. P. 1.
See for example: ber Porzelan-Fabriken and Preis-Courant verschiedener Sorten
von Bsten, Basreliefs, Medaillons, Aufstzen auf Camine oder auf Plateaux, Pots pourris,
Vasen und Figuren, von chtem Frstenberger Porzellan [On Porcelain Manufactories
and Price List of Various Kinds of Busts, Bas Reliefs, Medallions, Decorations for
Fireplaces or Pedestals, Pots Pourris, Vases and Figures, in Genuine Frstenberg
Porcelain]. In: Journal von und fr Deutschland 1785. Pp. 713 and pp. 8995.
See Wolff Metternich: Die Portrtbsten der Manufaktur Frstenberg unter dem
Einfluss der Kunstkritik Lessings. In: Keramos 92 (1981): 1968. Wolff Metternich
views Lessings theoretical influence as pivotal, based on Lessings proximity to the

of Weimar court artist Adam Friedrich Oeser, who had known Winckelmann in
Dresden. However, though they quote several theorists, it would be simplistic to read
the busts as a straightforward catalog or illustration of Winckelmann, Lessing, or
Herder and their views of antique sculpture (Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4). It is no
small irony, indeed, that we find Winckelmann in the shape of a miniature porce-
lain bust (Klauers copy of a bust by the noted neoclassical sculptor Friedrich
Wilhelm Doell), for Winckelmann, and Lessing in his wake, disparaged the por-
trait bust as a symptom of decadence in art. Winckelmann describes the genre of
the bust as kleinlich or trivial in his Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums, and
Lessing expresses a similar point of view in the Laokoon essay, observing that the
portrait busts realism detracts from the expression of the aesthetic ideal:
Der mittelmigen Portrts sollten unter den Kunstwerken nicht zu viel werden.
Denn obschon auch das Portrt ein Ideal zult, so mu doch die hnlichkeit
darber herrschen; es ist das Ideal eines gewissen Menschen, nicht das Ideal eines
Menschen berhaupt.36
There should not be too many mediocre portraits among artworks. For although the
portrait genre does permit expression of an ideal, nevertheless it is dominated by
resemblance; it represents the ideal of a particular individual, not the ideal of
humanity in general.
Winckelmann profoundly opposed the subsuming of classical art by fash-
ionable discourse, and indeed saw the first term as the antidote to the second.37

Braunschweig court, a cultural center for the German reception of antiquity. His friends
in Braunschweig hoped, indeed, that Lessing would complete the second part of his
Laokoon essay there. Among other activities, Lessing supplied the ducal Kunstkabinett,
which was also the source for Frstenberg, with prints from the Wolfenbttel collection.
The Braunschweig court participated in the cultural enthusiasm for antiquity. Prince
Carl Wilhelm Ferdinand of Braunschweig had, for example, traveled to Rome in 1766
and enjoyed guided tours and conversations with Winckelmann. On the eighteenth-
century German literary canon and its private reception, as represented by Frstenberg,
see Ltteken: Minna auf der Zuckerdose Porzellane des 18. Jahrhunderts als lite-
raturgeschichtliche Quelle betrachtet. In: Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 27 (2003). Pp.
217234. Ltteken notes as well the emphasis on scholars from educational institutions
in the orbit of the Braunschweig court, such as the Braunschweig Collegium Carolinum
and the universities of Helmstedt and Gttingen. P. 219.
See Johann Joachim Winckelmann: Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums. Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1993. P. 232. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Laokoon
oder ber die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie. Stuttgart: Reclam 1987. P. 15. Portrait
busts were more typical of Roman than of Greek art. With the discovery of Roman por-
trait busts at the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii, they became a fashionable
accessory for neoclassical interiors.
On Winckelmanns rejection of fashion as the antithesis to the ideal, natural body, see
Klaus Schneider: Natur Krper Kleider Spiel: Johann Joachim Winckelmann: Studien
zu Krper und Subjekt im spten 18. Jahrhundert. Wrzburg: Knigshausen &
Neumann 1994. Pp. 133137.

Figure 2. Bildnisbste Johann Joachim Winckelmann [Portrait Bust of Johann Joachim

Winckelmann]. J. Ch. Rombrich. 1787. Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum. Inv. Nr. Fr. 912.

Figure 3. Bildnisbste Gotthold Ephraim Lessing [Portrait Bust of Gotthold Ephraim

Lessing]. 1783. Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum. Inv. Nr. Fr. 3222.

Figure 4. Bildnisbste Johann Gottfried Herder [Portrait Bust of Johann Gottfried

Herder]. 1788. Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum. Inv. Nr. Fr. 5466.

Lessing, unlike Herder, favored poetry over sculpture in his hierarchy of the arts
because of its ability to excite the imagination. And finally, the partial body of the
bust would be antithetical to notions of classical bodily wholeness shared by all
three of these thinkers.
Chronologically, the classical Frstenberg subjects, mythological figures and
Roman emperors, were the earliest (beginning in 1771), followed by the dynas-
tic portraits (from 1772), and finally, the intellectuals (beginning with Voltaire
in 1776, and adding increasing numbers of other European luminaries from
1783 onwards). The porcelain busts thus formed a coherent thematic program,
and were advertised separately from other Frstenberg lines. With the portrait
busts, Frstenberg was competing with Wedgwood, as Frstenberg and Wedgwood
were the first porcelain manufactories to begin production of neoclassical
portraits: Wedgwood in soft paste jasperware and basaltware, and Frstenberg
in a hard biscuit porcelain. Over 135 Frstenberg busts were produced, ranging
in size from around 1125 centimeters several busts were offered in as many
as five different sizes. Many are works of extreme delicacy and refinement.
The busts derived in ornamental function from Baroque and Rococo figurines
that decorated the elaborate aristocratic dining table in earlier decades, first mod-
eled from sugar, and after the 1730s from porcelain, and which were deployed by
pastry chefs in painterly, often mythological-allegorical compositions for repre-
sentative purposes during the dessert course. Favored motifs were fountains and
grottos; buildings such as temples and castles; gardens; and antique gods. Even
the most enchanting and fanciful of the Rococo figurines, however, can bear polit-
ical meaning, and can be deployed to ideological ends. Kndlers monumental
centerpieces for Meissen were emblems of dynastic potency. In Frstenbergs
late eighteenth-century line, however, figurines made the transition from Rococo
to neoclassical style and began to be deployed to different ends.38 Despite their
status as miniature decorative objects, these Tafelrunden [table decorations] and
their uses do point to social and artistic developments that gave the cultured
middle class contact with political power, expressed progressive aspirations, and
are not necessarily bearers of nostalgic, conservative values. To be sure, Dresden
porcelain figurines had from their very beginnings in the 1730s placed an
emphasis on taxonomy, on the spectacular reinforcement of Stnde [class] and
other hierarchies. The collection, recording and display of Saxon court posses-
sions were the impetus for the creation of the figurines. Grouped and classified

On the origins of the figurines in the Baroque art of the table, see Susanne Schroeder
and Petra Damaschke: Tafelrunden: Frstenberger Porzellan der Herzogin Anna
Amalia in Weimar. Munich: Stiftung Weimarer Klassik bei Hanser 1996. Pp. 38, 106;
for the transition in the Schauessen [literally: exhibition meal] from sugar sculptures
to porcelain, and on Baroque and Rococo table dcor more generally, see Stefan Bursche:
Tafelzier des Barock. Munich: Editions Schneider 1974.

together on the table were aristocrats, exotic others (including models of the
animals in the court zoo), categories of artisans, and even the destitute.39 The
clustering of figures with whom Carl I as patron of the arts was associated
(Winckelmann, Lessing) around his bust on the Braunschweig dining table
could be seen as a traditional panegyric to the ruler, rather than as an erudite,
coherent set of allusions to these authors works.40 Nevertheless, a degree of
social mobility is suggested by the reconfigurations of the busts in Weimar. At
the Frstenberg styled table in Weimar, prominent intellectuals and scholars
joined the company of aristocrats; in turn, the aristocrats were modeled in an
increasingly restrained neoclassical style. A 1784 bust of Anna Amalia, for
example, is much simpler than that of Sophie of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, from
1777, whose pedestal is adorned with a medallion depicting Leda and the
Swan. A figurine of Pallas Athena from the earlier period still represents
dynastic power in allegorical form (Figure 5, Figure 6, Figure 7). Both groups
court and cultural figures found their way on to the lists of busts advertised
for sale by Frstenberg, reflecting the inclusion in Anna Amalias erudite and
convivial salons of artists, professors, and visiting intellectuals. (The portraits
of scholars and artists all date to the period of Anna Amalias salons at the
Wittumspalais.41) In turn, the increasing availability of reproductions of indi-
vidual busts for sale to the upper middle class, for private consumption, further
loosens the rigid social groupings of the aristocratic table. The eighteenth-
century discourse of friendship plays into this new configuration and mingling
of social groups. The concentration on the face of the subject whether that be
the face of an aristocrat, a commoner, or a classical sculpture without cos-
tume as an indicator of rank and status, has an added equalizing affect. This is
not to say, however, that the portrait busts signal the complete breakdown of the
hierarchies and social privileges that mark the absolutist court. Schillers social
status in Weimar was precarious, for example, unlike that of Goethe. Only after
he acquired his title was Schiller invited to attend official court functions along
with his wife Charlotte, who had been born into the aristocratic von Lengefeld
family. It is noteworthy that Schiller, who had been a resident of Weimar since
1799, yet who was not elevated into the nobility until 1802, came on to the
Frstenberg production line only in 1805, more than twenty years after Goethe.

See Sarah Richards: Eighteenth-Century Ceramics: Products for a Civilized Society.
Manchester: Manchester University Press 1999. P. 183.
Ltteken accentuates the dynastic significance of the figures for the Braunschweig
court: Minna auf der Zuckerdose Porzellane des 18. Jahrhunderts als lite-
raturgeschichtliche Quelle betrachtet. In: Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 27 (2003). P. 223.
Wiederholte Spiegelungen: Weimarer Klassik 17591832. Ed. by Gerhard Schuster
and Caroline Gille. Munich: Stiftung Weimarer Klassik bei Hanser 1999. Vol. 1. P. 62.

Figure 5. Bildnisbste Anna Amalia [Portrait Bust of Anna Amalia]. Carl Gottlieb
Schubert. 1784. Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen. Inv. Nr. KKg/00030.

Figure 6. Bildnisbste Sophie Caroline Marie, Markgrfin von Brandenburg-Bayreuth

[Portrait Bust of Sophie Caroline Marie, Markgrfin von Brandenburg-Bayreuth].
Anton Carl Luplau. 1774. Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen. Inv. Nr.

Figure 7. Pallas Athene. Simon Feilner. 1758. Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und
Kunstsammlungen. Inv. Nr. KKg/00030.

Surfaces of Restraint
Modeled in biscuit, an unglazed white porcelain with the color and texture of
antique marble, or slightly later (ca. 1800) in black basaltware to imitate
Wedgwood, the busts were set upon pedestals and began to migrate from dining
room to library. The new medium of biscuit porcelain has properties that suggest
a shift in the aesthetic apprehension of the figurines. Both biscuit and basaltware,
matte surfaces that more closely resemble stone than sparkling, illusionistic
Rococo porcelain, offer the classical eye what is a more subdued and optically
controllable artwork than its precursors. Wolff Metternichs comment on glazed
white porcelain is suggestive of its problematic allure for this later neoclassical
period: Die vielen Glanzlichter glasierten Porzellans, je nach Beleuchtung wech-
selnd und vorher nicht einzuplanen, vermitteln einen unscharfen Eindruck und
konnten zu Verflschungen fhren [The reflective properties of glazed porcelain,
changeable and unpredictable according to lighting conditions, produce a
blurry impression and could lead to distortions].42 A greater interest in realism
is apparent too in the porcelain busts, when compared with the anti-naturalistic
emphases of Rococo porcelain. Most works in biscuit are realistic portraits or
close copies of the antique sculpture that the medium is intended to mimic: iron-
ically, this Neoclassicism promotes imitation and reproduction rather than
diminishing it. In other ways, mobility is encouraged. At times, and this is the
case with some versions of the Goethe busts, the pedestals were removable
(Figure 8). The most costly pedestals (which could push the bust to an extrav-
agant price of 50 Reichstaler, and could also be ordered separately) were fab-
ricated from veined grey marble.43 (Weimar court sculptor Klauer, an active
contributor to the Frstenberg line, marketed a variety of display accessories
that could be purchased along with his sculptural products and combined with
them interchangeably.) Porcelain sculptures, unlike their antique counterparts,
were not site-specific; they were open to placement as the consumer, aristo-
cratic or bourgeois, saw fit, without regard to iconic origins, or to the architec-
tural context of an original antique work. They were literally without foundation,

Wolff Metternich: Die Portrtbsten der Manufaktur Frstenberg unter dem Einfluss
der Kunstkritik Lessings. P. 22.
Schroeder and Damaschke: Tafelrunden: Frstenberger Porzellan der Herzogin
Anna Amalia in Weimar. Munich: Stiftung Weimarer Klassik bei Hanser 1996. P. 109. As
a point of comparison, plaster portrait busts such as those produced by Klauer in Weimar
were typically priced at around one or two Reichstaler. Larger classical busts by
Frstenberg such as those of Laokoon and Niobe were priced at around 7 Reichstaler,
smaller versions of the same busts at 2 Reichstaler. Prices are from: Preis-Courant ver-
schiedener Sorten von Bsten, Basreliefs, Medaillons, Aufstzen auf Camine oder auf
Plateaux, Pots pourris, Vasen und Figuren, von chtem Frstenberger Porzellan. In:
Journal von und fr Deutschland 1785. Pp. 8990. The porcelain busts are thus, unlike
the more affordable plaster busts, commodities of quite significant value.

Figure 8. Bildnisbste Johann Wolfgang Goethe [Portrait Bust of Johann Wolfgang

Goethe]. Carl Gottlieb Schubert. 1784. Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen.
Inv. Nr. KKg/00030.

and as such, apparently antithetical to a basic understanding of the monument,

which presupposes a site and permanence. Yet, they were also a miniature form
of monument, as Goethe observed, peculiarly suited to modernity. Writing on
the subject of monuments in 1804, Goethe declares the bust the appropriate mon-
ument of the age, because it is easily reproduced [ein schnes Denkmal, das
mehrere Freunde besitzen knnen or a beautiful monument that can be owned
by several friends] and, just as importantly, because it is transportable, a
shippable and mobile commodity.44
However, what comes into relief here is a tension between two overlapping
conceptions of the porcelain miniature. In the first period of Frstenbergs pro-
duction, we have the figurine as whimsical, shiny, colorful table decoration, an
object with sensual appeal to touch. Its viewer is embodied, a consumer of food
as well as of art. An influential line of eighteenth-century thought considered
sculpture to be an art with an especially direct appeal to physical feeling, espe-
cially touch. Though Herders essays on Plastik, which appeared in the same
decade as the first Frstenberg portrait busts, were written in criticism of mannered
Rococo taste, they do nevertheless suggest a response to sculpture that is per-
tinent in this context: a response that denies detachment and embraces sensual
incorporation of the artwork. As Daniel Purdy has argued, Herders essays can be
read in connection with developments in consumer culture at the close of the
eighteenth century, and the case can be made that Herders thesis failed to gain
general cultural acceptance precisely because of its refusal to accept the autonomy
of art at the expense of the subjective desires of the observer.45 Paradoxically, the
Frstenberg line simultaneously places the classical sculpture on the cultural table
as an object of gustatory and tactile desire, and moves to de-emphasize or bring
into line its sensual aspects. The neoclassical busts, with their controlled and
subdued surfaces, their erudite pedigree, their abandonment of color, and their
suppression of whimsy, appeal to a more intellectually detached spectator.
Initially food-related artworks, they throw into problematic relief questions of

Goethe: Denkmale [Monuments]. FA 1/18: 961f. On Goethes notion of the monu-
ment see Clark S. Muenzer: Wandering Among Obelisks: Goethe and the Idea of the
Monuments. Modern Language Studies 31 (2001). Pp. 534.
Daniel Purdys essay on Prussian military uniforms and late eighteenth-century aesthetic
readings of the Pygmalion myth persuasively links discourses of fashion with Herders
account of the phenomenological apprehension of sculptures. Daniel Purdy: Sculptured
Soldiers and the Beauty of Discipline: Herder, Foucault and Masculinity. In: Body
Dialectics in the Age of Goethe. Ed. by Marianne Henn and Holger A. Pausch. Amsterdam:
Rodopi 2003. Pp. 2345. Much of the earlier discussion of pleasure and entertainment
in eighteenth-century Germany has been theorized through literature, at the expense of
a consideration of material culture. On the schism that opened up between autonomous
art and popular/utilitarian culture in the late eighteenth century as a response to mod-
ernization see: Zur Dichotomisierung von hoher und niederer Literatur. Ed. by Christa
Brger, Peter Brger, and Jochen Schulte-Sasse. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp 1982.

good and bad taste. But however calm and restrained they become, they still
represent the irrepressible appetites and desires of emerging consumerist society,
and they cannot easily be subsumed into the category of disinterested aesthetic
contemplation. As I have argued here, they engage with and even challenge the
central tenets about sculpture posited by the very theorists whom they embody.
It was through sociable contact with porcelain miniature busts as well as
through the better-known plaster copies that Braunschweig and Weimar culture
physically appropriated, interiorized the artifacts and theorists of the classical
world.46 The souvenir, as described by Susan Stewart in her meditation on the
role of the miniature in consumer culture, performs a similar function, reduc-
ing the public, the monumental, and the three-dimensional into the miniature,
that which can be enveloped by the body, [. . .] that which can be appropriated
within the privatized view of the individual subject.47 The miniature world
also promises its viewer and consumer a fantasmatic identification with the
desired other. With this in mind, it is important not to overlook the metaphorical
density of precisely the tiny object.48 As we have seen, the semiotic value of the
face increases with each stage of the portrait busts miniaturization. Josiah
Wedgwood, certainly the driving force of modern mass production and whose suc-
cess inspired Frstenberg and other manufacturers, had also well understood the
economic niche that could be filled by miniature portrait busts objects that
expressed narcissistic desire and, themselves movable private monuments, also
promised to fulfill longings for upward mobility: People will give more for their
own Heads, or the Heads in fashion, than for any other subject, & buy more abun-
dantly of them [. . .].49 Porcelain busts, to sum it up, are judged by classical
Weimars theorists, critics, and entrepreneurs in multiple and contradictory ways:
as both regressive (throwbacks to Rococo fashion, aristocratic culture) and as
symbols of modern mass production, the mobile relations of capitalism, new socia-
ble configurations, and bourgeois cultivation and aspirations. Where an Adornian
reading of eighteenth-century mass culture would claim that high art refuses to
entertain and that pleasure is the province of popular art, the Frstenberg busts
suggest the existence of artworks that resist such dichotomous theories.
On the neoclassical consumer as a copyist, see Hannelore Schlaffer: Antike als
Gesellschaftsspiel. In: Analogon rationis. Ed. by Marianne Henn and Christoph Lorey.
Edmonton: M. Henn and C. Lorey 1994. Pp. 193207.
Stewart: On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the
Collection. Durham: Duke University Press 1993. Pp. 137138.
Marianne Schuller and Gunnar Schmidt in their Lacanian-inflected study of the
miniature note the symbolic, metaphysical value of small objects such as the commun-
ion wafer: Mikrologien: Literarische und philosophische Figuren des Kleinen.
Bielefeld: Transcript 2003. Pp. 2829.
Quoted in Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and J. H. Plumb: The Birth of a Consumer
Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press 1982. P. 132.

Figure 9. Bildnisbste Laokoon Sr. [Portrait Bust of Laokoon]. Jean Desoches. 1772.
Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum. Inv. Nr. Fr. 5856.

Bodies of Pleasure and Pain

In closing, I would like to add another element of complexity to an assessment
of the Frstenberg groups, by considering the inclusion in the line of the famed
Laokoon sculpture group, which is reproduced in the reduced and partial form
of a portrait bust50 (Figure 9). As Susan Stewart has argued so compellingly, the
world of the miniature is ordered, closed, static, and perfect, in contrast to the tem-
pestuous forces of the gigantic, aligned with the historic shock of the new.51
According to Stewart, the miniature world is one that is uncontaminated by the
grotesque and closed off from contagion.52 What, then, is the meaning of the
Laokoon busts within the miniature context? They appear to have been a
favorite subject for Frstenberg, since busts of all three heads were produced,
in a range of sizes, beginning in 1771. Wolff Metternich interprets the bust by
Desoches, in contrast to my reading, as a deliberate modulation of extreme affect,
along the lines of Lessings deflection of the scream.53 Yet the very form of the
bust forces a viewers attention on the unspeakable materiality of that gaping
mouth. Not only is the partial, ruptured meaning of the bust antithetical to much
neoclassical thought, but the intense focus that the bust places on the pain suf-
fered by the elder Laokoon and his sons stands in stark contrast to Lessings
attempt, in his influential 1766 essay on the sculpture group, to mitigate stark
suffering, to remove attention from the scream. This is all the more striking in the
context of porcelain miniatures identification with the sweetmeat: the violence
concentrated on the faces of the Laokoon sculptures haunts the assumed gen-
tility and refinement of the medium, which tends not to engage with dark or chal-
lenging subject matter. The Laokoon statue made its way into the world of
porcelain already in the Rococo period, but the Frstenberg versions of the
Laokoon could not be more different from the Capodimonte porcelain figurine
from around 1750 mentioned by Haskell and Penny a gaudy Rococo whimsy

The Laokoon group, which was the subject of much discussion and theoretical atten-
tion throughout Europe (by, among others, Winckelmann, Lessing, Herder, and
Goethe), particularly concerning the nature of the priests pain, had also become a pop-
ular subject for copying in porcelain from the Rococo period onwards. Marble copies
of Laokoons head were created for domestic interiors, due to the sheer scale a life-size,
full-body replica would demand and the difficulty of creating and transporting casts:
Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny: Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical
Sculpture 15001900. New Haven: Yale University Press 1994. P. 244. Haskell and
Penny note that busts of Niobe and her daughters were also fairly common. Ibid. P. 278.
Stewart: On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the
Collection. Durham: Duke University Press 1993. P. 86.
Ibid. P. 68.
Wolff Metternich: Die Portrtbsten der Manufaktur Frstenberg unter dem Einfluss
der Kunstkritik Lessings. In: Keramos 92 (1981): 1968. P. 36.

Figure 10. Gladiator moriens. Carl Gottlieb Schubert. 1784. Herzog Anton Ulrich-
Museum. Inv. Nr. Fr. 7042.

covered in mauve drapery and green snakes.54 Nor are the busts of Laokoon
and his sons the only Frstenberg heads that represent intense suffering. Other
sculptures, too, are abbreviated in ways that accentuate the painful emotions pass-
ing across a face, or, in the case of the Arrotino, human cruelty. These include:
portrait busts of the traumatized Proserpine; of the Arrotino, or Schleifer [knife
sharpener] who according to Winckelmann and others represents the execu-
tioner preparing to flay the satyr Marsyas after his defeat by Apollo in a musi-
cal competition; of the Dying Gaul (Figure 10);55 and of the Niobe group.
Writing in a sketch for Plastik about how statues must come to life under the
touch of a Pygmalion-like viewer Wir mssen sie anzutasten glauben und
fhlen, da sie sich unter unsern Hnden erwrmt [We must believe that we
are touching it, and sense that it is growing warm in our hands] Herder, like
Lessing, wards off pain, and selects Niobe as a model of the disciplined Migung
eines Affekts [moderation of affect]:
Gehe hin, und lerne von der Stirn des Apollo Hoheit der Seele! [. . .] Vom Antlitz der
leidenden Niobe wahres stilles Leiden und schreie nicht kindisch und knechtisch
[. . .].56
Go to the brow of Apollo and learn nobility of the soul! [. . .] from the face of the
suffering Niobe learn about true calm suffering, and do not cry out in a childish and
abased manner [. . .].

Though the Frstenberg busts cite a catalog of works that represent a mod-
ulation of desire and emotion in the theoretical works of Herder and Lessing,
they also embody the taboo of corporeal dissolution and pain in spectacular
terms. In doing so, they hint at Classicisms preoccupation with aesthetic terms
that threaten its own stability we might think here of Lessings obsession, in
his Laokoon essay, with the category of the ugly as well as the beautiful. For
Lessing, the visual representation of ugliness he uses the skinning of
Marsyas as an example of a sight that would provoke visceral disgust allows

Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny: Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical
Sculpture 15001900. New Haven: Yale University Press 1994. P. 96.
One English viewer of the Dying Gaul in the late eighteenth century commented that
the very lips seem to quiver as in the agony of death. Ibid. P. 226. Haskell and Penny
observe that it was the emotional pathos of the statue that attracted most visitors.
Johann Gottfried Herder: Paralipomena. In: Werke in zehn Bnden. Ed. by Martin
Bollacher et al. Frankfurt/M: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 19852000. Vol. 4. Pp.
10231024. Daniel Purdy offers a succinct account of the relevance of the Pygmalion
myth in eighteenth-century writings on sculpture in: Sculptured Soldiers and the
Beauty of Discipline: Herder, Foucault and Masculinity. In: Body Dialectics in the Age
of Goethe. Ed. by Marianne Henn and Holger A. Pausch. Amsterdam: Rodopi 2003.
Pp. 4144. See also Inka Mlder-Bach: Im Zeichen Pygmalions: Das Modell der Statue
und die Entwicklung der Darstellung im 18. Jahrhundert. Munich: W. Fink 1998.

the viewer no respite from bodily disintegration.57 Lessings formulation of

the pregnant moment as the highest form of visual representation modulat-
ing pain is, as Gustafson has noted, throughout the Laokoon essay revealed as
the instant frozen on the brink of corporeal catastrophe.58 The Frstenberg
statues repose, their intimations of bodily wholeness, become strangely
fraught and problematic. What happens when one desires and touches the
statue? Goethes own critique of the Pygmalion myth puts it bluntly with this
form of aesthetic appreciation, there is always the risk of base sensual desires
overwhelming genuine art: Die Tradition sagt: da brutale Menschen gegen
plastische Meisterwerke von sinnlichen Begierden entzndet werden
[Tradition holds that plastic works of art arouse the sensual desires of brutal
human beings].59
The meaning of the Frstenberg portrait busts is not, finally, as obvious as
one might suppose. They belie the verses written by Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer
in 1809 on the subject of the emerging bourgeois culture of the table:
Zuvrderst factisch, nimmer problematisch, / Dann allzeit practisch nimmer
theoretisch [Above all concrete, never problematic, / Forever practical, never
theoretical].60 Neither a banal line of decorative objects, nor a straightforward

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Laokoon oder ber die Grenzen der Malerei und Poesie.
Stuttgart: Reclam 1987. P. 182. On ugliness in Lessings essay, see Carol Jacobs: The
Critical Performance of Lessings Laokoon. In: Modern Language Notes 102 (1987).
Pp. 483521. Susan E. Gustafson has interpreted the same work through the lens of
Kristevan abjection: Beautiful Statues, Beautiful Men: The Abjection of Feminine
Imagination in Lessings Laokoon. In: Publications of the Modern Language
Association of America 108 (1993). Pp. 10831097.
Ibid. P. 1092.
Goethe: Diderots Versuch ber die Malerei [Diderots Essay on Painting]. FA 1/18:
559608. See p. 569. To live and create by the example of Pygmalion, argues Goethe,
is to fall into the trap of dilettantism: Htte Pygmalion seiner Statue begehren knnen,
so ware er ein Pfuscher gewesen, unfhig eine Gestalt hervorzubringen, die verdient
htte, als Kunstwerk oder als Naturwerk geschtzt zu werden [If Pygmalion had been
able to desire his statue, he would have been done a botched job as an artist, and would
have been incapable of creating a form deserving of the titles of either artwork or work
of nature]. P. 570.
Quoted in Renate Mller-Krumbach: Altes Porzellan. Weimar: Nationale
Forschungs- und Gedenksttten der klassischen deutschen Literatur in Weimar 1987. P. 61.
Riemer does, however, pay ironic tribute to the poetic dimension of the tea table in the
opening decade of the nineteenth century. The poem concludes: Sodann pathetisch,
drastisch und dramatisch, / Und plastisch und romantisch und poetisch, / So heit er
uns mit vollem Recht S. T.tisch [Then pathetic, drastic, and dramatic, / And plastic
and romantic and poetic, / It now rightly goes by the name S. T.tisch (aesthetic)]. By
the end of the century, portraits of intellectuals and artists had also found their way on
to functional tableware for private use in Frstenberg porcelain such as tea and coffee
services. Ltteken documents items of this type including tea services designed for

illustration of the neoclassical program, the portrait busts are multiply trans-
formed from their antique originals and negotiate as well the status of their
contemporary subjects and owners.61 With a dramatic change in scale, and the
abbreviation of the body, come a restraining of sensual play and a turn to visual
control. Yet the heads of the Arrotino, the Niobe, and the Laokoon, among
other classical copies, all return the viewer powerfully to the repressed corpo-
reality of Classicism.

use by one or two people decorated with portraits of Gellert, Gessner, Leibniz,
Hagedorn, Mendelssohn and Sulzer, as well as with scenes from literary works such as
Lessings Minna von Barnhelm and Goethes Leiden des jungen Werthers: Minna auf
der Zuckerdose Porzellane des 18. Jahrhunderts als literaturgeschichtliche Quelle
betrachtet. In: Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 27 (2003). Pp. 225232.
Silvia Glaser argues that the miniaturization of antique sculptures in decorative
objects leads to a complete disregard for iconic identification. In the case of the
Frstenberg busts, which intertwine theory and the objects of that theory, this claim
needs to be revisited: Kunst fr den gebildeten Geschmack? Vom Wandel des
Kunsthandwerks am Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts. In: Knstlerleben in Rom: Bertel
Thorvaldsen (17701844), der dnische Bildhauer und seine deutschen Freunde. Ed.
by Ursula Peters. Nrnberg: Verlag des Germanischen Nationalmuseums 1991.
Pp. 287293. See p. 290.
Beate Allert

Goethe, Runge, Friedrich: On Painting

While it is true to some extent that Goethe had an impact on the lives of Runge and
Friedrich, it is equally true that he was very critical of German Romanticism and tried to
impose on others his own ideals of Weimar Classicism. Goethe was deeply affected by the
works of both Runge and Friedrich. In fact Goethe shared many aspects of the painters
diverse sensibilities, which are revealed in Goethes own writing. He was as influenced by
them as they were by him. The relationship was by no means one-sided in either case and
should be recognized as more complex than a matter of Goethes offended Classicism.

Goethes complex relationship with the visual artists of his time, and especially
with Philipp Otto Runge (17771810) and Caspar David Friedrich (17741840),
has been widely discussed, although these interpretations have focused mainly
on Goethe. The possible cross-references and mutual influences among them
seem to have attracted little attention: this relationship is usually considered to be
proof of Goethes friendship and well-connectedness with famous contempo-
rary artists. Moreover, it is used to reinforce the claim for Goethes centrality in
the German-speaking world of late eighteenth-century European culture.1 More
recent scholarship on this topic has drawn attention to Goethes rejection of the
movement of Romanticism in Germany, on the one hand associated with the
Jena circle for philosophy and literature and on the other identified with a group

Richard Benz: Goethe und die Romantische Kunst. Munich: Piper Verlag 1940.
Gerhard S. Kalienke: Das Verhltnis von Goethe und Runge im Zusammenhang mit
Goethes Auseinandersetzung mit der Frhromantik. Hamburg: Helmut Buske 1973, offers
in his first chapter a detailed summary of earlier scholarship on Goethe and Romantic art.
One group which emphasizes Goethes friendly relations and well-connectedness with the
painters of his time can be identified through works such as Andreas Aubert: Runge und
die Romantik. Berlin: P. Cassirer 1909; Lothar Brieger: Die romantische Malerei. Eine
Einfhrung in ihr Wesen und ihre Werke. Berlin: Deutsche Buch-Gemeinschaft 1926; and
Kurt K. Eberlein: Goethe und die bildende Kunst der Romantik. In: Jahrbuch der Goethe-
Gesellschaft 14 (1928). Pp. 177. Kalienke identifies a second group of scholars who
notice a distance between Goethe and Runge but simply attribute it to Runges friendship
with the Romantic poet Tieck and his bad influence, as well as some assumed sympa-
thy between Runge and the Nazarenes whom Goethe really disliked. These scholars nev-
ertheless point out that Goethes interest in Runges color theory continued despite his
skepticism of his possible affiliations with the Romantics. Works belonging to this second
group are Hermann Hettner: Kleine Schriften. Braunschweig: Vieweg 1884; Alfred
Peltzer: Goethe und der Ursprnge der neuerer deutschen Landschaftsmalerei. Leipzig:
Seemann 1907; and Paul Ferdinand Schmidt: Philipp Otto Runge: Sein Leben und sein
Werk. Leipzig: Insel 1923.

of visual artists in Dresden.2 If we consider the relationship of Goethe to Runge

and Goethe to Friedrich exclusively in terms of Goethes interest in visual art and
his close connections to artists, then we would have to gloss over the considerable
difficulties he had with these artists and vice versa.3 Yet to place principal empha-
sis on how much Goethe really disliked certain developments in the visual arts of
his own time, developments he saw personified in Runge and Friedrich, would be
also to ignore the complex specifics of this fascinating yet intricate interaction.4
In this essay, I first argue that Goethe was as influenced by the Romantic visual
aesthetic and artists who represent it as these artists were by Goethe. If we refer to
Goethes Faust, for example, we see that Runge and Friedrich influenced Goethes
work. Moreover, new imaging technology enables us to argue for Goethes imprint
on a number of important paintings by these artists. One must address some of the
various tensions and contradictions in Goethes conflicting roles as poet, art critic,
and politician and illustrate further how new imaging technology can alter the
ramifications of previously accepted interpretations of paintings. I shall demon-
strate that Goethe not only responded vigorously to the new developments in art
in order to affirm and protect the viability of his own classical principles, but that
as a consequence this interaction with both Runge and Friedrich caused him
major difficulties. Goethe was indeed truly affected and even influenced by their
works even though he was at times extremely disconcerted and even angry. He
admired their paintings but at the same time he hated them for reasons that are
have never been completely clear. I propose that Goethes rejection is not simply
a matter of offended Classicism. Goethe himself at times seems quite happy to put
aside his own classical ideals, and it may be his Faust is more intimately indebted
to both Runge and Friedrich than has ever been acknowledged.

Goethe und die Kunst. Ed. by Sabine Schulze. Stuttgart: Gerd Hatje 1994. This richly
illustrated volume contains several chapters on painting but always with Goethe as the
main focus of attention. A book on German Romantic painting with very little mention of
Goethe, is on the other hand Mitchell Benjamin Frank: German Romantic Painting
Redefined. Burlington VT: Ashgate Publishing 2001. See also Goethe und das Zeitalter
der Romantik, Stiftung fr Romantikforschung 21. Ed. by Walter Hinderer. Wrzburg:
Knigshausen & Neumann 2002. It covers a wide range of topics including much about
Goethe responding to the movement of Romanticism in more than 500 pages, but neither
Runge nor Friedrich appear in the index.
Gnther Bergmann: Goethe der Zeichner und Maler, ein Portrait. Munich: Callway
1999; and Gerhard S. Kalienke: Das Verhltnis von Goethe und Runge im Zusammenhang.
Hartmut Frschle: Goethes Verhltnis zur Romantik. Wrzburg: Knigshausen &
Neumann 2002. The first chapter offers a detailed survey on the scholarship on Goethe
and Romanticism and the index offers several interesting links to Runge and Friedrich,
however always with Goethe at the center of interest. See also Rudolf M. Bisanz: German
Romanticism and Philipp Otto Runge: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Art Theory and
Iconography. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press 1970.

There are important links between Goethes and Runges color theories and it is
interesting that according to Runges letters, Goethe had nothing new to teach him
but was apparently very interested in learning from Runge, who had developed a
three dimensional color sphere or color ball as opposed to the two dimensional color
circle as proposed by Goethe.5 While Runge agreed with Goethe in his criticism
of Newton, it was Runge who initiated a shift of interest from structures to colors.
First (in April 1806) Runge was happy when Goethe wrote to him that he would now
pay greater attention to colors,6 but then Goethe disappointed Runge by express-
ing an interest only in his paper cuttings which he sent Goethe but never got back.7
Rudolf Bisanz has documented that much of Runges dissertation on the
Colorsphere, nearly one hundred pages in Hinterlassene Schriften, was sum-
marized by Runge in his correspondence with Goethe only to reappear again in the
1810 version of Goethes Farbenlehre which, as Bisanz adds, contains much of the
above material, considerably expanded, refined, and elaborated.8

In a letter, written in Hamburg in March 1809, Runge sends Henrik Steffens his latest
thoughts on the color ball, and asks him whether he thought it advisable to inform Goethe
of this material which he was preparing for publication. Runge explains that he had corre-
sponded with Goethe about this subject matter, but learned nothing new from him.
Nevertheless he wanted to avoid the impression that he did anything behind Goethes back
or publish anything prematurely: [. . .] auch sage mir, ob Du es ntig findest, da ich
Goethe vorher etwas davon mitteile, weil ich mich ber die Materie wohl schriftlich mit
ihm unterhalten habe? Von ihm habe ich nichts nehmen knnen, da ich ihm zwar manches,
er mir aber noch nichts mitgeteilt hat, mchte aber doch nicht, da er im geringsten von
mir dchte, als wolle ich frwitzigerweise ihm vorgreifen oder etwas hinter seinem
Rcken tun, da er mich noch im Herbste sehr gtig zu einer mndlichen Unterhaltung ber
den Gegenstand zu sich eingeladen. [(. . .) also tell me whether you think it would be
necessary that I tell Goethe something about this ahead of time, as I have discussed this
material with him in writing? I was not able to gain anything from him, since I have
informed him of quite a few matters, but he has shared nothing with me yet. However I
would not in the least wish him to think that perhaps I wanted to surpass him or do some-
thing behind his back, since he has invited me very graciously even this coming autumn to
his home for a face-to-face discussion about this material]. Philipp Otto Runge: Briefe
und Schriften. Ed. by Peter Beckhausen. Munich: C. H. Beck 1982. P. 213.
Letter from Runge to Goethe, 26 April 1806: Am meisten hat es mich erfreut, da Sie
knftig Ihr Augenmerk mehr auf die Farben richten wollen, und ich hoffte, Ihnen schon
lange von dieser Seite mich nhern zu knnen. [Most of all I was glad that in the future
you want to direct your attention more to the colors, and I have hoped for a long time to
be able to come closer to you from this perspective]. Runge: Briefe und Schriften. P. 181.
Letter to Goethe, Wolgast, 17 September 1806: Sie erhalten hierbei auch einige aus-
geschnittene Blumen. [Herewith you also receive some paper cuttings of flowers].
Runge: Briefe und Schriften. P. 190.
Rudolf M. Bisanz: German Romanticism and Philipp Otto Runge. P. 94. He adds: In
addition, Runge approaches [. . .] the problem of opacity and translucency of textures
and natural objects, relates these to their respective reproductive pigments (opaque and
transparent colors), and thus brings considerable order to a most vexing studio problem.

I hope to explore some aspects of an exciting interdisciplinary debate about

the tensions between the aesthetics of the Classical and the Romantic. Gerhart
Hoffmeister has argued that Goethe thought highly of some Romantic poets and
painters such as Lord Byron and that he had many important ideas in common
with the English Romantic painter William Turner.9 When verbal and visual doc-
uments by Goethe, Runge, and Friedrich are both considered, so that their works
and words are interpreted interactively, they reveal a fascinating network of inter-
textual relations and shared images and counter-images. As also recent scholarship
by Werner Busch suggests we do well to take into account the capacity of new
X-ray and imaging techniques that now allow insights into earlier versions of a
painting. We may then interpret an artwork no longer merely in terms of its final
completed result, but also with respect to earlier versions, taking the editing
process of the artwork into account, thus learning about additional levels of mean-
ing and cross-reference.10
Goethe was not simply a friend and supporter of Runge and Friedrich, as
earlier interpretations had put it, and his subsequent criticism of the two
painters reflects his rejection of the movement of Romanticism in general.11 It is
certainly interesting that it was in the context of visual art rather than poetry that
the stark differences between Weimar Classicism and German Romanticism
were delineated in the debates by Goethe and his contemporaries. These dif-
ferences are most clearly articulated in some of Goethes less official yet no less
important writings, such as letters, diaries, and informal correspondences. These
differences can also be traced via the correspondence of others, such as in the
communications of Runge and Friedrich to their family and friends, documents
that deserve to be taken with equal seriousness, and which reflect the painters
difficulties with the master Goethe whom at times they admired and hoped to
please but only to a certain degree. Runge and Friedrich both in their own way
broke consciously with Goethe who had come to have difficulties accepting what
had by then become an insurmountable gap one that he himself had brought into
being. He kept trying to bridge this gap when, in fact, it was too late. Runges
and Friedrichs criticism of Goethe affected him but this criticism had to do not
only with certain artistic principles and ideals, but also with Goethes own
practice of cultural politics which ran counter to the younger mens particular
searches for individual and personal freedom of expression. To put it mildly, if

Gerhart Hoffmeister: Goethe und die europische Romantik. Munich: Francke 1984.
Chapter II. Part 6. Pp. 204217.
Werner Busch: Caspar David Friedrich. sthetik und Religion. Munich: Beck 2003.
Pp. 4673.
On the complexities concerning aspects of Classicism and Romanticism internationally,
see: Klassizismus & Romantik: Architektur, Skulptur, Malerei, Zeichnung 17501848.
Ed. by Rolf Toman. Cologne: Knemann Verlagsgesellschaft 2000.

Goethe was critical of them (which no doubt he was), this criticism is not only
based on the principles of Weimar Classicism but on a conflict that arose equally
or even more so out of reasons involving Goethes own ego, his wanting to be in
control, and an unfortunate lack of humor and tolerance on his part for some
aspects of their caricature, irony, and allegorizing. Whereas Runge responded
both verbally and visually and freely offers much insight into what he felt and
thought about Goethe throughout his life and how he perceived their differences,
Friedrichs style of response differs. He was at times rather mute and almost
exclusively visually oriented, yet the few comments he made about Goethe also
leave no doubt about his need to withdraw. Furthermore he saw Goethe as some-
one who never looked him in the eye directly but preferred to communicate, as
Friedrich himself then caricatured it, via Rckenfiguren only, with his face turned
We should also keep in mind that Goethes work cannot be reduced to the
level of intentionality for it is multi-layered, complex, and sometimes self-
contradictory.12 We know that Goethe disliked the movement of Romanticism
and fought it throughout his life. Yet Goethes work may well exceed the
boundaries he sought to impose on himself and on others, especially during his
specific classical period. At times his work may even come close at moments
to Transzendentalpoesie or aspects of Romantic philosophy which Goethe as a
writer would always have abhorred but which his work nevertheless integrates
and deals with, sometimes against the level of intentionality. Goethe was a
politician, administrator, and harsh critic of others. He regulated and censored
what art should and should not be. He made judgments on who among young
talents were to be respected and who were not. He was nevertheless himself a
poet, an artist, and a scientist; and he was influenced by others whether he would
want to have admitted it or not.
Goethe, and subsequently Hegel, associated the movement of Romanticism
with a loss of objectivity, danger for the subject, even with sickness and mad-
ness.13 Goethes response was to continue to assert the classical ideals as artic-
ulated by Johann Joachim Winckelmann.14 Through his own work and cultural
politics, Goethe outlawed those artists and writers who were influenced by the
credos of German Romanticism. This burgeoning movement had found its pub-
lic organ in the Athenaeum journal, published 18001802 in Jena, in opposition

See also Beate Allert: Goethes Farbenlehre (Treatise on Colour). In: The Literary
Encyclopedia. Ed. by Robert Clark. 2006.
On the reception history of Romanticism and the impact of Goethes verdict see
Beate Allert: Goethe and the Visual Arts. In: The Cambridge Companion to Goethe.
Ed. by Lesley Sharpe. Cambridge University Press 2002. Pp. 193206.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann: Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting
and Sculpture. Ed. and trans. by Elfriede Heyer and Roger C. Norton. La Salle, IL:
Open Court 1987.

to the Propylen journal, Goethe and his friends had published in Weimar,
17981800. In addition to the publication of this journal Goethe orchestrated
from 1799 to 1805 competitions and awards in the visual arts in order to educate
the young talents and to exert an influence on their artistic production. Both
Runge and Friedrich participated several times in such competitions and both
were eventually rejected, although at times also favorably received. The rela-
tionship between Goethe and Runge and Goethe and Friedrich turns out to be not
only one of friendship or of the interplay between the master Goethe and the
aspiring talents Runge and Friedrich, but a rather complex set of interactions
among equals in the mind, and not just the consequence of the simple dichotomy
between Goethes Classicism and their Romanticism as most critics maintain.
This complex situation was not that simple and deserves to be further explored,
keeping in mind the perspectives of all three participants.
Runges Critical Stance
Runge was born in 1777 in the port city of Wolgast in Swedish Pomerania, a
territory eventually awarded to Prussia at the Congress in Vienna in 1815.15 He
was a son of a ship owner and it was due to the influence of the theologian,
poet, and teacher Gotthard Ludwig Kosegarten (17581818) that Runge became
a painter.16 Kosegarten suggested in 1789 that Runge should study art. Runge
moved to Hamburg in 1795 and in 1799 he left for Copenhagen to study at the
art academy there, just one year after Caspar David Friedrich had left that city in
order to move to Dresden, not only to be closer to the Athenum circle but also in
order to be closer to Weimar and to Goethe whom at the time apparently all the
young artists admired. Friedrich too was born in Swedish Pomerania, in the
town of Greifswald not far from Wolgast and had, similar to Runge, a Protestant
upbringing, being influenced also by Kosegarten with his Pantheist and Neo-
Platonic ideas. Kosegarten had introduced both students to the ideas of the
seventeenth-century Protestant mystic Jacob Bhme. It is due to Bhmes influ-
ence that both painters paid much attention to the concept of surrendering
ones own self to the divine surrounding such as landscapes, sunsets, and the

Jrg Trger: Philipp Otto Runge und sein Werk: Monographie und kritischer Katalog.
Munich: Prestel, 1975. Also Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich: The Passage
of Time. Ed. by Andreas Blhm. Trans. by Rachel Esner. Zwolle: Waanders Publishers
There is also at least one other important influence on Runge and that is the engraver,
Carl Wilhelm Kolbe. William Vaughan comments: Indeed, it was the sight of his 1796
etchings that finally convinced Runge of his ability to become an artist. William
Vaughan: German Romantic Painting. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press 1994.
P. 33. On Kolbe, see Ulf Martens: Der Zeichner und Radierer C. W. Kolbe d. .
(17591835). Berlin: Gebr. Mann 1976.

unpredictable forces of nature.17 Both Runge and Friedrich sent Goethe sam-
ples of their work at various times to the Propylen competitions and both
artists felt rejected and ridiculed by some of the responses they got, although
Goethe also made some comments that indicate a certain level of interest and
recognition.18 Runges copper plate composition Achilles and Skammandros
was submitted to the Weimarische Kunstausstellung in 1801 and immediately
rejected and so was the second work he sent Goethe, Der Kampf Achills mit den
Flssen [Achilles Fight with the Rivers]. Goethe commented that one would
much rather want to see Achilles win the battle than to see his fear of losing it,
which is what Runges painting indicated to Goethe and the Weimar friends.19

Helmut Brsch-Supan and Karl Wilhelm Jhnig: Caspar David Friedrich: Gemlde,
Druckgraphik und bildmige Zeichnungen. Munich: Prestel 1973. In 1787 Caspar
David Friedrichs brother Johann Christopher fell through the ice when skating and
drowned. This was a traumatic experience for the older brother and had an impact on
his work throughout his life.
In a letter to Friedrich Christoph Perthes, 16 November 1810, Goethe wrote from Weimar
about his respect for Runge: Da wir den Herrn Runge verlieren sollen, schmerzt mich
sehr; doch er ist jung, Hoffnung ist bei den Lebenden, und meine Wnsche knnen ihn
nicht loslassen. Es ist ein Individuum, wie sie selten geboren werden. Sein vorzglich
Talent, sein wahres treues Wesen, als Knstler und Mensch, erweckte schon lngst Neigung
und Anhnglichkeit bei mir, und wenn seine Richtung ihn von dem Wege ablenkte, den ich
fr den rechten halte; so erregte es in mir kein Mifallen, sondern ich begleite ihn gern,
wohin seine eigentmliche Art ihn trug. Mchte er sich doch nicht so geschwind in die
therischen Rume verlieren. [That we should lose Mr. Runge hurts me very much; yet
he is young, hope is among the living, and my wishes cannot let him go. He is an individ-
ual as they are seldom born. His outstanding talent, his honest loyal being, as artist and
human being, have long evoked my sympathy and a liking for him, and if his direction were
to lead away from the path which I think is the correct one, then it would trouble me, but I
would accompany him voluntarily wherever his peculiar way may have taken him. May he
not get lost so quickly in the ethereal space]. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Goethes Briefe
und Briefe an Goethe. HA 3: 140141, here 141. Letter 828. Goethe similarly made some
positive comments about Friedrich, but never without some critical undertone.
Letter to Daniel Runge, 8 July 1806: Ich schicke Dir hiebei (sic) den Brief von Goethe
und meinen an ihn ich habe ihm das alles nun einmal geschieben, und es soll wohl so
sein. Ich habe einen rechten Mut gekriegt, durch die Welt zu dringen, seitdem so km-
merliche Exempel von der Feigheit so recht vor unsern Augen liegen; auch wenn man
sich die Haare nur nicht sebst gar abschneidet, so wachsen sie einem wohl wieder, wie
des Simsons seine; so ist es auch mit dem Herausgeben beschaffen. Du siehst aus
Goethes Brief, was er begehrt (Ausgeschnittenes; Sihouette); es ist doch wohl ein recht
groes Kind darin, welches das Spielen ordentlich wie ein Geschft treibt; was will
man dagegen machen?]. [I am sending you the letter by Goethe enclosed and mine to
him I have written everything to him now and let it be that way. I have got a real
courage to conquer the world since there lie such miserable examples of cowardice
right in front of our eyes; even if one does not cut ones own hair in the end it will even-
tually grow again just like that of Samson; it goes the same way with publishing. You
see from Goethes letter what he wants (cuttings, silhouette); so there is a big child in

Runge rejected Goethes notion of a hero and felt indeed that nature was
stronger than man. He wrote to his brother Daniel how much Goethe had
annoyed him with this rejection of his Achilles Fight but nevertheless indicates
that he understood there was truth in this reading. So he kept corresponding with
Goethe and accepted the criticism initially.
What then annoyed Runge further, however, was that Goethe seemed less atten-
tive to his colorful prints and paintings than to his paper cuttings which were
only silhouettes and ornaments but in which he did not experiment much with
color. Runge had done those clippings on the side and had difficulty under-
standing whether Goethe was being ironic by giving these paper cuttings prior-
ity over his paintings, or whether he truly admired them as much as he claimed.
When Runge eventually did realize that Goethe had rejected him and the artworks he
meant to represent him, he had the courage to make a break. For Goethe, how-
ever a repeated rejection of Runges work was not intended to be final and Goethe
later tried to reconnect with Runge when it was too late. Runge wrote to his
brother Daniel on 9 March 1802 what he truly thought of Goethes blind insistence
on an ideal that, as he felt, belonged to the past long gone and, in Runges under-
standing, one that could not be recuperated via any traditional approach such as
the one Goethe suggested. Runge is upset about Goethes arrogance and refusal to
accept the present time when he writes:
Und was soll nun herauskommen bei all dem Schnickschnak in Weimar, wo sie unklug
durch die bloen Zeichen etwas wieder hervorrufen wollen, was schon dagewesen? Ist
denn jemals wieder entstanden? Ich glaube schwerlich, da so etwas Schnes, wie der
hchste Punct der historischen Kunst war, wieder entstehen wird, bis alle vergeb-
lichen neueren Kunstwerke einmal zu Grunde gegangen sind, es mte denn auf
einem ganz neuen Wege geschehen [. . .].20
And what should this lead to with all the tittle-tattle in Weimar where they attempt
against better reason to evoke only via empty signs something that had meaning
once in the past? Has it ever been resurrected? I find it difficult to believe that some-
thing as beautiful as that which could be the highest point in the history of art could
come to arise again only once all the futile newer art works would have some day
vanished; it would have to happen in an entirely new way [. . .].

Runge was not interested in Goethe or Weimar Classicism for the rest of his life
and became close friends with Novalis, Tieck, and others in the Dresden circle.
He kept corresponding with Goethe only because he was curious about his
Farbenlehre, a topic that interested them both until the ends of their lives. It is
clear that Runge rejected the notion of any hero conquering nature and his own

him who pursues the game like a business; what can one do against it?]. Runge: Briefe
und Schriften. P. 187. All translations, unless otherwise indicated, are my own.
Runge: Briefe und Schriften. P. 76.

art is, as his early submission to the Weimar competitions documents and as it
remained throughout his oeuvre, a celebration of light. His favorite motifs are, as
he succinctly put it in a distancing letter to his brother Daniel in February 1802,
that whereas for Goethe and his Weimar circle, Sujets or topics are primary, for
him it is rather an eigenes Gefhl, ones own true emotion that is most impor-
tant. Any suitable Sujet or topic would then have to follow accordingly to be
chosen by each artist individually and not given by any norm.21 Runges favorite
such topics were children, flowers, the sun, the morning, and change itself, light
and various hues, textures, and tones. But it is essential to add that equally impor-
tant for him are frames and minor, apparently ornamental features as well as col-
ors and textures, not any isolated motifs or structures. It was Runge who saw in
the painting of landscapes a new age for painting and he not only shifted new
meaning to color but also to motion by creating the most delicate and transitory
images of the time. Runge died at only 33 years of age, shortly after Goethe had
invited him again to stay with him after a long period of silence. They first met in
1803 when Runge visited Weimar and they discussed his drawings Die Zeiten
[The Times of the Day], a cycle of Morning, Noon, Evening and Night.22 Runge

In a essay Runge wrote in Dresden in February 1802 he makes clear his reaction to
Goethes explicit new tasks for the Propylen competition: [W]ir sind keine Griechen
mehr, knnen das Ganze schon nicht mehr so fhlen, wenn wir ihre vollendeten
Kunstwerke sehen, viel weniger selbst solche hervorbringen, und warum uns bemhen,
etwas mittelmiges zu liefern? Die neue Aufgabe lt viel Empfindung und
Symbolisches zu; nun knnen wir sitzen gehen und empfinden, das heit uns: beim
verkehrten Ende anfangen. Der Tiresias ist eine neue Entdeckung in der
Composition ja die Leute jagen nach Sujets, als wenn die Kunst darin stcke, oder als
wenn sie nichts lebendiges in sich htten. Mu denn so etwas von auen kommen? haben
nicht alle Knstler, die noch ein schnes Kunstwerk hervorbrachten, erst ein Gefhl
gehabet? haben sie sich zu dem Gefhl nicht das passende Sujet gewhlt? [We are no
longer Greeks; for a long time now, we have not been able to feel everything in that way
when we see their completed works of art, much less can we produce such works our-
selves and why should we attempt to deliver something that would be mediocre? The
new task permits much emotion and symbolism now we can go sit and feel which
means for us beginning at the wrong end. Tiresias is a new discovery in the compo-
sition yes people chase after subjects as if art was contained in them already, or as if
they had nothing alive within themselves. Must something like this come from the out-
side? have not all artists who brought about a beautiful work of art first had an emo-
tion? have they not accordingly then chosen a suitable subject in tune with that
emotion?]. Runge: Briefe und Schriften. Pp. 237238. See also Benz: Goethe und die
Romantische Kunst. He identifies the new task for the Goethes 1802 competition as
Perseus und Andromeda. P. 90.
Runge: Briefe und Schriften. P. 323. These drawings were executed as copper engravings
and published in 1805 (25 copies) and 1807 (c. 250 copies). See Traeger: Philipp Otto
Runge, nos. 280, 281, 282ab, 283 (drawings); 280A283A, 280B283B (engravings).

met Goethe again on a walking tour in 1805 but the last invitation in 1810 was to
a stay with Goethe at home for a longer period of time, even months.
Goethes Critical Stance
One wonders if Runge would have accepted Goethes offer had he not died that
same year. Goethe must have seen something in Runge that interested him very
much despite his disagreements. He realized that this painting truly expressed the
spirit of the present time which Goethe was so much trying to avoid. Goethe
missed him when it was too late. Soon after Runges early death, Goethe was
visited by Sulpiz Boissere who then noticed that Goethe had Runges Die Zeiten
hanging on the wall of his music room. When Goethe saw Boisseres eyes fixed on
Runges engravings, Goethe asked Boissere: Was, das kennen Sie noch nicht?
[What, you dont know this yet?]. He continued:
Da sehen Sie einmal was das fr Zeug ist, zum rasend werden, schn und toll zugleich.
Ich antwortete: ja ganz wie die Beethovensche Musik, die der da spielt, wie unsere
ganze Zeit. Freilich, sagte er, das will Alles umfassen und verliert sich darber immer
ins Elementarische, doch noch mit unendlichen Schheiten im Einzelnen; da sehen Sie
nur, was fr Teufelszeug, und hier wieder, was da der Kerl fr Anmuth und Herrlichkeit
hervorgebracht, aber der arme Teufel hats auch nicht ausgehalten, er ist schon hin, es
ist nicht anders mglich, was so auf der Kippe steht, mu sterben oder verrckt wer-
den, da ist keine Gnade.23
Here take a look, what stuff this is; one could go mad with it, beautiful and crazy at the
same time. I answered: just like Beethovens music, as is now being played, like our
times in general. Granted, he said this wants to encompass everything, and in the
process of it always gets lost in the elementary, but still with infinite beauty in the
details; here see what for devils stuff and here again what this guy produced for grace
and beauty, but the poor devil couldnt stand it, hes already vanished, and its not pos-
sible otherwise, whoever stands on the cliff like this must die or go mad, there is no
help for it.

The emotional outbreak by Goethe is somewhat surprising and it reveals indeed

a strong admiration for the younger Runge. He finally acknowledged him as a
true artist, yet he had to struggle with Goethe so much all of his life. Runges
sequence Die Zeiten was published first in 1805 in Dresden and again in 1807 in
Hamburg.24 The work seems to hold in nuce what much of Romanticism is about.
This may be the reason why Boissere made the connection between Runge and

Letter to Melchior Boissere in Heidelberg, 6 May 1811, Sulpiz Boissere,
Briefwechsel/Tagebcher. Ed. by Mathilde Boissere, 2 vols. Stuttgart 1862. Reprint
with afterword by Heinrich Klotz. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1970). Vol. 1.
Pp. 113115, here p. 114.
Goethe had reviewed the first edition favorably for the Jenaische Allgemeine
Literaturzeitung in 1807: Unterhaltungen ber Gegenstnde der bildenden Kunst. FA
19: 295326, esp. 317318.

Beethoven since it was the genius Beethoven, who had also gone astray in the
opinion of Goethe. They were competitors in a similarly outrageous way.25
As mentioned, Goethe had the cycle of Die Zeiten hanging in his room after
Runges death. It consists of delicate drawings that in the second edition were
made of copper prints so that the images could be multiplied. Each specific time
of the day is represented by one primary color on these cycles and thus relies on
drawing techniques. Runges even more exquisite paintings are known as Der
Kleine Morgen (1808), which survives in two versions. One is an outline drawing;
the other is painted in the most brilliant colors with oil on canvas.26 The borders of
each painting transcend the main panel and continue throughout the framing margins
or ornamental borders that add more of a dimension to the image.27 These border
elements deserve to be included in the actual painting, thus transgressing an
expected boundary. Runges painting Der Morgen of 1808 involves more than one
light source and various points of reference and so does his later version of 1809
which consists of various even more separate distinct panels of paintings that are
intricately laced together.
At the lower panel of both versions of the painting we see a little child lay on
a bed of many healthy looking plants. There is a sense of transparency and fluidity
between them and each image itself is divided into rhythmic qualities and distinct
moments of reflection. There is nothing marginal in this picture since every little
detail reflects on time and temporality. The collage consists of an intricate combina-
tion of elements that reflect each other and together suggest harmony. Runge thought
of the gap between the panels and of the various images. Although they belong

For example, compare this comment Carl Friedrich Zelter made in a letter to Goethe,
12 November 1808 with the remarks Goethe made to Boissere about Runge: [. . .] mit
Bewunderung und Schrecken sieht man Irrlichter und Blutstreifen am Horizonte des
Parnasses. Talente von der grten Bedeutung wie Cherubini, Beethoven und mehr
entwendeten Herkules Keule, um Fliegen zu klatschen; erst mu man erstaunen und
nachher gleich drauf die Achsel zucken ber den Aufwand von Talent, Lappalien
wichtig und hohe Mittel gemein zu machen. Ja, ich mchte verzweifeln, wenn mir ein-
fllt, da die neue Musik verloren gehen mu, wenn eine Kunst aus der Musik werden
soll [(. . .) with admiration and horror does one see the deceptive lights and blood
streams on the horizon of the Parnassus. Talents of the greatest importance such as
Cherubini, Beethoven, and others who have stolen Hercules club in order to smack
flies; first one must be astonished and soon later shrug ones shoulders about the effort
of talent to make nonsense important and high means ordinary. Yes I want to despair
when I think about it that the new music must become lost if an art has to come out of
music]. HA 5: 553555, here 554. Letter 365.
Good prints and helpful commentaries can be found in: Philipp Otto Runge and
Caspar David Friedrich: The Passage of Time. Ed. by Andreas Blhm. With essays by
Hanna Hohl and Werner Busch, trans. by Rachel Elsner. Amsterdam: Van Gogh
Museum and Zwolle: Waanders Publishers 1996. Pp. 3468.
See Traeger: Philipp Otto Runge. Nos. 414, Der kleine Morgen and 497, Der groe

together they are clearly separate and distinct from each other. Background and
foreground, the base and the sky are clearly distinct from each other and there is no
apparent transition provided between them. In a letter to Henrik Steffens, Runge
writes in 1809:

Eine absolute Einheit oder das absolute Quantitative ist der sinnlichen Vorstellung
unbegreiflich. Zur Ahnung derselben mgen wir durch die Differenz ihrer
Eigenschaften und das Verhltnis aller dieser zueinander wohl gelangen; zur sinnlichen
Erkenntis von derselben aber knnen wir nur kommen durch das Verhltnis oder die
Differenz derselben mit einem zweiten auer ihr, so da das Quantitative wieder als
Qualitt erscheint.28
An absolute unity or the absolute quantitative is not conceivable to sense perception.
The premonition of it can only be approximated via the difference of its attributes
and the relationship of these among each other; but we can only arrive at a sensory
knowledge of it through relating or differentiating it to a second entity outside of it, so
that the quantitative appears again as quality.

Runge clearly insists on the need to relate what is shown in the picture to some-
thing that is located outside of it, or hidden in the imaginary. For him the
allegorical is indispensable in contrast to Goethe. According to Goethes ideal
symbolism, an image had to be restricted to the immanent, thus avoiding anything
allegorical or arabesque. Runge consciously proposes a concept of difference. He
draws more emphasis on relations rather than on essences per se. More important
than the specific motifs are the light, colors, the ways they interact. Objects are
always mediated and reflected. If Goethe argues that one should show everything
within an image as provided by the artist while avoiding any references to the
absent or hidden, Runge contradicts this saying that images can only make sense
in relation to something outside of themselves. Whereas Goethe rejected the alle-
gorical for the symbolic, Runge welcomed it with new meanings. For him paint-
ings show more than what they contain within themselves, he does not adhere
to Goethes idea of immanence. As both his cycle Die Zeiten and his paintings
of Der Morgen reflect, he uses multiple frames indicating openings towards
wide borders with recurrent motifs of the center panel. Above the little child
who is surrounded by more children on both sides offering flowers, there are addi-
tional panels and in the center a female figure who could be allegorized as Aurora,
the Goddess of light, Venus, or Mary. The light has multiple sources, it radiates
from the child up and from behind Aurora, not as perhaps expected down from one
single light source only.
This implies an anti-hierarchical move and new creative possibilities. As the
poet Rainer Maria Rilke observed much later, the great miracle of a sunset has

Letter March 1809. Runge: Briefe und Schriften. P. 216.

never been painted again with such vitality and freshness.29 The center does not
present a hero as normal in classical paintings, but it has two focal points that are
equally important: a child and a female figure. She seems to be standing or lifted
by a wave on top of the ocean with an effortless motion, as if gliding and weight-
less, lifting one arm. The same painting inspired a famous stage illustration for the
performance of Mozarts Zauberflte by another great visual artist, Karl Friedrich
Schinkel (17811841) who referred to Runge when he created his Sternenhalle
der Knigin der Nacht [Star Hall of the Queen of the Night] in 1819.30 The female
figure has many possible allegorical meanings and it has been noted that Runge
saw Raphaels famous picture of the Sistine Madonna, the virgin and the child, in
the Dresden national gallery before he did this series of paintings.31
Goethe, who was critical of allegorical allusions that go beyond the imma-
nent, could well have written a response to Runge as soon as he saw his beau-
tiful images while the artist was alive. Instead he waited to write a scene in
Faust in which the spectator is also promised a new awakening as the goddess
of light leaves for the night, thus making a dream disappear. Goethe wrote:
Schon tut das Meer / Sich mit erwrmten Buchten / Vor den erstaunten Augen auf. /
Doch scheint die Gttin (die Sonne) endlich wegzusinken; / Allein der neue Trieb
erwacht, / Ich eile fort ihr ewges Licht zu trinken, / Vor mir der Tag, Und hinter mir die
Nacht, / Den Himmel ber mir und unter mir die Wellen. / Ein schner Traum
indessen sie die Sonne entweicht. / Ach! Zu des Geistes Flgeln wird so leicht /
Kein krperlicher Flgel sich gesellen.32
Already with its sun warmed bays the ocean / reveals itself to the astonished eyes. / At
last the goddess is downward sinking; / Yet to new urge awakes the mind, / I hasten on,
his ceaseless radiance drinking, / The day ahead of me. Night left behind, / The waves
below, and overhead the sky. / A beautiful dream meanwhile the sun disappears. / Oh!
Not easily will any physical wing join that wing of the spirits.33

Rainer Maria Rilke: Werke: Kommentierte Ausgabe. Ed. by Manfred Engel et al., 4
vols. Frankfurt/M: Insel 1996. Vol. 4. Schriften. Ed. by Horst Nalewski. Pp. 307325.
See Ernste Spiele: Der Geist der Romantik in der deutschen Kunst 17901990. Ed. by
Christoph Vitale et al. Munich: Haus der Kunst 1995. Catalog no., 446, plate no. 247; The
Romantic Spirit in German Art 17901990. Ed. by Keith Hartley et al. London: Thames
and Hudson 1994. Catalog no. 32, plate pg. 225.
This link between the central female figure in Runges Der kleine Morgen and Der
groe Morgen, and the Sistine Madonna by Raphael is made by William Vaughan:
German Romantic Painting. P. 51. He also mentions affinities with Tieck, Wackenroder,
and Novalis, especially the notion of the unattainable blue flower in Novalis
Romantic novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen. For a plate of the Sistine Madonna (Dresden
Gemldegalerie), see: The Complete Work of Raphael. Ed. by Mario Salmi et al. New
York: Reynal 1969. Plate 34. She too is descending from above or softly walking on
clouds and there are multiple children watching.
Goethe: Faust I, ll. 108291. FA 7/1: 55.
Translated last line by Cyrus Hamlin: To spirit wings will scarce be joined alas,
Corporeal wings where with to fly. P. 27.

Despite his admiration on one level for Runge Goethe and his Weimar friends
rejected him and his work as they did similarly to Beethoven, someone they also
thought had gone astray.34 Goethes comment that no corporeal wing is able to
match the dream may have been an assertion of his own idea of presence and his
insistence of the real over the spiritual. But it is nevertheless a comment that
belongs to a dialogue with Runge. Goethe too writes about a feminized sun, a god-
dess that cannot be reached. Goethe wrote to Runge on 2 June 1806 after he had
received a set of Runges Die Zeiten that he did not agree with his approach to
painting: Zwar wnschte ich nicht, da die Kunst im ganzen den Weg verfolgte,
den Sie eingeschlagen haben [. . .] [Although I do not wish that art in general
would pursue the way you have chosen (. . .)],35 he added in a letter to Runges
brother Daniel, 11 December 1812: Der Gang, den er nahm, war nicht der seine,
sondern des Jahrhunderts, von dessen Strom die Zeitgenossen willig oder unwillig
mit fortgerissen werden.36 [The way which he took was not his but that of the
century, the current of which pulled along its contemporaries, voluntarily or not].
This may be interpreted a confession regarding his ambivalence and final inability
to resist the power of Runges Zeiten. At the same time, we can notice a parallel to
Goethes comments on Friedrich with whom he broke in 1817 if not earlier.
Goethe and Friedrich: More Complexities
In ber Kunst und Altertum [On Art and Antiquity], after some more pos-
itive comments about Friedrich, Goethe wrote the verdict: aber er wendete
sich dennoch nicht von seinen mystisch-allegorischen Landschaften, weil ihm
der eingeschlagene Weg als der rechte, zum wahren Ziel der Kunst leitende
vorkmmt37 [but he did not turn away from his mystic-allegorial landscapes
because the way he had begun seemed to him the right one, the one that should
lead to the true goal of art]. Goethe assumed that all artists should have the
correct approach to truth and he, the art critic, knew best which one approach
this would have to be. He believed in unity but he missed the logic in both cases
above since Runge and Friedrich insisted on their own paths. In each of their
perspectives, every artist could well have a different und a unique way and there
was no need at all to be generalized or regulated.
In an essay entitled Bild als Entgegnung: Goethe, C. D. Friedrich und der
Streit um die romantische Malerei, Theodore Ziolkowski argued that Friedrichs
painting Der Wanderer ber dem Nebelmeer is not only the most Romantic

Otto Benz: Goethe und die Romantische Kunst. Munich: Piper 1940.
HA 3: 2223, here 22. Letter 832.
Cited in Benz: Goethe und die Romantische Kunst. P. 130, also pp. 37, 38, 129, 130
and in the correspondence by Boissere.
Goethe: ber Kunst und Altertum I. Part 2 (1817). Neu-Deutsche Religis-Patriotische
Kunst. FA 20: 122.

painting by Friedrich but it also represents Goethe the author.38 It is Friedrichs

most explicit commentary on the study of clouds as demanded by Goethe but
with a twist to it. Friedrichs visual response to a verbal demand by Goethe as
transmitted to Friedrich via Louise Seidler (17861866), a painter and friend of
both (with Goethe since 1810) is his answer to Goethe. It is, one may say, a rejec-
tion of Goethes demand. In a short letter with a sketch of 2 May 1814, Friedrich
responded as indirectly back to Goethe as Goethe had chosen to communicate
with him when he had asked Friedrich via his messenger to paint a series of cloud
studies following Luke Howards recent theories on clouds.39 His paintings
should integrate new discoveries of science and empirical data into, as Goethe
would have liked it, a holistic vision of art. What he wanted from Friedrich is
something complete and from a meta-perspective. It should counteract the frag-
mentation which Goethe found typical of the time and which he rejected in the
movement of Romanticism. Goethe wanted from Friedrich a visualization of
clouds, a series of paintings that would illustrate his classical wish and ideal, and
by giving him orders on how sublime the effect should be he hoped to use
Friedrichs talent for his own purposes.
This was certainly a request that Friedrich could not accept. Instead of writ-
ing his rejection to Goethe, he responded via his painting. And he also wrote a
cryptic note that to have acceded to Goethes request would mean the end of
painting. It is interesting, if indeed the wanderer could be seen as Goethe, to
see how nature is represented not as a consolation but rather a threat to the human
individual for whom there is no safe position.40 Friedrich painted the figure from
behind, with a face that cannot be seen, as one of his Rckenfiguren on the edge
of an abyss. The clouds in the painting have no unifying effect; they are scattered,
diffuse, and multi-layered.
Recent developments in media and imaging technology have led to insights
behind the interpreted products of Friedrichs paintings. They reveal stages
in the production processes and a consideration of the additions and erasures of
features in these paintings leads to new interpretations of Friedrichs art works.
Werner Busch argues that Friedrichs highly discussed painting Der Mnch am
Meer (18081810, Staatliche Museen Berliner Nationalgalerie) had initially two
persons in it, both wearing old-style German clothing, and that these figures are
very similar to a book illustration by Moritz Retzsch to Goethes Faust showing

Theodore Ziolkowski: Bild als Entgegnung. Goethe, C. D. Friedrich und der Streit um
die romantische Malerei. In: Kontroversen, alte und neue: Akten des 7. Internationalen
Germanisten Kongresses Gttingen 1985. 11 vols. Ed. by Albrecht Schne et al.
Tbingen: Niemeyer 1986. Vol. 2. Pp. 201208.
Caspar David Friedrich in Bekenntnissen und Briefen. Ed. by Sigrid Hinz. 3rd ed.
Berlin: Henschelverlag Kunst und Gesellschaft 1984. P. 246.
Werner Busch: Die Ordnung im Flchtigen Wolkenstudien der Goethezeit. In:
Goethe und die Kunst. Ed. by Schulze. Pp. 519527.

Faust and Wagner.41 Busch goes even as far as to interpret Friedrichs early ver-
sion of the famous painting as a direct response to the Faust illustrations. Only
one figure now remains and knowing what was there before makes it possible to
consider that it is allusion to Faust or perhaps even Goethe, now all by himself,
lonely at the shore. The erasure of the other figure or the partner in dialog may
indicate Friedrichs vision of Goethe as someone who will have no friends to
talk to. The layering of sand, ocean, and sky which dominates the image makes the
human figure appear minute and unimportant.
If this is Friedrichs response to Goethes Faust, a drama about an individual
coming into his own and conquering a moment of happiness in a deal with the
alter ego, then it is possible to argue that his response is a questioning of the
very notion of the individual. It presents an uncanny nature resisting compre-
hension and description, the open sea without any border for a horizon. The title
of the painting does not say much about its content and the word monk was
not used by Friedrich himself; the word Kapuziner was introduced in a com-
mentary by Brentano and Kleist later.42 Even if it were an allusion to Goethe,
the person on the shore is extremely small and almost negated in comparison to
the long stretches of sand, the water with whitecaps, and the powerful sky over-
riding everything making the figure whose face we cannot see completely mar-
ginal. If Goethe were to take this painting personally it could mean not only a
philosophical questioning of the individuals place in the universe but also a
questioning of Goethes own position as a judge and cultural critic. Friedrich was
for Goethe someone easily ignored, avoiding responses to certain letters, not very
open for a dialogue that could have been far more explicit in the verbal realm
as well. Sulpiz Boissere refers in his diary to a comment by Goethe:
Im jetzigen Zustand der Kunst sey bei vielem Verdienst und Vorzgen groe
Verkehrtheit; die Bilder von Maler Friedrich knnen eben so gut auf den Kopf gese-
hen werden.
In the current state of art, despite much of merit and excellence, there is great
wrong-headedness; the pictures by the painter Friedrich might just as well be seen
upside down.

Boissere then adds:

Goethes Wuth gegen dergleichen; wie er sie ehemals ausgelassen, mit Zerschlagen
der Bilder an der Tischecke; Zerschieen der Bcher u.s.w. er habe sich da nicht
erwehren knnen, mit einem Ingrimm zu rufen: das soll nicht aufkommen; und so
habe er irgend eine Handlung daran ben mssen, um seinen Muth zu khlen.43

Werner Busch: Caspar David Friedrich. P. 62.
Gernot Mller: Man mte auf dem Gemlde selbst stehen. Tbingen: Francke 1995.
Pp. 204217.
Tagebuch. 11 September 1815: Boissere: Briefwechsel/Tagebcher. 1, 267.

Goethess anger about such stuff; as he had previously vented it, with smashing pic-
tures on the edge of the table; riddling books with bullets, etc.; he said he was then
not able to prevent himself from shouting with rage: this ought not come into being;
so he had to do something about it in order to cool his temper.

Goethe had no time for Friedrich. But why couldnt he and Friedrich coexist in
peace?44 Although Friedrich had shared a first prize at the Weimarische
Kunstausstellung in 1805 for two pictures,45 Goethe had distanced himself from
Friedrich whom he found so interested in air, clouds, ruins, and graveyards and
who had a strange liking for motifs that drew meaning from outside. Thus the
meaning of these paintings was no longer grounded in the presence of the art-
work, but instead was allegorically linked to the absent or hidden. He tried to
impose his influence on Friedrich through the essay Ruysdale als Dichter
[Ruisdael as Poet], a text from 1816 which was directed to landscape painters
such as Friedrich in an attempt to teach them to learn from Ruisdael and to turn
away from the romantic style.46 Friedrichs paintings were much influenced by
Goethe but Goethe was much influenced by Friedrich. There is something about
Faust at the core of Goethes thinking that he refused to address in his corre-
spondences but which can be seen as a final revision of his earlier rejections.
Friedrich responded as indirectly to Goethe as Goethe to him. In his essay
ber Kunst und Kunstgeist [On Art and the Spirit of Art] he wrote:
Heilig sollst du halten jede reine Regung deines Gemtes; heilig chten jede fromme
Ahndung, denn sie ist Kunst in uns! In begeisternder Stunde wird sie zur anschaulichen
Form; und diese Form ist dein Bild [. . .] Mit eigenen Augen sollst du sehen und, wie dir
die Gegenstnde erscheinen, sie treulich wiedergeben; wie alles auf dich wirkt, so gib es
im Bilde wieder! [. . .] Jedem offenbart sich der Geist der Natur anders, darum darf auch
keiner dem anderen seine Lehren und Regeln als untrgliches Gesetz aufbrden.
Keiner ist Mastab fr alle, jeder nur Mastab fr sich.47
You have to keep sacred every pure emotion of your mind; you should respect as
sacred each devout premonition, for art is within us! In an hour that comes with enthu-
siasm it becomes visible form and this form is your image. [. . .] You should see with
your eyes exactly how the objects appear to you and represent them faithfully; how

Stefan Grosche: Zarten Seelen ist gar viel gegnnt. Naturwissenschaft und Kunst
im Briefwechsel zwischen C. G. Carus und Goethe. Gttingen: Wallstein 2001; and my
review of it in Goethe Yearbook 12 (2004). Pp. 264266.
Busch-Supan and Jhnig, Caspar David Friedrich. Nos. 125 and 126.
See Goethe: Ruysdael als Dichter. FA 19: 632636. This text first published 1816 but
substantially written earlier, was directed at Romantic landscape paintings such as
Friedrich in an attempt to teach them to learn from the Dutch painter, Jacon Isaacksz
Ruisdael (1628/16291682) for the better; see Ernst Osterkamp: Im Buchstabenbilde:
Studien zum Verfahren Goethescher Bildbeschreibungen. Stuttgart: Metzler 1991. Pp.
321355 on 330331.
Caspar David Friedrich in Briefen und Bekenntnissen. Ed. by Sigrid Hinz. Berlin:
Henschelverlag Kunst und Gesellschaft 1968. P. 85.

everything has an effect on you, show that in the image! [. . .] To each person the spirit
of nature reveals itself differently. Therefore nobody is allowed to impose his teach-
ings and rules on someone else as if they were an infallible law. Nobody is the norm
for everyone; everyone is the ruler for himself [. . .].

Friedrich and Runge, whose works vary in intricate ways despite their shared cul-
tural background, are both associated with Romanticism. They were, at least in the
end, rejected by Goethe. Friedrich influenced Kleist and Brentano. Runge was
subsequently much celebrated by Jean Paul, Rilke, and Walter Benjamin. Goethe
reception on the other hand provided a model of rejection for many that has had
consequences down to the present times. It is documented that Runge and Goethe
developed their color theories mostly independently but with similar results. They
also shared a keen interest in botany, in minute details as they can be found in
nature, as parts of plants or ornaments deserve attention and are integral to nature
and science. In this regard, Goethe and Runge have both influenced such painters
as Paul Klee, Willi Baumeister, Henry Moore, and Joseph Beuys, as Christa
Lichtenstern argues.48
Runge died young and Goethe had the last word. The case with Friedrich is
somewhat different. Goethe was upset with Friedrich, not only because he had
gone too far in another direction, Romanticism instead of Classicism, but also
because Friedrichs paintings came dangerously close to Goethes own poetic
work. Friedrichs version of the individual in nature stands in stark contrast to
Faust and according to Busch rejects Fausts drive or superbia. Busch character-
izes Friedrichs painting as a Palimpsest and documents that it is much more
closely related to Goethe than one would have ever assumed so far. In the
Retzsch illustration of Goethes Faust I, the figures of Faust and Wagner are
standing in reflection and are both dressed in old style German garments. What
is truly striking is that at the core of this painting is again the same scene from
Goethes Faust I which is also connected with Runges Morgen as shown above:
Schon tut das Meer / Sich mit erwrmten Buchten / Vor den erstaunten Augen auf. /
Doch scheint die Gttin (die Sonne) endlich wegzusinken; / Allein der neue Trieb
erwacht, / Ich eile fort ihr ewges Licht zu trinken, / Vor mir der Tag, Und hinter mir
die Nacht, / Den Himmel ber mir und unter mir die Wellen. / Ein schner Traum
indessen sie die Sonne entweicht. / Ach! Zu des Geistes Flgeln wird so leicht /
Kein krperlicher Flgel sich gesellen.49
Like Runge and Friedrich, Goethe explored various techniques of framing, saw
the sacred in nature, had pantheistic ideas, celebrated aurora, experimented with
phenomena of light, texture, and shadow, and searched for symbols of growth
Christa Lichtenstern: Die Wirkungsgeschichte der Metamorphosenlehre Goethes.
Von Philipp Otto Runge bis Joseph Beuys. Weinheim: VCH Verlagsgesellschaft 1990.
As previously cited. Goethe: Faust I, ll. 10821091. P. 55.

and transition in nature. Although Goethes approach to the symbol differs

from the allegorical, the arabesque, the metaphoric and metonymic as used by
Runge and Friedrich Goethe too had to contend with fragmentation, loss, and
the open-ended. There are objects to be desired beyond any given canvas. Even
Fausts rescue will depend on the conditional mode of his words that elude and just
cannot grasp entirely whatever he or we may see. Considering Goethes interest
in the phenomenon of time the entire Faust is about one decisive Augenblick
it seems contradictory that (at least during his classical period but also later) he
upheld normative, static values by trying to recapture the style and essence of
antiquity, a time that belongs to the past. He followed the principles outlined by
Winckelmann and categorically applied them to contemporary artists. This
caused Goethe to neglect and to reject even the best among such contemporaries.
Goethe had a pronounced interest in temporality which can be traced as a counter-
current despite his reactionary cultural politics. Color and motion characterize
much of what we see in Goethes terms, and the spectator participates productively
in the processes of perception and cognition. When Goethe wanted to know what
we see when we close our eyes, and when he studied afterimages and visual effects,
he was creative in ways that have since been applied to various color theories,
color therapies, painting, film, and perception theories. Perhaps Goethe lost his
balance because he was affected by his time and others more than he realized.
He, too, had lost not only a dream but an earlier totalizing conception of how to
present reality. We may finally recall that in Faust II in the very end of the drama
Goethe had the protagonist rescued by the power of the feminine, Das ewig
Weibliche zieht uns hinan and metamorphosis in time.50 Ongoing change
became a motif at the core of his drama. It is also a chorus mysticus, an anony-
mous collective voice rather than that of a hero who has the last word. If Goethes
Faust has, as I have argued in this essay, a scene that reflects a vision by Runge
and as it plays also a role for Friedrich, then Goethe could not ignore them in the
least. If Friedrichs Seelandschaft [Landscape by the Sea, also known as Monk by
the Sea] portrays the solitary Faust or Goethe who had disappointed his partners
in dialogue and who is now lost in space, then Goethes poetic language is more in
tune with his Romantic contemporaries than he would have admitted elsewhere.

Goethe, Faust II, ll. 1210410. FA 7/1: 464. At the very end of the drama it is the
Chorus Mysticus that has for Goethe, the anti-mystical writer and critic of the
Romantics before, surprisingly the final words singing: Alles Vergngliche / ist nur
ein Gleichnis, / Das Unzulngliche / Hier wirds Ereignis; / Das Unbeschreibliche /
Hier ist es getan; Das Ewig-Weibliche / Zieht uns hinan [Everything temporal is only
a symbol; / The unreachable here becomes an event; / The indescribable / Here it is
done; / The eternal-feminine / Draws us upwards]. It seems after all that Goethe had
adopted Runges painting as a key symbol for his own work, thus not only evoking
Jungfrau, Mutter, Knigin, and Gttin as called for by Doctor Marianus in the verse
before, but also expressing a final acknowledgement of Runges Die Zeiten.
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Margaretmary Daley

The Gendered Eye of the Beholder: The Co-ed

Art History of the Jena Romantics
Of the three points of the ekphrastic triangle (visual text, viewer, and verbal text), this essay
focuses on the viewer and uses the tools of gender studies to investigate Die Gemhlde:
Gesprch [On Paintings: Conversation] a 1799 work of the Jena Romantics describ-
ing Renaissance paintings from the Dresden Gallery. In particular, the essay interprets
the works verbal representation of three Mary Magdalene paintings. Furthermore, the
tangle of genres, including the peculiar St. Luke poem, underscores the gendering of
the beholder. Ultimately, by noting that a sole viewer must be male or female, the Jena
Romantics advocate a mixed gender group of observers for ekphrastic undertakings.

Die Gemhlde: Gesprch: In Dresden 1798 is a collaboratively authored and col-

laboratively structured piece of writing.1 Accuracy on the authorship is unclear
besides August Wilhelm Schlegel, it is sometimes attributed to one or more of the
women Romantics in the Jena circle, Dorothea Mendelssohn Veit Schlegel or
Caroline Schlegel-Schelling.2 Philologically speaking, this text still suffers from
all of the problems identified over twenty years ago by Jeannine Blackwell.3 Its
A likely place to locate the text is under Friedrich Schlegel as editor of the Athenum,
which was reprinted in facsimile as Athenaeum: Eine Zeitschrift 2.1. 1799. Rpt.
Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1970. Pp. 39151. Alternatively, it is
in August Wilhelm von Schlegels collected works, for example: Smmtliche Werke. Ed.
by Eduard Bcking. Leipzig: Weidmann 1846. Vol. 9. Pp. 3101. (This version appears
without the St. Luke paratext: see below.) I cite the 1970 reprint and therefore retain the
spelling of the first printing. Pages numbers from here on in the text refer to the Darmstadt
reprint. All translations, unless otherwise indicated, are my own.
On the one hand, Beate Allert attributes it to Caroline Schlegel-Schelling and her then
husband August Wilhelm. See Beate Allert: Romanticism and the Visual Arts. In: The
Literature of German Romanticism. Ed. by Dennis F. Mahoney. Rochester: Camden
House 2004. Pp. 273306, esp. p. 284. Helmut Pfotenhauer, as another somewhat recent
example, attributes it to August Wilhelm and Dorothea Schlegel in his afterword. Helmut
Pfotenhauer: Nachwort. Wilhelm Heinse. In: ber einige Gemlde der Dsseldorfer
Galerie. Frankfurt/M: Insel 1996. P. 95.
Jeannine Blackwell: Anonym, verschollen, trivial: Methodological Hindrances in
Researching German Womens Literature. In: Women in German Yearbook: Feminist
Studies and German Culture 1 (1985). Pp. 3959. Womens texts, especially single-
authored ones, suffer from a deplorable lack of philological attention. Exceptions such
as the fine critical edition of Bettine von Arnims works (begun simultaneously in what
was East and West Germany) are too rare. One wonders when in the twenty-first cen-
tury scholarly editions will appear of writers such as Caroline Schlegel-Schelling, Dorothea
Veit Schlegel, Friederike Unger, Louise Adelgunde Gottsched, Sophie Mereau Imhoff,
Caroline Pichler, and so many more.

predominant form is conversational, meaning that much of the text facing the
reader is printed as a dramatic script would be. Character names are followed by
a colon and direct speech. However, unlike a drama, Die Gemhlde: Gesprch
has neither divisions into acts and scenes nor stage directions and asides. There
are, in addition, a number of non-dramatic passages: prose essays, speeches, son-
nets, and pictorial sketches all reroute the narrative from its primary oral mode.
Distinguishing the main text from the paratexts remains problematic,4 and
worse, it is not easy even in a university library to find a copy of it, with or with-
out paratexts. In the first printing in the Athenaeum, the title of the work
includes an auctorial identifier: ein Gesprch von W. W. glyphing possi-
bly but not uniquely to the poet Waller and further to (August) Wilhelm Schlegel.
It is just as difficult to categorize the plot in terms of literary genres. It is
arguably an imaginative and fictionally flavored piece of non-fiction, or the
opposite: a documentary-styled work of fiction, or perhaps a hybrid of the two:
the eighteenth-century paper predecessor of todays cinematic mockumen-
taries and largely contrived reality shows. The current interpretation takes into
account these interesting philological problems but strives to offer an interpre-
tation of the work independent of them. Die Gemhlde: Gesprch is a fascinating
tangle of genres, styles, and ideas that yields an alternative perspective on ekphra-
sis, one that disagrees with mainstream ideas and insists instead that the eye of
the beholder is and always will be gendered.5 Furthermore, and more signifi-
cantly, this text argues that inclusion of a feminized point of view enhances appre-
ciation of the Beautiful in pictorial art.
It is not only in form that the text rebels against mainstreaming. In content,
Die Gemhlde: Gesprch reads like an eighteenth-century setting of a judging
contest held by three realistic characters vetting the oil paintings in the Dresden
Gallery. At its worst, it would be an American Idol for the ekphrastic community;
fortunately, however, the contestants are Italian Renaissance masterpieces. The
focus of the contest shifts from aesthetic judgment per se to how the Beautiful
once it is a given is perceived and by whom. The topic of conversation is how
one beholds the Beautiful in indisputable works of art. In discussing the topic,

Paratext is Gennettes term. If one compares the availability of this work to Diderot,
the disparity in philological treatment is impressive. Diderots text is reprinted in a
dozen languages, appears in quarto and folio editions with and without reproductions
of the paintings he mentions, and is still available in paperback (though often on sale
tables). The Schlegels text if you permit the implication of plural authorship can only
be found by those who already know where to look. Grard Genette: Seuils. Paris: Editions
du Seuil 1987.
The Jena Romantics do not define sharply the tradition of art criticism that they cri-
tique; therefore, I use the general term mainstream and give some further specifics
below. The text does cite the venerable Vasari and imply that that tradition continues to
their day.

this ekphrastic conversation draws a clear and peculiarly optimistic line between
the visual aesthetics of men and those of women, and then ties them together in
an implicit and hope-filled manifesto: men perceive beauty analytically, while
women perceive through synthetic observations. Even though men were the active
producers of oil paintings in the Italian Renaissance, male and female observers
need mediation by words shared in mixed company men and women inter-
acting simultaneously with each other in order to appreciate beauty fully.
The text displays consciousness of the role that gender plays in both the per-
ception and the articulation of forms of the Beautiful; however, this does not
necessarily equate with feminist approaches, especially with contemporary
feminist criticism, and it is thus intentionally that I term the viewpoint femi-
nized. Die Gemhlde: Gesprch represents an historic moment in the femi-
nist history of literature because it dismisses those gender divisions that allege
insuperable binary oppositions between women and ephemeral domesticity on
the one hand and men and public intellectualism on the other. This gender-aware
text rejects such overt sexism. The Jena Romantics make their rejection of such
gender biases patently clear in concomitant texts such as their parody of
Schillers Ehret die Frauen, sie stricken die Strmpfe [Honor the women, they
knit the stockings]. Die Gemhlde: Gesprch is, I argue, a vision-correcting
piece to exclusively masculine notions on the perception and evaluation of the
Beautiful. Yet unlike much concurrent feminism, this text does not deny a gen-
der-based separation of intellectual strengths and concerns. It also does not
challenge womens historical absence and exclusion from producing verbal and
visual works of arts, but it does promote (in a non-expository and almost apho-
ristic way) a different, gender-aware means of correcting masculine myopia.
Many of Friedrich Schlegels most successful programmatic texts are simi-
larly non-expository and frequently aphoristic: [. . .] so lsst sich auch eigentlich
nicht reden von der Poesie als nur in Poesie [(. . .) one cannot speak of poesy
except in poesy]. This often-quoted and repetitive but not tautological state-
ment from another conversational treatise, Gesprch ber die Poesie [Conversa-
tion about Poesy], contains a cleverly worded demand for ekphrasis as well as a
motive for Die Gemhlde: Gesprch. Poesy, in this context, embraces myriad
art forms irrespective of genre and medium. Ekphrasis, the verbal representa-
tion of a visual representation,6 is one specific instance of speaking about
poesy in poesy. While it may initially appear that Goethe or Schillers approaches
to artworks are equally valid alternatives, Die Gemhlde: Gesprch rejects pro-
saic formulations of aesthetics, certainly as they apply to visual representations
such as oil paintings. The collaboratively authored text represents a truly new

James Heffernan: Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1993. P. 3.

self-aware, intrapoetic criticism. It takes polar opposites and redoubles the

terms of opposition both compositionally and thematically. To put it more sim-
ply, its claim is that only when men and women act together and not only write
silent composition but also converse with spontaneous and informed but not
erudite words about painting, only then will a full appreciation and critique of
visual art be possible. Die Gemhlde: Gesprch makes few direct proposi-
tions; instead, it yields the belief in the aesthetic success of united, comple-
mentary gendered eyes.
And part of our fascination with the text is the extent to which it represents
a translation of one art form into another, namely the transformation of salon
conversation an art form in which Caroline Schlegel-Schelling was reputedly
a superb artist into a written document. Although Louise has what I have face-
tiously termed the starring role, she is neither a dramatic protagonist nor the
wisdom-dispensing philosopher of Socratic dialogs. If salon conversation is an
art, it is certainly an ephemeral one. Much in keeping with the parameters pro-
posed philosophically by Schleiermacher in his Versuch einer Theorie der
Geselligkeit [Essay on a Theory of Sociability] for a salonire to mediate between
different attendees, Louise mediates the three-way discussion between Waller
and herself, and Reinhold and herself, as well as between Reinhold and Waller.
However, the intimacy of the trio falls clearly short of Schleiermachers rec-
ommended number for a salon gathering.
Despite its lack of expository prose, the work has an unmistakable drive toward
exposition this atypicality is typical for the early Romantics. Friedrich
Schlegels tendency to make theoretical statements in non-expository writing
at the time of the Jena circle of Romantics is well known: in addition to the
already mentioned Gesprch ber die Poesie, there are the Fragments of the
Athenaeum and ber die Philosophie: An Dorothea von F [On Philosophy:
To Dorthea von F].7 Heinses ber einige Gemlde der Dsseldorfer Galerie:
Aus Briefen an Gleim von Heinse [On Several Paintings of the Dsseldorf Gallery:
From a Letter to Gleim from Heinse] is yet another example of a deposition of
essayistic notions in a different genre here a contrived epistolarity.8 It is not,
then, in the philosophic tradition of Socratic dialog but rather in the Romantic
tradition of genre- and gender-bending that this work should be read.

ber die Philosophie. An Dorothea von F. appeared in the same number of the
Athenum as the less widely reprinted Die Gemhlde: Gesprch.
The Schlegels do not mention Heinses 1776 essay on the paintings in Dsseldorf,
though at least one passage can be read as a reply to Heinse. Waller seems to represent
Heinses ideas when he praises the ancient Greek nudes. P. 42; however, he changes his
mind when after he listens to Louises spirited oral argument that Greek statues of
clothed figures represent an even great achievement in the harmony of attire and per-
son and in the sacred grace of modestly portrayed dignity. P. 43.

Art and Sociability

Because it offers a privileged insight into the role that gender plays in what has
been termed the ekphrastic triangle,9 it is well worth the labor to unravel the
fictional context of Die Gemhlde: Gesprch. Although it is elaborate, it is nei-
ther abstruse nor difficult. In the fictional setting, three characters named Louise,
Waller, and Reinhold (thus, one woman and two men) have been viewing
paintings in the Dresden Gallery in 1798. Louise plays the starring role in the
reality show or mockumentary, and we shall see that it is also she who has a lit-
erary and auctorial motive for generating the very piece of writing we are read-
ing (or one that is very like it) and thus involves herself as possibly our author.
However, she does not reveal that at first and so we will return to it later.
Instead, Louise is introduced without introduction; the text begins with her first
lines, which engage Waller almost immediately on the matter at hand: a dis-
cussion of ekphrasis. She asks him if being among the antique works of art in the
gallery has given him the impetus to compose poetry about the ancients. They
discuss the goal of sculpture as eternalizing a moment and perfecting it, more
or less in agreement with Lessings famous Laokoon statement. Some of Wallers
utterances recall the pithy aphoristic fragments that appeared earlier in the same
short-lived Schlegel journal as Die Gemhlde: Gesprch, namely, the Athenaeum.
For example, Waller aphorizes:
Waller. Aller Plastik ist entweder organisch oder mathematisch, das heit, sie lt in
den hervorgebrachten Formen eine beseelte Einheit erkennen, oder mit sie nach
regelmigen ergrndlichen Verhltnissen ab. Die mathematische Plastik ist die
Architektur. (42)
Waller. Sculpture is either organic or mathematical, that is to say there is either an ani-
mated unity recognizable in its traditional forms or there are determinate, even pro-
portions that are measurable. Mathematical sculpture is architecture.

And presumably organic sculpture is human, which was the point of a witty
jest at Wallers expense: he is so contemplative he could turn himself into
stone. This quasi-reverse pygmalionalism is meant to be amusing and to fore-
shadow the coming discussion of the relationship between the visual arts, ver-
bal arts, and nature.
Although it is said in jest, the notion that intense study and deep apprecia-
tion of a work of art could lead one to wish to be a work of art is a notion that
pervades the conversation and its internal performances of verbal works of art.
Reverse pygmalionalism could occur with verbal art. Intratextually, the pri-
mary author of the conversation is Louise; yet, here, too, there is a fictional

W. J. T. Mitchell: Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1994. P. 11.

work-within-the-work, for Waller also contributes by reading aloud poems he has

composed and by including excerpts from his writing journal. Furthermore,
Louise proposes to Waller and Reinhold that they walk out of doors and listen
to what she has already written down, making her an inset author:
Louise. Laen Sie uns ins Freie hinaus, in das Gebsch; und weil Sie so sehr fr das
Ausben, fr das Hervorbringen sind, so wollen wir nicht lnger vom Plaudern ber
Kunstwerke plaudern, sondern ich will Ihnen etwas schon fertig Geplaudertes zum
Besten geben. (My emphasis, 50)
Louise. Lets go outside, among the shrubbery and because you are so in favor of prac-
ticing, of creating, let us no longer talk about talking about art; instead let me con-
tribute to the conversation by reading you a polished chat.

Shortly later, she puts it playfully: [I]ch habe die Fantasie unter das Auge gefan-
gen genommen, und mich so recht in die Bildern hineinzusehen bemht [I am
holding my fantasy captive to my eyes and trying really to see into the pictures]
(51). It is here, to the surprise of Waller and by extension the reader, that Louise
reveals her specific motivation for beginning, maintaining, and recording the
ekphrastic conversation. Her motivation for writing down her impressions and
recording the oral discourse of the group comes from the absence of her sister
Amalia. This fictional figure remains extra-textual; she had wanted to travel to
Dresden to see the gallery but could not, and Louise has agreed to be her pair of
eyes and her documentary writer (51). Therefore, Louise, the female charac-
ter/narrator, uses her female eye to see into the pictures as an ersatz for other
female eyes. What a remarkably complex and delightful moment!
Die Gemhlde: Gesprch claims the existence of (fictional) raw material for
what I am calling the documentary for Amalia. The text we read is either that doc-
umentary in its final form, or it is a documentary on the making of Louises
documentary for Amalia. Immediately to note, of course, is that it is not a true
documentary at the very least, the names have been changed from Caroline
to Louise, from Dorothea to Amalia (or vice versa) and from Wilhelm to Waller
and Friedrich to Reinhold, as well as other possibilities. Louise announces the
artwork-within-the-artwork and yet it seems to go in the opposite direction.
Unlike a play within a play (which seems to be often about inside information),
Louise proposes to talk about art, record the talk, and to talk about the talking,
and so on, expanding outwardly. Thus, it is not certain that the text of Die Gemhlde:
Gesprch is the one intended for Amalia, but it is unambiguously the case that
this text is about the representation of art. As Louise says above, lets not talk
about talking about art any more and instead let me read you a finished con-
versation or a polished chat. She will recite a conversation that is speak
again words that were already spoken and now are written down, thus saying
an Already Said yet again. Furthermore, the act of sharing it by performing it
reminds us of the insistence in form and content of this text on Geselligkeit or

sociability, all of which emphasizes the act of speaking informally with an

audience. Therefore, a listener or reader unfamiliar with the paintings might be
able to reconstruct at least a compositional sketch of the paintings from the
recorded conversation and the nested levels of discourse; her descriptions of
the paintings are always in part pictorial and the listener/reader has only to see
through Louises sisters eyes.10 Yet there is another aspect of the text that is
crucial. Namely, the character/narrators descriptions are about description
itself. Louises descriptions are not only designed to summon mental pictures;
her text is also about the possibility of a female-centered and female-directed
criticism of both verbal and visual art. Evidence to support this interpretation
comes from the fact that the text is not simply a didactic essay telling the reader
how to appreciate art through gendered eyes, but rather a demonstration of how
a representative woman, through an alternative form of discourse, persuades
two representative men to see things in a new way.
Let us look at the two male characters, Reinhold and Waller. Reinhold is an
artist (visual or graphic), who is copying one of the sculptures of classical antiq-
uity and it isnt going well. He curses the Torso of a Wrestler (49). Louise tries
to console him by saying that the verbal artist Waller regularly experiences the
same problem:
Es geht Ihnen, wie Wallern auch mitunter, wenn er sich an den Pindar oder
Sophokles macht. Er hat zum Uebersetzen nur Deutsche Worte, Tne und
Rhythmen, Sie nur schwarze Kreide. (44)

What happens to you is the same thing that happens to Waller when he works on
Pindar or Sophocles. For his translations, he has only German words, sounds, and
rhythms while you have only black chalk.

To Reinhold, translating an artwork from one language into another seems much
easier than reproducing a visual artwork from one medium to another, that is
from sculpture to a chalk drawing (also called black chalk). Reinhold exclaims
wistfully: Ach, wenn meine Zeichnung eine Uebersetzung wre! [If only my
drawing were a translation!] (44). Curiously, however, he has a low opinion of
language: Die Sprache pfuschert an allen Dingen herum: sie ist wie ein Mensch,
der sich dafr ausgiebt, von allem Bescheid zu wissen und darber oberflchlich
wird [Language butchers everything. Its like a person who pretends to know
everything but is actually superficial] (47). As we shall see, the text of

I use pictorial in Heffernans sense as a texts use of a mental picture of a natural
object related to but different from ekphrasis. [E]kphrasis differs from both iconicity
and pictorialism because it explicitly represents representation itself. What ekphrasis
represents in words, therefore, must itself be representational. P. 4. For Heffernan
Williamss The Red Wheelbarrow exemplifies pictorialism while Williamss Pictures
from Breughel demonstrates the ekphrastic.

Die Gemhlde: Gesprch belies Reinholds dismissive view of discourse on art

as superficial verbiage and posits instead a formula for comparing visual artworks
to each other and for converting visual into verbal arts under certain conditions.
Louise disagrees with Reinhold: Lieber starrsinniger Reinhold, wie Sie sich
dagegen setzen, da man Statuen und Gemhlde, die fr sich ewig stumm sind,
auch einmal reden lehren will [Dear stubborn Reinhold, how you protest against
the notion of teaching eternally mum statues and paintings to say something
for once] (49). With this cogent indeed somewhat coquettish argument favor-
ing ekphrastic ventriloquism, Louise, as we shall see, prevails.
The conditions that restrict yet permit a relationship between verbal and visual
arts are delivered by Louise, whose terms of ekphrastic negotiation are, I argue,
an historically specific feminist criticism. She is explicitly against art for arts
sake, against the notion that art would find the beginning and end of its raison
dtre in its own area (49). She is in favor of writing as a self-aware woman: she
consciously rejects Diderots style on the ground that it is French and masculine:

Waller. Kennen Sie Diderots Salon de peinture?

Louise. Ob ich das kenne? Ich habe mir aber seine durch und durch geistvollen
Schilderungen jetzt mit Flei entfernt. Sehen Sie, frs erst bin ich eine Frau, und
mchte nicht gern fr kocket gehalten werden.
Waller. Are you familiar with Diderots Salon de peinture [Salon of Paintings]? (My
emphasis, 52)
Louise. Do I know it? I have worked hard to distance myself from his thoroughly intel-
ligent descriptions. See, in the first place, I am a woman and would not like to be
considered coquette.

Despite its seemingly modern self-awareness, Die Gemhlde: Gesprch is not

a prescient work of contemporary feminism; to the extent that it does entail a
(proto) feminist viewpoint, it represents a moderate feminism, a feminism that
neither questions the systematic basis nor examines the sexist infrastructure, but
one that does support intelligent womens viewpoints as a complement to learned
mens. As examples of its limited critique, we can take some of the unques-
tioned assumptions: the text does not question the means of artistic production and
access to them; it does not notice the absence of women as painters despite their
presence as the painted; it assumes that conventional art criticism will continue
to be written by men like Vasari and Diderot, or even their contemporary, Forster.
Mainstream art criticism, which happens to have been written exclusively by
men, is dismissed several times throughout the piece. As three examples, Louise
first declines modestly to enter that kind of discourse by claiming she ought to
have nothing to do with the metaphysics of art (42); then Waller echoes the
sentiment, Das trockene Urtheilen wollen wir gern den Kunstverstndigen
berlassen [We shall happily leave dry judgments to the art experts] (47).
Louise again feigns not to understand a more traditional approach, Mengss

description of Correggios Mary Magdalene (94). Louise and Waller distinguish

the work they are in and rightly so from the precursors by Diderot and Forster
by noting that the former is a piece of memorable writing about less memorable
paintings and the latter is a highly personal, individual view (53). Heinses work
is not mentioned.
The Jena Romantics offer a different text, one that challenges but does not
rebel against mainstream presumptions. Not surprisingly, then, the text ques-
tions art for arts sake and, implicitly and explicitly institutionally driven, patri-
archal, purely formalist art criticism. Louise argues for a community of the arts
including the masculine standards and also a mixed sociable interplay: Nein,
mein Freund, Gemeinschaft und gesellige Wechselberhrung ist die Hauptsache
[No my friend, community and sociable mutual-interaction is the main thing]
(49). This is central to the feminized viewpoint that the text advocates including.
It is, moreover, an indirect appeal to interpret Die Gemhlde: Gesprch as more
than fetching descriptions of some beautiful Italian paintings and to see in it a
powerful argument in both form and content in favor of free aesthetic inter-
course. As if the implications of free trade in a wide, almost global level could
be missed, the two characters underscore it by a simile. Waller answers, Sehr
wahr: es ist mit den geistigen Reichthmern wie mit dem Gelde. Was hilft es, viel
zu haben und in den Kasten zu verschlieen? Fr die wahre Wohlhabenheit
kommt alles darauf an, da es vielfach und rasch cirkulirt [Very true, intel-
lectual treasures are like money. What does it help to have much of it if its locked
away in a chest? For true prosperity, it is essential for it to circulate frequently
and quickly] (49). The text thus promotes words as an intermediary species to
negotiate between the two arts so long as the already active masculinized aes-
thetic discourse is supplemented and made to exchange with an active femi-
nized discourse. This is also why their definition of art is inclusive enough to
embrace salon conversation.11 And that is the argument here.
Although identifying the mainstream as masculinized, the text is not entirely
clear who the opponent is and whether he is inherently masculinized. Louise
specifically rejects Diderots Salon de peinture as a model. Moreover, she states

The confidence in spoken language as a vehicle for visual and verbal works of art to
discuss each other anticipates Gerhard Kaisers catachrestic notions in a remarkable
way. Though Kaiser never mentions the Schlegels text, it almost sounds like Louise
speaking or a modernized version of Die Gemhlde: Gesprch when Kaiser writes:
Ich versuche, Bilder zu lesen. Werke der bildenden Kunst erscheinen in diesem
Blickwinkel als Zeichenschrift. [. . .] Als Zeichensysteme knnen Werke der bildenden
Kunst und der Literatur voneinander und miteinenander sprechen [I attempt to read
images. From this perspective, works of the plastic arts seem to be a sign script or writ-
ing. (. . .) As sign systems, works of the plastic arts and of literature are able to speak
about and with each other]. Gerhard Kaiser: Bilder Lesen: Studien zu Literatur und
bildender Kunst. Munich: Fink Verlag 1981. P. 7.

two reasons for rejection, that she is German and that she is a woman. However,
Waller and Reinhold at least in this context also reject the masculinized dis-
course of the mainstream. They agree with Louise when she proposes an alter-
native means of discoursing on art.
Fr alle Knste, wie sie heien mgen, ist nun doch die Sprache das allgemeine
Organ der Mittheilung; da ich bey Wallers Gleichni stehen bleibe, die gangbare
Mnze, worein alle geistigen Gter umgesetzt werden knnen. Also plaudern mu
man, plaudern! (50)

For all arts, however they may be called, language is the general organ of media-
tion, and so I hold to Wallers simile, exchangeable coinage, into which all the
intellectual goods can be converted. For this reason, one must talk and talk!

Louise, the sole female character in the piece, insists programmatically on con-
versation [plaudern is chatting or talking]. She is therefore arguing against a
view of art that is so clearly the dominant one; she doesnt even mention her agon,
academic discourse. She does not insist (does not even mention) the mainstream
ideas of categorization according to form, to installation in a museum, to
recognition from an art society or board of distinguished experts. A work such
as Die Gemhlde: Gesprch ought to be included in general definitions of
European Romanticism as put forward by Lwy and Sayre in Romanticism:
Against the Tide of Modernity.12 Lwy and Sayre define Romanticism as a
response to profound social and economic changes brought on in the advent of
capitalism (17) and they claim that criticism of reification is one of the most
common forms. Reification is denounced as the dehumanization of human
life, the transforming of human relations into relations among things, inert
objects (20). The Romantic (but realistic) fictional characters of Die Gemhlde:
Gesprch participate in the criticism of reification without terming it such.
They are, however, delighted to discover that the visual form of the Beautiful
can be transformed into an exchangeable commodity, at least one that can be
exchanged for words, which are then further exchangeable for any number of
other relations.
In Heffernans interpretation of Homers famous ekphrastic passage on
Achilles shield, Homer complicates the apparently simple opposition between
the spatiality of graphic and the temporality of verbal art through his narra-
tives of movement without pause or pose (18 and 17). One could say that
Louises way of turning pictures into stories also complicates any simple oppo-
sition between the spatiality of painting as a visual art and temporality of ver-
bal art, which is here doubly complex for there are two texts, namely the text she
is in, as well as the one she is creating for her sister. Louises stories of the paintings

Michael Lwy and Robert Sayre. Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity. Trans.
by Catherine Porter. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press 2001.

preclude any art criticism that would make evaluations based on timeless, tran-
scendent forms extracted from the specifics of individual perception. Heffernan
identifies the storytelling impulse as ancient and innate: From Homers time
to our own, ekphrastic literature reveals again and again this narrative response
to pictorial stasis, this storytelling impulse that language by its very nature seems
to release and stimulate (5). Yet the Jena Romantics indicate that in their time,
it was forgotten, neglected, and sidelined.
The text gives perhaps it most detailed and compelling example of comple-
mentary gendered eyes beholding a work of art in Louises hierarchical inter-
pretations of the three paintings of Mary Magdalene. She segues to them as eine
Ermahnung zur Bue in drey Kapiteln [an admonition to penance in three
chapters] (88), in reply to yet another instance of contrasting her feminized
view of artwork with the masculine gaze. The context is this: Reinhold has
twice mentioned the venerable Vasari. Louise has answered, Wenn unser eins auf
die Art urtheilte, so wrden wir es, mit Erlaubni, ein wenig albern finden [If
one of us were to judge in this manner, then we would consider it if youll
permit me to say so a trite foolish] (87). Thus, she contrasts the canonical
view not only her individual ideas, but also with a general feminine view. She
speaks of our kind of people, which again does not refer uniquely to women
but rather can be inclusive of all who are able to see beyond the mainstream
and hitherto masculinized discourse of art history.13 Reinhold returns to his
didactic point and then Louise thanks him by reading aloud one of her pol-
ished chats or an Already Said on the three paintings, which is her way of
admonishing him to do penance for having cited chapter and verse of Vasari.
Of course, Mary Magdalene is known for her penitence, and this crucial set of
four directly compared and ranked paintings indicates that not only Reinhold
but also the art world should take the expiatory hint. (Waller tags on the fourth,
a painting by Mengs.) Bringing speech to the pictures, we hear them say that
womens point of view has been given sufficient chance to speak out. Welch
ein anmuthvolles Bild ist die Magdalena der katholischen Sage, zu der die Schrift
nur wenig Zge angiebt! [What a graceful picture the Magdalena of the Catholic

The non-traditional approach of Die Gemhlde: Gesprch contradicts in part many
of the conclusions drawn today about visual arts in the age of Romanticism. In his
interesting critique of the underlying capitalist nature of romantic museums, Maleuvre
relies heavily on Hegel: the museum artwork is a beautiful but petrified object, emp-
tied of the spirit of its age, devoid of spirituality. A historical fossil only fit for histori-
ographic scholarship [. . .]. Maleuvre: The Aesthetics of Misplacement: The Romantic
Museum. In: Romanticism across the Disciplines. Ed. by Larry H. Peer, Lanham,
Maryland: University Press of America 1998. P. 142. Were the Schlegels included, the
criticism that the Dresden Gallery removes the works from their age would still hold;
however, the remarkable resuscitation of artworks, the reanimation that occurs would
require at least a different nuance.

legend presents, yet there are but a few lines written about her!] (88). The
painters have indeed let Mary Magdalene speak; yet we viewers (and readers)
need Louise to be able to hear her.
Louises interpretation of the Franceschini painting (Figure 1) is narrative
and dramatic: she quotes the hitherto inaudible speech of Mary Magdalene and
her attendants:

Figure 1. Franceschini, The Repentant Magdelene. Meisterwerke der staatlichen

Gemldegalerie in Dresden. Munich: Hanfstaengl, 1924.

Louise. Sie wendet sich mit dem Kopf hinauf, nach der lteren Freundinn, die neben
ihrem Sessel steht und ihr zuredet. Ihre Augen blicken diese flehend an, ihr Mund
spricht: kannst du mir nicht helfen aus diesem Labyrinth? weit du nicht, was ich
thun soll, um die Noth in meiner Brust zu stillen? (8889)
Louise. She is turning her head upward, toward the older friend, who is standing next
to her chair and speaking to her. Her eyes look imploringly at her, her mouth speaks:
can you not help me out of this labyrinth? Do you not know what I can do to assuage
the need in my breast?

A young girl in a supporting role also has speaking lines. Louise finds the girl
charming but is subjectively disappointed in a formal, almost mainstream tech-
nical way, because Franceschini has cast too much of the shadow on her. Louise
notes this at the same time as she animates her:
Louise. [. . .] und sie wird von einem jungen Mdchen untersttzt, das sich zu ihr herum-
beugt. Eine allerliebste Figur, die nur zu sehr im Schatten steht; aber das artige
Kpfchen tritt hervor und fragt mit gefhlvoller Neugierde: was soll dies bedeuten?
Was fehlt meiner schnen Gebieterin? wie kann man sich so krnken? (89)
Louise. [. . .] and she is supported by a young girl, who turns toward her. A very dear
figure, yet one who stands too much in the shadows, but her fetching little head
appears and she asks with sympathetic curiosity: what does this mean? Whats the
matter with my beautiful mistress? How can anybody be so distressed?

While Louise perceives beauty in the painting and shares her perception of it
with Waller and Reinhold, she is at the same time evaluating the success of the
representation. Franceschinis Magdalene does not receive the highest rating
because of his use of shadow and equally because of his politically unappetiz-
ing portrait. This is particularly clear in her parting words on the painting: Der
Mohr, welcher in der andern Ecke halb auf der Erde liegt, und in der Verwirrung
den weggeworfenen Schmuck zu erbeuten sucht, mchte sich immerhin mit den
schwarzen Tinten vermischen: der Einfall ist doch mehr drollig als schicklich
[The Moor, who is lying in the other corner half on the ground and in the con-
fusion is trying to snatch up the jewelry, might as well blend in with the black
ink: the idea is more ludicrous than clever] (90). Louise takes her disapproval
of the racist (the thieving black man) and racy: Auch ber die Geiel sehe ich
gern hinweg (90) [Also, I prefer not to see the whip] and permits it to influ-
ence her overall aesthetic appreciation of the painting. It is not, in her female
subjective and legitimate view, the best portrait of Magdalene.
She turns next to Batonis painting of the biblical penitent (Figure 2). Here
she again notes some formal elements such as the colors, composition, and
light in her detailed pictorial description.
Louise. Sie liegt am Eingange einer Grotte, im vollen Licht, das von der linken Seite
auf sie fllt. Der dunkle Hintergrund bliebt doch ganz in Harmonie mit der hellen
Gestalt; eine kleine Oeffnung oder perspektivische Durchsicht ins Freye unterbricht

Figure 2. Batoni. The Repentant Magdelene. Meisterwerke der staatlichen

Gemldegalerie in Dresden. Munich: Hanfstaengl, 1924.

die braune Felsmasse, die sie einfat. Ihre Lage ist schrg nach der Linken hervor,
auf der Hfte und dem Arm ruhend, mit welchem sie sich auf einen Stein legt. (90)
Louise. She lays at the entrance to a grotto, entirely lit by light, which falls on her from
the left. The dark background stays in complete harmony with the bright figure; a
small aperture or perspectival view onto the open interrupts the brown cliff, which
it embraces. Her pose slants left, resting on a hip and an arm, with which she has
placed herself on the stone.

But seeing and listening with Louise, we notice that her position is uncomfort-
able; we doubt whether she would stay long in that position (91). Further, we are
brought to see how the painting overstates the case with heavy-handed symbols
not naturally found in an outdoor grotto such as the book and skull. Our docent
Louise finds that these and other specifics cause the meaning of the work to
wobble: Ob der innre Sinn aber nicht ein wenig dabey umherflattert? [Dont
you think the deep meaning gets a little lost as a result?] (90). She strikes a
conversational tone, such as using an easily understood fragment (beginning
the query with ob/whether) and the presence of flavoring particles and litotes
(aber nicht ein wenig/but not a little) and ordinary diction (umherflattern/to
flutter around, wobble). Indeed, when we listen to the ekphrasis of this paint-
ing, it is not Mary Magdalene but Louise who speaks. Her interpretation of the
Batoni hinges on the discrepancy between the representation in the painting
and the natural expectations we would have from the penitents story: Die
Sndlichkeit scheint oberflchlich, und die Bekehrung vielleicht vergeblich.

Figure 3. Corregio. Mary Magdalene, Formerly Dresden.

Wovon sollte sie sich auch bekehren? Von dem unschudligen Wohlgefallen an
sich selber? [Evil here seems superficial, and the conversion perhaps in vain.
From what must she turn away? From the innocent pleasure in herself?] (92).
Her praise of Correggio derives from her approval of what she believes is
the painters ability to paint the truth. Truth could mean a level of excellence in
technique so advanced that reality seems to be reflected as it is, without the medi-
ation of the painter and his paint. But it does not mean verisimilitude, for ear-
lier in the triangular dialog the Greek context to paint life-like natural objects
was brought up as a curiosity and set aside as of secondary importance. The
praise for Correggio derives from the perception a perception established
through conversational intercourse, not logical demonstration that Correggios
Mary Magdalene is truly guilty and truly penitent (Figure 3). Louise explains
that unlike Batonis innocent, Correggios figure of Magdalene is guilty and
expiatory: [S]ie ist die eigentlich schne Seele, die der zufllige Irrthum frher
Jugendzeit nicht hat entstellen knnen [She is truly the beautiful soul, on
whom the chance error of early youth could not leave a mark] (92). In calling
her the truly beautiful soul, Louise indicates that the paintings beauty stems
not only from its realistic representation of concrete nature but also from its
accurate representation of a mental idea. The sounds Louise hears from this
representation are not words but tears; moreover, it is not a mere moment in time

that Louise hears but rather even the passage of time as the hot tears subside
(93). The ultimate praise comes from the ultimate expression of uncontrived
nature: Sie kann nicht anders liegen, es ist nichts zurecht gemachtes an der
ganzen Gestalt, nicht der leiseste Anspruch [She couldnt be lying there in any
other attitude; there is nothing artificial about the entire figure, not even the
slightest pretension] (93). In fact this painting and Louises interpretation of it
to Reinhold and Waller is crucial because Wallers interruption questioning
whether she is familiar with Mengss painting of Mary Magdalene (which they
both dismiss as inferior) both because it reminds us of the frame (of the mixed
gender company) and because, within the work, it brings Louise to her most
programmatic statement of aesthetics:

Louise. Bey einem chten Kunstwerke kann ich es mir nicht anders denken, als da die
ganze Darstellung nach ihrem Hauptgegenstande bestimmt wird, da also Farbengebung
und Helldunkel durch innige Beziehungen mit der Handlung, dem Charakter der
Zeichnung und dem Ausdrucke zusammenhngt. Und vielleicht war nie ein Knstler
harmonischer als Correggio. (94)
Louise. With a true work of art, I cant help but to think that the entire representation
is determined by the main subject, so that there is a necessarily intimate relationship
between coloration and chiarscurro and the treatment of the subject as well as the
character of the drawing and the expression. And perhaps there was never a more
harmonic artist than Correggio.

Above, Louise makes explicitly clear that admiration will be granted to those
works of art that harmonize objective factors and subjective ones (my empha-
sis). In fact, the statement uses terms associated with visual art for the objec-
tive factors, for example, Farbengebung [coloration] and Helldunkel
[chiarscurro] and a distinctly verbal art term Handlung [treatment of the
subject] for the more subjective issue.
The interpretations of the Mary Magdalenes do not culminate the work;
instead, several more ekphrastic texts are recited, including Louise on Leonardo
da Vinci and Waller on a number of paintings by Rubens. Chatty discussions
are also interspersed, and the text draws to its penultimate close with the read-
ing aloud of nine ekphrastic sonnets interrupted only once as the other two
guess at the visual inspirations the sonnets are presented as a quasi-parlor game.
Contrary to Wallers instruction not to understand the sonnets as deriving from
specific paintings, Louise and Reinhold quickly do exactly that. They interpret
each sonnet as having a specific visual impetus, and they enjoy making some
guesses. Die Gemhlde: Gesprch finally ends with a twenty-one-stanza poem
and a brief promise by Reinhold to dedicate his first successful drawing of the
Madonna to St. Luke and Raphael. The St. Luke poem is yet another paratext
often left out of editions of Die Gemhlde: Gesprch. To understand why the
conversation concludes with a dispersal of paratexts, we must recall that the

implicit argument is neither to overthrow standard ekphrasis nor to invalidate

traditional viewpoints. Let us forget neither the gendered eyes of ekphrasis nor
the ricocheting paths of its gaze. Mitchells structural analysis of the ekphrastic
triangle is not thrown off by this kind of ricocheting geometry. He elaborates
that ekphrasis is the social structure of representation as an activity and a rela-
tionship of power/knowledge/desire representation as something done to some-
thing, with something, by someone for someone.14 In our instance, we have
the representation of Italian Renaissance painting,15 via German prose and dia-
log, by Louise, Waller, and Reinhold for Louises sister. Here, in technical detail,
is a female subject (Mary Magdalene) gazed upon and reproduced by a male
painter (Correggio) translated into verbal art by a female wordsmith (Louise)
digested by a mixed gender group (Louise, Waller, and Reinhold) to be appre-
ciated by an absent female consumer (Louises sister and us and further on to
those in posterity whom she represents).
In a nostalgic poem reflecting on the production and impact of the journal
Athenaeum, Friedrich Schlegel emphasizes the collaborative nature of the group
and simultaneously its independence from others: Bestrebten wir uns treu im
freyen Bunde, / Und wollten uns auf uns allein verlassen [We strove faithfully
within our free union / And wanted to rely on ourselves alone]. The recital of
the St. Luke/ artist poem as the conclusion of Die Gemhlde: Gesprch repre-
sents another instance of collaboration because it, too, is a reading of the
Already Said. Though it is not polished chat but rather words sculpted into
formal verse, it is a poem in which the living Madonna comes to sit for a painter
painting her likeness. It is a poem that contains a performance of ekphrasis,
just as Die Gemhlde: Gesprch does. And recall that this representation of
representation occurs in nature; Louise called for them to go ins Freye
[under the open sky], and Reinhold echoes the suitability of a natural setting:
Hier, dchte ich, lieen wir uns nieder: wir knnen keinen bequemeren und
anmuthigeren Sitz finden. Vor uns der ruhige Flu; jenseits erhebt sich hinter
dem grnen Ufer die Ebne in leisen Wellen [Here, Id think, well sit down.
We could hardly find a more comfortable and more pleasant seat. In front of us
we have the calm river; opposite us and behind its green banks, the plains rise
up in gentle waves] (54). Through layers of fiction, this underscores one of the
Jena Romantics unshakeable tenets on visual culture: die Kunst [ist] eine
bloe Abschrift der Natur [art is merely a transcription of nature] (62). The
translation of Abschrift is disputable: rendering it as copy or duplication
underplays the uniqueness and primacy of nature as the original as well as the
reliance on script, on words. Reinhold and Louise, in this passage and others,

Mitchell: Picture Theory. P. 180.
The artworks described in detail are predominantly but not exclusively Italian. Louise
devotes a long and detailed description to a family portrait by Holbein. Pp. 6975.

mean transcription, for they use modifiers like blo [merely] a transcrip-
tion and zurckstehen [infinitely lag behind]. The full context shows this:
Reinhold. Ich mu Louisen vertheidigen. Es versteht sich von selbst, lieber Freund, und
wir geben es gleich zu, da die Kunst als bloe Abschrift der Natur gegen das ewige
Regen und Weben derselben unendlich zurckstehen mte. Eben deswegen soll sie
den Abgang durch etwas von wesentlich verschiedner Art ersetzen. Der Knstler
kann die landschaftliche Natur nur durch Wahl und Zusammenstellung verbessern,
nicht an sich erhhen. (62)16
Reinhold. I must defend Louise. Its self-explanatory, dear friend, and we quickly admit
that art were it the mere transcription of nature would have to lag infinitely behind
natures eternal stirring and weaving/ pitching and heaving. For this very reason, art
ought to replace what is lost with something substantially different. The artist can
only improve natures landscapes through selection and composition, not enhance
them as such.

Eventually, Waller agrees with Louise and Reinhold by admitting that listening
to the description of a painting aroused in him the desire not to see the painting
per se, but rather a longing to see its subject (Lago Salernitano) and summoned
its image in his head (69).
The Romantic definition of nature as a transcribable truth perceived by men
and women in collaboration explains the denouement of Die Gemhlde:
Gesprch.17 The St. Luke/artist poem is about the miraculous way that paint-
ing can capture the beauty of nature. Nature is here not a landscape but rather
the real Mary, Mary the Madonna. It is therefore fitting that the ultimate word
in the text is the versified story of her (female) self transformed into visual art
by a (male) painter and transcribed into verbal art by a (male) poet and recorded
by a (female) conversationalist. In the eyes of the mixed gendered Jena Romantics,
it takes not only a mans schooled technique and learned aesthetics but also a
womans sight and insight to appreciate the Beautiful as depicted in art, regard-
less of how that art is scripted.

Heffernan identifies the belief in the timelessness of visual art as a distinctively
romantic. P. 93. Certainly, Reinhold, a German romantic, subscribes to the belief that
visual art eternalizes what is in constant flux in nature.
Though his introductory and theoretical chapters take careful note of Lessings
Laokoon, Heffernans chapter on Romanticism concentrates on Wordsworth and does
not include any German-language writing. Nonetheless, his exegesis of Wordsworths
late poem Peele Castle as constructing in words yet another imaginary picture of
the subject all the while believing to have seen the soul of truth in every part has much
in common with Wallers reaction. Pp. 91107, esp. pp. 106107.
Mary Helen Dupree

Elise in Weimar: Actress-Writers and the

Resistance to Classicism
This essay investigates the response to Weimar Classicism of the late eighteenth-century
actress-writer Elise Brger, who in 1802 attempted unsuccessfully to ingratiate herself
with Weimar society. Without family or social connections of her own, Brger developed
a number of textual and non-textual strategies aimed at courting the favor of influen-
tial male authors such as Goethe. Both in her texts and her theatrical performances,
Brger cultivated an image of herself as a priestess of classical German literature.
However, Brgers literary works also engage in a critique of the concept of the clas-
sical and its gendered implications. By reading anecdotes about Brger together with
Brgers own literary works, the essay seeks to illuminate the ways in which information
the contributions of actresses of the Goethezeit [Age of Goethe] have been rendered
marginal by traditional literary criticism.

In the literary and cultural landscape of the so-called Goethezeit, actresses figure
prominently. Actresses and other women involved with theater surface repeatedly
in Goethes biography: for example, there is Goethes admiration of the actress,
singer and composer Corona Schrter, who was the first to embody his Iphigenie
on stage; his mentorship of Christiane Becker-Neumann, the Weimar actress and
subject of the elegy Euphrosyne; his intellectual bond with the amateur actress
and playwright Charlotte von Stein; and his turbulent working relationship with
the actress and memoirist Caroline Jagemann. Schiller, too, cultivated relation-
ships with actresses at critical periods in his working life; for example, in
Frankfurt in 1784, he formed a friendship with the Erfurt-born Sophie Albrecht, a
successful actress and poet who performed as Luise in Kabale und Liebe [Cabal
and Love].1 As directors, writers and sometimes as actors, Goethe and Schiller
had extensive contact with amateur and professional actresses, who, unlike many
other eighteenth-century women, were often well-read, well-traveled, and highly
cosmopolitan. Moreover, actresses produced numerous texts in a variety of
genres during this period. These include not only unpublished memoirs, such as
those of Karoline Schulze-Kummerfeld and Caroline Jagemann, but also pub-
lished works, such as Sophie Albrechts three volumes of lyric poetry, the essays
of the Swiss-born former actress Marianne Ehrmann, and the narrative poems
of the Weimar court actress Amalie von Imhof. These texts are not only invalu-
able sources of information about the Goethezeit but also worthwhile literary
Berit Christine Ruth Royer: Sophie Albrecht (17571840) im Kreis der
Schriftstellerinnen um 1800. Eine literatur- und kulturwissenschaftliche Werk-
Monographie. Dissertation U. of California, Davis. 1999. Pp. 5066.

works in their own right, which have only recently begun to be taken seriously
by scholars in the fields of German literary and theater studies.
However, to write about eighteenth-century actresses is not always easy; reli-
able sources are hard to come by. To be sure, anecdotes about actresses have long
been the stuff of biographies, novels, and films about the Goethezeit, as well as
general-market paperbacks on the perennially popular theme of Goethe und
die Frauen [Goethe and Women]. Such works, however, tend to rely heavily on
crude, stereotypical, and sometimes anachronistic images of the actress. Unfor-
tunately, this situation does not improve with more serious literary scholarship:
here, anecdotes about actresses often appear in the margins, as footnotes or short
digressions within the text itself. Deployed in this way, anecdotes about actresses
serve to add humor, a sense of authenticity and a hint of sexiness to ones scholar-
ship. They provide what the New Historicist critic Stephen Greenblatt has called
the touch of the real, but only just a touch.2 The problem with this approach
is that when anecdotes are used marginally in this way, they become discon-
nected from the main argument and are no longer subject to question. In the
case of the Goethezeit, anecdotes about actresses tend to reproduce a tradi-
tional, Goethe-centered view of literary history, in which the prince of poets
looms large while all other figures recede into the background. The actresses
around Goethe are depicted primarily as facilitators of the male protagonists
Bildung, like the actresses who befriend Wilhelm in the Lehrjahre. They are
reduced to stock characters (von Stein, the stern muse; Jagemann, the silly diva),
in such a way as to obscure their real and significant contributions to the cul-
tural and literary landscape of Germany around 1800.
For the ever-increasing cohort of literary scholars working on actresses, women
and other minor figures in German literary history, such anecdotes present both an
obstacle and a starting point for further investigation. One finds oneself engaged
in a dual process: of interrogating the structures that produce conventional images
of the actress on the one hand, and of investigating traditional sources in order to
salvage important information on the other. This essay seeks to contribute to this
process by focusing on the literary works and performances of Elise Brger, a
highly prolific actress and writer who was active in the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries. With a few contemporary exceptions, most of the literary
scholarship that acknowledges Brger at all has centered on two anecdotes: the
story of her scandalous, short-lived marriage to Gottfried August Brger in
Gttingen in the early 1790s on the one hand, and the narrative of her failed
attempt to ingratiate herself with Goethes circle in Weimar in 1802 on the other.
By tracing the development and circulation of these anecdotes, I wish to
expose some of the structures, both in Weimar society and in traditional literary

Stephen Greenblatt: The Touch of the Real. In: Representations 59 (Summer 1997).
Pp. 1428.

scholarship, that have kept the literary and creative contributions of eighteenth-
century actresses from reaching a broader audience. At the same time, I investi-
gate the ways in which Brger herself grappled with her own exclusion from the
Weimar Parnassus; in particular, I am interested in how Brgers literary works
and performances respond to the classical, both as a mode of idealist aesthet-
ics and as a way of imagining the Greek and Roman past. As an author of occa-
sional poems and a performer of classicizing Attitden [artistically performed
postures] and declamatory concerts, Brger frequently styled herself as a devo-
tee of the classical in both senses. Yet, in many of her literary works, Brger
develops a gendered critique of Classicism, which she depicts as the inflexible,
masculine opposite of a feminized aesthetic that gives free rein to imagination,
feeling and experimentation. In works such as the short play Die antike Statue
aus Florenz [The Antique Statue from Florence], this critique is anchored rhetori-
cally in a juxtaposition of the rigid, inflexible forms of idealist aesthetics with
the materiality of the female body in theatrical performance. Brgers works thus
represent a uniquely critical response, from an actresss perspective, to the sta-
tus of the classical around 1800 and its gendered implications.
Scandal and Self-Promotion: An den Dichter Brger (1789)
Born Marie Christine Elise Hahn in Stuttgart in 1769, Brger was one of a small
but significant number of late eighteenth-century women who combined a the-
atrical Laufbahn [career] with a parallel profession as an author of prose, poetry,
and dramatic works. As an actress, Brger specialized in performing aristocratic,
stately, and mythological heroines, such as Maria Stuart, Isabella in Die Braut von
Messina, Medea and Ariadne in Georg Bendas duodrama Ariadne auf Naxos.3
She debuted as Lady Milford in Schillers Kabale und Liebe in Altona in 1796; in
the course of the following decade, she received steady, long-term engagements
with standing theaters in Bremen, Hanover, and Dresden.4 In addition to her work
as a member of these ensembles, Brger repeatedly toured Germany, Austria, and
France as a freelance Gastspiel [guest performance] artist; she also specialized in
forms of solo performance such as tableaux vivants, attitudes, and Deklamations-
Konzerte [declamatory concerts], in which popular literary works were read
aloud to musical accompaniment.5 In all, Elise Brgers career spanned well over
thirty years; she wrote, performed, and gave acting lessons up until a few years
before her death in Frankfurt in 1833.

Elise Brger: Gastrollen. Ms. Deutsches Literatur Archiv, Marbach am Neckar.
Michael Rppel: Was sagen Sie von Mme Brger? Elise Brger (17691833) als
Schauspielerin und das Theater zur Zeit der Weimarer Klassik. In: G. A. Brger und
J. W. L. Gleim. Ed. by Hans Joachim Kertscher. Tbingen: Niemeyer 1996. Pp. 224238.
August Langen: Attitde und Tableau in der Goethezeit. In: Jahrbuch der deutschen
Schillergesellschaft 12 (1968). Pp. 231232.

Given the extent of Brgers theatrical career, it is not surprising that Brgers
works are strongly influenced by theatrical performance. Her published oeuvre
includes numerous works that thematize theater as well as songs, Vorreden [the-
atrical speeches], and poems explicitly intended to be performed onstage or in
salons. At the same time, her works clearly belong to what Christa Brger has
described as the middle sphere of womens writing in the Goethezeit, namely a
marginal zone between the increasingly stratified categories of high and low
literature.6 Like the works of many other German women writers of her time,
Brgers works were published on subscription; while her works often make ref-
erence to classical authors and antique motifs, they also eschew high genres
such as classical drama in favor of lower or more popular ones such as the
medieval Ritterdrama [knightly plays/tales], the neo-Gothic ballad, and drawing-
room comedy. Brgers literary oeuvre encompasses two historical dramas,
Adelheit Grfin von Teck (1799) and Klara von Montalban (1808); several one-
and two-act comic plays; two volumes of poetry, Gedichte [Poems] (1812) and
Lilienbltter und Zypressenzweige [Lily Petals and Cypress Branches] (1826);
and various prose works, collected in the volumes Irrgnge des weiblichen
Herzens [Detours of the Female Heart] (1799) and Mein Taschenbuch den
Freundlichen meines Geschlechts gewidmet [My Notebook, Dedicated to the
Friendly Ones Among My Sex] (1809). Brgers works have been largely ignored
or dismissed by traditional literary scholarship; only recently have feminist schol-
ars, such as Karin Wurst, begun to take her literary production seriously.7
However, during her lifetime, Brger achieved a moderate amount of success for
a woman writer; her poetic works were published in well-known journals such as
Iris and the Teutscher Merkur, and she published a number of her works under her
own name, which was by no means a given for a woman writer of her generation.
Elise Brgers moderate success as an actress and writer would perhaps be
unremarkable, but for the fact that it was achieved without social, literary or fam-
ily connections of any kind. For Brger, acting and writing were an absolutely
essential means of survival; both of these activities provided income as well as
possibilities for cultivating connections with potential patrons and mentors. Lyric
poems in particular provided an opportunity to communicate with, and court
the favor of, important personages. As a very young woman, Brger facilitated
her own initiation into German literary society through her poetry, a gesture

Christa Brger: Die mittlere Sphre. Sophie Mereau Schriftstellerin im klassi-
schen Weimar. In: Deutsche Literatur von Frauen. Ed. by Gisela Brinker-Gabler.
Munich: C. H. Beck 1988. P. 366.
Karin Wurst: Elise Brger and the Gothic Imagination. In: Women in German
Yearbook 13 (1997). Pp. 1127. See also Karin Wurst: Negotiations of Containment:
Elise Brgers Adelheid, Grfin von Teck and the Trivial Tradition. In: Thalias
Daughters: German Women Dramatists from the Eighteenth Century to the Present.
Ed. by Susan L. Cocalis and Ferrel Rose. Tbingen: Francke 1996. Pp. 3552.

that had lasting consequences both positive and negative. In 1789, a poem in
praise of Gottfried August Brger, entitled An den Dichter Brger [To the Poet
Brger] appeared anonymously in the Beobachter [Observer], a moral weekly
published by Marianne Ehrmann, and her writer husband, Theophil Friedrich
Ehrmann. The unnamed author was the young Elise Hahn, who was then living in
Stuttgart with her family. The poem begins by praising Brgers literary talents:
O Brger, Brger, edler Mann,/Der Lieder singt, wies keiner kann!
[O Brger, Brger, noble man/Who sings songs as no other can!].8 The poem
goes on to describe the speakers emotional response to reading Brgers poetry:
Ach, als ich Deine Lieder las,
Da wurde mir im Herzen ba,
Hoch pochte meine Brust!
Jetzt rannen Zhren allgemach
Schnell stahl sich aus der Seel ein Ach
Voll ser Lust.9
Ach, when I read your songs,
I felt awe in my heart,
My heart beat high!
Now tears ran everywhere
From my soul escaped an Ach
Full of sweet pleasure.

The poem depicts the act of reading poetry as a form of emotional exchange,
in much the same way that late eighteenth-century theatrical performances were
popularly depicted as acts of emotional communication between actor and
audience. In the last four stanzas, it launches into a poetic autobiography of the
speaker, who describes herself as a simple, softhearted Schwabenmdchen
[Swabian girl] of modest means:
Recht heitern Geist und frohen Muth,
Ein sanftes Herz, gar fromm und gut,
Hab ich, auch offnen Sinn.
Ich bin nicht arm, doch auch nicht reich;
Mein Stand ist meinen Gtern gleich:
Sieh, wer ich bin!
A cheerful spirit and happy mood,
A soft heart, quite pious and good,
And an open sense have I.

Elise Brger: An den Dichter Brger. In Brgers Liebe. Dokumente zu Elise Hahns
und G. A. Brgers unglcklichem Versuch, eine Ehe zu fhren. Ed. by Hermann Kinder.
Frankfurt/M: Insel 1981. Pp. 1213. All translations, unless otherwise indicated, are
my own.
Quotations by Elise Brger are reprinted here exactly as they appear in the sources,
with original spellings intact.

I am not poor, but also not rich;

My station is like to my goods:
See who I am!
An den Dichter Brger idealizes both sides of the relationship between
author and reader, which it playfully compares to a love affair. It casts Brger
as the ideal German poet, with the simple, good-hearted Schwabenmdchen as
the ideal audience. In this way, Brger engages in the twofold gesture of pro-
moting her own special qualities by promoting the genius of another.
An den Dichter Brger exploits the comparison between the author/reader
relationship and a love affair to the fullest; it ends with the speakers offering
herself to Gottfried August Brger in marriage:
Drum kommt Dir mal das Freien ein,
So lasss ein Schwabenmdchen seyn,
Und whle immer mich!
So if you take a mind to court,
So let it be a Swabian girl,
And choose me!
Under the guise of a joke, the poem makes an unmistakable gesture of
courtship, which apparently was taken quite seriously by its intended reader,
Gottfried August Brger. In so doing, it boldly reverses the terms of the traditional
marriage proposal, with the young woman taking on the role of the pursuer. Like
an eighteenth-century actresss decision to take the stage, Elise Hahns publication
of An den Dichter Brger was a provocative and risky gesture with ambivalent
consequences. It won Elise the undeniable benefit of establishing a solid connec-
tion with Brger, but left her vulnerable to public scorn and ridicule. What hap-
pened after the publication of An den Dichter Brger is well documented.
With the aid of Marianne Ehrmann, Gottfried August Brger tracked down
Elise Hahn and initiated a courtship with her. The couple eventually married in
1790, but the marriage was by all accounts a catastrophe; Gottfried August
found fault with Elise for neglecting her household duties in favor of social life
and literary pursuits, and ultimately accused her of infidelity. Their marriage
ended in divorce in 1792; Elise Brger was forbidden to remarry and sought
out the stage almost immediately as a means of sustaining herself.
The question of who was responsible for the failure of this marriage has been
discussed at length in numerous essays, monographs and literary biographies,
and I will not attempt to reopen it here.10 What I would like to emphasize is the
See for example Friedrich W. Ebeling: Gottfried August Brger und Elise Hahn: Eine
Ehe-, Kunst- und Literaturleben. Leipzig: Wartig 1868; Karl Schiefers dissertation on
Brger, Elise Brger: Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte
(Dissertation Frankfurt/M 1923), focuses mainly on Elise Brgers marriage and
theatrical career.

extent to which this event defined Brgers reception as an actress and writer, both
during and after her lifetime. As the news of the divorce became known, Elise
Brger acquired a lasting reputation throughout German intellectual circles as a
vicious adulteress and harpy, the classic bluestocking who neglects her husband in
order to pursue her literary and social ambitions. Ten years later, while Brger was
performing on the stage in Hanover, she was made the subject of a devastating
Schmhschrift [polemic], which was circulated anonymously under the title
Schicksale einer theatralischen Abentheurerin auf der hannverschen Bhne
[Fates of a Theatrical Adventuress on the Hanover Stage]. Reiterating Brgers
charges against his wife, the polemic described Elise as grasping, amoral, and
vain, and made her indirectly responsible for her husbands death.11 As late as
1814, the poet Helmina von Chzy, attending one of Brgers performances of
tableaux vivants in Darmstadt, expressed surprise that Brger could embody
Drers Madonna so convincingly; surely someone with a soul as stained as Elise
Brgers could not convey the innocence and humility of the Blessed Virgin.12
Exclusion from Parnassus: Elise Brgers Gastspiel in Weimar
As the attacks on her character multiplied, Brger continued to pursue various
strategies of self-promotion. In 1801, Brger published a counter-polemic in
her defense entitled ber meinen Aufenthalt in Hannover [On My Stay in
Hanover], which refuted the charges made against her by the author of the
Schicksale; the pamphlet included a dossier of positive reviews and endorse-
ments by Brgers friends.13 At the same time, Brger continued to employ the
strategy of promoting herself by praising the accomplishments and status of
others. As the cult of Weimar Classicism began to take root in German literary
circles, Brger began to cultivate an image of herself as a priestess of Weimar
Classicism and German literature in general, a role she played enthusiastically
in her declamatory concerts. After Schillers death in 1805, Brger began to
perform so-called Schiller-Feier [Schiller Ceremonies], elaborate perfor-
mances that were part declamatory concert, part memorial service for the deceased
poet. Brgers first Schiller-Feier was performed in the Gewandhaus in Dresden
in December 1805; the genre caught on and became popular as the posthumous
cult of Schiller developed in the nineteenth century.14

Anonymous: Schicksale einer theatralischen Abentheuererin bei der Hannoverschen
Bhne. Altona 1801.
Helmina von Chzy: Unvergessenes. Denkwrdigkeiten aus dem Leben von Helmina
von Chzy. Von ihr selbst erzhlt. Vol. 2. Leipzig: Brockhaus 1858. P. 92.
Elise Brger: ber meinen Aufenthalt in Hannover gegen den ungenannten Verfasser
der Schicksale einer theatralischen Abenteurerin. Altona 1801.
Elise Brger: Lilien-Bltter und Zypressenzweige. Frankfurt/M: Heller und Rohm
1826. P. 197.

Brgers efforts to make herself over as a high priestess of Classicism are evi-
dent in the letters and texts that emerged out of Brgers only guest performance
in Weimar in 1802. On 22 April, Brger wrote to Goethe announcing her intention
to travel to Weimar and asking for permission to perform a Gastspiel at the court
theater there. Effusive in its flattery of Goethe, Brgers letter makes liberal use of
classicizing tropes, such as the Olympian gods, the Muses, and the laurel wreath:
Eine Schlerin Thaliens und Melpomenens, deren Nahmen Ihnen nicht ganz fremd
sein kann, findet zufllig Gelegenheit den lngst gehegten Wunsch, Weimar, den Sitz
der Musen, und den Parna, wo Apollo Gthe! alles Schne und Groe schaft und
wrkt, frher als sie es erwartete zu sehen. Sie naht sich daher dem Lorbeerbekrnzten
und bittet im Voraus um gtige Aufnahme: darf ich so schreibt sie mich auch
dem Tempel nahen, den du der Kunst weihest? Darf ich meinen Kranz unter die Zahl
der Krnze aufstellen welche dort den Kunstbeflissenen vergnnt sind? 15

Most honored one!

A pupil of Thalia and Melpomene, whose name cannot be completely foreign to
you, has by accident found occasion to see her long-held wish, Weimar, the seat of
the muses, and the Parnassus, where Apollo Goethe! creates and effects everything
beautiful and great, earlier than she expected. She therefore approaches the laurel-
crowned one and asks in advance for a kind reception: may I so she writes also
approach the temple, which you dedicate to art? May I set up my wreath amongst
the number of wreaths that have been granted to the artistically gifted there?

As in An den Dichter Brger, Elise Brger here places herself in the position
of supplicant, audience, and praise-singer of the powerful male poet who is in a
position to grant her favors. Once again, Brger plays with contemporary mod-
els of authorial self-stylization; however, the letter to Goethe makes it apparent
how much these models have changed since 1789. With Gottfried August Brger,
Elise mobilizes Empfindsamkeit [literature of sentimentality] models of reading
and writing as emotional exchange; with Goethe, she engages the early nine-
teenth-century vogue for classical imagery while paying elaborate homage to
the rapidly emerging Goethekult. Moreover, unlike An den Dichter Brger,
the 1802 letter to Goethe does not contain an appeal to the erotic dimension or
a cheeky reference to Brgers Swabian roots. With an actresss ability to
switch roles at will, Brger discards the mask of the Schwabenmdchen for
that of the Iphigenie-like priestess of classical literature.
Unfortunately for Elise Brger, the letter did immediately not reach its intended
reader; since Goethe was in Jena at the time of its arrival, the letter was first
read by the impresario Franz Kirms, who granted Brgers wish and scheduled
a performance of Bendas Ariadne auf Naxos, with Brger in the lead role, for

Elise Brger, qtd. in Rppel: P. 231.

the third of May. The day after this performance, Goethe wrote to Schiller from
Jena to ask about Brger: Was sagen Sie von Mme Brger? deren Erscheinung
ich wohl gern selbst mit abgewartet htte [What do you say about Madame
Brger, whose appearance I would have liked to attend myself ?].16 Schiller wrote
back with a scathing dismissal not only of Brgers performance, but also of her
personality, describing her as eine armselige herz- und geistlose Comdiantin
von der gemeinen Sorte, die durch ihre Ansprche ganz unausstehlich wird [a
miserable, heartless, and soulless actress of the common type, who has made
herself quite unbearable through her demands]. In addition, Franz Kirms,
Christiane Vulpius, and even Goethes twelve-year-old son August wrote to
Goethe describing Brgers performance as vulgar, incompetent, and in bad taste.
Among the accusations leveled at Brger were that her declamation was poor,
and that her costume, which was pinned up at the knee, revealed her legs in an
obscene and unattractive way.
In a reply to Schiller, Goethe announced his intention to attend Elise Brgers
concert in Jena, but only on the condition that he could leave early if necessary:
Auf alle Flle werde ich mich in eine Ecke des Saals, nicht weit von der Thre,
setzen und nach Beschaffenheit der Umstnde aushalten oder auf und davon
gehen.17 [In any case, I will sit in a corner of the hall, not far from the door, and
either endure it or leave on the spot, depending on the state of things]. According
to contemporary accounts, Goethe did in fact leave the performance early, after
the performance of an ode by Klopstock. Undaunted by her poor reception in
Weimar and by Goethes absence from her performance as Ariadne, Elise Brger
apparently tried to use this opportunity to make literary connections: on 8 May,
Brger sent Schiller several of her poems and the first act of a play, with a request
for feedback. Schiller, however, did not respond, instead passing the poems on to
Gottlieb Hufeland, with an apology for recommending such an unpleasant person
to him. In Weimar, therefore, Brger failed in her attempts to further her career
both as an actress and a writer. Thanks to Schillers interventions, she was barred
from any sort of interaction with Goethe, whose attention she had so desperately
sought in her letter of 22 April. As with her gesture of courting Gottfried August
Brger through her poetry, Elise Brger again received a mixed result; she
achieved her goal of performing Ariadne in Weimar, but only at the cost of incur-
ring the ridicule of Weimar society, which apparently closed ranks against her.
Why did Brgers performance in Weimar inspire such scorn? It has often
been argued that Brger was rejected in Weimar because of her allegiance to
the natural style of acting, which became popular in the 1760s and 1770s and
was associated with actors such as Konrad Ackermann and Konrad Ekhof; as an
actress in Altona, Bremen, and Hanover, Brger would most likely have been

Goethe an Schiller. Di. 4 May 1802. FA 5: 248249.
Rppel: Was sagen Sie von Mme Brger?. P. 233.

trained in this style. Under Goethes direction, however, the Weimar court the-
ater sought to distance itself from the natural school in favor of a more formal
style of dramaturgy that, at least in theory, favored the ideal over the life-
like.18 However, it seems clear that contemporary discourses of femininity and
theatricality played an equally important role in Brgers reception in Weimar.
The scandalous cut of Brgers costume was singled out as an offense both
against decency and aesthetics; the exposure of the female body onstage was
interpreted as being just as dangerous to the performance as Brgers allegedly
poor declamation and acting skills. In the same gesture, Brger was seen as
transgressing both sexual codes of conduct and the elevated aesthetic demands
of the Weimar court theater.
As Goethes gatekeeper and a particularly aggressive critic of actresses,
Schiller played a particularly important role in Elise Brgers exclusion from
Weimar society. Schillers earlier theoretical writings often engage in a merciless
critique of actressessexuality; in the 1783 essay ber das gegenwrtige teutsche
Theater [On the Current German Theater] for example, Schiller imagina-
tively depicts how eine abgefeimte Italienische Iphigenie [a cunning Italian
Iphigenia] might destroy the theatrical illusion by means of a coy Blick durch
die Maske [look through the mask] that returns the audiences attention to her
own body and sexuality.19 The actresss body is thus seen as being at odds with the
integrity of the performance, indeed the entire project of Enlightenment drama:
Wir sollten ja die Neigungen des schnen Geschlechtes aus seiner Meisterin kennen;
die hohe Elisabeth htte eher eine Verletzung ihrer Majestt, als einen Zweifel gegen
ihre Schnheit vergeben. Sollte eine Aktrice philosophischer denken? Sollte diese
wenn der Fall der Aufopferung kme mehr auf ihren Ruhm auerhalb der Kulissen,
als hinter denselben bedacht sein? Ich zweifle gewaltig. So lang die Schlachtopfer
der Wollust durch die Tchter der Wollust gespielt werden, so lang die Szenen des
Jammers, der Furcht und des Schrekkens, mehr dazu dienen den schlanken Wuchs,
die netten Fe, die Grazienwendungen der Spielerin zu Markte zu tragen [. . .] so
lange mgen immer unsere Theaterschriftsteller der patriotischen Eitelkeit entsagen,
Lehrer des Volks zu sein.

We should know the tendencies of the fair sex from its mistress: the great Elizabeth
would have sooner forgiven an insult to her majesty than a doubt regarding her beauty.
Would an actress think more philosophically? Would she if it came to a sacrifice
be more concerned for her fame before the scenes, than behind them? I doubt it most
forcefully. As long as the victims of lust are played by the daughters of lust, as long as
the scenes of misery, of fear and of terror, serve more to bring to market the slender
figure, the lovely feet, the graceful turns of the actress [. . .] so long may our play-
wrights forego the patriotic vanity of calling themselves teachers of the people.

See Ebeling. Pp. 173174.
Friedrich Schiller: ber das Gegenwrtige teutsche Theater. In: Werke und Briefe.
Vol. 8. Frankfurt/M: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1992. Pp. 169170.

In passages such as these, Schiller posits a fundamental dissonance between

the aesthetic and moral agenda of Enlightenment theater and the material and
social conditions of theater as a commercial enterprise. This is not a misogynist
argument in and of itself; however, by using misogynist rhetoric to illustrate his
point, Schiller endorses the position that actresses are little better than whores
and that womens sexuality is dangerous to the male viewer.
In other writings, Schiller characterizes the values, lifestyle, and habits
required of actresses as being completely at odds with the feminine ideal of the
schne Seele. For example, in 1784, Schiller urged his friend Reinwald to dis-
suade Sophie Albrecht from a career in the theater, as he believed that theatri-
cal life would undermine her beautiful soul. Schiller writes,
Nur, mein Bester, schreiben Sie ihr, ber ihre Lieblingsidee zu siegen, und vom Theater
zu gehen. Sie hat eine sehr gute Anlage zur Schauspielerin, das ist wahr, aber sie wird
solche bei keiner solchen Truppe ausbilden; sie wird mit Gefahr ihres Herzens, ihres
schnen und einzigen Herzens, auf dieser Bahn nicht einmal groe Schritte thun und
thte sie diese auch, schreiben Sie ihr, da der grste theatralische Ruhm, der Nahme
einer Clairon und Yates, mit ihrem Herzen zu theuer bezahlt sein wrde. Mir zu Gefallen
mein theuerster, schreiben Sie ihr das mit allem Nachdruk, mit allem mnnlichen
Ernst. Ich hab es schon gethan, und unsere vereinigte Bitten retten der Menschheit
vielleicht eine schne Seele, wenn wir sie auch um eine groe Actrice bestehlen.20

Only, my dear friend, write to her that she should conquer her favorite idea, and leave
the theater. She has a very good actresss disposition, that is true, but she will not
develop it in any such troupe; she will not take great steps on this path without risk
to her heart, her beautiful and unique heart and even if she were to do this, write
to her that the greatest theatrical fame, the name of a Claron and a Yates, would be
paid too dearly with her heart. As a favor to me, my dearest, write this to her with all
urgency, with all manly earnestness. I have already done so, and our united pleas
will perhaps rescue a beautiful soul for humanity, even if we rob it of a great actress.

In Schillers estimation, actresses cannot be beautiful souls, and a beautiful

soul cannot have a career as an actress. Other eighteenth-century writers were
open to the possibility that an actress could have a pure and virtuous heart; the
Hamburg actress Charlotte Ackermann, for example, was widely received as a
model of virtue and was lauded in numerous poems and essays after her death.
Schiller, however, is inflexible in his rejection of actresses. He depicts the
actress, whose job it is to dissimulate and impersonate others, as the opposite
of the schne Seele, whose every gesture and word are the direct expression of
her inner grace and purity.21 Schiller writes off as morally dangerous a career
in the theater, which for many eighteenth-century actresses served as a path to
Schiller: An Wilhelm Friedrich Hermann Reinwald. Mannheim. 5 May 1784. In:
Werke und Briefe. Vol. 11. Frankfurt/M: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1992. Pp. 104108.
Schiller: ber Anmut und Wrde. In: Werke und Briefe. Vol. 8. Frankfurt/M:
Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1992. Pp. 370371.

independence, education, and a writing life; in this way, he contributes to the

increasing relegation of women to the private sphere around 1800.
To be sure, the most successful actresses in this period were able to manipulate
images of female virtue and immorality in their own favor. Despite Schillers
efforts to keep her from the stage, Sophie Albrecht enjoyed a long and successful
career as an actress and writer; specializing in melancholy and affecting roles, she
capitalized on the very image of the schne Seele that Schiller juxtaposed with
that of the actress. Elise Brger, however, never managed to shake her reputation
as a precise opposite of the virtuous, graceful schne Seele. If the negative image
of Brger as a bluestocking and an unfaithful wife was still circulating more
than twenty years after the demise of her marriage, it almost certainly played a
part in the failure of her attempt to ingratiate herself with Goethes circle in
Weimar in 1802. Brgers reputation, her unapologetic theatrical ambitions and
her frank efforts at self-promotion were clearly at odds with Schillers ideas about
femininity; this is ironic indeed, given that Schillers Wrde der Frauen
[Dignity of Women] was a favorite highlight of Brgers declamatory per-
formances. As a result, Brger was successfully blocked from receiving the
encouragement and feedback she sought from the influential authors in Weimar.
Thus, despite her best efforts, Brgers position as a social outsider and a minor
author of the middle sphere was reaffirmed by the Weimar circle. This did
not prevent Brger from finding moderate success as an actress and writer
elsewhere during her lifetime, but it did help to ensure that Brgers literary
contributions were not acknowledged by subsequent generations of literary
historians, who tended to take Goethe and Schillers judgments at face value.

The Priestess Talks Back: Elise Brger and The Cult of the Classical
Brgers own response to her exclusion from Weimar is difficult to trace. After
1802, both Brgers declamatory concerts and her literary works continued to
cast her as a fervent champion and priestess of German literature, particularly
Schiller. For example, Brgers volume Lilien-Bltter und Zypressenzweige
includes a cycle of four sonnets dedicated to the memory of four German poets,
Klopstock, Gleim, Brger (!), and Schiller. In the footnotes, Elise Brger
describes being inspired to write the four poems by a reading of Schlegels son-
nets dedicated to classical Italian poets. Brgers four poems were published in
Wielands Teutscher Merkur, and she often read them in her declamatory con-
certs, which often took place on one of the poets death-days.22 In the poem ded-
icated to Schiller, Brgers tone is hyper-laudatory, in the manner of her 1802
letter to Goethe:

Elise Brger: Lilien-Bltter und Zypressenzweige. Pp. 197201.

So manchen kranken Sinn lie Er gesunden;

Im reichen Kranz, den Er Sich Selbst gewunden,
Sind alle Blumen wahre Poesie!23
Many a sick sense has he healed,
In the rich garland that he wove himself,
Are all the flowers true poesy!

The image of Schiller as a healer of sick sensibilities anticipates the distinction

that Goethe, in his conversations with Eckermann, would later make between
sick Romanticism and healthy Classicism.24 Here, Elise Brger places
Schiller and, by extension, herself, squarely on the side of healthy, classical,
wahre Poesie, a category from which she had been roundly excluded in her
one visit to Weimar.
However, there are a number of discordant elements in this constellation.
Brger aligns herself with both classical and anti-classical strains in German lit-
erature; she lavishes equal praise on both Schiller and Gottfried August Brger,
whose poems were roundly attacked by Schiller in 1791 for being too prosaic and
populist.25 Similar contradictions are at work in Elise Brgers other works. On
the one hand, Brgers poems, plays, and prose works often play to the early nine-
teenth-century vogue for all things classical, making reference to gods, god-
desses, Amor, ancient groves and laurel wreaths. However, Brgers works are
not classical in the sense of embracing ideal aesthetics. Her approach to gen-
res and themes is catholic in the extreme: her collections of poetry do not follow
a top-down aesthetic agenda, but jumble classicizing poems together with poems
in dialect and Gothic ballads in the style of Gottfried August Brgers Lenore.
Brgers own literary works are characterized less by a commitment to classi-
cal aesthetics than by a willingness to experiment with a variety of genres and
registers. Moreover, when Brger reflects on her own works, she emphatically
distances herself from the aesthetics of the ideal. In the introduction to her first
volume of poetry, Brger characterizes her poems as spontaneous products of
emotion and imagination rather than attempts to emulate a Classicism that she
interprets as rigid and masculinist. Brger writes,
Keines dieser Gedichte habe ich machen wollen; Wehmuth oder Scherz, Gefhl
oder Laune, haben sie erzeugt, und es ist ihnen daher auch nie erlaubt, Ansprche,
welche gelehrten Mnnern misfallen mten, zu machen; zwar sind unter den gti-
gen Unterzeichnern sehr gelehrte Mnner, aber diese kennen mich und wissen, wie
weit ich entfernt bin, mich ber die Grnzen des beschrnkten weiblichen Wissens
hinber wagen zu wollen. Gefhl, Fantasie und Sprache sind mir geworden, und

Ibid. P. 201.
Johann Peter Eckermann, Gesprche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens.
FA 12: 324 (2 April 1829).
Rppel: Was sagen Sie von Mme Brger?. P. 236.

mehr als was diese drei hervorbringen, will ich nicht aufstellen, und wie viel mehr
wird noch erfordert, um klassisch werden zu knnen!26

I did not want to create any of these poems; melancholy or whimsy, feeling or mood
gave rise to them, and therefore it is forbidden to place demands on them, which
must needs displease learned men; indeed, there are very learned men among
my benevolent subscribers, but these men know me and know how far removed
I am from wanting to transgress the limits of circumscribed female knowledge.
Feeling, imagination, and language have been mine, and I will not attempt more
than what these three provide, and how much more is necessary in order to become

Here, Brger opposes her own intuitive, imaginative, feminine literary produc-
tion to a model of Classicism that she associates with aesthetic idealism and
masculine intellectual rigor. At the same time, there is a good deal of irony in
the very eagerness with which Brger plays down her own literary merits and
appeals to the patience of learned men. Brger appeals to the notion of Clas-
sicism while subtly linking it to a kind of intellectual machismo and pedantry
that is opposed to the free play of feeling, imagination, and language.
Brger challenges das Klassische again in her 1814 short play, Die antike
Statue aus Florenz [The Antique Statue from Florence], which satirizes the early
nineteenth centurys investment in the classical as an aesthetic category as well
as its fascination with classicizing phenomena such as copies of Greco-Roman
art and artifacts, Attitden, and tableaux vivants. Set in contemporary times, the
play depicts the humiliation of a bourgeois aesthete, Ludwig, who has become
obsessed with objects of classical beauty as a result of seeing a female atti-
tude performer. His wife, Laura, complains bitterly of his obsession: Denn
seit dem Unglckstag, da findt er alles schlecht, / Was nicht antik, und klassisch
will er alles haben [For since that unhappy day, he finds fault with all / That isnt
antique, and must have everything classical].27 The play uses humor to expose
Ludwigs enthusiasm for the classical as nothing more than a kind of voyeuri-
stic sexual fetishism, which causes him to neglect his wife and shut himself away
with his beloved drawings and plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues. Laura,
however, takes revenge by performing an Attitde herself; she impersonates an
antique statue so effectively that Ludwig believes himself to be a modern-day
Pygmalion. On discovering that the statue is actually Laura, he renounces his

Elise Brger: Gedichte von Elise Brger geb. Hahn. Als erste Band ihrer Gedichte,
Reise-Bltter, Kunst- und Lebens-Ansichten. Hamburg: Conrad Mller 1812. Pp.
Elise Brger: Die antike Statue aus Florenz. Frankfurt 1814. P. 13. The play is
reprinted in its entirety in Karin Wurst: Spurensicherung: Elise Brgers Einakter Die
antike Statue aus Florenz (1814) als Beispiel dramatischer Experimente an der
Jahrhundertwende. In: Goethe Yearbook 8 (1996). Pp. 223227.

obsession with fremde Formen [foreign forms] and is reconciled with his
wife. Die antike Statue aus Florenz celebrates the triumph of a living female
body over the brittle relics of antiquity; in this way, it argues against the rigid,
unyielding aesthetic standards of Classicism in favor of a healthy appreciation
of everyday beauty and emotion. The play identifies das Klassische as the sick
party, which places arbitrary constraints on the free play of emotion, inspiration,
and desire. Despite her many claims to be a priestess of Classicism, Brger ulti-
mately reveals herself to be one of its strongest critics. Against both the strin-
gent demands of ideal aesthetics and the faddish mania for relics of antiquity, she
posits an explicitly feminized aesthetic dedicated to experimentation, imagina-
tion, and laughter.
Read in the larger context of Elise Brgers creative life, the anecdote of
Brgers visit to Weimar thus reveals a great deal about the relationship between
Classicism, theater, and models of femininity around 1800. Brgers experi-
ences in Weimar expose the limits of womens involvement with Classicism, as
actresses, writers, and performers, around 1800, and the rhetorical hoops through
which they had to jump in order to gain access to Goethe and his circle. At the
same time, a reading of this story reveals the ways in which Weimar Classicism
sought to define itself in terms of the exclusion of others, such as Gastspiel
actors and women writers who did not conform to the mold of the schne Seele.
Finally, it foregrounds the way in which anecdotes, hearsay, and gossip influ-
ence the reception of female cultural producers and ensure their status as minor
figures in both literary circles and literary history. It demonstrates the need for
an alternative practice of critical inquiry that takes seriously the literary and
cultural contributions of eighteenth-century actresses; moreover, it draws atten-
tion to the ambivalent status of both theater and womens writing as sites of
resistance to, as well as celebration of, the cult of the classical.
This page intentionally left blank
Patricia Anne Simpson

Visions of the Nation: Goethe, Karl Friedrich Schinkel,

and Ernst Moritz Arndt*
This chapter examines the influence of the neoclassical aesthetic on the representation
of the nation in Goethes festival play Des Epimenides Erwachen (1815), Karl Friedrich
Schinkels portrait of his wife, Susanne (1810/1813), and Ernst Moritz Arndts political
poetry and pamphlets in support of German national sentiment. Of the three cultural
figures, Goethe most definitively inscribes gender identity into his celebratory tableaux
and opera to mark the victory of Prussia and its allies in the Wars of Liberation. More so
than his contemporaries, Goethe organizes gender definitions around the ideals of neo-
classical painting, in which male and female roles in war and high politics are clearly
delineated. However, Goethe introduces the discourse of national identity to stabilize any
shifts generated by the transfer of gendered attributes. Through reference to visual arts,
he restores the ordering concept of the bourgeois family to postwar gender hierarchies.

In the Preface to Nationalism and Modernism, Anthony D. Smith recounts the

story of the painter Benjamin West and his famous work, The Death of General
Wolfe (ca. 1770). Sir Joshua Reynolds had warned West to adopt the classic cos-
tume of antiquity, as much more becoming the inherent greatness of [. . .] [the]
subject than the modern garb of war .1 West defended his rejection of the neo-
classical style for this work as geographically inappropriate; the event having
taken place in a region of the world unknown to the Greeks and Romans, and at
a period of time when no such nations, nor heroes in their costume, any longer
existed .2 While Smiths concern with this event is the provenance of national-
ism, mine is the challenge to portray visually the early modern nation within the
prevailing dominant neoclassical style. In this chapter, I argue that three major
cultural figures of the early nineteenth century, Goethe, Schinkel, and Arndt,
each sketches an image of the nation in response to the historical events of war.
Of the three, Goethes work most subtly invokes gender and transferable gender
traits to signify the modernity of the nation, yet still within the neoclassical aes-
thetic. In short, Goethe introduces the discourse of national character traits to
stabilize the shifting gender boundaries upset by envisioning a woman warrior.

* This essay is a shortened version of The Gender of Nation, chapter five of my book,
The Erotics of War in German Romanticism (2006). I reprint parts of that work with the
kind permission of Bucknell University Press. I would like to thank Eve Moore and
Melissa Dabakis for their generous readings of earlier drafts of this piece.
Quoted in Anthony D. Smith: Nationalism and Modernism: A critical survey of recent
theories of nations and nationalism. London and New York: Routledge 2003, first pub-
lished 1998. P. x.

Goethes festival play, Des Epimenides Erwachen [Epimenides Awakening]

explicitly responds to the specific historical event of war with a national allegory
in a neoclassical frame. Prussias (a synecdoche for Germanys) triumph over
Napoleon through the Wars of Liberation (18131815) prompted a wide range
of cultural artifacts, which were produced under the influence of a discourse of
national identity that accompanies military victory. The allegorical festival
play was commissioned in May 1814, when the theater director August Wilhelm
Iffland asked Goethe to write something for a performance at the Berliner Theater
to celebrate Napoleons defeat, marking the return of Friedrich Wilhelm III; Czar
Alexander was also to be present.3 Goethe eventually did send Iffland a piece in
four decorations, a series of tableaux with music in the style of Baroque opera.
The work was not actually performed in Berlin until 1815, after the Congress of
Vienna. At that point, any hope of unity for the German states had been quashed.4
This text and its variants provide an insight in Goethes evolving concept of gen-
der, particularly in the context of an amplified sense of German national feeling.
This play showcases Goethes attempt to accommodate the rising tide of national
victory, but contain it within the preferred neoclassical frame.5 The result is a
hybrid: German war, represented through tableaux and opera, performed before a
Berlin audience (and eventually in Weimar as well), but through the lens of the
awakened figure of Greek mythology, Epimenides. This generic hybrid in turn
generates a figure of a woman warrior who morphs into an allegory of unity.6

This request came via Hofrat Franz Kirms, Goethes assistant at the Weimar Theater.
For further details, see MA 9: 1294ff.
The plays production history is full of ups and downs. Goethe first hesitated to take
on the project with such short notice. Then, for reasons that have never been completely
clear, the performance was delayed. Goethes well-known support of Napoleon and ten-
sions with Berlin seem sufficient enough to explain any the hesitation. After the pass-
ing of the initial historical occasion, another presented itself upon the Kings return
from the Congress of Vienna, and the first performance was somewhat marred by
Napoleons escape from Elba. These notwithstanding, it premiered in Berlin. Goethe
altered the historical significance of the play for its Weimar performance, the house of
Saxony-Weimar displacing the kings who defeated Napoleon. For further information
on the plays inception and realization, see MA 9: 1160f.
Goethe had to educate his audience through program notes, however. Briefly, according
to Goethes notes: Epimenides, son of a nymph, is born on Crete where he shepherds his
fathers flocks. While searching for a lost sheep, he wanders into a cave and falls into a
forty-year sleep. Upon awakening, he finds his family and is taken back into the fold of the
community. This miraculous slumber signifies his special status; he is protected and loved
by the gods. Goethe had to dispel any notion that Epimenides could be a reference to
the Prussian King. Even this gesture indicates an uncomfortable relationship between
the theater and history: aesthetic constructs and the historical figures they resemble.
Unity represents the alliance of Prussia, Russia, and Austria against Napoleon, not the
unity of the German states.

EpimenidesAwakening has traditionally been read as Goethes public penance

for his support of Napoleon and his awakening to national feeling.7 However, in
light of the growing body of scholarship on the complexity of Goethes gendered
constructs, I want to reread this play as a specular moment in which the scene
on the Berlin stage opens onto national history. The visual and aesthetic attributes
hitherto associated with gender identity begin to acquire national signatures. This
play represents the inscription of gendered attributes into the service of nation.
Goethe is nothing if not complex. He is, for example, no friend of extreme
German nationalists. For this reason, I go beyond Goethes play. I frame the read-
ing of Epimenides on one side by Karl Friedrich Schinkels portrait of his pregnant
wife, Susanne (ca. 18101813), and on the other with Ernst Moritz Arndts poem
Des Deutschen Vaterland [The Germans Fatherland] (1813). These are both
precursor texts, though neither exerts any direct influence on Goethes work.
Schinkel would collaborate with Goethe later on the stage set for the performance
of Iphigenie auf Tauris that opened the Schauspielhaus in 1821. But as an archi-
tect and Prussian official, he is directly involved in translating a vision of nation
into brick and buildings. Arndt represents another expression of loyalty to the idea
of nation. Goethe, in his cosmopolitan ways, has little to say about patriots. Yet
he participates in the larger context of national discourse, even if reluctantly or
unconsciously, in Fredric Jamesons sense of the term in the classic The Political
Unconscious. Goethe offers, however, a more complex and differentiated treatment
of gender. In each work, Goethe, Schinkel, and Arndt deploy gender in ways that
ultimately reassert the bourgeois sphere as the primary signifier of postwar polit-
ical stability.8 Goethe, however, destabilizes this gender model while maintaining
a contiguous relationship to antiquitys patient and persistent aesthetic.

See for example Marinus Ptz: Goethes Des Epimenides Erwachen politisch
betrachtet. In: Goethe Jahrbuch 113 (1996). Pp. 287290, here p. 289; see his
Anmerkung 2 for further references. See also a brief discussion in Gerhard Kaiser:
Wandrer und Idylle: Goethe und die Phnomenologie der Natur in der deutschen
Dichtung von Gener bis Gottfried Keller. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1977.
My analysis is also informed by the chapter on Goethe in: Klaus F. Gille: Zwischen
Kulturrevolution und Nationalliteratur. Gesammelte Aufstze zu Goethe und seiner
Zeit. Ed. by Hannelore Scholz. Intro. by Karl Robert Mandelkow. Berlin: Trafo Verlag
1998. Pp. 133ff., in which he discusses Goethe and the national movement. Foremost,
he treats the ways Goethe manages to dehistoricize the material and complicate a nave
patriotism through the perspective on the spectacle provided by Epimenides. He notes
the pedagogical imperative of antiquity, at this point in contemporary events somewhat
residual pedagogy, in the conclusion of the essay.
See George Mosse: The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity. New
York, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996. P. 7. The role of the visual, middle-class
society, and the affiliation between the nation and modern masculinity is crucial to the

Art Goes to War

The triangulation of war, gender, and the visual arts in the early nineteenth cen-
tury reveals a striking shift in aesthetic practices. Goethes extensive private col-
lection exhibits his own preference for neoclassical art, and it is perhaps in this
realm of visual culture that the difference between Classicism and Romanticism
can be safely and unambiguously underscored.9 In his multiple roles as diplomat,
writer, painter, and collector, Goethe plays a pivotal part in managing the visual
incarnations of German history after the Wars of Liberation. For him, art can
serve as a counterpoint to the ravages of war.10 He also had visible agendas in his
support of the visual arts. Goethe was in charge of acquisitions, part of his respon-
sibility as head of the Weimar library: this included overseeing the art collections.11

See Beate Allert: Goethe and the Visual Arts. In: The Cambridge Companion to
Goethe. Ed. by Lesley Sharpe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2002. Pp.
193206, esp. p. 202 on the Propylen art contests Goethe was involved in judging.
For example, he purports to having recovered from enlisting conscripts during the
day by writing Iphigenie at night. For more on this type of resonance between life and
work, see Walter Benjamin: Gesammelte Schriften. Ed. by Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann
Schweppenhuser, 12 vols. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp Verlag 1980 ff. II.2 and II.3, for an
essay on Goethe in which he draws compelling conclusions about Goethes relationship
to tragedy and revolution as unfolded in this encyclopedia article from the late 1920s.
This critical piece was solicited by the Neue Groe Russische Enzyklopdie, limited to
three hundred lines [. . .] vom Standpunkt der marxistischen Doktrin [(. . .) from the
viewpoint of Marxist doctrine] (Benjamin, II/3, p. 1465), and ultimately rejected/revised
beyond recognition for publication in 1929. Here Benjamin specifies the role of power and
violence in Goethes life and aesthetics. In it, Benjamin makes connections between
Goethes political activity and his writing that have since become critical commonplaces.
His vocabulary, however, one that attempts to articulate the biographical with the bibli-
ographical aspects of Goethe and his time, opens a way out of the critical impasse in which
the life and work are used in a mutually explanatory function. Specifically with regard to
Iphigenie, Benjamin notes: Wenn [Friedrich Wilhelm] Riemer aus dem Jahre 1779 erzhlt,
wie Goethe anderthalb Monate lang das Herzogtum durchstreift, am Tage die Landstraen
besichtigt, in den Amtshusern die junge Mannschaft zum Kriegsdienst auserlesen,
abends und nachts in den kleinen Gasthusern gerastet und an seiner Iphigenie gearbeitet
habe, so gibt er eine Miniatur dieser ganzen kritischen, vielfach bedrohten Goetheschen
Existenz [When (Friedrich Wilhelm) Riemer reports on the year 1779, he tells about how
Goethe roamed the duchy for a month and a half, by day inspecting the country roads,
selecting in the offices a unit of young men for military service, and by night Goethe
would rest in the small inns and work on his Iphigenie; he gives us a glimpse of this
entire critical, multiply endangered Goethean existence] (II/2). P. 712.
See Hermann Mildenberger: Goethes italienisches Museum. In: Geheimster Wohnsitz.
Goethes italienisches Museum. Im Blickfeld der Goethezeit III. Ed. by Hermann
Mildenberger et al. Berlin: G H Verlag 1999. P. 9. Mildenberger points out that Goethe
shared this position with Christian Gottlob Voigt beginning in 1797. They were also in
charge of the art collections.

Goethes motivation for sponsoring the Weimarer Preisaufgaben12 included not

only fostering his own neoclassical taste, but also scouting artists who would then
quite literally leave their mark on the vision of court life through commissioned
work.13 Painting at the time is more than decorative; it is also instructive, erotic,
and economic. The visual arts in general exceeded the role of providing aesthetic
pleasure or possibly even erotic inspiration: art was exemplary, and paintings
were consciously commissioned to illustrate appropriate gender models as well.
Goethes selections reveal a predisposition toward recuperating classical themes
around war and revising them for his own present time. He recognizes and fosters
the ability of the visual arts to allegorize the myths and events of history for essen-
tially private purposes. In other words, paintings inform not only aesthetic judg-
ment but also ethical behavior, specifically gendered behavior.
Two prominent artists whom Goethe knew and admired were Angelika
Kauffmann (17411807) and Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (17511829),
though Goethe would break with the latter for reasons that remain largely specu-
lative.14 Before I proceed with a closer look at Goethes play, the Schinkel paint-
ing, and the Arndt poem, I want to contextualize that discussion with reference to
three paintings from the late eighteenth century because they treat the role of art,
war, and gender in the representation of antiquity. Kauffmanns works display
models of womanhood: Julia, die Gattin des Pompeius, fllt in Ohnmacht [Julia,
Pompeys Wife, Faints] (Figure 1) and Cornelia, die Mutter der Gracchen [Cornelia,
the Mother of the Gracchen]15 (Figure 2). In the Julia painting of 1785, the woman
who collapses at the sight of her husbands bloody clothes, gives birth, and dies,

See Hermann Mildenberger: Verzweigte Wege von Klaassizismus und Romanatik.
In: Hermann Mildenberger et al. Aquarelle und Zeichnungen. Im Blickfeld der
Goethezeit I. Berlin: G H Verlag 1997. Pp. 932. Mildenberger focuses on the peda-
gogical impetus in Goethes motivation for the prize competition, conceived in part as
a corrective to contemporary taste, though he also highlights Goethes recognition of
the talents of Philipp Otto Runge and Caspar David Friedrich.
See Rolf Bothe: Wilhelm Tischbein und die klassizistische Malerei im Weimarer
Schlo. In: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. Hektor wirft Paris seine Weichlichkeit
vor und mahnt ihn, in den Kampf zu ziehen. Ed. by Kulturstiftung der Lnder/Stiftung
Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen. Weimar/Berlin 2003. Pp. 618, here p. 12.
See Rolf Bothe: Wilhelm Tischbein und die klassizistische Malerei im Weimarer
Schlo. In: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. Hektor wirft Paris seine Weichlichkeit
vor und mahnt ihn, in den Kampf zu ziehen. Ed. by Kulturstiftung der Lnder/Stiftung
Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen. Weimar/Berlin 2003. Pp. 618, here p. 11f.
These aesthetic models of virtuous females from Roman history are inspired by
Valerius Maximus. Queen Caroline of Sicily, wife of King Ferdinand IV, daughter of
the Emperor Franz I and Maria Theresia, commissioned Kauffmann to paint these two
scenes. The first painting is alternately called Julia, die Gemahlin des Pompejus,
erfhrt den vermeintlichen Tod ihres Gatten or Pompeys Wife Julia Hears the News of
Her Husbands Reputed Death.

Figure 1. Julia, die Gattin des Pompeius, fllt in Ohnmacht [Julia, Pompeys Wife, Faints].
Angelika Kauffmann. 1785. Reprinted courtesy of the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und

epitomizes the role of a political wife. In the Cornelia work, a woman who consid-
ers her sons as her most valuable possession exemplifies the virtuous mother.
These two paintings are offset by male virtue and its counterpart in Wilhelm
Tischbeins Hektor wirft Paris seine Weichlichkeit vor und mahnt ihn, in den Kampf
zu ziehen [Hektor Admonishes Paris for His Weakness and Warns Him to Join the
Battle] (Figure 3). Here the painter takes a moment of inspiration from the sixth
song of Homers Iliad to portray the courage and virility of one warrior over the
effeminate sexual addiction of his brother. A closer look at the nexus of these paint-
ings demonstrates the degree to which contemporary politics enters into the alle-
gorical deployment of antiquity in the realm of the aesthetic in order to regulate
gendered virtues. The iconography of gender, shaped by Greek and Roman mod-
els, is subject to shift during a time of war in response to a fluctuating relationship
between individuals and their nation. In other words, the aesthetic exemplarity
of neoclassical virtue becomes the political tool for defining the nation at war.

Figure 2. Cornelia, die Mutter der Gracchen [Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchen].
Angelika Kauffmann. 1785. Reprinted courtesy of the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und

Gendered Virtues: Wife, Mother, Warrior

Kauffmanns life and work are well known, and her role as a late eighteenth-
century woman artist, with emphasis on both words, well documented. Still, many
art historians minimize the importance of her contributions precisely because of
her gender. Hermann Mildenberger raises the interesting possibility that Kauffmann
consciously performs her role as female artist: that her gender performance is
congruent with Judith Butlers theory of gender performativity, namely that
gendered behavior is learned and enacted.16 As he writes of her international
fame in his catalogue biography:
Ein besonderes Element prgte Angelika Kauffmanns beruflichen Werdegang: Sie
war klug genug, zu einer Zeit, die den Kult graziser Weiblichkeit zur eleganten
Verpflichtung machte, als eine Inkarnation dieses modischen Ideals selbst die Bhne

Judith Butler: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York
and London: Routledge 1990; 1999. P. xiv is especially important, for here Butler dis-
cusses her changing response to performativity.

Figure 3. Hektor wirft Paris seine Weichlichkeit vor und mahnt ihn, in den Kampf zu
ziehen [Hektor Admonishes Paris for His Weakness and Warns Him to Join the Battle].
Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. 1786. Reprinted courtesy of the Stiftung Weimarer
Klassik und Kunstsammlungen.

zu betreten. Ihre persnliche Ausstrahlung, ihre Inszenierung im gesellig-offizisen

Rahmen dienten dem Ruhm als Malerin, vervielfachten ihn, waren Garanten einer
jahrzehntelang erfolgreich betriebenen public relations Strategie.17

A special element characterized Angelika Kauffmanns professional development: At a

time that made the cult of gracious femininity obligatory, she was intelligent enough to
come on stage as an incarnation of this fashionable ideal itself. Her personal charisma,
her staging in social, semi-official contexts served her fame as a painter, greatly
increased it, were guarantors of a public relations strategy she pursued for decades.

Mildenberger locates Kauffmann in a pantheon of other influential women of the

time, mentions the Empress Maria Theresia and Catherine the Great to reference
Hermann Mildenberger: Angelika Kauffmann. In: Angelika Kauffmann. Berlin: G H
Verlag 1996. P. 9. Throughout this essay, Mildenberger refutes Bettina Baumgrtels work
on Kauffmann, including assertions about the quality of Kauffmanns work, comparisons
with Jacques-Louis David, and her claim, with regard to Julia, about fainting as a female
act of heroism. My point here is not so much to engage in detailed art historical debates,

political power,18 but it is possible to interpret Kauffmanns feminine posturing

as a counterpart to the excessive and exclusive masculinity associated with
classical art. Kauffmanns behavior supports Butlers claim that gender is a
kind of performance. Her exemplary women, and by extension her work, exist
in an asymmetrical relationship to masculine portrayals of power, republican
passions, and warrior virtues.19
It becomes clear that the self-consciousness about gender roles affects not
only behavior of the artist, but the work as well. Kauffmann painted portraits,
allegories (as portraits), and a range of perhaps predictable historical scenes,
but she often gave her themes a female-specific focus. Michael Levey, in his
Rococo to Revolution, disparages Kauffmanns contributions to the neoclassi-
cal tradition, criticizes her portraits with a tendency to petrify and suggests
that [. . .] she was perhaps more successful in touching the heart.20
The reliance of the neoclassical movement on moral force is legible in
Kauffmanns two Roman paintings.21 Her models of ideal women, the wife whose
despair at the thought of her husbands death causes her own, and the mother, who
treasures her sons, demonstrate the extent to which this moral force is gendered.
These gender roles inform the scholarly reception of the work; depictions of the
male sphere of political violence and historical force exceed any private female
experience on canvas. The effective exclusion of the female experience is not lost
on Kauffmanns contemporaries. Not accidentally, Kauffmann illustrated scenes
from Goethes play Iphigenie auf Tauris; she would have been familiar with the
moral force of Goethes humanist heroine, and her call for a female role in the arts.
As in Goethes play, the feminine assumes a moral position of influence vis--vis
male politics. In other words, Goethe and Kauffmann both theorize a political place
for women through their ability to persuade certain powerful men and perhaps the
public. As Mildenberger points out, Julia married Pompey as a result of Caesars
political manipulations.22 Yet she loved her husband, who was much older, and was
in fact able to broker an understanding between the two men: she refused to settle

but to highlight the negative reception of certain female-specific role models in painting
because of gender. All translations, unless otherwise indicated, are my own.
See Mildenberger: Angelika Kauffmann. Bemerkungen zum Stil. Pp. 910.
For an overview of the dominant trends in early nineteenth-century painting, see
Thomas Crow: Patriotism and Virtue: David to the Young Ingres. In: Nineteenth Century
Art: A Critical History. Ed. by Thomas Crow, Brian Lukacher, et al. London: Thames
and Hudson 2002, 2nd edition. Pp. 1854.
Michael Levey: Rococo to Revolution: Major Trends in Eighteenth-Century Painting.
London: Thames and Hudson 1965 and 1977; reprinted 1995. P. 183.
Ibid. P. 186. There Levey writes: But the specific eighteenth-century recipe was to fuse
nature and antiquity to produce a type of art which should compel attention by its moral
Mildenberger: Cornelia und Julia als Vorbilder. Zur ikonographischen Deutung der
Pendants von Angelika Kauffmann. P. 21.

for the position of political pawn which her father had chosen for her. With her
death, the political rivalry resumed. The Cornelia image also carries a similar
political message. Popular during the time of the French Revolution, the woman
who prizes her sons over the vanity of jewels eventually raises them as republican
activists. It is worth remembering here that French women who supported the rev-
olutionary cause tossed their jewels into piles, willingly sacrificing their wealth
to their political convictions. The sacrifice of jewels as a political act is specific
to gendered morality, and I return to this point in my reading of Epimenides.
Kauffmanns paintings, and a certain tradition of reading them, intentionally
elevate the realm of the private into the public eye of history. She also shares with
Goethe certain concerns about the role of the feminine in the overwhelmingly
male political sphere.
Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein also transmits the moral message of the
neoclassical tradition, though with different results. On Goethes Italian journey,
he met and befriended Tischbein in Rome. Tischbein, along with Kauffmann,
painted Goethe. While Tischbeins Goethe in the Roman Countryside has become
an icon, Goethe questioned the likeness between himself and Kauffmanns vision
of him (though he liked the portrait). Hektor wirft Paris seine Weichlichkeit vor
stems from the year 1786.23 Tischbein hoped to sell the painting to Duke Ernst II
of Saxony-Gotha, from whom he received a stipend in part thanks to Goethes
intervention. Angelika Kauffmann had painted the theme in 1775: Hektor
mahnt Paris, in den Kampf zu ziehen [Hektor Warns Paris to Join the Battle].24
Tischbeins version invites comparisons to her work, but not only because they
choose the same theme. The moral force in each is gender-specific.
Tischbein, however, invites comparison to the most prominent and revolution-
ary representative of the neoclassical tradition: Jacques-Louis David. Goethe is
among the first to erect a comparison between Tischbeins piece and Davids
Oath of the Horatii.25 Davids painting, according to Levey, [. . .] united the gen-
erations and the nations, and was admired by those whom by implication it
attacked.26 He continues to describe the content of this painting more explicitly:
But the Horatii, presented with powerful realism, are fighting for Rome, putting the
state before all personal considerations; they are men in a world without gods, trust-
ing in their swords to preserve the city from tyranny. It is an exciting prospect, a call
to arms in a just cause by ordinary citizens: themselves brothers, amid their family,
equals about to die for liberty.27

The Weimar court acquired several paintings by Wilhelms cousin, Johann Friedrich
August, and until recently only a self-portrait August could be counted among the
museums collection. See Rolf Bothe: Wilhelm Tischbein und die klassizistische Malerei
im Weimarer Schlo. P. 17.
Bothe: Wilhelm Tischbein. P. 17.
Ibid. Mildenberger. P. 19.
Levey: Rococo to Revolution. P. 190.
Ibid. Pp. 190191.

Levey concludes the summary with a note that the painting ominously margin-
alizes: the deaths [. . .] culminate in the high Roman virtue of a brother killing
his sister for loving the Republics enemy.28 The story would have been familiar
to Davids audience. It was Tischbein, upon being invited into Davids studio to
view the painting, who commented on the seriousness of the young men, but also
noted the stress of the bent woman off to the side: If you develop the group of
women, like the men, then it will be considered among the most excellent paint-
ings and no one will contest its rank .29 David answered that he was finished
with the painting, and no amount of protest from Tischbein could sway him. Still,
Tischbein remains attuned to the suffering, the female-specific loss, inspired
by the young mens sacrifice of themselves to their political cause. Whether his
comment pertains solely to style or technique, he still attends to the plight of
the figure about to lose her young husband. In the visible and the implied leg-
end, women sacrifice and are sacrificed through love and blood. The young
wife, anticipating mourning, is no less heroic in her sacrifice than the young
men, about to die for liberty, intoxicated by their own zeal. The reception
weights these roles differently, putting art history in alignment with history.
This message is implicit in Tischbeins daring critique of Davids work. His
moral register is open both to the suffering of men and women in war.30 His
comment on the role of women, however confined to the domestic sphere and
the privacy of suffering, is rejected by David, who is steeped in his own picto-
rial, masculine fervor. And Davids politics and aesthetics dominate not only
the aesthetic tradition of the late eighteenth century, but they shape subsequent
readings of the work. The rise of masculine nationalism throughout the nine-
teenth century (and beyond) parallels the articulation of nation with masculin-
ity. Smith, in exploring the relationship between gender and nationalism and
recent scholarship to that point, writes:
In an age of revolutionary nationalism, after all, such neo-classic images as Davids
painting of the Oath of the Horatii (1784), Wests The Death of Wolfe (1770) and
Fuselis Oath of the Rtli (1779) focus explicitly on the traditional masculine attri-
butes of energy, force and duty.31

Ibid. P. 191.
Quoted in Hermann Mildenberger: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. Hektor wirft
Paris seine Weichlichkeit vor. Ein Konkurrenzbild zu Jacques-Louis David von 1786 und
die Folgen. In: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. Hektor wirft Paris seine Weichlichkeit
vor und mahnt ihn, in den Kampf zu ziehen. Ed. by Kulturstiftung der Lnder/Stiftung
Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen. Weimar/Berlin 2003. Pp. 1951, here p. 22.
It is worth noting that a painting attributed to the School of David (Hector Admonishing
Paris and Helen) clearly indicts both figures. In: Thomas E. Crow: Painters and Public
Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris. New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1985.
Pp. 246247.
Anthony D. Smith: Nationalism and Modernism. London and New York: Routledge
1998. P. 208.

Smith references the copy of many art catalogs, on which he bases his obser-
vations.32 Here, however, I want to recover Tischbeins voice for a moment and
read his work in the context of that implicit critique: why not fully articulate
the role of women? If we temporarily and artificially slow down the juggernaut
of nineteenth- and twentieth-century nationalisms, it is possible to glimpse the
culture of masculine national and political feeling that accommodates the fem-
inine in differentiated and subtle ways, even though these involve the contain-
ment of the erotic in the domestic. The paintings of women and children Peter
Paret discusses in his work on art and military history are the modern incarna-
tions of these neoclassical gender models.33 Tensions emerge between advo-
cates of Neoclassicism and those who would seek new forms to represent the
nation. For art provides, among other things, moral models.
Tischbeins Hektor wirft Paris seine Weichlichkeit vor is no less a model of
ethical masculinity than Kauffmanns Julia and Cornelia are incarnations of
feminine virtue. The gazes locked between brothers, Hektor dominates the
scene. Paris, pale, lovely in profile, and undefined, rests his weapon at his side.
Hektor, buff and militarized, gestures at the battle, the index of manly duty.
Hektors nipples are covered in metal, while Paris exposed one is delicate.
Paris weapon lays idle on the floor, and a red cloth drapes his quiver. The beau-
tiful Helena, surrounded by attendants, drops the threads of her womans work,
which Tischbein references to emphasize the differences in male and female
attributes. The latter image also conventionally invokes the visual attributes of
the Fates in contemporary painting. Tischbein connects debilitating desire with
gendered destiny in this image. Still, he makes a place for Helena, for her
downcast gaze, pulled toward Paris. In other words, Tischbein does not pass
judgment in this painting. He neither condemns nor vaunts her, but tacitly
acknowledges her sacrifice by representing the spilled tools of her gendered
waiting. Any moral outrage this scene inspires must be directed at Paris, who
shirks his duty to fight in a war his own actions have caused.
The models of gender available in the classical art and literature of Greek
and Rome inform the contemporary interpretation of culture in the Age of
Goethe, struggling to balance the weight of the neoclassical and the modern.
As in the work of David, the revolutionary impulse comes to the foreground.
Goethes own work, Iphigenie auf Tauris, for example, is a work of modernity

Smith: Nationalism and Modernism. Further, he cites George Mosses work on the
roots of masculinized nationalism in the bourgeois family and its morality, acknowl-
edging the Greek ideal of physical beauty in anticipation of a Nazi aesthetic. P. 209.
See Peter Paret: Witnesses to Life. Princeton: Advanced Studies Institute 1996. Also
significant is Smiths discussion in his preface of Benjamin Wests painting The Death of
General Wolfe (1770), a reference to which opens this chapter. Smith writes: Nationalism,
in Wests understanding, is not the exclusive property of the ancients, nor is heroic self-
sacrifice for ones country. See Smith: Nationalism and Modernism. P. x.

as G. W. F. Hegel points out in his Lectures on the Aesthetic because Goethe

revises the role of the gods, who do not intervene overly much in the unfolding of
events, in order to elevate human reason. For all its dramatic flaws, that play still
occupies a central place in the moral canon of German literature.34 During the
height of the neoclassical trend, the representation of war, family, and gender
undergoes a similar transition from the pre-modern to the post-Enlightenment
imperative of human reason. Art endorses a masculinity that heeds the call to arms.
Pregnancy and Paternity: Karl Friedrich Schinkel
The Napoleonic wars began in 1796, and a generation of German intellectuals
divided along political lines. While many supported the reforms Napoleon would
bring Hegel would report enthusiastically in the Bamberger Zeitung about
Napoleons advances others would condemn the occupation of German states as
colonialism, and the foremost example of this philosophically informed position
remains J. G. Fichte and his Reden an die deutsche Nation [Addresses to the
German Nation] published, subject to censorship, in 1807. In Berlin, which ini-
tially suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Napoleons army, dominant sympa-
thies lay with Prussia. Schinkel, to a great extent responsible for the imperial,
neoclassical look of Berlin, is no exception. Born in 1781, Schinkel moved to
Berlin in 1794. There he attended Gymnasium, began to draw and paint landscapes,
and was inspired to become an architect. He studied at a school of architecture, and
became acquainted with many contemporary artists, writers, and philosophers.
He met the aesthetic philosopher Karl W. F. Solger, who introduced him to the
work of Schelling. As Michael Snodin points out, Schinkel also read Fichte.35
In 1802, Schinkel designed the scenery for Goethes Iphigenie auf Tauris. In the
course of his early career, he traveled to Italy and France, and would later spend
time in England. In Berlin, he knew members of the romantic circle (Achim
and Bettina von Arnim, among others), but also worked closely with other
artists, such as the sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow. Artists in Berlin at the
time generated their own cultural genealogy through this kind of cooperation.
Schinkel himself, best known as an architect, worked in a variety of media,
from painting and drawing to engravings. This range enabled him to fulfill his
civic duties. In 1810, he was appointed Senior Assessor of Public Works, and
was officially responsible for overseeing the design of public buildings.36 Among

See Theodor Adorno: On the Classicism of Goethes Iphigenie. In: Notes to
Literature. Trans. by Shierry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press
1992. Vol. 2. Pp. 153170.
For a detailed chronology of Schinkels life, see Michael Snodin: Karl Friedrich
Schinkel. A Universal Man. Ed. by Michael Snodin. New Haven: Yale University Press
1991 (in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum). P. 208ff.
See Snodin: Karl Friedrich Schinkel. P. 209.

his most prominent designs are the Neue Wache, Schauspielhaus, the Altes
Museum, not least, the mausoleum for the beloved Queen Luise, who died in 1810.
In his work, Schinkel masterfully combines the classical with the contemporary,
art and industry, personal and public visions. His long career in public service
would bring him into contact with the most significant political and cultural
figures of his time. His encompassing approach to the practical, technical, as well
as to the aesthetic, elements of his work, leaves his signature on the public man-
agement of memory, specifically with regard to the Wars of Liberation. Here, too,
the domestic sphere plays a decisive role in the representation of the nation.
In the portrait of Susanne (ne Berger) (Figure 4), whom he married in 1809,
Schinkel articulates his own hope for the future of his family with the architec-
tural vision of a nation. Schinkel is working with a certain iconographic tradition:
the portraiture of women, usually in advanced stages of pregnancy, painted for
posterity, given the high likelihood of death in childbirth. Schinkel varies this
theme. The young wife, in the early stages of pregnancy, is inscribed as a signifier
of hope to align with the birth of a nation, or at least, of national feeling. Marie
Ursula Riemann-Reyher writes: radiating stillness and confidence, she looks the
very embodiment of hope.37 There are citations to other traditions in this portrait
as well: the iconography of Gothic madonnas, the German attributes of the archi-
tecture, combined with personal touches (the S in the mouchettes, the hearts
in the balustrade, as pointed out by Riemann-Reyher). What was his intention
in connecting the future of the fatherland to the body of a pregnant woman?38
Schinkels Susanne, her hand poised below her breasts in the signifier of preg-
nancy, symbolizes the hope of the individual in a nationalizing society in a sex-
specific way. As Matthew Craske observes, Susanne is a symbol of generative
femininity posed in the gothic porch before the cloister of some great Cathedral.39
Unlike Riemann-Reyher, he notes the pessimism of the drawing, denoted by the
shadow. He does, however, locate Schinkel in a context of contemporaries, like
Runge; family portraits attest that desire to cherish and support his family was
[the male artists] patriarchal contribution to other grand process of national
renewal.40 Schinkel may be referring to a portrait of Queen Luise from 1798
Ibid. P. 102.
Riemann-Reyher concludes: Perhaps Schinkel was combining the major emotional
upheaval in his personal life and the fate of the Fatherland into a single image commem-
orating those three years. In: Snodin: Karl Friedrich Schinkel. P. 102. My translation.
Matthew Craske: Art in Europe 17001830. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997. P. 70.
Craske correctly identifies the link between Fatherhood and Fatherland: the private
search of the artist for domestic harmony was intimately linked with his public role as
defender of the national identity. Craske: Art in Europe. P. 70. Neither Riemann-Reyher
nor Craske establishes the female-specific context of this drawing, and I believe a look at
the work of Schinkels contemporaries reveals a larger movement away from a concept of
identity grounded in nature to one specific to the cultural community established by the
idea, not the fact, of a nation.

Figure 4. Susanne. Karl Friedrich Schinkel. 1810/13. Photo: Bildarchiv Preuischer

Kulturbesitz / Art Resource, NY.

(by Heinrich Dhling, Hanover: Niederschsisches Landesmuseum, Landesgalerie).

In this portrait by the artist appointed to chronicle the Queens life, she pauses on
walk, simply attired and unadorned.41 The natural background serves to under-
play, if not erase, her political stature, perhaps to emphasize her natural state of
approaching motherhood. Another drawing by Schinkels contemporary reinforces
this idea of pregnancy as a state of nature. Ludwig Buchhorn (17701856) pro-
duced a pencil drawing, painted with watercolors, of the artist Karl Friedrich
Hampes pregnant wife.42 The painters wife strikes precisely the same pose as
that of Susanne in Schinkels portrait. She wears a long shawl, posed in a field,
with a bit of ground cover visible in the foreground, though her hands are
folded. Schinkels work falls between the earlier watercolor of the Queen and
this portrait of a fellow artists pregnant wife.
In both pendant pieces, the pregnant woman stands in the midst of nature that
showcases her natural state. Neither references Gothic architecture in the back-
ground. They portray no links between fatherhood and the iconography of the
fatherland. Schinkel, as artist and father, situates Susanne in a setting that is full
of self-citation. He drafted designs for Gothic cathedrals that were never built.
Here he draws his vision of a neoclassical world with a distant German-Gothic
future and a romantic vision of the sea. More literally, Schinkel is also inscribed
into the portrait: S represents not only Susanne but also Schinkel.
Specularity, according to David Wellbery, [. . .] is always a scene.43 In
viewing this private portrait, we see the familial facts of both pregnancy and
paternity (referenced through the S) located in the foreground of architec-
tural history, mythologized memory, and the future of the fatherland. Unlike the
interiors or the middle-class view of the urban center (familiar from Vermeer, for
example), Schinkel opens the domestic onto the visionary public sphere. This
scene of both personal and political hope revises the late eighteenth-century role
of painting: it opens onto a scene in which the artist as father and citizen provides
a new model of masculinity as head of the family. The paternal presence is
inferred; the father participates in this scene as the spectator, as well as the author.
The eroticized charge in the visual arts persists, but Schinkels portrait valorizes
the domestic as sexually contained, familial, and politically correct. Hope is
perhaps too fragile a human emotion to inscribe in a purely public painting, let
alone a government building. Privacy is framed by the medieval signifiers of a
modernity to come, one that symbolizes both the home and the nation. While

Irmgard Wirth: Berliner Malerei im 19. Jahrhundert. Von der Zeit Friedrichs des
Groen bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg. Berlin: Siedler Verlag 1990. P. 81.
This work, from 1820, hangs under the staircase in the Schinkel-Pavillon at the
Schloss Charlottenburg.
David E. Wellbery: The Specular Moment: Goethes Early Lyric and the Beginnings
of Romanticism. Stanford: Stanford University Press 1996. P. 218.

evidence of this trend exists in Goethes festival play, Ernst Moritz Arndt represses
the private sphere as a necessary prerequisite for a nation going to war.
Das ganze Deutschland: Ernst Moritz Arndt
Ernst Moritz Arndts stance on German national politics is unambiguous. Nothing
sums up his reputation more clearly than the painting by Caspar David Friedrich,
Huttens Grab, from 182324. Friedrichs work contains a collapsed commemo-
ration of at least two anniversaries: the 300th of Huttens death and the tenth year
after the Wars of Liberation. Friedrich pays tribute to the opponents of the restora-
tion, the programs of which were firmly in place. On the postament, we read Jahn
1813, Arndt 1813, Stein 1813, Grres 1821, and F. Scharnhorst (Gerhard von
Scharnhorst is meant). A lonely figure stands in the center of the painting; it is
dark, as if this tribute must be cloaked in night. Indeed, many felt their national
loyalties had to remain hidden during the 1820s. Ernst Moritz Arndt is inscribed
into this group. In this Christianized representation to commemorate the Wars of
Liberation, Arndt is effectively canonized. Famous in certain circles for his ardent
patriotism, inspiring ballads, and inflammatory journalism, Arndt stands firmly
on the side of Germany as a united fatherland. His poems and prose of this period
(18131815) revile Napoleon and anything Welsch [French is meant] flex the
muscles of German military masculinity, and strictly limit the role of the feminine
in a society at war. Yet gender plays a role in his work in ways that foreground the
alliance between masculinity and the nation.44
Smith refers briefly to Arndt in his study of nationalism, departing from George
Mosses work on the Central European notion of family and respectability. This,
Smith writes, produced a sharp differentiation, not only in gender roles but also
in gendered attributes and stereotypes, already evident in the anti-revolutionary
German-speaking regions, which identified the French forces as loose-living, in
opposition to the respectable, masculine German morality, which nationalists like
Ernst Moritz Arndt embraced.45 While I agree completely with Smiths char-
acterization of Arndt, I would like to examine his work in the more specific
context of emerging national characteristics, as represented in the culture of the
German-speaking states, not because I would challenge the equation between

In his important work on the Befreiungslyrik, Ernst Weber discusses certain aspects
of the feminine in Arndts work. See Ernst Weber: Der Krieg und die Poeten. Theodor
Krners Kriegsdichtung und ihre Rezeption im Kontext des reformpolitischen
Bellizismus der Befreiungslyrik. In: Die Wiedergeburt des Krieges aus dem Geist der
Revolution. Ed. by Johannes Kunisch und Herfried Mnkler. Berlin: Duncker &
Humblot 1999. Pp. 285325, esp. 293 and 295. His primary concern in this article is
Krners poetry, but many points he makes pertain to Arndt as well. Weber also refers
to the general demonization of Napoleon, though I am persuaded that the attack on his
masculinity and Orientalism are as significant as his association with the devil.
Smith: Nationalism and Modernism. P. 209.

the national and the masculine, but rather because the nexus of war, gender, and
the erotic involved in his work as well lends insight into the intimacy between
modernity, the nation, and the dominant masculine. Arndt, the unequivocal
German patriot, spearheads this movement. He rejects the neoclassical model of
the state and of art; instead, he takes recourse in German history: Arndt inspires
a Germanic masculinity that prevails over all things foreign, the French foremost
among them.
Born on the island of Rgen in 1769, Arndt grew up with a close relationship
to his natural surroundings and a strong sense of Christianity. His father, who lived
in indentured servitude, had purchased his independence.46 Arndt attended
Gymnasium in Stralsund, and then began the study of theology in Greifswald. He
continued in Jena. As a young man, he began writing poetry. While in Greifswald,
he fell in love with Charlotte Quistorp, the illegitimate daughter of a professor
of natural sciences, and his subsequent European travels, interrupted by French
advances in Italy, did nothing to discourage this attachment. On his return to
Greifswald, he took his masters exam to qualify him to teach at the university,
married in 1800, and continued to write. The brief marriage ended in 1801 with
Charlottes death in childbirth.47 He traveled during his life to Sweden and Russia,
in part from the necessity of avoiding the French occupation. In the early nine-
teenth century, Arndt trafficked in patriotic circles (the publisher Reimer, Eichhorn,
Schleiermacher, and Scharnhorst among them; Reimer and Scharnhorst also
feature in Friedrichs painting), and was eventually relieved of his position in
Greifswald. He went to Berlin and continued his association with German patri-
ots opposed to Napoleon at the time of French occupation, and his war ballads
became enormously popular (32). Freiherr von Stein enlisted Arndts help in a
campaign to stir German national sentiment. His most influential prose works,
some of which were published in newspapers or distributed as pamphlets, were
Landsturm und Landwehr [Territorial Reserves] and An die Preuen [To
the Prussians] (1813), which I treat below. His major work, Geist der Zeit IIV
[Spirit of the Time, volumes IIV], was published in his lifetime, beginning in
1806. This volume gained Arndt fame throughout Germany (the later volumes
were less well-received). It contains many of his earlier patriotic writings and
journalism, but his poetry dominates the legacy. His life and work are full of
highs and lows, many of which were inspired by the shifting political climate

Among Arndts first publications is a history of servitude in Pommerania and on the
island. I base my remarks in part on the introduction to the first volume of his works.
Ersnt Moritz Arndt: Ausgewhlte Werke. Ed. by Heinrich Meisner and Robert Geerds.
Leipzig: Max Hesses Verlag 1908. 16 vols. Here I: 7ff. References to this edition appear
in parentheses following direct quotations with volume number and the title of various
pieces. Translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.
Later Arndt would marry Schleiermachers half-sister (1817) and have more children.

in which Arndt existed, but also by war. Like many patriots, Arndt was disap-
pointed by the Congress of Vienna; later he would obtain a university post in
Bonn, but was accused of demagoguery (though he only spent half a day in
jail). Advanced in years, he was elected representative to the Frankfurt parlia-
ment, but was again disappointed when the Prussian king refused the crown
from the people. At the height of German national feeling (1813), Arndt began
composing in Knigsberg ein Lied vom deutschen Vaterlande [a song of the
German fatherland] (39), the poem for which he is best known. I examine it
now, in the context of Arndts prose work.
In the familiar 1813 poem Des Deutschen Vaterland, Arndt posits a national
ideology based on the totalizing aesthetic principle by which the whole exceeds
the sum of the parts. In the first six of nine stanzas, Arndt repeats the question:
Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland? [What is the Germans fatherland?] and
provides provisional answers. Most responses refer conventionally to the natural
landscapes of various German-speaking regions, also to states and countries
from Prussia, Switzerland, and Austria, rivers are mentioned as well. These polit-
ical and geographical entities are rejected, however, as inadequate, for the refrain
insists: O nein! nein! nein! / Sein Vaterland mu grer sein [Oh no! no! no! /
His fatherland must be greater]. The answers in the first five stanzas probe the
surface signifiers of the fatherland. In the sixth, Arndt cuts to the chase: So weit
die deutsche Zunge klingt [. . .] [As far as the German language sounds (. . .)]
(26). This response goes beyond rhetorical flourish; Arndt does not believe in
rivers or mountains or treaties as national boundaries, but rather in the bond of
common language as the prime determinant of borders.48 Further, he adheres to
a concept of both terrestrial and divine linguistic community of German speakers:
German men swear oaths, shake hands, and love warmly. In Arndts work, love is
a male emotion, purged of any sexual or erotic connotations. Arndt includes God
in the imaginary linguistic community: God, who presumably understands the
language perfectly, given his purported fondness for singing Lieder in heaven.
With this inclusion, Arndt establishes an alliance between divine authority and
the power of an organic, national realm.
The poem calls for an organic concept of the German fatherland: das ganze
Deutschland, predicated on the expulsion of all foreign influence. The French,
of course, are the prime culprits:
Wo Zorn vertilgt den welschen Tand, / Wo jeder Franzmann heiet Feind, / wo
jeder Deutsche heiet Freund / Das soll es sein! / Das ganze Deutschland soll es
sein! (26)

Arndt wrote an essay in 1813 on the Rhine as a German river, not a border: Der
Rhein, Deutschlands Strom, aber nicht Deutschlands Grenze (XIII: 145196). He
shares the view with many nationalists that language is a constitutive factor not only in
national identity, but geography as well.

Where anger kills foreign trumpery, / Where every Frenchman is called the enemy, /
Where every German is called friend / That it should be! / The whole Germany is
what it should be!

The poem ends in a prayer, issued ultimately on behalf of a nation large enough
to contain all the attributes and properties of Germanness. These contrast with
virtually all things French. Above all, Arndt despises Napoleon. The anti-Napoleon
discourse Arndt disseminates effectively sets up an opposition between the
other and the German. As Smith points out, the German male morality plays
a role in establishing this opposition. War is the catalyst, as Ernst Weber points
out, but the element of the foreign in representing the French, and the subse-
quent attribution of blame to German women play roles as well, and in fact are
constitutive elements of that male morality.49
A closer look at the context from which Arndts poem emerges brings the rela-
tionship between French, foreign, and immoral into sharp focus. These traits are
feminized in Arndts general journalism. Moreover, Arndt avails himself of other
cultural trends, for example, Orientalism, in demonizing Napoleon. His verbal por-
traits of both French turpitude and German moral superiority diverge from contem-
porary allegorical paintings. Arndt does not acknowledge the erotic appeal of
Napoleon; he instead condemns Napoleon for betraying his wife, a popular queen.50
He refers to Napoleon as der kleine Korse [the little Corsican],51 compares him
elsewhere to Genghis Kahn and Attila the Hun and attacks his masculinity:
Du bist klein, wie du prunken bist, ein aufgedunsener Orientale, wie dein Glck und
Schicksal orientalisch war, und das erstaunte Europa dies neue Wunder anstarrt.52
You are small as you are showy, a bloated oriental, just as your luck and fate were
oriental, and an astonished Europe beholds this new miracle.

All the while, Arndt valorizes war: Napoleons reasons for fighting are also cor-
rupt, a violation of the sacred imperative of war (he fights for wealth and self-
aggrandizement). While the French betray a certain barbarity, Arndt recuperates
the pre-civilized German male model: the Teutonic warrior.
Des Deutschen Vaterland empowers a German sense of nation; it is founded
on a premise about the ability to abstract intrinsic, natural attributes of German
identity. Elsewhere in Arndts work, especially the inflammatory pre-war jour-
nalism, he seeks the roots of male virtue, power, and national feeling in German

See Weber: Der Krieg und die Poeten. He writes: Der Krieg wurde zum Katalysator,
der nationale Idee und brgerliche Wert- und Verhaltensvorstellungen aufs engste
miteinander verschmolz [War became a catalyst that fused most closely the national
idea with bourgeois concepts of value and behavior]. P. 299.
Arndt: Geist der Zeit I. IX. P. 73.
Ibid. P. 195
Ibid. P. 25.

history and legend. (None of these include any aspect of the feminine.) While he
implies that Napoleon is a barbarian on a moral spectrum, Arndt recuperates the
pre-modern Germanic man: Auch die Germanen schienen rohe Barbaren zu
sein, aber sie waren innerlich ein lebendiges, geistiges, freies und bildendes
Volk [. . .] [Even the Germanic tribes seemed to be crude barbarians, but they
were inwardly a lively, spiritual, and educating people (. . .)].53 The evidence for
this nearly undetected attribute of the Germanic people is the defeat of Rome. The
contemporary soldier, whom Arndt addresses specifically on many occasions in
print, inherits these traits, as if virtue and strength were dominant in the German
gene pool. He writes: [. . .] der Geist wandelt als der unsichtbare Strom der
Tugend durch die Geschlechter fort [(. . .) the mind changes as the invisible
stream of virtue from race to race].54 This genetic persistence informs Arndts
theory of history, and he calls upon Hermann, Friedrich II., Martin Luther, and
other great German men to model for his contemporaries. Unlike the neoclas-
sical narratives of Greek and Roman models of exemplary men and women,
Arndts heroes are all German.
The enemy also dwells within, and Arndt shows his fellow Germans who
accept Napoleons enslavement of Germany no mercy. The terms of the critique
are not always predictable, and it is here that gender enters Arndts steroid-injected
prose. In general terms, Arndt condemns all cosmopolitans, contrasting them to
Kosmopolitismus sei edler als Nationalismus und die Menschheit erhabener
als das Volk. [. . .] Ohne das Volk ist keine Menschheit und ohne den freien
Brger kein freier Mensch [Cosmopolitanism is supposed to be more noble
than nationalism and humanity more sublime than the people. (. . .) Without the
people there is no humanity and without the free citizen no free human being].55
As an extension of that critique, he rejects classical models as delusional, and
insists on attention to the German present.56 In fact any and all allegiances that
do not embrace the German amount to fferei.57 He hurls the insults of aping
with some frequency, but he also associates it with the realm of the aesthetic.
Only the good can be beautiful, and the French are not good:
fferei treiben sie mit dem Heiligen, zur Mode erniedrigen sie die Kunst, zur
Weinerlichkeit das Mitleid, und die lahmen und jmmerlichen Gestalten, die aus
solcher Erbrmlichkeit hervorgehen, lassen sie durch ihre Humanitt und Bildung
werden und schelten die Tchtigkeit und Wahrheit der Vter Unhuld und Barbarei.58

Ibid. Pp. 106107.
Ibid. P. 109.
Ibid. P. 111.
Ibid. P. 14; see also Geist der Zeit II. X. P. 8.
Arndt: Geist der Zeit I. IX. P. 227.
Ibid. Pp. 227228.

They practice this aping with the sacred, the denigrate art to fashion, compassion to
tearfulness, and the lame and complaining figures that emerge from such wretchedness
they allow to become through their humanity and cultivation and scold the efficiency
and truth of the fathers fiendishness and barbarity.

Arndt locates this critique in the cultural infrastructure of Europe. Those who
mime the French not only demean themselves, but in so doing they disparage the
cultural inheritance of the fathers. In this passage, Arndt comments generally on
the legacy of beauty. Elsewhere, he directly indicts literature and links the dismal
effects of novels on the military.
In Geist der Zeit II, Arndt turns his attention to the malaise in Germany after
the devastating losses at Jena and Auerstedt. No Hellenentne [Hellenic tones]
will inspire this people, he declares.59 In pumped up prose, he calls for revenge
against the Saracen, again using orientalist discourse to discredit Napoleon.60
Arndt summons the current generation of men to sacrifice themselves for the
future of the race, and rehearses the humiliations of the French occupation. He
calls upon the princes to die bloody deaths in the glory of battle, pronouncing war
inevitable.61 After some historical analyses, he segues into an account of how
the battles of Jena and Auerstedt could go so wrong. He blames the lower-level
commanders for their literary proclivities, describing the situation as follows:
Geistlosigkeit war fr Stolz, empfindsame Erbrmlichkeit fr rauhen Todesmut
gekommen: es waren lafontainische Ehemnner und Liebhaber geworden, die einen
sentimentalischen Roman mit Entzcken lesen, mit Liebesschwrmerei zu dem lieben
Mond aufschauen, aber fr Weiber, Kinder und Brute, fr das ewige Vaterland und
den ewigen Ruhm nicht kalt und mnnlich dem Tod in das hohle Auge schauen
Lack of intelligence replaced pride, sentimental wretchedness raw courage in the face
of death: they had become Lafontaine-like husbands and lovers, who read a sentimen-
tal novel with delight, who gaze up at the lovely moon with the rapture of love, but for
wives, children, and brides, for the eternal fatherland and eternal glory they were not
able to look death in its hollow eye in a cold and manly way.

The author of sentimental family novels is blamed for the corrosive influence on
the masculinity of the German military and its officers. The cause of this tendency
to indulge in fantasy, rather than confront the present, is literature, but it leads to
a more pernicious form of domestic denial as well. The real wives, children, and

Robert Tobin identifies Hellenism and Orientalism as subcultural codes for male
same-sex love. See Tobin: Warm Brothers: Queer Theory and the Age of Goethe.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2000. Pp. 5ff. Arndts use of the term
could be seen as part of a general effort to emasculate Napoleons image as well.
Arndt: Geist der Zeit. II. X. P. 8.
Ibid. P. 29.
Ibid. P. 60.

brides who suddenly populate the fatherland are sacrificed at the altar of the
imaginary. In his book on romantic masculinity, Tim Fulford points to the role
played by the cult of sensibility in disrupting the stability of a conventionally
gendered model of sensitivity and emotional responses. The destabilization
results in a masculinity open to traditionally female emotion.63 Arndt roundly
rejects this sentimentality as an emotional alloy when pure iron must be forged.
In Arndt, gendered attributes become transferable, yet this transfer has no
return ticket: men may assume female traits, but only if they pass through a
masculinizing lens. Fraternity is the appropriate, homosocial expression of love
between men, and it is distinct from paternalistic power the younger generation
will want to reject. It paves the way for the masculinity with a nationally moti-
vated fraternal love. In the seventh stanza of Arndts poem, love sits warmly in
the male Germans heart. But he redefines love as a form of exclusively male
bonding; it is a nationalized and Christianized emotion. Arndt participates in an
appropriation of female attributes; he projects the metonymy of love (the heart)
onto a construction of German masculinity at the inaugural moment of national
identity and totalizing patriotism. In effect, Arndt masculinizes the ability to
love; that emotion is reserved for fellow Germans, those who belong to the lin-
guistic (not yet national) community. The parts are present: the political whole
remains an aesthetic projection. This love is also military: wo solche Liebe
herrscht, da hren die Befehle auf [where such love rules, there the com-
mands stop].64 What role, if any, do women play in this landscape?
The reference to women in the excerpt is consistent with Arndts general
deployment of the weaker sex as that which must be left behind and defended.
His nation is not without women, but they are centerpieces at the victory table.
Weber writes, with reference to peace: Die Frauen sollten den Nationalcharakter
zur Anschauung bringen [Women should bring national character into view].65
But women are deployed in the rhetoric of war as well. Women in Arndts work are
the sexually violated victims of the enemy, reminders of a wayward German
masculinity, or examples of breeding and Scham or modesty.66 In one
instance, women are praised for their contributions to the national struggle during
the general mobilization of Prussia. In the immensely successful pamphlet about
Prussian people and the military, Arndt discusses the disadvantages of a standing
army: the farmers and citizens are exempt from war. He advocates instead the

See Tim Fulford: Romanticism and Masculinity: Gender, Politics and Poetics in the
Writings of Burke, Coleridge, Cobbett, Wordsworth, De Quincey and Hazlitt. London:
MacMillan 1999. P. 35.
Arndt: Das preuische Volk und Heer im Jahre 1813. XIII. P. 136.
See Weber: Der Krieg und die Poeten. P. 299. This is the aspect of Arndts view of
women that is most frequently observed.
Geist der Zeit II. X. P. 60.

mobilization of the entire people, and offers the example of Prussia before
the war:
[. . .] ja selbst die Jungfrauen unter mancherlei Vorstellungen und Verlarvungen
drngten sich zu den Waffen: alle wollten sich ben, rsten, und fr das Vaterland
streiten und sterben.67

[. . .] yes even the young ladies with various imaginings and disguises pushed their
way to the weapons: everyone wanted to train, arm, and fight and die for the fatherland.

Arndt expresses almost mild amusement at the sight of women with weapons.
For him, the female equivalent of men taking up arms is generalized nurturing:
[. . .] das tat das zrtere Geschlecht der Frauen durch stille Gebete, brnstige
Ermahnungen, fromme Arbeiten, menschliche Sorgen und Mhen fr die
Ausziehenden, Kranken und Verwundeten.68
[. . .] the more delicate sex did that through quiet prayer, heated admonitions, pious
works, humane care and effort for those moving out, the sick, and wounded.

Only under those conditions, however, when all social bets are off and the classes
cooperate, do women play an active role. In fact, Arndt associates women with the
corrupting influence of the French, largely through their refusal to refrain from
learning the language of the enemy. Worse, they he speaks only of mothers
continue to have their daughters learn French, thus succumbing to social and
class pressure. Among the bourgeoisie and the nobility alike, these mothers are
linguistic traitors who put class interests before national identity. Arndt does
not mince words: Es ist eine Hurerei [It is whoring].69
Arndt writes under the acute pressure of a nation at war, or one that should
go to war. His personal sacrifices for his belief in the fatherland are numerous;
his own life full of turmoil, his career subject to a series of political exigencies.
While Kant may have envisioned a community forged delicately by the memory
of courage in war, and Fichte acknowledged the sacrifice of the parents sons to
the state, Arndt severs all family ties. He completely fraternalizes the relationship
among men; the family, women, children, the elderly, the virgins occupy the back-
ground of a distant domestic scene. Arndts warriors are German men who are
identified by their opposition to the French, who are not only loose-living,70 but
also effeminate, corrupt, and sensual. German literature, by contrast, is rein and
keusch [pure and chaste respectively].71 They boast but wenige sinnliche

Arndt: Volk und Heer XIII. P. 131.
Ibid. P. 132.
Arndt: Geist der Zeit IV. XII. P. 176.
See Smith: Nationalism and Modernism. P. 209.
Arndt: Geist der Zeit IV. XII. P. 178.

Flle [little sensual wealth]72 in comparison to other Europeans, and Arndt

counts this among their strongest virtues. The peak passionate moment on his
emotional barometer is love of the fatherland; all else derives from that. In
Arndts rhetoric, German men are not born of women: rather they are Kinder
eines Volkes [children of a people].73
Goethes National Awakenings
Wherever Arndt was, whether Berlin or Knigsberg, he would find himself in
the midst of like-minded patriots. In Dresden, he stayed with Theodor Krners
father in similar ideological circumstances. The editors of Arndts collected
works report an incident that disrupted the harmony:
Wie in Knigsberg, fand er sich dort wieder in einem Kreise begeisterter Patrioten,
in den Goethe whrend seines Besuches durch sein Eintreten fr Napoleons Ideen
einen kurzen Miklang brachte.74
Just as in Knigsberg, [Arndt] once again found himself in a circle of enthusiastic
patriots, into which Goethe introduced brief discord during his visit with his defense
of Napoleons ideas.

Goethes politics and aesthetics or the interpretation of either cannot always be

brought into alignment. The unwrapping of Goethes Weimar, with insightful
attention to the performance of gendered and class identity, the conscious division
between the classical high art and all other forms, and the interplay between
aesthetics and commodities, calls for a rereading of Goethes relationship to local
culture.75 I contend that a significant part of that local culture in the early nine-
teenth century involved the discourse on nation and its articulation within a neo-
classical aesthetic. Recent scholarship on gender, homosexuality and homosociality,
and the visual arts,76 is redefining our understanding of Goethe and his age, and
I would like to examine some of the gains from this growing body of scholarship
in light of Goethes role in the culture of war, mediated by the aesthetic.77

Arndt: Volk und Heer XIII. P. 139.
Introduction. P. 40
See Unwrapping Goethes Weimar: Essay in Cultural Studies and Local Knowledge.
Ed. by Burkhard Henke, et al. Rochester: Camden House 2000.
See for example Beate Allert: Goethe and the Visual Arts. Note 9. See also Allerts
contribution to this volume.
Key texts here are: Outing Goethe and His Age. Ed. by Alice A. Kuzniar. Stanford:
Stanford University Press 1996; Robert Tobin: Warm Brothers: Queer Theory and the
Age of Goethe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 2000; Susan E. Gustafson:
Men Desiring Men: The Poetry of Same-Sex Identity and Desire in German Classicism.
Detroit: Wayne State University Press 2002.

In the anecdote I recount above, Goethe upsets the patriots, like Arndt, who still
admire (albeit selectively) his works. As I pointed out in the introduction to this
chapter, Goethes investment in visual culture is considerable, and his sponsorship
of the Weimarer Preisaufgaben puts him in league with the National Endowment
for the Arts: he calls the aesthetic shots, with the ability to put money where his taste
tends. His selection of topics that elicit contemporary deliberations on antique
themes of war and personal tragedy is significant. While a trendsetter the influ-
ence of Werther on European masculinity is considerable78 he is not immune to
the imperatives of commission. The commission here in question is the festival play
Goethe produced to mark the victory of Prussia over France. In this play, which was
performed as an opera with music by Bernhard Anselm Weber (17641821),
Goethe allegorizes the political figures of both good and evil in relationship to the
nation, with Epimenides transhistorical eye observing the spectacle of transition
from antiquity to Prussias Germany. His recourse to Greek mythology, as embod-
ied in the figure of Epimenides, demanded explanation in the age of rising German
semiotics.79 Karim Hassan points out in his excellent study of the composer
Bernhard Anselm Weber, the antique material did not necessarily rise to the occa-
sion of der aktuellen patriotischen Hochstimmung [the current mood of high
patriotism].80 Yet Goethe at least references contemporary trends in this work,
though he never approaches compliance. Goethe is everything but tendentious.
The negotiation between political demand and aesthetic supply is evident in
the festival play Des Epimenides Erwachen that at once celebrates triumph on
the battlefield, installs bourgeois, domestic bliss as the respite from, reward for
war, and complicates the representation of gender in the public sphere. Gender
is a volatile element in Goethean signification, his portrayal of naturalized or
essentialized gender attributes nearly combustible. Goethes works provided
perhaps the widest range of models for gender identity. From the excesses of
young Werther, the sturdy forthrightness of Gtz, the capacious ambition of
Faust, and the stateliness, or repression, of the Captain to Eduards helpless
infatuation, Goethes male characters participate in a wide range of masculini-
ties. The same applies to his female characters who also participate in a wide
range of masculinities as well as models of the feminine. Iphigenia speaks like

See Nicholas Boyle: Goethe: The Poet and the Age, Volume I: The Poetry of Desire
(17491790). Oxford: Clarendon Press 1991. Pp. 172178, on Werther reception in
Europe of the time.
One could speculate that Goethes friendship with Sulpiz Boissere increased his
appreciation for Gothic (considered German) architecture in general.
Karim Hassan: Bernhard Anselm Weber (17641821). Ein Musiker fr das Theater.
Frankfurt/M: Peter Lang 1997. P. 346. Hassans analysis of this piece foregrounds the struc-
tural cooperations among the composer, author, publisher, and theater; he is not primarily
interested in an aesthetic evaluation of the play, nor in its national allegories. His research
into the documents surrounding the production of the play is extremely illuminating in
any case.

a man, Claire fights like a man, Charlotte reasons like a man. A quick glance
at his cast of female characters assures us of the strictly feminine among his
various articulations of the eternal feminine in Faust and beyond: Gretchens
simple piety, Helenas beauty, Ottilies devotion, Lucianes frivolity. Mignon,
elusive and childlike, shapes the behavior of women such as Bettina von
Arnim. My point is that Goethe incarnates a variety of aesthetic gender mod-
els, and some exert an influence on the behavior of his contemporaries. He
never follows a script when it comes to engendering his figures, and often
transfers gender attributes with less-than-disastrous results. In this play it is
precisely the shifting ground of gendered identity that constitutes Goethes
contribution to the celebration of victory for Prussia and Germany. While
resorting to the domestic scene as a signifier of stability and hope, Goethe still
resists the essentializing traits of German national identity represented in the
works of more overly nationalist authors like Arndt. Though I carefully claim
that the discourse of nation stabilizes Goethes concept of gendered identity, he
still selects a woman warrior to allegorize German hope at a time of crisis.
However, Goethe resorts to conventional gender roles for the grand finale in
which he envisions the nation.
The success of what came to be known as the Holy Alliance of Prussia, Russia,
and Austria on the battlefields has an immediate impact on the representation of
nation and gender, among other things. In preparation for war, Friedrich Wilhelm
III issued the appeal An mein Volk on 20 March 1813. In this document, the
King justifies the reasons for war, explaining: Groe Opfer werden von allen
Stnden gefordert werden [. . .] [Great sacrifices will be required of all
classes (. . .)], but also stressing the identity of Prussian and German.81 The
involvement of the general populace in the war effort is crucial to a military
victory, as I pointed out in my discussion of Arndt in the previous section. The
evidence of victory is documented in a range of artifacts. First, historical paint-
ings depict the meeting of Franz I, Friedrich Wilhelm III, and Czar Alexander
I on the battlefield at Leipzig, where the allies defeated Napoleon on 1619
October 1813.82 The capitulation of Paris is commemorated in an etching
(Vienna) from 1814.83 But these images of victory and patriotism spread to the
household through the decorative arts. A tablecloth, too, was produced in honor
of the First Peace of Paris (30 May 1814): Mars occupies the center, with Ceres
the goddess of fertility on one side, and on the other, Mercury for commerce; the
edges bear the coat of arms of the Holy Alliance and Great Britain. While he was
in Paris, Friedrich Wilhelm III ordered six table services from the Berlin Knigliche

An Mein Volk. In: Schlesische privilegierte Zeitung, No. 34, Sonnabends des 20.
Mrz 1813. See <>.
See Marie-Louise von Plessen: Idee Europa. Entwrfe zum Ewigen Frieden.
Berlin: Deutsches Historisches Museum/Henschel 2003. P. 176.
Ibid. P. 177.

Porzellan Manufaktur, destined as gifts to his commanders. The center of each

dinner plate features an iron cross, the rims decorated with oak and laurel leaves.
Only the generals received a centerpiece.84 Though conceived perhaps exclusively
for display, patriotic porcelain, a common state gift even under Frederick the
Great, now serves an historical purpose as well, in that it commemorates the Wars
of Liberation, and does so in the upper-echelon household.
The mythological references on the tablecloth point to a challenge: how should
the new national present be represented in a cultural climate so conditioned by and
devoted to the models of antiquity? The association between Rome and France
foregrounds the preferred analogy between Greece and Germany. The dominance
of the postwar neoclassical must accommodate the signifiers of the German
nation as well. Schinkels work provides the prime example of an imperial style,
with the German Gothic subsumed into the neoclassical. The glories of antiquity
house the contemporary power of the Prussian and German (by extension) sym-
bols, from iron crosses to eagles, to the depiction of historical scenes on imperial
porcelain, to the attributes of Eros as a Germanic warrior (a sculpture by Emil
Wolff, 1836). Goethe, too, inscribes the specifics of German national character
into the Greek frame of his play. He drafts central figures that seem to step out of
Kauffmanns and Tischbeins paintings: a virtuous woman and a feminized man.
However, his figure of Hope is a woman with male attributes.
Since this piece is not always required reading, I summarize its contents. At the
opening of this work, Epimenides sleeps he erroneously assumes he is entering
the realm of death and dreams a series of tableaux, complete with chorus, alle-
gorical figures, arias, duets, etc. Oppression, the villain, appears in the costume
of an oriental despot with the help of a Dmon der List [demon of cunning].
The allegorical sisters of Love and Faith are tricked by Oppression, who draws his
power and influence from his ability to dupe and seduce the sisters. Hope
appears on the scene, armed with a helmet, shield, and sword. She embodies
the tension between her feminine identity and masculine attributes. But this is
more than a scene of cross-dressing.85 Instead, Goethe is preoccupied with the
See Dr. Samuel Wittwer: Porzellan der Schinkelzeit; Patriotismus fr Tafel und Vitrine.
Nr. C 5/01. Berlin: Stiftung Preuische Schlsser und Grten Berlin-Brandenburg,
Abteilung Museumspdgogik/Besucherabteilung 2001. Collection information available
in the Schloss Charlottenburg, Neuer Pavillon (Schinkelpavillon). Wittwer also describes
a table with a porcelain plate, designed by Schinkel and plates with military scenes of
the victorious Prussian and Russian armies.
Cross-dressing in Goethe does not refer only to dressing across gender. See Susan E.
Gustafson for a discussion of male-male cross-dressing. In: Men Desiring Men. P. 175ff.
See also W. Daniel Wilson: Amazon, Agitator, Allegory: Political and Gender Cross(-
Dress)ing in Goethes Egmont. In: Outing Goethe and His Age. Ed. by Alice A. Kuzniar.
Stanford: Stanford University Press 1996. Pp. 124146. See also Elisabeth Krimmer: In
the Company of Men: Cross-Dressed Women Around 1800. Detroit: Wayne State University
Press 2004.

actual presentation of the play on stage. With an eye toward the Berlin audi-
ence, he forges myth, allegory, and history.86
In his correspondence, Goethe suggests that in staging the play, a resemblance
between Hope and Queen Luise, first and now deceased wife of Friedrich
Wilhelm III, may be appropriate. At the suggestion of General Field Marshall
Count Kalckreuth and with the Kings support, Queen Luise herself met with
Napoleon to negotiate what all hoped would be more favorable terms for Prussia,
as her beauty would presumably dazzle him. This ploy, however, proved unsuc-
cessful. Yet the meeting enhanced the popularity of the Queen and her reputation
for patriotism.87 But Goethe also suggests Minerva as a model for Hope in the
first version. His allegory of hope for the German nation is suspended between his-
tory and mythology. Hope saves her sisters. The ultimate victory is celebrated with
choral proclamations about the new age of German triumph: Epimenides unveils
the figure of Einigkeit. Unity moves, however, from a clearly referenced political
alliance to the unity of the German Geschlecht [race or kind]. Here Goethe effects
a transition from an allegory of gendered virtues to a possible allegory of nation:
So waren wir und sind es auch / Das edelste Geschlecht, / Von biederm Sinn und
reinem Hauch / Und in der Taten Recht. (MA 9: 231, ll. 973976)88
Thus we were and are as well / The most noble race, / Of upright sense and pure
breath / And justified in our deeds.

Goethes relationship to Berlin was not unproblematic. See Steffen Martus: Goethe,
die Kunst, die Wissenschaft und Berlin. <> for further references.
There is evidence that Friedrich Wilhelm III held Goethe in less than high esteem. See
Karim Hassan: Bernhard Anselm Weber (17641821). Ein Musiker fr das Theater.
Frankfurt/M: Peter Lang 1997. P. 349. In a discussion about why the plays premiere
was delayed, Hassan speculates: Ob nun der Komponist dafr verantwortlich war oder
ob die Auffhrung an der Antipathie Friedrich Wilhelms III. Goethe gegenber schei-
terte, wird in der Literatur nicht eindeutig beantwortet [The question of whether the
composer was perhaps responsible, or whether the performance was cancelled due to
Friedrich Wilhelm IIIs antipathy for Goethe is not clearly answered in the literature].
While those close to the Queen acknowledged the utter failure of this mission, an offi-
cer in Napoleons army assumed she gained concessions. See Dagmar von Gersdorff:
Knigin Luise und Friedrich Wilhelm III. Eine Liebe in Preuen. Berlin: Rowohlt 1996.
According to von Gersdorff, though Napoleon wrote to Josphine that Luise was indeed
charming, the meeting, in which Luise addressed Napoleon in her capacity as Gattin und
Mutter [wife and mother], had no effect. Pp. 157158. We get quite another story
from the officer. See Captain Elzar Blaze: Recollections of an Officer of Napoleons
Army. Trans. E. Jules Mras. New York: Sturgis & Walton Company 1911. P. 158. Here
the meeting at Tilsit is mentioned. He writes: The Queen of Prussia was very beauti-
ful, I saw her; she was said to have been very amiable, I know nothing about that; but it
is certain that she obtained many concessions from Napoleon. P. 158.
Translations, unless otherwise noted, are mine.

In Des Epimenides Erwachen, Goethe makes a point about gender, violence, and
aesthetic nationalism: that women warriors win. Goethe permits the transferabil-
ity of gender attributes the arming of a female warrior in defense of a just cause.
The corresponding feminization of the righteous (political) male, however, is pre-
vented by the equation of German and masculinity. In other words, national iden-
tity is introduced to ward off the possible transfer of female attributes to the male.
I want to examine specifically the battle between Oppression and the figures
of Love, Faith, and Hope. Political power is figured sexually. When Oppression
finds himself alone, he seeks the company of women:
So sei die Welt denn einsam! aber mir, / Dem Herrscher, ziemt es nicht, da er
allein: / Mit Mnnern mag er nicht verkehren, / Eunuchen sollen Mnner wehren, /
Und halb umgeben wird er sein; / Nun aber sollen schne Frauen / Mit Taubenblick
mir in die Augen schauen. (MA 9: 210, ll. 397403)

So let the world be lonely! but for me, / The ruler, it will not do to be alone: / He
does not wish to traffic with men, / Eunuchs should fight men, / And half sur-
rounded should he be; / But now there should be lovely women / Who gaze into my
eyes with dove-like looks.

He hears the voice of Love offstage and is surprised and touched by her song;
Doch dein Busen will entflammen [Yet your breast is aroused] (MA 9: 211,
l. 420). They converse, Love sings. Faith enters and implores her sister to feel the
same dejection she is experiencing in diesen Jammerstunden [in these miser-
able hours] (MA 9: 212, l. 456). Oppression succeeds in driving a wedge between
the sisters; he then attempts to reconcile them. While tempting them with jewels,
he has them put in chains. In this short scene, both Oppression and the sisters
themselves refer multiple times, both literally and figuratively, to their Brust and
Busen. The Brust engenders the love between sisters; Oppression admonishes first
Faith: Herrlich Mdchen! welches Bangen, / Welche Neigung, welch Verlangen /
Reget diese schne Brust [Splendid maiden! what care, / What inclination, what
demand / Stirs this lovely breast] (MA 9: 213, ll. 471 473). And then to Love:
Wie, du Holde? das Verlangen / Deine Schwester zu umfangen, / Regt sichs nicht
in Deiner Brust [What, my lovely? / The demand / To embrace your sister, /
Does not stir within your breast?] (MA 9: 213, ll. 477 479). The lines emphasize
gender attributes, specifically the breast as a site of both longing and sexual stim-
ulation. Bracelets are given to Love and here the correspondence between jew-
elry and bondage cannot be overlooked and Faith receives: einen kstlichen
Grtel oder vielmehr Brustschmuck [. . .] [an expensive belt or breast decora-
tion (. . .)] (MA 9: 214). Oppression decorates her volle Brust [full breast]
(MA 9: 214, l. 502), and, as he has bestowed these gifts liebkosend [caress-
ingly] in both cases, the fullness of Faiths breast indicates both the metonymy
of sisterly love and the erotic response to Oppressions unmistakable material
foreplay. While the stage direction calls for small demons to bear heavy black

chains, Faith obliviously declares: Das verdient wohl dieser Busen, / Da ihn die
Juwele schmckt [This breast indeed deserves / To be decorated with jewels]
(MA 9: 214, ll. 503504). While gazing at her decorated breast, the demons chain
her from behind. Love experiences a similar capture. While she admires her
braceleted arms, the demons chain her from below. Oppressions decorative
gifts persuade the virtues into vanity, then captivity.
Marinus Ptz interprets this scene politically: the sisters susceptibility to an
opportunistic demon aligns with those who cooperated with Napoleon. I would
like to cross-reference this with gender politics, jewels, and the specific female
vice of vanity. One thinks immediately of Fausts seduction of Gretchen with the
case of jewels. Again, the vision of French women giving up their jewels to the
Revolution politicizes the renunciation of vanity. That historical referent invokes
a more specific instance of this costly and facile appeal to womens vanity,
which occurs in Act II/V of the Natrliche Tochter [The Natural Daughter]. In
this twisted Antigone play, Eugenia receives the forbidden chest; when she opens
it, the doors are mirrored (l. 1036, Suhrkamp translation), so that she immediately
views herself enhanced, clothed and decorated with jewels, her image commen-
surate to her social station but only if accepted by the king. There is, however,
another element of cultural and economic history that hovers in the background
of jewels as a means of seducing weak-minded women.
In 1804, the Berliner Kgl. Eisengieerei was founded: it produced jewels,
plates, and a variety of other useful objects. According to curators of the col-
lection at Schloss Charlottenburg: In the first half of the nineteenth century,
no other craft product of Prussia was as characteristic of the spirit of this land
as iron-casting. Especially since the Wars of Liberation, which were referred to
as an iron time, this material took on a patriotic meaning. With regard to its
non-material significance, the economical metal was valued above gold. The
donation of precious metal from the people to support the war, especially the
exchange of gold wedding rings for iron ones, was organized under the motto:
I gave gold for iron .89 As art historians point out, this craft took on a patriotic
quality, especially during the preparations for war. The wealthy in particular
were asked to contribute their jewels during the Wars of Liberation, and received
for their sacrifice a symbolic iron cross. Schinkel, involved in nearly all aspects

In Room 19 on the upper floor of the pavilion, there is a display case of iron jewelry from
the year 1804. The description follows: Kein kunstgewerbliches Erzeugnis Preuens war
in der ersten Hlfte des 19. Jahrhunderts so bezeichnend fr den Geist dieses Landes wie
der Eisenkunstgu. Vor allem seit den Befreiungskriegen, die eine eiserne Zeit genannt
wurden, erhielt das Material eine patriotische Bedeutung. Das preiswerte Metall wurde in
Hinblick auf seine ideelle Aussage ber das Gold gestellt. Das Spenden vom Edelmetall
aus dem Volk zu Untersttzung der Kriegsfhrung, insbesondere der Eintausch von gold-
enen Trauringen gegen eiserne, wurde unter der Devise Gold gab ich fr Eisen organ-
isiert. See also p. 70ff. from the Schinkel-Pavillon guide. Berlin 1990, 5th revised edition.

Figure 5. Iron Crosses. Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Friedrich Wilhelm III. Photo:
Bildarchiv Preuischer Kulturbesitz / Art Resource, NY.

of art and industrial production imaginable, had collaborated with Friedrich

Wilhelm III in designing the decoration (Figure 5). According to Rand Carter,
between 1813 and 1815, more than 11,000 pieces of iron jewelry (Figure 6)
were made, among them 5000 crosses.90 Patriotism transforms wedding rings
of gold into iron in a process of reversed alchemy.
Goethe renders the vulnerability to vanity gender-specific; jewels signify an
excess, one that, in the context of iron substitutes, is complicit. While the two
sisters are allegories, they still succumb to the specter of their own vanity. This
narcissism prepares for their downfall. There is a closely construed relationship
between Oppressions despotic abuse of power and male seduction. The demons
appearance in oriental garb confirms a stereotypical association familiar from
German Orientalism among trickery, seduction, and effeminate attributes. It is
also the association Arndt cements between Napoleon and all negative attributes
oriental signifies. The enemy is a man capable of deploying feminine weapons,

See Rand Carter: Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The Last Great Architect.

Figure 6. Eisengu-Schmuck [Iron Jewelry]. Parure im Originaletui. KS IV, 347.

Photo: J. P. Anders. Courtesy of Stiftung Preuische Schlsser und Grten.

and we detect a correspondence between the unethical political male and a

seducing female whose only power is sexual. The figure of Oppression, while
operating in the male power register, seduces Love and Faith. Thus a feminized
sense of power and unethical politics are equated. The reversal of roles and
gender attributes previously suggested is clinched in the figure of Hope. As she
appears atop the ruins in the iconography of war, Oppression comments: Sie
kommt! Sie ists! Ich will sie kirren: / s ist auch ein Mdchenhaupt, ich wills
verwirren [She is coming! It is she! I am going to put her in her place / She
also has a girls head, I want to confuse it] (MA 9: 215, ll. 51305131). While the
derogatory attribute effectively disembodies the girl, it reveals an explicit link

between cognition and sexuality. The head, also the metonymy of thought,
imagination, taste, visual, aural, and olfactory perception, plays a significant role
in the process of seduction. It is ultimately the manipulated, misguided gaze of
the virtues Love and Faith that distracts them from Oppressions gifts of beauty
and makes them vulnerable to a bondage from which Hope is immune.
Hopes real arsenal of weapons is in her head in the form of disruptive
visions, and though she raises a spear at Oppression and remains in drohender
Gebrde unbeweglich [motionless, in a threatening gesture], he succumbs to
his imagination. In a striking piece of teichoskopia, Oppression describes the
transfiguring vision, ambiguous shapes that form a Wolke and a Volke (MA 9:
216, ll. 562563) and overcome him. He delivers an encapsulated commentary on
the mental events he has screened privately and reported on stage. Hopes victory
is in his head. Faith and Love return to their senses, set aside both the chains and
the jewels, and finally Hope speaks: Weiblich gestaltet, bin ich mnnlich khn
[In the figure of a woman I am bold like a man] (MA 9: 219, l. 635). The trans-
ferable attribute is a form of cognition; it is a head-game. Just as Oppression is
male, but can assimilate feminine traits at will, Hopes biology and behavior
diverge in terms of gender. Hope ends with a geo-political reference to salvation
that has come from the East. One is reminded of the intended audience. Hope then
mentions the lisping and stammering of the word Freiheit [freedom]; it is repeated
chorally, moderately, and in crescendo (MA 9: 221, l. 688). Ptz interprets
Goethes politics here as personal; the poet advocates an individual concept of
freedom. Yet another feminine allegory is invoked, and the parabasis establishes
a communicative channel to the audience of kings. In this way, the three Virtues
participate in the political process; the play marries politics, and the gender of
virtue allied the gender of kings will engender the freedom of the German
nation(s). Night falls, and Epimenides awakens to ruins, but also to a specular
moment in which the Spiegel held up to the Frsten includes a chorus of freedom.
Goethe must now reaffirm the proper order of things. Epimenides awakens and
the Genien or spirits show him: a well-known image! (MA 9: 223, l. 736). The
stage direction continues: The father sits on his wide cushion, / The wife in a
chair, children stand around them / Of every age [. . .] (MA 9: 223, ll.
738740).91 The image, an ancient bas-relief, depicts the proper constellation
of the nuclear family with the father, mother, and children of all ages. The insta-
bility of gender attributes, including the negative transfer of female seductive
moves to a male monarch and the positive projection of masculine boldness
onto/into a female form, is re-envisioned as a family scene. The recourse to
patriarchal family structure is visualized and celebrated as an icon of peace.
Hope triumphs, and the play closes with the allegory Einigkeit, whom
Epimenides unveils. The final scene further underscores the reemphasis on

See also Ptz: Goethes Des Epimenides Erwachen. P. 288.

stabilized gender roles. In the original version, the virtues were supposed to
direct praise from the stage to the present monarchs: Faith to the Czar of
Russia; Love to the Emperor of Austria; Hope to the King of Prussia. In
Ifflands letter to Goethe, he hinted that Friedrich Wilhelm III was not partial to
such a staging. However, this type of address female virtues from the realm
of representation to male monarchs in the real political arena of the audience
too closely resembles what the play is playing out in its subtext: the gender of
objects and subjects, the uneasy relationship between the powerless and the
powerful, the presumptive, communicative relationship between the stage and
the state. In the published version, Goethe reverts to conventional gender roles.
The warriors chorus asserts its version of stable, gendered roles:
Und wir wandeln mit freien Schritten, / Weil wir uns was zugetraut, / Und empfan-
gen in unsere Mitten / Gattin, Schwester, Tochter, Braut. (MA 9: 230, ll. 946949)

And we stroll with free steps, / Because we had the courage to do something, / And
we welcome into our midst / Wife, sister, daughter, bride.

And the womens chorus responds in kind:

Euch zu laben / Lat uns eilen, / Unsre Gaben / Auszuteilen, / Eure Wunden /
Auszuheilen: / Selige Stunden / Sind gegeben / Unsrem Leben! (MA 9: 230231, ll.

To refresh you / Let us hurry, / Our gifts / To distribute, / Your wounds / To heal; /
Blessed hours / Have been given / To our lives!

With the restoration of freedom and clearly delineated gender roles, the cele-
bration may culminate. The final chorus song begins:
So rissen wir uns rings herum / Von fremden Banden los. / Nun sind wir Deutsche
wiederum / Nun sind wir wieder gro. / So waren wir und sind es auch / Das edel-
ste Geschlecht, / Von biederm Sinn und reinem Hauch / Und in der Taten Recht.
(MA: 9, 231, ll. 969976)

We tore ourselves free / All around from foreign bonds / Now we are Germans again /
Now we are great again. / Thus we were and are as well / The most noble race, / Of
upright sense and pure breath / And justified in our deeds.

The final declaration of German identity shifts the discourse of power and gender
in the play into a higher register. It complicates a sentiment about the relationship
of culture to the (German) nation. Several similarities emerge from a comparison
to Arndts poem, even though the two represent opposing political poles. The pri-
mary difference is inscribed in Goethes manipulation of gender roles and power.
The contrast between a more popular romantic discourse of unity and Goethes
classical interventions is stark. Arndt gently dismisses the young women who
would arm themselves to defend Prussia. Goethe invests the power of both sexes

in his allegory of Hope. But the rhetoric of the German nation seems to partic-
ipate in the larger political discourse, however mediated. He takes the apparent
and gendered contingencies of kinship and motivates them, extending the
model of the individual to all Germans. In this, he resembles Arndt. These
qualities are focused in the explicit attribute of courage or boldness, as demon-
strated in the struggle for liberation from France; thus Germans earned great-
ness, through their purity, authenticity, and righteousness.
Allegory, the abstraction of an emotion or attribute, plays a key role in
defining national identity. The visual signifiers of gender to some extent regu-
late the formation. As in Arndts poem, Goethe makes the connection between
a core identity and ethical behavior available at the level of representation.
Unlike Arndt, however, Goethe accesses the feminine in his assertion of
German identity. The figure of boldness is female. She is neither androgynous
nor monstrous. Her masculinity is acknowledged; her femininity is obvious.
After watching the second performance, the composer Zelter, who set several
of Goethes poems to music, wrote the following to Goethe:
Das Auftreten der Hoffnung ist von groer Gewalt. Diese Szene hat mich wieder
tchtig angepackt, wiewohl sie noch nicht vollkommen gegeben wird. Sie ist der
geheime Leib, woran alle Glieder festgesetzt sind; in Ruhe, aber ungeheuer.92
The appearance of Hope is of great power. This scene really grabbed me again quite
effectively, although it is not quite perfectly performed. It (the scene) is the secret
body on which all members are established; in stillness, but monstrous.

In this description Zelter specifies the center of power in this figure: the scene
of Hope. Her appearance is of great force, power without violence. Hers is
the immense, terrible composure that thwarts corrupted male dominance
through cognitive intervention. Yet the power of the female body is at once hid-
den and visible. The secret veils a feminized immensity that undergirds the
subtext of Goethes envisioned and gendered ideology.

HA 5: 544.
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Evelyn K. Moore

Goethe and Lavater: A Specular Friendship*

This chapter examines the relationship between language, the autobiographical sub-
ject, and the visual. Goethes treatment of Johann Caspar Lavater, the author of a
series of books on physiognomy, reveals the importance of this problematic figure to
Goethes thinking on visual culture. I examine the relation between image and viewing
subject not only through the physiognomic assumptions of Lavater, but also through the
introspection of Werther, Goethes fictional alter-ego. This allows me to trace not only
the place which Lavater had in Goethes life, but also to define Goethes concept of lan-
guage in relation to Lavaters visual project.

Shortly before going to Italy, Goethe wrote to Charlotte von Stein about his last
meeting with his old friend Johann Caspar Friedrich Lavater (6 June 1786).
Die Gtter, he writes, wissen besser was uns gut ist, als wir es wissen, drum
haben sie mich gezwungen ihn zu sehen. [. . .] Kein herzlich, vertraulich Wort
ist unter uns gewechselt worden und ich bin Ha und Liebe auf ewig los (21
July 1786) [The Gods know better what is good for us than we do and that is
why they have forced me to see him. [. . .] We exchanged no trusting friendly
word and I am free of love and hate forever].1
Goethes letter to Charlotte von Stein reveals his extremely emotional
response to Lavaters last visit to see him in Weimar. He states that he needs to
free himself from the bonds of friendship. But Lavater had not only played a
significant role in Goethes personal life, but from the very beginning this
friendship brought Goethe into contact with Lavaters project on physiognomy.
Lavater believed he could study the features and characteristics of the face in
order to ascertain the true character of the person. This science of sensitive per-
ception promised a new eye so discerning that nothing stayed hidden from it.
Johann Georg Zimmermann (17411801), who had supported Lavater through
all the stages of his project, had published Lavaters prequel to his four-volume
work on physiognomy in 1772. Here Lavater for the first time defines this new
science in visual terms. He asserts that physiognomy is nothing less than a
new eye.
Die Physiognomik ist eine Quelle der feinsten und erhabensten Empfindungen; ein
neues Auge, die tausendfaltigen Ausdrcke der gttlichen Weisheit und Gute zu

* I would like to thank Patricia Simpson and John Vaio for their comments on earlier
drafts of this piece.
Goethes Briefe an Frau von Stein. Ed. by Julius Peterson. Leipzig: Insel-Verlag 1909.
P. 274. All translations of Goethe in the text and in the notes are my own.

bemerken [. . .] Wo das stumpfe, das ungebte Auge des Unaufmerksamen nichts

vermuthet, da entdeckt das gebte des Gesichtskenners unerschpfliche Quellen
des geistigen, sittlichsten, und zrtlichsten Vergngens.2
Physiognomy is a source of the finest and most noble sensations; a new eye, [a way
to be] aware of the thousand-fold expressions of godly wisdom and goodness [. . .]
where the blunted and uneducated eye of the inattentive does not see anything, the
practiced eye of the one who knows [how to read] faces discovers the endless source
of the spiritual, the most moral, and most tender of pleasures.

We know that Goethe was not only aware of Lavaters physiognomic project,
but that he was actively recruited by Lavater to be one of the artists contributing
to the books many illustrations. Lavater draws Goethe into both his personal
and professional sphere through their shared interest in visual culture.
In this article, I examine Goethes way of seeing and his problematic relation-
ship to Lavaters physiognomic eye. For Goethe, as well as for Lavater, the
visual is central to seeing oneself and others. But for both Goethe and Lavater
the visual implicates the verbal as well, and both are essential to the formation
of the subject. Goethes treatment of Lavater, as well as Lavaters judgments about
Goethe takes place on both a verbal and visual plane. For both men, the philo-
sophical implications of a verbal and a visual language are crucial to under-
standing the individual and his place in the world.
Goethe and Lavater are concerned with the right way of seeing. But what
does this mean? What function does the process of observation and reflection
serve for Goethe? What do questions of visuality have to do with autobiogra-
phy? What is the nature of the autobiographical subject in relation to the
visual? How is seeing connected to language? For Lavater, as well as for
Goethe, the intersection between the visual and the verbal reveals and con-
ceals. For both, this intersection is the key to the construction of identity. It is
my goal to define this difference between Lavater and Goethe. I analyze what
seeing means for these specular friends through the lens of the Lacanian gaze.
Jacques Lacan, like Goethe, was interested in the place of the visual in the con-
struction of the subject. For Lacan, language and image, the place of the
observer and of the observed are critical to his theory of identity formation.
Lacans formulation of a psychoanalytic theory which explains the subject in
terms of the visual is precisely the tool needed to examine the intersection
between the verbal and the visual in Lavaters and in Goethes way of seeing.
Goethes treatment of Lavater in Dichtung und Wahrheit [Writing and Truth]
reveals the problematic place Lavater had in Goethes life and work. He is both

Johann Caspar Lavater: Von der Physiognomik. Leipzig: Weidmanns Erben and Reich
1772. Part 3. This section, among many others is reprinted in Physiognomische
Fragmente zur Befrderung der Menschenkennti und Menschenliebe. Leipzig and
Wintherthur: Weidmann, Reich and Steiner 17751778. P. 9.

there and not there. Goethe plays a complicated game of autobiographical hide-
and-seek with Lavater and the reader by removing Lavater from episodes of his
life where we know from letters and other sources that he had indeed played a
major role. At the same time, Goethe inserts Lavater into his autobiography at
times and places where we know Lavater could not have been. By taking these lib-
erties with the truth of Lavaters place in his life, Goethe was clearly engaging
in that game of masquerade and disguise which, he had explained to the Countess
ODonell, an old friend, was so important to his autobiographical project.3
His friendship with Lavater began when Goethe was virtually unknown and
Lavater had already achieved great celebrity. Goethe was brought to Lavaters
attention in part because he had written a review of Lavaters book Aussichten in
die Ewigkeit [Views to Eternity] in the Frankfurter gelehrte Anzeigen (November
1772), and because Herder suggested that Goethe serve as an illustrator for
Lavaters project on physiognomy. Lavater was intrigued by the young man and
immediately initiated a correspondence in which he asked for Goethes like-
ness for physiognomic analysis. He opened the letter which contained the
promised image with mit zitternder Begierde [with trembling desire].4
Goethe and Lavater met for the first time in Bad Ems (April to August 1774),
where Lavater had gone for a rest cure. Shortly after the meeting, Lavater had
asked Goethe to participate in his new enterprise which was to be a primer for
physiognomic analysis. The publication of Physiognomische Fragmente (1775
1778) made Lavater a house-hold name.5 The work created a sensation and with
it Lavater became one of the most famous men of his time. The science of the
legible body appealed to many different levels of society.6 The work of many

In a letter to the Countess ODonell, Goethe thanked her for her words of encouragement
and praised her acuity for recognizing the subterfuge involved in his autobiographical
effort. Zunchst aber sollen Sie, verehrteste Freundin, hchlichst gepriesen sein, da sie
mir meine biographische Maskerade ein freundliches Wort haben sagen wollen. Sie
bemerken sehr richtig, da ich eigentlich nur mein spteres Leben hinter das frhere
verstecken kann [You, dearest friend, are highly appreciated, for wanting to say a few
friendly words about my biographical masquerade. You notice quite correctly that am actu-
ally only able to hide my later life behind my early one] (1 January 1813) (MA 16: 912).
Lavater to Goethe (6 November 1773): Goethe und Lavater. Briefe und Tagebcher.
Weimar: Verlag der Goethegesellschaft 1901. P. 5.
Johann Caspar Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente zur Befrderung der
Menschenkenntni und Menschenliebe. Leipzig and Wintherthur: Weidmann, Reich
and Steiner, 17751778, 4 vols. All quotations will be from this edition and the trans-
lations throughout the paper are my own.
I am taking the term the legible body from Michael Shortlands discussion of
Barthes Empire of the Signs. In: Skin Deep: Barthes, Lavater and the legible Body.
(Economy and Society). Vol. 14.3. August 1985. Pp. 275312. Shortland traces phys-
iognomy to Giambattista della Portas attempts in his de humana physiognomia (1586)
to establish a typology of animals and human beings, as well as to the visual studies of
Charles le Brun, who attempted to systematize the expression of human passions in art.

artists flattered the royal patrons to whom the books were dedicated. But the
books also offered the ordinary man inclusion into the portrait gallery of human
subjects. While the famous and noble were the subjects for silhouette makers, the
common man could also afford to be immortalized in the same way. Lavaters
pseudo-scientific explanations for the reading of faces and gestures appealed
to both commonly held beliefs about the visual aspects of human appearance and
at the same time offered a higher philosophical and scientific explanation for
what one already knew to be true. And Lavaters method held out the promise of
arcane insight beyond what one could see. The books were translated into most
European languages and in spite of their cost were widely read.7 These books on
physiognomy not only fed a voracious appetite for the secret to the reading of
images but also stimulated the desire to see oneself and others portrayed in life-
like drawings. The camera obscura and the concomitant craze for silhouettes
reflected this desire to fix the image, a desire which was to finally be real-
ized with the advent of photography and film. Lavater enlisted the help of
artists like Johann Heinrich Fussli, Daniel Chodowiecki, and Johann Heinrich
Lips for the drawings, silhouettes, and engravings which are at the heart of his
project. The collection of images included in the books made this the greatest
coffee-table book of the eighteenth century.
Initially Goethe was an enthusiastic participant. As his friendship with Lavater
intensified, involvement with the project increased as well. He contributed articles
to the four volume work and functioned as editor and middle-man between Lavater
and his publisher, Theodor Reich, throughout the publication of the four volumes
of Physiognomische Fragmente.8

See The Faces of Physiognomy: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Johann Caspar
Lavater. Ed. by Ellis Shookman. Princeton: Camden House 1993, for the importance of
Lavater to a number of different disciplines. See especially Christoph Siegrists Letters
of the Divine Alphabet. Pp. 2539; Carsten Zelles Soul Semiology: On Lavaters
Physiognomic Principles. Pp. 4159; Siegfried Freys Lavater, Lichtenberg and the
Suggestive Power of the Human Face. Pp. 64103. These articles were particularly use-
ful in helping me formulate my discussion of Lavaters importance to Goethe. They
place the publication of Lavaters Physiognomische Fragmente in the context of his
own time and reiterate the importance of this publication to contemporaries. Frey
notes, for example, that upon its publication a wave of enthusiasm for physiognomics
swept all Germany. P. 67. All major newspapers and literary journals dealt with the
issue and literary societies were formed to purchase the book on physiognomy.
The problematic nature of Goethes relationship to Lavater has escaped few biogra-
phers and scholars of Goethes work. One of the most exhaustive studies of Goethes
collaboration with Lavater on the Physiognomische Fragmente is Eduard von der
Hallens Goethes Anteil an Lavaters Physiognomischen Fragmenten. Frankfurt/M:
Literarische Anstalt Rtten & Loenig 1888. Hallen successfully shows through letters
from Lavater, Goethe, as well as from other contemporaries, that Goethe had an inti-
mate role to play not only as a contributor to the book, but also as a mediator between

Although its publication was met with great public approval and acclaim, the
scientific community quickly mobilized to criticize the book. Georg Christoph
Lichtenberg, Professor of Physics at Gttingen, one of Lavaters chief critics, dis-
puted Lavaters claim that physiognomic analysis, which purported to provide a
key to unlocking the universal meaning of particular physical attributes, had a sci-
entific basis. Furthermore, he argued that the real study of physiognomy should
be based, not on physical attributes such as eye color, and facial structure, as
Lavater believed, but on the individual characteristics exemplifying human
emotion.9 Following this outcry from the scientific community against Lavater,
Goethe publicly distanced himself from his involvement in the project. But in
spite of his reluctance to be openly connected to the books on physiognomy,
Goethe did not break off his relationship with Lavater until 1784, 10 years later.
In addition to an active and often emotionally charged correspondence, Goethe
visited Lavater twice in Switzerland, and Lavater made several trips to Weimar to
see Goethe. When Goethe visited Switzerland in 1779, the real goal of the trip was
to meet with Lavater and introduce him not only to Carl August, the Duke of
Weimar-Eisenach but also to the Grand-Duchess Anna Amalia, the Dukes
mother, who came especially to meet the great man. Goethe wrote to von Stein
that the meeting was a great success.
Die Bekanntschaft von Lavatern ist fr den Herzog und mich, was ich gehofft habe:
Siegel und oberste Spitze der ganzen Reise und eine Weide an Himmelsbrot, wovan
man lange gute Folgen spren wird. [. . .] Er ist der Beste, Grste, Inningste aller
sterblichen und unsterblichen Menschen, die ich kenne.10
The friendship with Lavater is for me and for the Duke exactly what I hoped for. It
marks the end and is at the same time the high point of our journey, a meadow filled
with manna which will nourish us for a long time. [. . .] Of all the December 1779.

And to Carl von Knebel he writes of Lavater that such truth, faith, love,
patience, strength, wisdom, goodness, activity, wholeness, multi-dimensionality
and peace is not to be found in Israel or among the heathens (November 1779).11

Reich, the publisher, and Lavater. Pp.1632. He points out that Goethes effort to deny his
involvement in the project is especially noteworthy, since at this time of his life (at the time
he was writing his autobiography) he was busy taking credit for other anonymous publi-
cations of his youth. P. 2. But Hallens attempts to prove Goethes participation in Lavaters
project through an analysis of style of the essays cannot be considered reliable.
Lichtenbergs main arguments against Lavater are contained in the essay ber
Physiognomik: wider die Physiognomen. In: Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. Schriften
und Briefe. Ed. by Wolfgang Promies. Vol. 3. Darmstadt 1972. Pp. 256295.
This quote is included in Wilhelm Bode: Goethes Schweizer Reisen. Basel: Basler
Buchstube 1922. Pp. 184185.
Bode finds Goethes relationship to Lavater to be so close that they enjoyed a great
physical and intellectual attraction to one another, almost like lovers of the opposite
sex (my own translation). P. 9.

Yet despite these enthusiastic letters, which testify to the importance of Lavater
for Goethe, his published account of the trip to Switzerland did not refer to
Lavater at all. In other autobiographical writings Goethe also minimizes and at
times completely denies his involvement in Lavaters physiognomic project.
While Goethe recalls, in the Campagne in Frankreich, that he provided the
Physiognomische Fragmente with articles on animal physiology, he admits to
nothing else. The extant 17 letters attesting Goethes friendship with Lavater
exhibit a great range of emotion from adulation and sentimental devotion to irri-
tation and pique. By ignoring Lavater in his accounts of the trips to Switzerland
and diminishing his own involvement in Lavaters physiognomic project, Goethe
shrouds in mystery a figure, who inspired in him an inordinate, at times inexpli-
cable, outpouring of emotion.
Lavater and the Eye of Physiognomy: The Science of Sensitive Perception
The penetration of Lavaters gaze, its power to kill, to undermine the very
ground of existence, has ample verification in Goethes description of his first
meeting with Lavater in Dichtung und Wahrheit. Before it took place, Lavater had
already requested and received a picture of him. Upon meeting Goethe, Lavater
exclaimed that the real Goethe was much different from his imaginings, while
Goethe found Lavater in reality to be just like his picture. Furthermore, he says
that the impression that he and Lavater made on people was also the opposite of
one another. Those who found Lavater problematic at a distance or in writing,
found him to be charming in person. Conversely, those who found charm in
Goethes writing found in reality someone very cool and distant (MA 16: 652).
The difficulty which these people had in reading the truth of the body points
directly to Lavaters great gift, his physiognomic eye. But while Goethe
acknowledges Lavaters ability or gift, he is at the same time wary of it. Lavater
was always being put to the test even by his friends. Goethe relates a little trick
which he played on him by sending him a picture of his friend Bahrd instead of
a picture of himself. But, according to Goethe, Lavater was not fooled by the
deception and immediately recognized the subterfuge (MA 16: 676). Goethe
writes that Lavater had the uncanny ability to dissolve borders, separate the out-
side from the inside, and penetrate to the surface below. Indeed, to be around
Lavater, was to feel spied upon:

Lavaters Geist war durchaus imposant; in seiner Nhe konnte man sich einer entschie-
denden Einwirkung nicht erwehren, und so mu ich mir denn gefallen lassen, Stirn
und Nase, Augen und Mund einzeln zu betrachten, [. . .] mir kam es immer als eine
Tcke, als ein Spionieren vor, wenn ich einen gegenwrtigen Menschen in seine
Elemente zerlegen und seinen sittlichen Eigenschaften dadurch auf die Spur kommen
wollte. Lieber hielt ich mich an sein Gesprch, in welchem er nach Belieben sich
enhllte. Hiernach will ich denn nicht leugnen daes in Lavaters Nhe gewiermassen
bnglich war: denn in dem er sich auf physiognomische Wege unsrer Eigenschaften

bemchtigte, so war er in der Unterredung Herr unsrer Gedanken, die er im Wechsel

des Gesprches mit einigem Scharfsinn gar leicht erraten konnte. (MA 16: 797)

Lavaters spirit was thoroughly imposing. One could not escape a certain influence in
his presence and so I had to allow that forehead, nose, eyes and mouth were each to be
observed and their relationship and weighed, [. . .] It seemed as an odd thing, to be like
a spy, when I divided a person into his specific parts and was thus to come to an under-
standing of his social role. I would rather have engaged in conversation, in which the
person revealed himself at his pleasure. Therefore I wont deny that it was somewhat
frightening to be near Lavater because our characteristics were known to him through
the study of physiognomy, so he was master of our conversations, and with his sharp
wits could easily guess what they were during each conversation.

There is a kind of violation attached to this physiognomic gift. Lavater repre-

sents the dangers inherent in the unmediated reading of the image. Lavater
desires an unmediated access to knowledge of the soul. To him words are a
screen which obscures the real nature of the subject. Lavaters physiognomic
project is a way to bypass ordinary language and to create a fully transparent
body language. This goes straight to the heart of the masquerade. According to
Lavater, everything which indicates social standing education, as well as
behavior masks the real person, who is hidden behind these disguises:
Stand, Gewohnheit, Besitzthuemer, Kleider, alles modificiert, alles verhllt
ihn12 [Position, habit, possessions, clothes, all modify, everything hides him
(the individual)]. Lavater sees the pattern of dissimulation which the body
presents not only in all expressions of emotions but in the very life of the body
in motion. Thus he differentiates between Physiognomik and Pathognomik
the first has to do with stillness, the effect of the soul on the body, the latter has
to do with motion and thus of masquerade.13
According to Lavater, the science of physiognomy uncovers the soul. The
physiognomist understands the language of nature, the language of the moral
and intellectual genius, the language of truth and morality. He understands
others better than they understand themselves.

Mit geheimer Entzckung durchdringt der menschenfreundliche Physiognomist das

Innere des Menschen, und erblickt da die erhabensten Anlagen, die sich vielleicht
erst in der zuknftigen Welt entwickeln werden. Er trennt das Feste in dem
Charakter von dem Habituellen, das Habituelle von dem Zuflligen.14

Lavater: Vol. 1. P. 15 of Physiognomische Fragmente.
Quoted in Ursula Geittner: Die Sprache der Verstellung. Tbingen: Niemyer 1992.
P. 244. Geittner argues convincingly that Lavaters distrust of language and his search
for an unmediated language of nature is reflected in anti-rhetorical attitudes in the eigh-
teenth century.
Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 1. P. 160. The quote is also included in
Von der Physiognomik (1772).

With secret pleasure, the man-loving physiognomist pierces through all these cover-
ings, and penetrates into [a persons] real character, to discover there the most pro-
found latent talents, which will perhaps be only developed in the next life. He
divides the solid in the character from the habitual, the habitual from the accidental.

The body is thus transparent to the eye of the physiognomist. The body and its
attributes like eye color, facial characteristics like the size and shape of the lips,
eyes, nose, chin, forehead etc., muscles, skin, and pulse are fixed. Lavater pro-
vides a method for reading these attributes. But more importantly, this knowledge
allows the physiognomist to penetrate the outer shell of the body to read the soul.
When Lichtenberg criticizes Lavaters study of physiognomy, he emphasizes
instead the very aspects of human physiology and expression which Lavater
has attempted to erase, the study of gestures and other expressions of human
emotions.15 In Lavaters view, these aspects of human behavior masked the real
and true character of an individual and were on the side of dissimulation and
disguise, that is, they hid the true characteristics of the body and of the soul.
Lichtenbergs critique exposes the flawed logic behind the desire for a univer-
sal and unmediated language of the body. The case of Socrates becomes a pivotal
example of the flawed reasoning behind physiognomic analysis. Lichtenberg
argues that if the laws of physiognomy were valid, then Socrates example of a
good soul in an ugly, deformed body would not be possible.
The case of Socrates is pivotal to Lavater as well. He puts Socrates under the
gaze of the physiognomist. But instead of seeing Socrates ugliness as an excep-
tion to the rules of physiognomy, he sees him as the verification of physiognomic
principles. The misshapen body, in the case of Socrates, masks the beauty of his
soul. The form of his face could have appeared to the un-physiognomic eye as
ugly and his gestures beautiful and vice-versa16 (Figure 1). The ability of the
physiognomist to penetrate the infinite disguises and masks of the body pro-
vides the support for the seemingly paradoxical position that Socrates is both
hideously ugly and beautiful in his soul. That is, the eye of the physiognomist
is not fooled by the trappings of the body which can mislead the less discerning
eye, and the body itself placed under that eye is stripped of its deceiving quali-
ties. The image of a skeleton covered by the mask of the face with which Lavater
ends his chapter on women illustrates this divide. The mask of the soft, fleshy
face, which characterizes women even more than men, covers and also covers up
the enduring contours of the skull underneath17 (Figure 2).

For an insightful discussion on Lichtenbergs ideas see Gerhard Neumann: Rede
damit ich dich sehe. Das neuzeitliche Ich und der physiognomische Blick. In: Das
neuzeitliche Ich in der Literatur des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. Ed. by Ullrich Flleborn
and Manfred Engel. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag 1988. Pp. 73108.
Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 1. P. 150.
Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 3. P. 293.

Figure 1. Nine Heads of Socrates. Johann Caspar Lavater. Physiognomische Fragmente.

17751778. Vol. 2. P. 70. University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research

Figure 2. Skull and Mask. Johann Caspar Lavater. Physiognomische Fragmente.

17751778. Vol. 3. P. 293. University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research

Lavaters desire to tame the deceptive body leads ultimately to the idea that
true knowledge can only be ascertained when the body is not being guided by
the will and the emotions of the living being. He advises his readers to watch
for those unguarded moments before the deceiver is aware of being watched.
Der Betrger ist nie weniger vermgend, sich zu verstellen, als im ersten Augenblicke,
da wir ihn sehen, wenn er sich noch gleichsam ganz allein gelassen, eh er in eine
gewisse Aktivitt und Wrme gesetzt ist. Nichts ist schwerer, behaupte ich, und
nichts dennoch leichter, als Heucheley zu entdecken. Nichts schwerer, so lange der
Heuchler denkt da er beobachtet werde.18

The deceiver is never less able to deceive than in the first moments, since we see him
when he is still left quite alone, before a certain warmth and activity has been set in
motion. Nothing is more difficult, I maintain, and nothing simpler, than to uncover
deception. There is nothing harder so long as the deceiver thinks he is being watched.

To capture those moments, deception on the part of the physiognomist is war-

ranted. Goethe is correct in his fear of being spied upon. At the heart of the
physiognomic enterprise is the voyeur, for only he is in the privileged position
of observing secretly. In order to catch the person in unguarded states vulnera-
ble to the penetrating eye of the physiognomist, it is best, according to Lavater,
to seek out moments of sudden und unexpected seeing, the moment of greet-
ing for example, the moment of sudden passion or feeling, of compassion, etc.
Bemerkt die blitzschnellen Momente der vlligen berraschung. Wer in solchen
seine Gesichtszge gnstig und edel bewahren kann; wem in solchen kein fataler
Zug entwischt, kein Zug der Schadenfreude, des Neides, des kaltverachtendes
Stolzes, dessen Physiognomie und dessen Character warden jede Probe aushalten,
die man ber sterbliche und sndige Menschen darf ergehen lassen.19

Notice the lightning-fast moments of total surprise. Those whose facial expressions
can remain looking noble and looking good; those who remain without betraying a
fatal expression, without a hint of Schadenfreude, of envy, of coldly calculating
pride, whose physiognomy and character can withstand all trials, which are visited
on mortal sinners.

The physiognomist is thus the arbiter of true feelings and true character. He
alone is the judge, the spy, who can discern these signs and penetrate the mask
of consciousness. Lavater cites moments when we are least conscious of our
behavior. These moments reveal the public persona displaying a private and
uncontrollable gesture. But Lavater singles out the lover, spying on his beloved,
as perhaps the best and most opportune moment for physiognomic insight.

Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 2. P. 61.
Lavater: Von der Physiognomik 1772. Part IV.

In jenen Augenblicken, die sich nicht herrufen, nicht erzwingen, mit nichts erkaufen
lassen, die gegeben werden vom Vater des Lichts [. . .] In jenen Augenblicken, deren
der Thor lacht, und der Weltweise spottet [. . .] In solchen Augenblicken, oder in
denen seltlern der schlaflosen Mitternacht, wo wir erwachend an der saften edlen
Gattin Seite, die dmmernde Lampe [. . .] in den seltnen seligen Augenblicken, wo
Abschiednehmend nach durchwachter, durchschwtzter durchweinter Nacht ein
Geliebter, oder Bruder und Freund im Lichte des Mondes stehn [. . .] In solchen
Augenblicken sollte man Menschen zeichnen und ber den Menschen schreiben.20
In those moments, which cannot be consciously produced, cannot be forced, cannot be
bought, that are given to us by the father of light [. . .] In those moments where the fool
laughs, and the man of the world jeers [. . .] In those moments, or in those less common
[moments] of sleepless midnight, where we wake up at the side of the noble and gentle
wife, the dimming light [. . .] in those seldom holy moments, where we take leave after
a night of waking and talking and crying a lover, a brother, and friend-standing in the
light of the moon [. . .] In those moments we should draw and write about [these] people.

These are exactly those moments which Goethe will both seek out and screen
in his autobiography. When he cautions Lavater against adopting a confes-
sional style, he warns him that the truth about events is not contained there. In
rejecting the confessional mode, a style made famous by Rousseau, Goethe is,
in effect, shielding himself from the intrusive gaze of the physiognomist, from
those moments which are the most open to being spied upon or seen. Lavaters
desire to have the body and particularly the face open to the discerning gaze of
the physiognomist is thwarted by life itself. He longs for the cessation of move-
ment, for those moments which stop and fix the living being in time. Lavater
reveals his yearning for the knowledge which lies beyond the body in motion
when he discusses the lessons he learned from watching the faces of the dead.
So viele Todte habe ich gesehen, hab ich dabey die einfrmige Beobachtung gemacht,
da sie etwa 16,18, 24 Stunden nach ihrem Tode (je nachdem sie eine Krankeit gehabt
hatten) eine schnere Zeichnung hatten, als sie ihrem Leben niemals gehabt hatten viel
bestimmter, proportionierter, homogenischer, edler, viel edler, erhabner [. . .] Drfte
nicht vielleicht eine Grundphysiognomy sein? Durch die Ebbe und Fluth der Zuflle und
Leidenschaften vertrbt? Die sich nach und nach durch die Ruhe des Todes wieder
herstellte, wie trbgewordenes Wasser, wenns unzerrttet stehen kann, helle wird.21
I have seen so many dead people, that I have been able to make the unique observa-
tion, that about 16, 18, 24 hours after their death (depending on what kind of illness
they have had) [they have] a better outline [expression] than they have ever had
while still alive [an outline/picture] which is much more determined, proportional,
homogeneous, nobler, and sublime [. . .] Couldnt this be a the real basis for the
physiognomy [of that person]? Through the ebb and flow of chance and passion this
[basic physiognomy] fades after a while[;] is it restored again a while after death like
muddy water which becomes clear when it has been allowed to stand still?

Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 2. P. 4.
Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 2. P. 34.

The Problem of Deception

While death seemed the ideal way to resolve the inevitable deceptive expres-
sions in the living being, the problem of deception or Verstellungskraft had to
be circumvented or at least minimized in Lavaters physiognomic method.
While painting, drawing and silhouette making were all important to the art of
the physiognomist, they are not of equal value to him. In the discussion of the
problems of deception and dissimulation in the living body, the ultimate goal
was a cessation of movement. Analogously, stillness determines Lavaters hier-
archy of artistic choices. Lavater tells us that the portrait shows us better than
nature the true face because it has made the face stop moving. It captures what
in nature is impossible to stop.22 While a particularly life-like painting can tell
the physiognomist a great deal about a person, an even better tool is the sil-
houette. Unlike the painting, which also displays the emotions of the subject,
the silhouette strips the body of these transitory features and according to
Lavater, fixes the unchanging and underlying shape of the skull. While Lavater
notes that the silhouette is weak because it is a negative image, yet this very
quality makes it most valuable to the physiognomist: In einem Schattenrissse
ist nur eine Linie; keine Bewegung, kein Licht, keine Farbe, keine Hhe und
Tiefe; kein Aug, kein Ohr kein Nasloch, keine Wange, nur ein sehr kleiner
Theil von der Lippe und dennoch, wie entscheident bedeutsam ist Er.23 [A
silhouette is only a line, no motion, no light, no color, no height; no eye, no ear
no nostril, no cheek, only a small part of the lip and still how decisive and
important it is].
Lavater places the silhouette in a privileged place as an instrument of phys-
iognomic analysis because it provides an unmediated access to the soul.
Gestures and emotions, the deceptive language of the body, are eliminated and
replaced by a language which is pure, unchanged and speechless.24 If read
correctly, the lines of the silhouette offer an alphabet of the soul.25 Lavater
explains that the structure of such a language of the body can be discerned by
dividing each silhouette into nine horizontal parts from the crown of the head
to the hairline, the line of the brow to the eyebrows, the eyebrows to the end of
the outline of the nose, from there to the upper-lip, the actual lips, the top part
of the chin, the bottom part of the chin, and finally the neck. These parts,

Lavater: Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 3. P. 21.
Lavater, Physiognomische Fragmente. Vol. 2. P. 90.
Ibid. P. 90.
See Karsten Zelle: Soul Semiology. In: The Faces of Physiognomy: Interdisciplinary
Approaches to Johann Caspar Lavater. Ed. by Ellis Shookman. Princeton: Camden
House 1993. Pp. 4059. Zelle discusses Lavaters search for such an alphabet.

according to Lavater are actually letters of the alphabet and capable of speaking
Jeder einzelne Theil dieser Abschnitte ist an sich ein Buchstabe, oft eine Silbe, oft
ein Wort, oft eine ganze Rede der Wahrheit redender Natur.26
Each of these parts is actually a letter of the alphabet, or often a syllable, often a
word, or often an entire speech of truth-speaking nature.

Lavater maintains that he has gathered more physiognomic knowledge from

silhouettes than from all other portraits.27 This then is the essence of the language
of the body which Lavater attempted to in his work on physiognomy (Figure 3).
Lavaters desire for a direct expression of the soul, a language in which signi-
fier and signified are locked together in a transparent and unchanging sign, is
already present in his Aussichten in die Ewigkeit, the book Goethe had
reviewed in 1772. According to Lavater, in heaven a truly ideal language can
be realized. This language is free from the dissimulation contained in words
and gestures.28 In heaven beings can communicate wordlessly and directly.
Arbitrary sounds, which have no natural relation to the things they repre-
sent seem to me to be such an incomplete, accidental, and indefinite means of
communicating our thoughts and feelings to others that I can hardly imagine,
that these could exist in that land of truth.29 Lavater envisions a language
which would make all known languages obsolete. There in that eternal realm a
language could exist in timeless space. This unmediated language is physiog-
nomic, pantomimic, and musical.30 Such a language would be free from the
vagaries of emotion and desire, and of language itself. Yet this heavenly lan-
guage, free from the slippage and arbitrary meaning of the play of signification
in language, remains tied to the visible. Music accompanies this language only
in so far as it too is free of words and thus free of the voice which speaks those
words. Lichtenberg, in his critique of physiognomy, had recognized that Lavaters
physiognomic rules shut out the ear in favor of the eye. Socrates becomes once
again decisive. His demand of Charmides to speak, so I can see you indicates

Lavater: Physiognomsiche Fragmente. Vol. 2. P. 97.
Ibid. P. 91.
See Geittner for an analysis of Lavaters anti-rhetorical position. See also Gerhard
Neumann: Rede, damit ich dich sehe. Das neuzeitliche Ich und der physiognomische
Blick. Pp. 71107. Neumann argues that Lavater and Lichtenberg take opposed posi-
tions toward a rhetoric of gesture and emotion. Lichtenbergs proposed study of pathog-
nomy develops a language of emotion while Lavater rejects all rhetorical, i.e.,
emotional signifiers in his physiognomic language.
Lavater: Aussichten in die Ewigkeit in Briefen an Hernn Joh. Zimmermann. Zurich
1781. P. 101.
Ibid. P. 108.

Figure 3. Sheet of Silhouettes. Johann Caspar Lavater. Physiognomische Fragmente.

17751778. Vol. 2. Pp. 49, 50. University of Chicago Library, Special Collections
Research Center.

to Lichtenberg a profoundly important shift from the gaze to the voice.31 As a

consequence of his search for such a language of unmediated expression,
Lavaters project results not only in an enormous personal collection of the sil-
houettes of the most important figures of his time, but it also generates the
mania for the art of silhouette drawing which became de rigueur as a parlor
game in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
Goethe, Lavater, and Werther
In his autobiographical Campagne in Frankreich Goethe notes that Lavaters
zeal in commissioning these images for his book resulted in the sickness he
calls Werther-fever, an illness characterized by the narcissistic conception of
the self. This fever, according to Goethe, was the result of Lavaters physiog-
nomic project. Werthers problems, characterized by his sentimental ennui, his
romantic yearning, were actually symptoms of a disease. Werther and his fol-
lowers had succumbed to the mania for representation. Anyone important was
brought under the painters brush. But, just as Lavaters book on physiognomy
had promised, both the noble and common man could have a silhouette made
of their face and body. This new craze had a singular effect. According to
Goethe, it promoted a false conception of the self. And everyone, Goethe
tells us, was practiced in this art and no stranger was allowed to escape before
someone had written him onto a wall. The stork-beaks [pantographs] of the
silhouette makers were allowed no rest (FA 16: 530) (Figure 4).
The problems of revelation and concealment, of truth and dissimulation, of
the function of language are issues important both to Lavater and to Goethe. Both
men are also concerned with the expression of form in painting and figural arts.
Yet Goethe in his autobiography strongly affirms his great distance from Lavater
and his physiognomic studies. A number of scholars have pointed out Goethes
strong connection both to the man and to his project. Gert Mattenklott, for
example, has noted the connection between Lavaters project to Goethes own
interests in physiognomy and the murky connections between the two men.
Mattenklott cites the Goethes desire to develop a course on human skeletal
structure as an example of the continued influence of Lavaters ideas on the
importance of unmediated expression.32 But the case is more complex. Even as
he denies his involvement in Lavaters project, Goethe will continue to admit

Neumann suggests that Lichtenberg, in shifting his emphasis from the eye to the ear,
anticipates the insights of Freudian analysis. P. 98. While Lichtenberg continues to
believe in certain physiognomic truths, his distrust of the speaking body, points to the
importance of social factors in the definition of identity.
Gert Mattenklott: Der bersinnliche Leib. Hamburg: Rowohlt 1982. He begins
his study with Goethes thinking about the body and specifically the eye. P. 19.
Mattenklott assumes that Goethe, even though Lichtenbergs ridicule made obvious

Figure 4. Pantograph. Johann Caspar Lavater. Physiognomische Fragmente. 17751778.

Vol. 2. P. 93. University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center.

his own contributions on animal physiology. He tells Grfin X that he directly

contributed a section on animal skulls to Lavaters Physiognomische
Fragmente (FA 16: 551). But Goethes interest in a direct expression of nature
is far removed from Lavaters concept of an unmediated language of nature.
Mediation and masquerade are at the center of Goethes own semiotics.33
The Present Absence: Lavater and Werther in Switzerland
Letters to von Stein and Knebel had described Lavater as the focus of trip to
Switzerland in 1779. But the account of this journey, which was published in
Schillers Horen (1792), makes no mention of Lavater at all. Subsequent to its

allegiance to Lavaters works untenable, continues to believe in many of the principles

of the Physiognomische Fragmente. And to some extent I agree with Mattenklott.
Goethe did not really delete Lavater from his own thinking, but formulated his ideas,
particularly his concept of nature, both in opposition and in relation to Lavater. But how
this was accomplished was more complex than Mattenklott allows in his analysis. My
examination reveals the extent to which Goethe addressed Lavater and his work in his
autobiographical work, especially in those moments when Goethe completely denied
his connection to Lavater or deleted him from his recollection of events.
Mattenklott also recognizes the great importance of die Hlle [the mask] for Goethe
and writes convincingly about its significance in Goethes thinking.

publication in Horen, the episode appears as a part of Goethes collected works

and is certainly a part of his autobiographical project.34 Werther, the protago-
nist of his first novel, is resurrected and made the fictional narrator of the trip
he had taken to Switzerland with the Duke of Weimar to see Lavater.
In his introduction to the journey, Werther reveals a profoundly disturbed
connection to the visible. This disturbed gaze has already been connected by
Goethe to Lavater and his effect on perception and the process of identity for-
mation. It had resulted in the sickness Goethe called Werther-fever. This
sickness was a result of a disturbed ability to see oneself correctly in relation
to the others in the world. The process of identity formation the dialectical
relationship between the external world and what is given to be seen there and
how these objects are seen, that is understood is also related to how nature
functions in its relation to the visible. For Werther, one major response to what
he sees is nausea. Looking at the great cliffs, Werther feels disgusted at the
sight of the small Swiss Brger [citizen], who exists in this sublime landscape.
He feels nauseated at the sight of a plowed field. Man, he says is born to fly,
not to labor like ants. Goethe had described Lavater in similar terms:
Ich mge ihn [Lavater] einem Mann vergleichen, die Gter, Geld, Besitzthmer,
Weib, Kinder, Freunde alles nicht achtete und vernachlssigte um einen unwider-
stehlichen Trieb nach mechanischen Knsten zu befriedigen und eine Machine zum
fliegen zu erfinden.35
I would like to compare him to a man, who did not value his property, money, pos-
sessions, wife, children, friends, and neglected all these in order to satisfy an irre-
sistible urge for the mechanical arts and to invent a flying machine.

Werther tells the reader, as well as his fictional correspondent, that he is caught
in the movement between art and nature. He confronts the dilemma between
subject and object, between impressing and being impressed by the visible,
when a friend shows him a special painting, enclosed in a special box. Inside
the box is a life-size painting of Danae, captured by the painter while being
impregnated by Zeus in the form of golden rain (the painting is in the style of
Titian or Corregio). The friend, caught by the lure of the painting, looks at it in
admiration and does not notice that this painting does not move Werther at all.

See K. R. Eissler: Goethe: a Psychoanalytic Study. Detroit: Wayne State University
Press 1962. 2 vols. The use of Werther as an introduction to the trip to Switzerland
prompts Eissler to conclude that this was a way to experience the pleasure of a womans
body as well as to ward off homosexual feelings. Vol. 1. P. 374.
Letter to Lavater (July 1782) in Goethe und Lavater. Briefe und Tagebcher. P. 201.
Goethe was himself interested in flying machines. Eissler sees this connection between
Goethe and Lavater as significant because here Lavater serves as a screen on which he
projects many of his own problems. Pp. 738739.

Disturbed by his own coldness and inability to react to the painting, Werther
decides on a remedy.
Werthers inability to be moved or fascinated by the lure of the painting stands
in direct opposition to the well-known example of Zeuxis and Parrhasios. Zeuxis
had painted grapes so life-like that even the birds were taken in by them, but
Parrhasios painted a veil, which so fascinated Zeuxis that he asked what was
behind it. Lacan points out that by deceiving the eye, that is, by giving the eye
the image of the veil, the gaze triumphed. The source of Zeuxis reaction was
not the paintings resemblance to life, that is, by appearance, but its relation to
the idea, that is to something beyond appearance. Lacan calls this thing beyond
appearance which has the power to fascinate, the petit a. It is the lure in the
painting. Examining Werthers solution to his problem, that is, his inability to
be fascinated by the images in the painting, brings us back to the gaze and its
relation to the disease of sentimentality of which the Werther-Lavater complex
is a symptom. What afflicts Werther has to do with the gaze. By not reacting to
the painting, he does not allow himself to be pacified and captured by the fas-
cinating images put down by the painter. In refusing the lure of the painting, he
refuses the call of the Other, that is both the desire of the painter and of the
image itself is erased. Werther, as observer, refuses to be seduced by the desire
of the Other behind the painting. Werther resolves that the cure for this inability
to desire is to impress the form of a real woman into himself. In order to accom-
plish this, he arranges to view a real woman in the nude. This experience, he
thinks, will help him to be moved by a depiction of a woman in a painting. His
failure to appreciate the painting of Danae and her rape by Zeus, he believes, is
due to his inability to compare her to the real thing.
The recognition of what is true and false is put into question. Werther assumes
his problem is due to his failure to graft his own imaginary objects into the
painting. What is operating in Werthers inability to be moved by the painting
is essential to the function of the gaze. His refusal to lay down his own gaze
and be impregnated by the gaze of the painter, like Danae by the golden rain of
Zeus, makes it impossible to be moved by the fascinum of the painting.
Werthers problem as the hero of Goethes great epistolary novel had not been
caused not by a failure to fantasize, but by an excessive narcissistic fantasy life.
In thus restating Werthers dilemma in starkly visual terms, Goethe here elab-
orates on the solution to the problem. What is the right way to see and be seen?
How does the process of seeing the self in relation to the world of desiring oth-
ers operate?
Goethe inscribes this new incarnation of Werther in a visual landscape. Just
as Goethe had masqueraded as Maler Mller in his Italian journey, Werther in
Switzerland pretends to be an artist. Here Goethe clearly resurrects Werther
not only as a stand-in for the now absent Lavater, but also for his own autobio-
graphical persona. In this disguise as a landscape artist, Werther, the narrator

of the Swiss journey, pays an old madam to procure for him a young and beau-
tiful girl. He says:
Ich nam mir fest vor, es koste was es wolle, ein Mdchen in dem Naturstande zu
sehen [. . .] Sollten in dieser groen Stadt, dachte ich, nicht ein Mdchen sein, die
sich fr einen gewissen Preis dem Mann berlassen?Und sollte nicht eine darunter
schn und willig genug sein meinen Augen ein fest zu geben? (FA 16: 27)
I decided, no matter what the cost, to see a girl in the state of nature [. . .] I thought,
shouldnt there be in this great city a girl who for a certain price would give herself
over to a man. And shouldnt one of these be beautiful and willing enough to give
my eyes a feast.

Werther asks for a girl who will provide him with something which will feed
his eye. He desires the lure which Lacan has described as necessary to feed the
eye. Unlike Zeuxis, Werther does not confront a painting but instead he is con-
fronted with the scene which imitates a painting. The old woman tells him that
what he is about to see is indeed a feast for the eyes and she says the enjoy-
ment is free. She brings him into a small room and tells him to sit in an arm-
chair across from the bed and the fire-place. Then she leaves the room.
Es whrte nicht lange, so kam zu der entgegengesetzten Tre ein groes herrlich
gebildedes, schnes Frauenzimmer heraus, ihre Kleidung unterschied sich nicht von
der gewhnlichen. Sie schien mich nicht zu bemerken, warf ihren schwarzen Mantel
ab und setzte sich vor die Toilette. Sie nahm eine groe Haube, die ihr Gesicht
bedeckt hatte, vom Kopfe, eine schne regelmige Bildung zeigte sich, braune
Haare mit vielen und groen Locken rollten auf die Schulern heruner. Sie fing an
sich auszukleiden; welch eine wunderliche Empfindung da ein Stck nach dem
andern herabfiel, und die Natur, von der fremden Hlle entkleidet, mir als fremd
erschien und beinahe, mchtich sagen mir einen scheurlichen Eindruck machte.
Ach! mein Freund, ist es nicht mit unsern Meinungen, unsern Vorurtheilen,
Einrichtungen, Gesetzen und Grillen auch so? Erschrecken wir nicht, wenn eine von
diesen fremden, ungehrigen, unwahren Umgebungen uns entzogen wird, und
irgend ein Teil unsrer wahren Natur entblt dastehen soll? Wir schaudern, wir
schmen uns, aber vor keiner wunderlichen und abgeschmackten Art, uns durch
uern Zwang zu entsellen, fhlen wir die mindeste Abneigung. Soll ich dirs geste-
hen, ich konne mich eben so wenig in den herrlichen Krper finden, da die letze
Hlle herab fiel, als vielleicht Freund L. sich in seinen Zustand finden wird, wenn
ihn der Himmel zum Anfhrer der Mohawks machen sollte. Was sehen wir an den
Weibern? was fr Weiber gefallen uns und wie konfudieren wir alle Begriffe? Ein
kleiner Schu sieht gut a`us, und wir rufen: welch ein schner kleiner Fu! ein
schmaler Schnrleib hat etwas Elegantes, und wir preisen die schne Taille. [. . .]
reizend war sie, indem sie sich entkleidete, schn, herrlich schn, als das letzte
Gewand fiel. Sie stand, wie Minerva vor Paris mochte gestanden haben, beschieden
bestieg sie ihr Lager, unbedeckt versuchte sie in verschiedenen Stellungen sich dem
Schlafe zu bergeben, endlich schien sie entschlummert. In der anmutigsten
Stellung blieb sie eine Weile, ich konnte staunen und bewundern. Endlich schien ein
leidenschaftlicher Traum sie zu beunruhigen, sie seufzte tief, vernderte heftig die
Stellung, stammelte den Namen eines Geliebten und schien ihre Arme gegn ihn

auszustrecken. Komm! Rief sie endlich mit vernehmlicher Stimme, komm mein
Freund, in meine Arme oder ich schlafe wirklich ein. In dem Augenblick ergriff sie
die seidne durchnhte Decke, zog sie ber sich her, und ein allerliebstes Gesicht sah
unter ihr hervor. (FA 16: 3031)

Before long, a tall, beautiful but young woman, whose clothing was not out of the ordi-
nary, came out of the door opposite me. She seemed not to notice me, threw off her
coat, and sat in front of the dresser. She took off the hood which had hidden her face
and revealed beautiful regular features with brown hair, the locks of which fell onto her
shoulders. She began to undress. What an incredible feeling as one piece after the other
fell off and nature, freed of its foreign shell, seemed to me strange and almost gave me
an uncanny feeling. Oh, my friend, isnt it the same with all our opinions, prejudices,
positions, accommodation, laws, and habits? Dont we become afraid when one of
these untrue accouterments is removed from us and part of our true nature stands
revealed? We shudder; we are ashamed, but we do not hesitate to alter ourselves as a
result of outside pressure. Should I confess it to you? I found myself as little able to find
myself in this glorious body as maybe friend L [sic] will know of the conditions of
being made leader of the Mohawks. What do we see in women? What kinds of women
appeal to us and we cry out. What a beautiful foot! A small cinched corset has
something elegant about it and we praise a small waist. [. . .] After she had taken off
her clothes She stood like Minerva must have in front of Paris. Humbly she entered
her bed and she tried to fall asleep uncovered in various positions. She remained still
in the most attractive position so that I could only wonder and admire her. Finally a
passionate dream seemed to make her restless. She sighted deeply, changed her
position, stammered the name of a lover and seemed to lift her arms towards me.

But we know from the beginning of the story that the invitation, this call from
the other, will not be answered, since Werther has assured us of his refusal at
the onset of his tale. He writes to a friend that he has managed to remain aloof
from the sight of this seductive image: Frchte nichts und hre mich: ich habe
mir nichts vorzuwerfen, der Anblick hat mich nicht aus meiner Fassung
gebracht, aber meine Einbildungskraft ist entzndet, mein Blut erheitzt [Do
not fear and hear me: I have nothing to criticize myself for, the view did not
disturb me, but my imagination is inflamed and my blood heated up] (FA 16:
29). Werther assumes, like Lavater, that in undressing, a true essence reveals
itself. Stripped of the accouterments of social convention, the deceptive nature
of social position can now easily be discerned. It is here that the eye of phys-
iognomy shows itself again. Werther, in his assumption that an essential self
exists which is separate and apart from social convention, in effect, expresses
Lavaters desire to strip the body not only of the deceiving mask of clothes but
also of movement itself. These assumptions behind the idea of an essential self
which exist behind the mask of social convention are connected to the disease
which Lavaters physiognomic eye has caused and from which Werther suffers.
This is the disease which Goethe had coined as Werther-fever, a disease
which had been stimulated and indeed caused by Lavaters physiognomic

But in the game of sexual play, instead of revealing an essential self, the
strip-tease of the young prostitute only reveals the mask underneath. The girl
poses as if she were asleep and calls to Werther to join her in her bed. It is the
call at the level of desire that Werther refuses. His inflamed passion, he con-
fides to the reader, calls for an ice-cold shower to cool off. He is unable to exact
a cure for the refusal which constitutes his disease the inability to be moved
by the image. That is, seeing, for Werther, is a path toward blindness. He does
not really see anything outside himself at all. Instead of allowing nature to
impress itself, he projects the product of his imagination onto what he sees.
Alice Kuzniar, in her Lacanian study of Goethes novel, has shown that
Werthers desire for transparency in language leads him to project his own
state of mind onto nature, thereby creating a double of himself .36 By con-
necting Werther with Lavater and himself in his autobiographical writings,
Goethe brings this process of doubling into the function of autobiography
itself. The desire for an unmediated view and a language which is transparent
has led each figure to a specular hall of mirrors. But how is autobiography and
nature a cure for the narcissistic over-valuation of the self?
Here we reach a further explication of the disease of sentimentality which
afflicted Werther, his followers and Lavater, the actual source of infection. The
relation between subject and object is the source of the problem. What does it
mean then to see correctly or to see incorrectly? For Lavater, seeing was a way
to penetrate and establish the true character of a person. But this physiog-
nomic gaze was singular and annihilating.
Lavaters project to see the figure of the real figure of Jesus led him to
commission hundred of portraits of Christ. But none of these were actually
equal to the Christ who existed in his own imagination. Thus the eye of the

Alice Kuzniar: The Misrepresentation of the Self: Werther versus Goethe. Mosaic.
Spring 1989. Pp. 1529, here p. 17. I agree with Kuzniar who argues that Werther pro-
jects his own state of mind and thus his own double onto nature. She recognizes the
function of this doubling as an attempt to cover up a lack in being. Kuzniar points out
that Werther was neither a direct expression of autobiographical reality, nor was he a
completely fictional being unrelated to Goethes own lifes story. Kuzniars Lacanian
reading of Goethe and his relation to his fictional hero leads to the conclusion that
Werthers desire for direct access to language makes it impossible for him to establish
a relationship with the Other. Werther does not surrender himself; he literally gives the
Other his own features. P. 22. My study tries to address this lack of surrender in terms
of Lacans theory of the function of the gaze in the construction of identity. By using
Werther as a narrative voice in the recollection of his Swiss journey, the process of dou-
bling also becomes more complicated because the fictional persona of Werther stands
in more directly for the author and his alter egos, Lavater, Plessing etc. than he had in
the The Sorrows of Young Werther. Goethe is not isolating the fictional persona of
Werther from his own life.

physiognomist, while purporting to really see and judge the images around
him, seems to be not capable of seeing what is there to be seen. His real aim is
to look behind the image, to obliterate the traces of what does not match the
picture found in his own imagination. Lavaters relationship to Goethe is char-
acterized by this same annihilating gaze. For Lavater, Goethe, especially as he
was catapulted to literary fame, was the object of adulation and even desire. He
commissioned a number of portraits and drawings of Goethe and subjected
them to physiognomic analysis. But while he expressed his admiration of the
great man, Lavater also attempted criticized Goethe. And this criticism was not
only verbal but visual. Lavater actually commissioned an illustration for the
book which showed Jesus tempted by Satan, whose image was modeled on
Goethe. Lavater paints both living and dead subjects in the colors of his imag-
ination. But these attempts are not free of masks and dissimulation. Both
Goethe and Lavater reveal themselves on both a verbal and visual level. Is
there a distinction to be made between Goethes autobiographical masquerade
and Lavaters confessional writings? On the contrary, Goethes masks and
Lavaters physiognomic eye are linked by the function of the gaze (Figure 5).
Autobiography and the Function of the Gaze:
Goethes masks in his autobiography and Lavaters physiognomic eye are
linked by the function of the gaze. The function of the masquerade in Dichtung
und Wahrheit can be better understood in the light of Goethes relationship to
Lavater and his physiognomic eye. The power of the eye of the physiognomist
to unmask the other makes it necessary to put on the mask to fool the other. The
necessity of the mask had characterized Goethes recollection of past events.
Goethe describes his autobiography as anti-confessional. Unlike Rousseau,
who delighted in showing his readers great moments of pain and self-doubt,
Goethe avoided these revealing moments.
But perhaps even more important for Goethe than Rousseau was the exam-
ple of Lavaters own autobiographical writings. While Rousseaus Confessions
exhibit a strong degree of self-absorption, Lavaters diaries develop this mode
of self-examination to an extreme point.
Lavater published two diaries which were ruminations on the state of his soul.
The first, Geheimes Tagebuch. Von einem Beobachter Seiner Selbst (1771)
[Secret Diary from an Observer of his Own Self ], was a record of one month of
his life. Lavaters attempts to uncover the deepest secrets of his soul for the
public make this the antithesis of Goethes own efforts to deflect the gaze of the
reader from such moments. Lavaters stated goal was to eliminate all possible
areas of deception. But because the diary was published anonymously, the pub-
lic was first and foremost intrigued by the identity of the author. The second
diary, Unvernderte Fragmente aus dem Tagebuch eines Beobachters seiner

Figure 5. Satan with Jesus in the Desert. Johann Caspar Lavater. Jesus Messias. 1783.
Vol. 1. Pp. 172, 173. University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research

Selbst (1773)37 [Unchanged Fragments from the Diary of an Observer of his Own
Self ], which covers a period of six months, addresses the problem of dissimula-
tion directly. Here Lavater provides his readers not only with his identity as the
author, but in a letter to the editor, he assures his readers that the diary will
eliminate the offending hand of the editor, thus promising a direct expression
of his own thoughts. The diary also includes a letter from the editor to Lavater
assuring him and the reader that he will emend only the most essential ortho-
graphic irregularities in the diary. This desire to eliminate the mask of anonymity
as well as the hand of the editor stands in direct opposition to Goethes aim in his
autobiography to avoid confession and to tell the truth with fiction.
By using the fictional persona of Werther to relate the events of his Swiss
journey, Goethe makes dissimulation the focus of his account. By deliberately
choosing Werther as a narrative voice, Goethe provides a link to Lavater as a
manifestation of the Werther persona. These alter egos are at once different
from, yet at the same time intimately related to Goethe. And it is the repetition
itself which directs our gaze to all the interconnections between them.
Lavater and Werther all are obsessed with seeing. But Goethe questions the
function of sight for each of them. Both want to see the world through the
screen of their own imagination, whereas Goethe differentiates this seeing
from the fictions he invents to tell the truth of his own story. Lavaters pro-
ject, to uncover as much of himself as possible, and to achieve this by removing
all mediation between himself and the reader, ultimately reveals as much fic-
tional consent as Goethes own fictions. By providing the reader with an
unmediated record of his thoughts, Lavater wanted to focus the attention of the
reader from the author to the text. But by removing the screen of anonymity,
Lavater shifts the readers attention squarely to himself. Because the only real
object of seeing for Lavater is the self, the Other exists only as a shadow whose
purpose is to reflect the image of the self.
But the distinction between Goethe and his alter egos points not only to the
difference between them but also to the similarities. When Goethe advises
Friedrich Viktor Lebrecht Plessing to look to nature for the cure of his Werther-
fever, he is himself implicated both in the disease and in the cure.38 This cure,

Lavater: Unvernderte Fragmente aus dem Tagebuch eines Beobachters seiner Selbst
(1773). Ed. by Christoph Siegrist. Bern and Stuttgart: Verlag Paul Haupt, 1978. See
Siegrists Nachwort for a helpful commentary detailing the history of these two diaries.
Siegrist concludes that, finally, for Lavater his fellow human beings only exist in order
to provide a mirror for his own personality and to stimulate the same. P. 29.
Goethes encounter with Friedrich Viktor Lebrecht Plessing took place in 1776, when
Plessing after studying law and theology, returned to his parents home in Wernigerode,
suffering from emotional distress. He resumed his studies at the University of
Knigsberg in 1778 to study law and philosophy and became Professor of Philosophy
at Duisberg in 1788. Stellenkommentar. FA 16: 970.

he tells us, is to look to nature. But nature itself cannot speak. Goethe is point-
ing not to nature as language but to something else. It is the process of seeing
itself which is implicated here. The cure is a way of seeing which inserts a third
term. This third term with which the dyadic specular relation must be cut is
language itself. What Lacan meant when he said that [t]hey have eyes that
they might not see,39 defines Werthers dilemma. Instead of opening his eyes,
he closes them. He refuses to partake in the promised Augenschmauss [feast
for the eyes]. He uses his sight in order to shut himself off from the other and
thus reveals himself to be one of those closed beings, who had become a vic-
tim of Lavaters mania for contemplating ones own portrait. Goethe criticizes
Lavater, Rousseau, and all others who are reflected in the fictional persona of
Werther of navel-gazing and of narcissistic contemplation, an activity which
ultimately leads to a diseased sense of self. To understand what is going on in
Goethes criticism of the Werther/Lavater fever we turn to Lacans psycho-
analytic explanation of the construction of identity in terms of the gaze. Lacan
characterizes this narcissistic process of contemplation as an avoidance of the
gaze. The narcissistic subject derives its reference from the specular image
in the satisfaction, not to say self-satisfaction, that diffuses from it, which gives
the subject a pretext for such a profound mis-recognition [mesconnaissance].40
By hiding Lavater within the story of his life and making him appear and reap-
pear, Goethe lets us see Lavater peeping out at us like the young prostitute
coquettishly peeped out at her voyeuristic observer. He unveils Lavaters coy
exhibitionism in publishing a diary, which is at the heart a strip-tease meant for
all eyes. Lavaters desire for an unmediated view and a transparent language
leads to a specular hall of mirrors. By using language as a method of dissimu-
lation, Goethe uncovers the mis-recognition at the center of the confessional
mode practiced by Lavater and others like him. The game of insertion and dele-
tion Goethe had played with Lavater and Werther in his autobiography reveals
the split in which the subject is constituted. That is, the game of fort-da by
which Goethe banishes and then retrieves these figures points to the first
moments of traumatic loss. The subject of language is always reminded of what
he has lost in being born into language. The game of fort-da thus is a constant
reminder of this divide. According to Lacan, it is not the absent mother but the
split subject who is revealed in the repetition of the game. The game represents
an end to the illusion of completeness while at the same time it knits together
the tapestry of loss. It symbolically repeats the departure of the loss of pleni-
tude and satisfaction represented by the child and mother dyad. The game cre-
ates a gap which is always open.

Jacques Lacan: Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Ed. and trans. by
Alan Sheridan. New York/London: Norton 1981. P. 109.
Ibid. P. 74.

Werther and Lavater stand on the other side of the divide and thus represent
those objects lost to the subject which he is always trying to retrieve. Lacan
refers to these objects symbolically as the objet a, those parts of the subject
which were lost to him. They are represented by the breast, by the feces, by the
voice, and most importantly by the gaze. By playing the game of fort-da,
Goethe relegates his doubles and himself to the place of eternal vacillation and
divide, within which the subject constitutes and recognizes himself. Masquerade
becomes a way out of the imaginary dyad. Lavater in his desire to see the
essential self avoids the recognition of this divide. His wish to convert Goethe
is unmasked as a desire for dyadic union. His distrust of language and desire
for an unmediated view represents a longing for the mortification of the other.
He peers at us coyly from under the covers of Goethes own story, and is
unmasked as voyeur. What he looks for and finds is merely a shadow, a shadow
behind the curtain.41 Thus he will fantasize any magic of presence and like
Werther will project the product of imagination onto the Other. It is not surprising
that Goethe when asked what Werthers fate would have been had he allowed
him to live, replied that he would be blind. By cutting Werther off from sight,
would then finally, like Charmides appeal to Socrates, he be able to speak?

Ibid. P. 182.
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Elliott Schreiber

Towards an Aesthetics of the Sublime Augenblick:

Reading Karl Philipp Moritz Reading Goethes
Die Leiden des jungen Werthers*
Moritz, through his lifelong engagement with Goethes first novel, formulated the first
modern aesthetics of the instant, or Augenblick. I analyze this engagement against the
background of the reading revolution in late eighteenth-century Germany. This revolu-
tion gave rise to a conception of the Neuzeit [modernity] in the most literal sense: an
awareness of time as always radically new. Moritzs famous concept of the autonomous
artwork, which he developed through his reading of Werther, does not provide a refuge
from this tumultuous modern time, as some scholars argue. Only in the very first sublime
moments of artistic production does the artist glimpse natures eternal whole, a totality
that both continually eludes and stimulates artistic representation.

One of the hallmarks of modernity is its restless and relentless pace of change,
whose origins social historians have traced to the second half of the eighteenth
century.1 Already before the seismic shifts of the French Revolution, there
emerged in Germany a conception of Neuzeit, a time that was felt to be always
radically new.2 The pace of change was first set in this period not by a political
revolution, but rather by a revolution in text production and reading.3 Nie ist
mehr geschrieben und mehr gelesen worden [Never before has more been writ-
ten and more been read], marveled Wieland in 1779.4 Decried by critics of the

* I would like thank Fritz Breithaupt, Eric Denton, and participants in the Vassar College
colloquium on Writing Modernity for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this
See Marshall Berman: All That Is Solid Melts into Air. The Experience of Modernity.
New York: Penguin Books 1988.
See Reinhart Koselleck: Vergangene Zukunft. Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten.
Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp 4th ed. 2000. Pp. 12, 330.
Though for a consideration of the political implications of the new literary public sphere,
see Reinhart Koselleck: Kritik und Krise. Eine Studie zur Pathogenese der brger-
lichen Welt. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp 8th ed. 1997. For surveys of the reading and pub-
lishing revolution in Germany, see Rolf Engelsing: Die Perioden der Lesergeschichte in
der Neuzeit. In: Zur Sozialgeschichte deutscher Mittel- und Unterschichten. Gttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1973. Pp. 112154. Helmuth Kiesel and Paul Mnch:
Gesellschaft und Literatur im 18. Jahrhundert. Munich: Verlag C. H. Beck 1977. Erich
Schn: Der Verlust der Sinnlichkeit oder Die Verwandlungen des Lesers. Mentalittswandel
um 1800. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1987. Albert Ward: Book Production: Fiction and the
German Reading Public 17401800. Oxford: The Clarendon Press 1974.
Ward: Book Production. P. 59.

time as a Lesesucht [reading addiction] or Lesewut [reading rage], a new, exten-

sive reading mode on the part of the burgeoning Bildungsbrgertum increas-
ingly displaced the traditional practice of intensive reading. The latter limited
itself to a canon comprising a few authoritative texts, mostly devotional in nature,
that were held to embody eternal values, and were read repeatedly, often ritu-
alistically according to the cycle of the religious calendar.5 The extensive mode
of reading exploded the bounds of this canon, and shattered the cyclical time
of repetitive reading into a series of Augenblicke, or transient instants.6 That is
to say, faith in an eternity that envelops the here and now was eroded not only
by what was read in the Enlightenment, but also by how the escalating number
of texts were read.7
The new practice of extensive reading both fuelled, and was fuelled by, a
dramatic rise in book production. It has been estimated that of the approximately
175,000 German titles produced in the course of the eighteenth century, fully
two-thirds were published after 1760.8 The emergence of a modern book mar-
ket made it possible for the first time for German authors to emancipate them-
selves from their traditional patrons. They were, however, now beholden to the
very market that liberated them. To meet consumerssoaring demand, the swelling
ranks of authors worked against the clock to churn out texts. Wenn England
eine vorzgliche Strke in Rennpferden hat, quipped Lichtenberg, so haben
wir die unsrige in Rennfedern [If Englands forte is race horses, then ours is
race pens].9 Acceleration became the norm both for the consumers as well as
for the producers of the mounting quantity of texts.
While the output of religious literature for the layman dropped precipitously,
there was a surge in the production of imaginative literature, in particular the
novel.10 No genre stimulated the new extensive reading vogue as powerfully as
the sentimental novel, whose popularity reached its height in the 1770s. Daniel
Purdy has suggested that sentimental novels, by arousing readers empathy with

Schn: Der Verlust der Sinnlichkeit. Pp. 4041.
On the modern fragmentation of time into discrete moments through the reception of
print media, see Engelsing: Perioden der Lesergeschichte. Pp. 134135. Niklas Luhmann:
Temporalisierungen. In: Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp
1997. Vol. 2. Pp. 1001, 1008. Marschall McLuhan: The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making
of Typographic Man. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1962. P. 241.
On the imbrication of temporality and eternity in the pre-modern era, see Georges
Poulet: Studies in Human Time. Trans. Elliott Coleman. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins
University Press 1956. Pp. 38.
Kiesel and Mnch: Gesellschaft und Literatur im 18. Jahrhundert. P. 181.
Ward: Book Production. P. 61. My translation of this quote is adapted from Martha
Woodmansee: The Author, Art, and the Market. Rereading the History of Aesthetics.
New York: Columbia University Press 1994. P. 25.
Ward: Book Production. Pp. 33, 49.

characters ever-changing emotional states, drew them into a cycle of desire

and momentary gratification that spurred further literary consumption. The flood
of emotionally gripping narratives thereby restructured the time frame within
which [the] individual readers desires were developed, satisfied, and then
The most famous German sentimental novel, Goethes The Sorrows of Young
Werther, immediately captivated and polarized the German and wider European
reading public like no other book of its day. Having appeared at the Leipzig
book fair in September 1774, by the end of the following year, it had gone
through no fewer than eleven German editions (most of them pirated), and ignited
a fashion for all things Werther, from his epistolary style to his mode of dress
to his personal mannerisms and even, most infamously, his suicide.12 In his auto-
biography, Goethe attributes the astonishing success of his first novel to its time-
liness [weil es genau in die rechte Zeit traf ].13 Indeed, it struck like a lightning
bolt into an age that was already electrified by the rage for reading sentimental
literature. And it arguably did so because it gave precise expression to the mod-
ern sense of accelerating change that the reading revolution had helped create,
particularly in its protagonists powerful vision of the transformative Augenblick
in his letter of 18 August: Da ist kein Augenblik, der nicht dich verzehrte und die
Deinigen um dich her, kein Augenblik, da du nicht ein Zersthrer bist, seyn mut
[There is no moment that does not consume you and yours, no moment in which
you are not, must be, a destroyer].14 From one moment to the next, nothing stays
the same; the only constant of the modern age is perpetual change.
As Purdy has recounted, Goethe denounced the identificatory reading prac-
tices that his own novel aroused, and turned away from sentimentalism to embrace
a neo-classical aesthetics of artistic autonomy with its search for eternal laws
of aesthetic form.15 Credit for the first decisive articulation of this aesthetics
goes to Karl Philipp Moritz, whom Goethe befriended in Italy, and who is best

Daniel Purdy: The Tyranny of Elegance: Consumer Cosmopolitanism in the Age of
Goethe. Baltimore London: The Johns Hopkins University Press 1998. Pp. 35, 39.
Nicholas Boyd. Goethe: The Poet and the Age. Oxford: The Clarendon Press 1991.
Vol. 1. Pp. 175. Boyd here makes the intriguing suggestion that Werther became a fashion
because it was about a fashion, first and foremost the fashion of reading. For an inter-
esting recent discussion of Werther-Fieber as well as Goethes response to it, see also
Hans Rudolf Vaget: Werther, the Undead. In: Goethe Yearbook 12 (2004). Pp. 1729.
FA 14: 641. All translations from Goethes works are my own. I have consulted the
following translations: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The Sorrows of Young Werther.
Trans. by Victor Lange. In: Goethes Collected Works. Vol. 11. Ed. by David E.
Wellbery. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1995. The Sorrows of Young Werther.
Trans. by Burton Pike. New York: The Modern Library 2004. The Autobiography of
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Trans. by John Oxenford.
FA 8: 106108.
Purdy: The Tyranny of Elegance. Pp. 47, 23.

known today for his autobiographical novel, Anton Reiser. According to Martha
Woodmansee, Moritz launched the concept of the autonomy of the artwork in
an effort to distinguish true art from the works being mass produced and con-
sumed in his day at an unprecedented rate.16 In short, the line of scholarship
pursued by Purdy and Woodmansee portrays Goethe and Moritz as having sought
refuge from the tumultuous waves of the revolution in reading and book pro-
duction on the eternally peaceful shores of the autonomous artwork.
By contrast, I argue that Moritz inaugurated an aesthetics that at once seeks
a vision of eternity, and hence a redemption from modernitys restless change,
and yet recognizes that this eternity can only be glimpsed in the instant. He
thereby makes one of the first and most consequential forays into what Bruno
Hillebrand has identified as a particularly modern aesthetic sensibility, an
sthetik des Augenblicks [aesthetics of the instant].17 Moritz develops his
aesthetic of the instant as a reader through several stages of engagement with
Goethes Werther. In the first stage, Moritzs fictional alter ego, the teen-aged
Anton Reiser, identifies intensely with Werthers description of the transfor-
mative Augenblick in his letter of 18 August precisely through a manner of
reading that is itself transformative, that alters the very text it reads. Thus, though
Antons repeated reading of Goethes novel would appear to represent a return
to a traditional, intensive reading practice, it in fact merely underscores the
impossibility of a stable, enduring text that the traditional practice presumes;
the transformative moment of reading precludes exact repetition. In the second
stage of his engagement with Werther, in a structural analysis of Goethes novel,
Moritz tries to overcome this transformative moment by sublating it within the
timelessness of the autonomous artwork, or the work that is in sich selbst vollen-
det [complete in itself ]. He attempts this through a perspectival reading that
regards the letter of 18 August as the central point around which Goethes novel

Woodmansee: The Author, Art, and the Market. P. 27. Woodmansee is not the first to
read Moritzs concept of aesthetic autonomy as a refuge from the forces of the literary
market. See in particular Martin Fontius: Der Autonomiegedanke bei Moritz und die
Antinomien der Marktproduktion. In: Literatur im Epochenumbruch. Funktionen
europischer Literaturen im 18. und beginnenden 19. Jahrhundert. Ed. by Gnther
Klotz, Winfried Schrder and Peter Weber. Berlin Weimar: Aufbau-Verlag 1977.
Bruno Hillebrand. sthetik des Augenblicks. Der Dichter als berwinder der Zeit von
Goethe bis heute. Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1999. Hillebrand sees Goethe
as formative for this modern aesthetic sensibility, but completely disregards Moritz. For a
sustained study of the role of the Augenblick in Goethes work, see Andreas Anglet: Der
ewige Augenblick. Studien zur Struktur und Funktion eines Denkbildes bei Goethe.
Cologne Weimar Vienna: Bhlau 1991. For an excellent alternative analysis of the
Goethean Augenblick, see Nicholas Rennie: Ut Pictura Historia: Goethes Historical
Imagination and the Augenblick. In: Goethe Yearbook 8 (1996). Pp. 120141. See also
Nicholas Rennie: Between Pascal and Mallarm: Fausts Speculative Moment. In:
Comparative Literature. Fall 2000. Vol. 52, no. 4. Pp. 269290.

is formally structured, and that hence freezes the transformative Augenblick in

space. In so doing, he negates the temporality held by Lessing to be the defin-
ing feature of the verbal medium; like visual art according to Lessing, litera-
ture in Moritzs new reading of Goethes novel is conceived as fundamentally
spatial. This solution to the transformative moment, however, proves only tem-
porary: in the third and final stage of his engagement with Werther, Moritz
shifts the center of gravity of his aesthetics away from the autonomous work of
art, situating it instead in the Augenblicken just prior to its completion, and
thereby calls that completion into question. He does so in a remarkable reading
of Werthers letter of 10 May in his essay, On a Painting by Goethe, reveal-
ing how in the very first instants of artistic production, the artist intimates the
sublime, eternal totality of nature. But it is an eternal totality whose perception
the very act of artistic representation ruptures, and that is thus paradoxically
transient, vanishing in the blink of an eye. Moritzs later aesthetics thus prefig-
ures Kants concept of negative representation in the analytic of the sublime in
his Critique of Judgment. In sum, Moritz moves from a concern with the trans-
formative moment of reception to a formalist, perspectival aesthetics that
attempts to contain that moment within the contours of the autonomous art-
work, to an aesthetics of open-ended artistic production that struggles to repre-
sent the absolute totality intimated in sublime, unrepresentable Augenblicken.
Moritzs concept of the autonomy of the artwork, then, far from proving a
stable refuge from the sea change in temporal sensibility brought about by
modern textual production and reception practices, ultimately undermines the
possibility of such a refuge. It thereby launches arguably the first truly modern aes-
thetic, one that at once envisions and radically subverts the possibility of tran-
scending the perpetually new time of the Neuzeit through artistic representation.

The Transformative Augenblick of Reception

Published in 1786, the Second and Third Parts of Moritzs autobiographical novel,
Anton Reiser, contain one of the most vivid accounts of the contemporary
reception of sentimental literature, in particular of Werther. A little over a year
before he lays eyes on Goethes novel, in the summer of 1775, the teenaged Anton
is drawn into a reading frenzy that bears out Purdys claim that sentimental lit-
erature restructures the time-frame in which the readers desires are aroused,
gratified, and replaced. Antons emotional upheaval during this Lesewut pre-
pares the way for his identification with the character of Werther, particularly
with his vision of the all-consuming Augenblick. This act of identification changes
both Anton and the text in which he sees himself reflected; his reading of Werther,
then, is itself a transformative moment.
Marginalized by his fellow pupils and neglected by his teachers, Anton finds
an escape in reading novels and plays: Er ging zu einem Antiquarius und holte

sich einen Roman, eine Komdie nach der andern, und fing nun mit einer Art
von Wut an, zu lesen [He went to a used book vendor (Antiquarius) and
obtained one novel and one comedy after another, and began reading with a
kind of fury].18 The term Antiquarius is somewhat misleading, for he in fact
supplies Anton with contemporary literature, particularly works in a sentimen-
tal vein such as Lawrence Sternes A Sentimental Journey and Johann Gottlieb
Schummels Empfindsame Reisen durch Deutschland [Sentimental Journey
through Germany] (256). Such works quickly supplant the classical regimen of
texts that is the mainstay of his Gymnasium curriculum; he thus secretly reads
a novel in class while his classmates study the Roman historian Livy (263), and
exchanges his schoolbooks for contemporary works (254) an exchange that
is representative of a period that saw a sharp decline in the printing of Latin texts
and an upsurge in texts written in the vernacular, particularly novels.19
This exchange feeds into Antons escalating cycle of debt and desire: the
Antiquarius extends him credit to borrow his books, and to pay down this debt,
Anton sells the Antiquarius his schoolbooks, which earns him a new line of credit
with which he attempts to fill his ever-growing hunger for reading. These trans-
actions occur at a dizzying speed; ehe er es merkte [before he knows it], Anton
has read himself deeply into debt; and the book vendor resells his schoolbooks
immediately, in Antons presence, turning a sixfold profit (254255).
Instantaneous transformation characterizes not only the financial transactions
around Antons reading, but also his emotional investment in the sentimental
reading material:
in der dramatischen Welt lebte und und webte er da vergo er oft Trnen, indem er
las, und lie sich wechselsweise bald in heftige, tobende Leidenschaft, des Zorns,
der Wut und der Rache, und bald wieder in die sanften Empfindungen des
gromtigen Verzeihens, des obsiegenden Wohlwollens, und des berstrmenden
Mitleids versetzen. (256)

he lived and breathed in the dramatic world he often shed tears there while read-
ing, and entered by turns into the violent, raging passion of anger, fury, and revenge,
and into the mild emotions of magnanimous forgiveness, triumphant benevolence,
and overflowing compassion.

Just as he exchanges one book for another, so Anton replaces one emotion with
another, each one intense but ephemeral. His exchange of emotions is made

Karl Philipp Moritz: Werke in zwei Bnden. Frankfurt/M: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag
1999. Vol. 1. P. 254. Page numbers appear in the text following direct quotations. All
translations from Moritzs works are my own. With Anton Reiser, I have adapted the
following outstanding translation: Karl Philipp Moritz: Anton Reiser. A Psychological
Novel. Trans. by Ritchie Robertson. London: Penguin 1997.
See Ward: Book Production. P. 29.

possible by the literature he reads, which functions as a kind of sentimental

Instantaneous financial and sentimental exchange intersect most clearly in
an instance (and an instant) in which Anton unexpectedly receives money. The
scene takes place in the home of the schools rector, where Anton is lodging,
and where a guest gives Trinkgeld [a gratuity] to a maid as well as to Anton, as
though he were no more than another household servant:

Reiser hatte eine sonderbare Empfindung dabei, da er das Geld nahm; es war ihm,
als ob er einen Stich erhielte, wo sich der erste Schmerz pltzlich wieder verlor
denn er dachte an den Bcherantiquarius, und in dem Augenblick war alles brige
vergessen fr das Geld konnte er mehr wie zwanzig Bcher lesen sein belei-
digter Stolz hatte sich noch zum letztenmal emprt, und war nun besiegt. (264)

Reiser had a strange feeling as he took the money; it was as though he had been
stabbed, and the initial pain suddenly wore off for he thought of the bookseller,
and in that moment everything else was forgotten with the money he could read
more than twenty books his injured pride had made one last protest, and was now

In the Augenblick in which Anton accepts the money, he exchanges it in his

mind for over twenty books. This prompts a further exchange, this time one of
emotions, as his injured pride is suddenly replaced by relief. The mere thought
of reading, then, triggers the rapid conversion of one sentiment into another. From
this moment on, the passage continues, Anton takes no consideration of himself,
but only of the fate of fictional characters: Reiser nahm von diesem Augenblick
an keine Rcksicht mehr auf sich selbst [. . .] an dem Schicksal einer Mi Sara
Sampson, einer Julie und Romeos hingegen konnte er den lebhaftesten Anteil
nehmen [From this moment on Reiser paid no more heed to himself (. . .) by
contrast, he sympathized warmly with the fate of a Miss Sara Sampson or a
Romeo and Juliet] (264265). Any sense of selfhood thus vanishes as Anton
trades in his injured pride, losing himself in the sentiments of the characters
with whom he identifies.
Anton believes he finds his entire range of alternating emotions reflected in
Goethes Werther, which he encounters in the summer of 1775, shortly after its
appearance: Reiser glaubte sich mit allen seinen Gedanken und Empfindungen,
bis auf den Punkt der Liebe, im Werther wiederzufinden [Reiser believed
that he recognized himself in Werther with all his thoughts and feelings, except
for the item of love] (336). While unable to empathize with Werthers unre-
quited love, he identifies all the more with his other ideas and sentiments. Of these,
Moritz highlights the notion of the transient and transformative Augenblick.
Anton sees reflected in Werther precisely the instantaneous transformation that
he experiences in the act of reading not least, in his own transformative act of
reading Werther.

The first quote from Werther that Moritz singles out articulates succinctly
the idea of radical transformation:
seine Betrachtungen ber Leben und Dasein fand er [Anton Reiser] hier fortgesetzt.
Wer kann sagen, das ist, da alles mit Wetterschnelle vorbeiflieht? Das war eben
der Gedanke, der ihm schon so lange seine eigne Existenz wie Tuschung, Traum,
und Blendwerk vorgemalt hatte. (334335)

here he [Anton Reiser] found a continuation of his reflections on life and existence
Who can say, that is, when everything flees by like the wind? That was the very
thought that for so long had made his own existence seem like an illusion, a dream,
a deception.

The question cited here is drawn from Werthers letter of 18 August, quoted below
in its immediate context in the first edition of Goethes novel:
Es hat sich vor meiner Seele wie ein Vorhang weggezogen, und der Schauplatz des
unendlichen Lebens verwandelt sich vor mir in den Abgrund des ewig offnen Grabs.
Kannst du sagen: Das ist! da alles vorbergeht, da alles mit der Wetterschnelle
vorber rollt, so selten die ganze Kraft seines Daseyns ausdauert, ach in den Strom
fortgerissen, untergetaucht und an Felsen zerschmettert wird. Da ist kein Augenblik,
der nicht dich verzehrte und die Deinigen um dich her, kein Augenblik, da du nicht
ein Zersthrer bist, seyn mut.20
A curtain has been drawn from before my soul, and the scene of never-ending life is
transforming before me into the abyss of the eternally open grave. Can you say: That
is! when everything passes, when everything rolls by like the wind, and the strength
of its existence so seldom lasts, is torn away, alas, into the torrent, submerged, and
dashed against rocks. There is no moment that does not consume you and yours, no
moment in which you are not, must be, a destroyer.

Werther here envisions a radical transformation from never-ending life to an

eternally open grave. As indicated by the adjective offnen [open] this trans-
formation does not end in a closed, terminal state, but rather opens into per-
petual change. Thus, in the very instant one exclaims the words That is! the
referent of the pronoun that is already passing. The same applies to the referent
of the personal pronoun in the question Can you say: That is! In the split sec-
ond it takes you to utter this exclamation, you are transformed, for there is no
Augenblick or instant that would not consume you. Indeed, not only that
and you, but alles everything is in the process of passing.
This process of transformation is articulated stylistically through a series of
transformative repetitions. Goethe thus has Werther repeat a subordinate clause,
but with a twist: da alles vorbergeht, da alles mit der Wetterschnelle vorber
rollt [when everything passes, when everything rolls by like the wind].
While the clausal structure is repeated, the verb in the first clause, vorbergeht

FA 8: 106108.

[passes], itself goes by, overtaken by a verb phrase that indicates a far quicker
passing: mit der Wetterschnelle vorber rollt [rolls by like the wind]. The
series of transformative repetitions continues when the exclamation Das ist!
is echoed and at the same time altered in the first two words of the next sen-
tence, Da ist kein Augenblick, der nicht dich verzehrte [. . .] [There is no
moment that does not consume you]. Next, the second part of this same sen-
tence repeats the antecedent and relative clause structure of the first part, while
reversing the meaning: kein Augenblik, da du nicht ein Zersthrer bist [no
moment in which you are not a destroyer]. Here, the moment in which you are
the victim transforms into one in which you are the perpetrator of destruction.
Finally, even the copula at the end of this clause is repeated with a difference
in the modal construction seyn mut [must be]. No repetition occurs in this
letter without a simultaneous revision. The language of Werthers letter thereby
enacts the very process of transformation which it depicts.
Anton identifies with the idea of perpetual transformation expressed in
Werthers letter: Das war eben der Gedanke, der ihm schon so lange seine eigne
Existenz wie Tuschung, Traum, und Blendwerk vorgemalt hatte [That was
the very thought that for so long had made his own existence seem like an illu-
sion, a dream, a deception] (334335). Unexpectedly, his identification with
the idea of ceaseless transformation offers a potential way out of it. For a com-
plete identification would mean that the referent of the pronoun that in the
phrase, That was the very thought, does not vanish in an instant; rather, the
idea expressed in Werthers question would be repeated exactly in Antons own
thoughts. Moritz, however, casts doubt upon the possibility of such an absolute
identification. Thus, his narrator characterizes Antons identification with
Werthers ideas and emotions as a belief, not as a fact: Reiser glaubte sich mit
allen seinen Gedanken und Empfindungen, bis auf den Punkt der Liebe, im
Werther wiederzufinden [Reiser believed that he recognized himself in Werther
with all his thoughts and feelings, except for the item of love] (336; my emphasis).
Furthermore, the narrators reflections on the impact of Goethes novel on
Antons generation suggest that this belief in the complete identity between
Werthers ideas and sentiments and his own is misguided:

Allein die zu oft wiederholte Lektre des Werthers brachte seinen [Antons]
Ausdruck sowohl als seine Denkkraft um vieles zurck, indem ihm die Wendungen
und selbst die Gedanken in diesem Schriftsteller durch die ftere Wiederholung so
gelufig wurden, da er sie oft fr seine eignen hielt, und noch verschiedene Jahre
nachher bei den Aufstzen, die er entwarf, mit Reminiszenzien aus dem Werther zu
kmpfen hatte, welches der Fall bei mehrern jungen Schriftstellern gewesen ist, die
sich seit der Zeit gebildet haben. (337)

However, his [Antons] too frequent re-reading of Werther greatly reduced his pow-
ers both of expression and of thought, for frequent repetition made him so familiar
with this writers turns of phrase and even with his thoughts that he often mistook

them for his own, and even some years later, in writing essays, he had to contend
with reminiscences of Werther, as is the case with a number of young writers who
have been educated since then.

Antons repeated reading of Werther leads him to regard its authors turns of phrase
and thoughts as his own. That is to say, as the narrator elsewhere states, Werther
did not simply reflect, but rather intervened in all of Antons ideas and emotions
[in alle seine damaligen Ideen und Empfindungen (. . .) eingriffen] (334).
Only after this intervention has transformed these ideas and emotions does there
seem to be a perfect identity.21
Confronted with the ineluctably transformative Augenblick, though, Antons
repeated reading of Werther still seems to offer a consolation: in a world in flux,
one can still repeatedly return to the text of Werther. In other words, one can turn
from extensive to intensive, repetitive reading, the kind of reading that affirms
the existence of eternally valid, authoritative texts.22 At least of texts such as
Werther, it would appear possible to claim, That is! But even the permanence
of Goethes text is called into question by the quote Moritz gives: Wer kann
sagen, das ist, da alles mit Weterschnelle vorbeiflieht? [Who can say, that is,
when everything flees by like the wind?] (334). Moritzs text makes several
changes to Goethes original question, altering its wording and punctuation, and
also compressing it. We have already noted the acceleration of the pace of change
that occurs in the two clauses in the original letter, da alles vorbergeht, da alles
mit der Wetterschnelle vorber rollt [when everything passes, when everything
rolls by like the wind]. Moritzs quote further quickens this acceleration, sub-
stituting for these two clauses a single clause with a verb indicating even greater
speed: da alles mit Wetterschnelle vorbeiflieht [when everything flees by like
the wind ]. In Moritzs own transformative repetition, then, it is impossible to
say of Goethes original text, that is, for its reproduction and its revision coincide
in the same Augenblick.23
Isabel A. White makes a similar observation: Die Leiden des jungen Werthers is the
stated source of certain ideas which Anton Reiser supports, or, as he prefers to present
the situation, Goethes novel reflects thoughts which had already occurred to him. See
White: Die zu oft wiederholte Lektre des Werthers: Responses to Sentimentality in
Moritzs Anton Reiser. In: Lessing Yearbook 26 (1994). Pp. 93112, here p. 100.
As Vaget points out, many in the first generation of readers of Goethes novel treated it
as a devotional text to be read repeatedly: Among the readers of Werther, we find virtually
all the hallmarks of the typical devotional readers response: repeated readings, quasi-
religious immersion in the text, eagerness to regard the book as a source of consolation,
readiness to identify with, and to imitate, Werther. Vaget: Werther, the Undead. P. 20.
On this point, my reading differs from that of Robert Stockhammer: Leseerzhlungen.
Alternativen zum hermeneutischen Verfahren. Stuttgart: M & P 1991. Stockhammer
claims that Anton is von fremden Texten bewohnt wird, die er nicht anverwandeln kann
[inhabited by foreign texts that he cant transform into his own]. P. 199. By contrast,
I see a reciprocal process of transformation taking place between Anton and Goethes text.

In brief, Anton identifies with Werthers vision of the transformative Augenblick

in the 18 August letter precisely through the transformative experience of read-
ing. The instantaneous conversion of one emotion into another marked his recep-
tion of sentimental literature and sets the stage for this act of identification. Yet
this identification does not lie in Antons viewing this experience of continual
conversion precisely mirrored in Goethes text; rather, it lies in the reciprocal
transformation of Anton by the text, which intervenes in his thoughts and emo-
tions, and of the text by Anton a possibility that is at the very least opened by
Moritzs own permutation of the text in his quotation. In Anton Reiser, then,
Moritz provides a vivid and complex account of how the escalating production
and reception of sentimental literature in the late eighteenth century contributed
to the sense of perpetual change that marks modernity.
The Timeless Perspective of the Autonomous Artwork
Moritz published the Second and Third Parts of Anton Reiser that contain this
account in 1786, the same year that he befriended Goethe in Rome. Following
his extended sojourn in Italy, Moritz was Goethes guest in Weimar for December
1788 and January 1789, a period that coincides with a new stage of his engage-
ment with Werther. He attempts to overcome the transformative Augenblick
through a reading of Goethes novel as a timeless, autonomous artwork. In effect,
he spatializes the Augenblick, fixing it firmly at the center of the novel, which
he now regards as a self-contained whole. In the process, he departs from his
earlier emphasis on the transformative moment of reception, and in its place
formulates an aesthetic that envisions the timeless structure of an artwork that
is complete in itself.
To illuminate the structure of the literary work of art, Moritz adopts a con-
cept from the domain of optics and visual art, namely perspective. A fascina-
tion with this concept runs through his entire literary career.24 He deepened
this interest while in Rome in 1788, embarking on a study of perspective as
it relates to visual art, in the hope of receiving a professorship at the Academy
of Arts and Mechanical Sciences in Berlin, a position that materialized the
following year.25 A letter from Caroline Herder to her husband on Christmas
day, 1788, records the way he applied the concept of perspective to literary
works, citing his discussion of Werther as a prominent example. She reports

On the theme of perspective in Moritzs work within the framework of Leibnizs the-
ory of monadism, see in particular Claudia Kestenholz: Die Sicht der Dinge.
Metaphorische Visualitt und Subjektivittsideal im Werk von Karl Philipp Moritz.
Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag 1987.
For biographical details see Hugo Eybisch: Anton Reiser. Untersuchungen zur
Lebensgeschichte von K. Ph. Moritz und zur Kritik seiner Autobiographie. Leipzig:
Voigtlnders Verlag 1909. P. 150.

that Moritz recently visited her over coffee, and their discussion turned to
Goethes works:
da sagte er mir, wie er durch das Studium der Perspective darauf gekommen sei, den
Mittelpunkt in einem Stck aufzusuchen; den msse man nun nicht am Ende des
Stcks, sondern in der Mitte suchen, so wie alle Radien vom Mittelpunkt ausgehen,
und sich in den Anfang und Ende verlieren.26
he told me how through the study of perspective he had learned to search for the
central point in a piece; one must search for it not at the end of a piece, but rather in
the middle, just as all radii depart from the central point and lose themselves in the
beginning and in the end.

In contemplating a literary work, the task of the reader is thus to find a central
point from which the work radiates out. Her allusion to Moritzs study of per-
spective suggests that this task is comparable to locating the vanishing point in
a visual artwork composed in central perspective, a point toward which all the
orthogonal lines (those viewed as perpendicular to the plane of the picture) in
the work incline. She continues by noting that Moritz pinpointed just such a
Mittelpunkt in Goethes novel in Werthers letter of 18 August.
Caroline Herders account of this application of the theory of perspective to
literary works is supported in the biography of Moritz published by his com-
panion and former pupil, Karl Friedrich Klischnig. Like Caroline Herder,
Klischnig reports that Moritz conceived of each masterpiece as structured
around a Mittelpunkt in which all of its parts converge, like the radii of a cir-
cle.27 He further elaborates that Moritz viewed such a central point of a literary
work as furnishing the proper Gesichtspunkt [vantage point] from which
die Zweckmigkeit des Ganzen [purposiveness of the whole] can alone
be judged. Klischnig, too, notes that Moritz located precisely such a central point
in Werthers 18 August letter, specifically citing the passage quoted by Moritz
in Anton Reiser.28
As paraphrased by both Caroline Herder and Klischnig, Moritzs theory of
perspectival structure represents a further development of his groundbreaking
aesthetic treatise, Versuch einer Vereinigung aller schnen Knste und
Wissenschaften unter dem Begriff des in sich selbst Vollendeten (1785)
[Toward the Unification of All the Fine Arts and Sciences under the Concept
of Self-Sufficiency].29 In this short essay, Moritz posits the radical autonomy

Quoted in: Karl Philipp Moritz: Schriften zur sthetik und Poetik. Ed. by Hans
Joachim Schrimpf. Tbingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag 1962. P. 345.
Karl Friedrich Klischnig: Mein Freund Anton Reiser. Aus dem Leben des Karl Philipp
Moritz. Ed. by Heide Hollmer and Kirsten Erwentraut. Berlin: Gatza 1992. P. 139.
Klischnig: Mein Freund Anton Reiser. P. 139.
In: Moritz: Schriften zur sthetik und Poetik. Pp. 39.

of the artwork, conceived as a whole that is in sich selbst vollendet [entirely

complete in itself ]. Countering the theory proposed by Mendelssohn that the
purpose of art is to give pleasure, he claims that the work of art is not a means
to an end, but is rather an end in itself, possessing an innere Zweckmigkeit
[inner purposiveness] (6) a term that resonates with Klischnigs reference
to the purposiveness of the whole.
Commentators have frequently remarked that Moritzs concept of inner pur-
posiveness anticipates Kants famous explanation of the beautiful in the Critique
of Judgment (1790) as Zweckmigkeit [. . .] ohne Zweck [purposiveness (. . .)
without an end] while noting that a crucial difference to Kant lies in Moritzs
locating inner purposiveness in the object rather than in the subject.30 This
view, however, is slightly misleading, for on the point of objectivity his essay is
not entirely consistent. Early in the essay, it is the recipient who endows the
work its inner purposiveness by regarding it as complete in itself: Bei der
Betrachtung des Schnen aber wlze ich den Zweck aus mir in den Gegenstand
selbst zurck: ich betrachte ihn, als etwas, nicht in mir, sondern in sich selbst
Vollendetes [But when regarding the beautiful, I roll the end back from me
into the object itself: I regard it as something that is not complete in me, but
rather as something that is complete in itself ] (3). In the course of the essay,
though, the dynamic between recipient and artwork is reversed, such that the
beauty of the artwork now attracts the recipient to itself das Schne unsere
Betrachtung ganz auf sich zieht (5). The beauty of the of the object, that is to
say, its inner purposiveness or completion in itself, is no longer merely attrib-
uted to the object by its recipient, but is instead found in the schnen Gegenstand
[beautiful object] itself (5).
Moritzs later remarks on the perspectivally constructed literary artwork solid-
ify this shift toward objectivity: the recipient of the literary work, according to
Caroline Herders account, must discover an actually existing central point
around which the work is structured. Klischnigs version, too, accentuates this
objectivity: the work itself furnishes the proper vantage point from which it can
be seen as a whole that is complete in itself. Moritz underlines this objective van-
tage point in an outline of his aesthetic theory that was likely written during or
immediately following his two-month stay in Weimar. In the final point of this

See Immanuel Kant: Kritik der Urteilskraft. In: Werkausgabe. Ed. by Wilhelm
Weischedel. Vol. 10. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp 14th ed. 1994. P. 135. On the similarities
and differences between Moritzs objective concept of inner purposiveness and Kants
subjective concept of purposiveness without an end, see Peter Szondi: Poetik und
Geschichtsphilosophie I. Ed. by Senta Metz. and Hans-Hagen Hildebrandt. Frankfurt/
M: Suhrkamp 14th ed. 1974. Vol. 2. P. 97. Alessandro Costazza: Schnheit und Ntzlichkeit.
Karl Philipp Moritz und die sthetik des 18. Jahrhunderts. Bern et al.: Peter Lang. P.
142. Seraina Plotke: Der sthetische Trost. Karl Philipp Moritz sthetische Schriften
im Spiegel der Sinnsuche. In: Monatshefte 95 (2003). Pp. 421441, here p. 426.

outline, he contends that in order for a beautiful work of art to be seen as a

whole unto itself, it is necessary to discover in dem Werke selbst [in the
work itself ] the Gesichtspunkt [vantage point] from which each component
of the work presents itself in a necessary relation to the whole.31
Moritzs theory of the artwork conceived as objectively complete in itself
implies the timelessness of the work of art, as Seraina Plotke observes in her
commentary on Moritzs 1785 essay. This timelessness, she argues, signalizes
eternity: Das Kunstwerk als ein in-sich-selbst-Vollendetes drckt demnach
Ewigkeit aus, mehr noch: Ewigkeit manifestiert sich im Kunstwerk [The artwork
as something that is complete in itself thus expresses eternity; or rather: eter-
nity manifests itself in the artwork].32 With the withdrawal in the Enlightenment
of a religious sense of eternity, the work of art is thus able to offer its recipient
an aesthetic consolation.33 The literary work of art that is constructed perspec-
tivally in the manner later conceived by Moritz during his stay in Weimar is all
the more emphatically timeless. It replaces the wheel of time with the timeless
wheel of art, whose spokes radiate out from a central axis. Particularly in the
context of Moritzs reading of Werther, this timelessness of the perspectivally
constructed artwork bears with it far-reaching consequences. By viewing the
letter of 18 August as the central point of an artwork that is complete in itself,
Moritz sublates this letters vision of the transformative Augenblick within a
timeless whole, thereby both literally and figuratively containing its transforma-
tive power. The instant in time that devours everything, becomes frozen into the
Mittelpunkt of the novel.
By emphasizing the spatial structure of the novel, Moritz negates the tem-
porality of the verbal medium as posited by Lessing in his Laokoon, and thereby
erases Lessings famous distinction between visual and verbal media. According
to Lessing, works in the verbal medium (or Poesie) are temporal in nature, com-
prised of artikulierte Tne in der Zeit [articulated sounds in time].34 Hence,
it is the medium best suited to imitating objects whose parts follow one another,
i.e. Handlungen [actions] (114). Mahlerei [visual art], by contrast, con-
sists of Figuren und Farben in dem Raume [figures and colors in space],
and is hence best able to imitate objects whose parts exist side-by-side,

Moritz: Bestimmung des Zwecks einer Theorie der schnen Knste. In: Schriften zur
sthetik und Poetik. P. 122. Moritzs original, posthumously published piece was untitled.
Plotke: Der sthetische Trost. Pp. 426427.
Plotke: Der sthetische Trost. P. 422.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Werke und Briefe in zwlf Bnden. Ed. by Wilfried
Barner. Vol. 5/2. Frankfurt/M: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag 1990. P. 116. My translations
are adapted from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Laocon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting
and Poetry. Trans. by Edward Allen McCormick. Baltimore London: The Johns Hopkins
University Press 1984.

i.e. Krper [bodies] (116). In his theory of the perspectivally constructed

artwork, Moritz expands Lessings definition of visual art as spatial to subsume
literary works such as Werther, and thus annuls the temporality of their
medium. And he adds a further crucial twist: the space of the literary artwork
does not imitate outside bodies, but rather is entirely closed in upon itself.
There remains a third fundamental difference between Moritz and Lessing,
who each accord a different role to the Augenblick within the space of the art-
work. Lessing complicates the clear distinction that he draws between verbal and
visual art by pointing out that that the latter imitates bodies existing not only in
space, but also in time: Sie dauern fort, und knnen in jedem Augenblicke ihrer
Dauer anders erscheinen, und in anderer Verbindung stehen [They (bodies)
persist in time, and in each moment of their duration they can assume a different
appearance or stand in a different combination] (116). While visual art cannot
directly represent a body as it changes from moment to moment within what he
terms der immer vernderlichen Natur [ever-changing nature] (22), it can
suggest such change by selecting the most pregnant or suggestive moment:
Die Malerei kann in ihren coexistierenden Compositionen nur einen einzigen
Augenblick der Handlung nutzen, und mu daher den prgnantesten whlen, aus
welchem das Vorhergehende und Folgende am begreiflichsten wird [Visual
art can use only a single moment of an action in its coexisting compositions
and must therefore choose the one which is most pregnant and from which the
preceding and succeeding actions are most easily comprehensible] (117). This
pregnant moment liberates the imagination of the viewer: Dasjenige aber nur
allein ist fruchtbar, was der Einbildungskraft freies Spiel lt [But only that
is fruitful which gives free reign to the imagination] (23). Lessing is thus cru-
cially concerned with how the spatialized Augenblick of the visual artwork acti-
vates the viewers imagination to transcend the very confines of that moment
by envisioning the moments that precede or succeed it. In other words, he is
interested in how the seed of the Augenblick embodied in a work of art bears
fruit in the imagination of the viewer.
In his perspectival reading of Goethes novel, Moritz neutralizes the fertility
of that seed, viewing it as entirely static and securely contained within the shell
of the literary artwork. It does not prompt the reader to transcend it, but rather
to admire it in its self-contained beauty. He thus triply negates Lessings distinc-
tion between verbal and visual media: first, by subsuming the former within
the space of the latter; second, by regarding literary space in and of itself, not
as an imitation of outside bodies; and third, by re-casting Lessings pregnant
Augenblick such that it is entirely enclosed within the bounds of the artwork. In
this second stage of Moritzs engagement with Werther, then, the transformative
Augenblick of reception as conceived by Lessing, but also by Moritz himself
in his description of Anton Reisers reception of Goethes novel gives way to
the Gesichtspunkt objectively inherent in the work itself.

The Sublime Augenblicke of Production

The second stage of Moritzs engagement with Goethes novel accords well with
the claim that the theory of the autonomous artwork arose as a reaction forma-
tion to the accelerated literary production and consumption habits of the late
eighteenth century. Yet this theory was not itself static, frozen in time, and cer-
tainly not for Moritz. Rather, he went on to radically innovate it, and his con-
tinued engagement with Werther played a pivotal role in this development.
According to Klischnig, Moritz informed Goethe about his perspectival read-
ing of Werther, and Goethe encouraged him to work out and publish his ideas.35
While this project never came to fruition, Moritz did publish a fascinating essay
in 1792 devoted to a single letter in Werther. Entitled ber ein Gemhlde von
Goethe [On a Painting by Goethe],36 this piece illuminates the perspectival
structure of Werthers second letter, that of 10 May, in other words, the precise
counterpart to the letter of 18 August. Again, this kind of perspectival reading
of a poetic work as a self-contained whole implies its timelessness. Surprisingly,
however, counter to his attempt to contain the force of the transformative
Augenblick by spatializing it as the Gesichtspunkt at the center of the novel, he
now shifts the center of gravity away from the central point of the letters poetic
picture, and toward the very first moments of its production. It is these sublime
Augenblicken, he contends, that the poet ceaselessly seeks, but always fails, to
capture. In reading the letter of 10 May as a perfect description of this process,
Moritz mobilizes crucial insights of his second key aesthetic treatise on the
autonomous artwork, ber die bildende Nachahmung des Schnen [On the
Formative Imitation of the Beautiful]. In so doing, he moves from a proto-
formalist aesthetics of the artwork conceived as a whole that is complete in
itself, toward an aesthetics of production, one that emphasizes the open-ended
process of creating art. Rather than culminating in a timeless refuge from the
ephemeral instant, this process unfolds in an endless series of Augenblicken.
Moritz claims that in the letter of 10 May, the poet presents a perspectivally
structured poetic picture in the long middle sentence:
Wenn das liebe Thal um mich dampft, und die hohe Sonne an der Oberflche der
undurchdringlichen Finsterni meines Waldes ruht, und nur einzelne Strahlen sich
in das innere Heiligthum stehlen, und ich dann im hohen Grase am fallenden Bache
liege, und nher an der Erde tausend Grschen mir merkwrdig werden; wenn ich
das Wimmeln der kleinen Welt zwischen Halmen, die unzhligen Gestalten der
Wrmchen, der Mckchen, nher an meinem Herzen fhle, und fhle die
Gegenwart des Allmchtigen, der uns nach seinem Bilde schuf, das Wehen des
Alliebenden, der uns, in ewiger Wonne schwebend, trgt und erhlt; mein Freund,
wenns dann um meine Augen dmmert, und die Welt um mich her und der Himmel

Klischnig: Mein Freund Anton Reiser. P. 140.
In: Moritz: Schriften zur sthetik und Poetik. Pp. 142148.

ganz in meiner Seele ruht, wie die Gestalt einer Geliebten, dann sehn ich mich oft
und denke, ach, knntest du dem Papier das einhauchen, was so voll so warm in
deiner Seele lebt, da es wrde der Spiegel deiner Seele, so wie deine Seele ist der
Spiegel des lebendigen Gottes!37
When the lovely valley mists around me, and the high sun rests on the surface of the
impenetrable darkness of my forest, and only isolated rays steal into the inner sanc-
tuary, and I then lie in the tall grass by the falling brook, and closer to the earth I
notice a thousand blades of grass; when I feel closer to my heart the teeming of the
small world among the blades, the countless forms of the little worms, the little
insects, and feel the presence of the Almighty who created us in his image, and the
breeze of the All-Loving One which sustains us, as we float in eternal bliss; my
friend, when it grows dim before my eyes, and world and sky rest completely in my
soul, like the form of a beloved, then I often yearn and think, oh, if only you could
breathe into the paper all that lives so fully and warmly in your soul, that it would
become the mirror of your soul, as your soul is the mirror of the living God!

After citing this sentence in full, he analyzes it into its component parts, and
displays how each part is structured around a central point. Thus, the poet first
draws a circumference or Umri [contour] with the image of the surrounding
valley (Wenn das liebe Tal um mich dampft) [When the lovely valley mists
around me), then gradually descends to the blades of grass on the ground,
focusing on dem kleinsten Gesichtskreise des Auges [smallest field of vision],
which comprises the Mittelpunkt or center of the picture (143). From here, the
scope of vision widens again, until it reaches the groer Umri [large cir-
cumference] in the subordinate clause, my friend, when it grows dim before my
eyes, and earth and sky rest completely in my soul, like the form of a beloved
(143144). Finally, Moritz claims that, in the sentences main clause, beginning
with the adverb dann [then], eine das Ganze umfassende Empfindung
[a sensation encompassing the whole] vollendet [completes] the picture
(143). In short, as portrayed by Moritz, the poet presents the reader with a per-
spectivally structured poetic picture that is entirely complete in itself. Conse-
quently, it not only expresses a sense of being suspended in eternal bliss, but,
as an autonomous artwork, itself manifests eternity.
What distinguishes this poetic picture in Moritzs eyes is not simply its par-
adigmatic quality as a perspectivally constructed artwork, but the way it simul-
taneously depicts the process of artistic representation from which it arises: Man
wird nicht leicht ein Werk der Poesie finden, wo der Darstellungstrieb selber
sich so getreu mit dargestellt htte, als in diesem poetischen Gemhlde [One
wont easily find a work of poetry in which the representational drive also rep-
resents itself so faithfully as in this poetic picture] (147). His analysis of this
self-representation of the representational drive in the poetic picture owes much
to his own earlier examination of the process of artistic production in his seminal
Moritz: Schriften zur sthetik und Poetik. P. 143.

essay on the formative imitation of the beautiful,38 which he published in 1788 and
which, according to Goethe in his Italian Journey, arose out of their conversa-
tions in Rome.39 Three years later, Moritz brings the most subversive insights
of this essay to bear on his discussion of Goethes poetic picture that is, precisely
those reflections that undermine the possibility that an autonomous work of art
can embody the end point of the process of formative imitation it describes.
It may seem paradoxical to view the autonomous artwork as being formed
through imitation. After all, the traditional concept of mimesis presupposes
that the work of art represents something external to itself, such as the bodies
or actions that Lessing sees as the objects imitated by visual and verbal art respec-
tively. But Moritzs concept of formative imitation departs sharply from the tra-
ditional understanding of mimesis by positing as its object neither particular
objects in nature, nor ideal forms, but the beautiful as such.40 Moritz identifies
this absolute beauty with nature as a totality, or das einzige, wahre Ganze
[the only true whole] (72). The act of formative imitation of the beautiful pro-
duces an artwork that is a microcosm of this whole: Jedes schne Ganze aus
der Hand des bildenden Knstlers ist daher im Kleinen ein Abdruck des hch-
sten Schnen im grossen Ganzen der Natur [Each beautiful totality emerg-
ing from the hands of the artist who forms it is thus an impression on a small
scale of the highest beauty in the great totality of nature] (73). By imitating the
highest beauty in the great totality of nature, the artist produces a work that is
itself a beautiful, autonomous whole, constructed nach eben den ewigen, festen
Regeln [according to the same eternal laws] (73) as the whole of nature.
Moritz elucidates this process of the formative imitation of the beautiful
through an optical metaphor. To produce a beautiful totality, the artists Seele
[soul or mind] must possess a thtige Kraft [dynamic faculty] that is infinitely
receptive: it thus must offer an endless number of contact points to nature, and
hence be capable of collecting die ussersten Enden von den Verhltnissen
der Natur im Groen [the outermost ends of the relations of nature as a whole]
(76). At this stage, the totality of nature is only obscurely intimated; the dynamic
power collects side by side the extreme points of the rays that it emits (76). The

In: Moritz: Schriften zur sthetik und Poetik. Pp. 6393.
FA 15/1. Goethe writes of Moritzs essay, es war aus unsern Unterhaltungen hervor-
gengangen, welche Moritz nach seiner Art benutzt und ausgebildet [it arose out of
our conversations, which Moritz used and developed in his own way]. FA 15/1: 572573.
However, as Mark Boulby argues, it would be wrong to conclude that Moritz was merely
a passive vehicle for the canalisation of Goethean insights in aesthetics. See Boulby:
Karl Philipp Moritz: At the Fringe of Genius. Toronto Buffalo London: University
of Toronto Press 1979. P. 164.
On Moritzs radical departure from the traditional concept of mimesis, see Tzvetan
Todorov: Theories of the Symbol. Trans. by Catherine Porter. Ithaca: Cornell University
Press 1972. Pp. 148164.

more distinct faculties, such as the faculties of thought, imagination, and sense
perception, demand that this obscure intimation of the whole of nature become
perceptible to them. Toward this end, in the next phase, the dynamic faculty
must now function as a kind of lens, tapering the rays emitted by the whole of
nature into a focal point: Sie mu alle jene Verhltnisse des grossen Ganzen,
und in ihnen das hchste Schne, wie an den Spitzen seiner Strahlen, in einen
Brennpunkt fassen [It (the dynamic faculty) must gather together into a focal
point all those relations of the great whole, and in them the highest beauty, as
though at the ends of its rays] (76). Finally, the work of art must then round
itself out from this focal point, and display to the more distinct faculties the
perfect relations of the whole of nature within its small circumference (76).
Moritz wrote his essay on the formative imitation of the beautiful in the
same period in Italy during which he engaged in his study of perspective, and
the optical metaphor underlying his theory of formative imitation shares sig-
nificant structural features with his theory of the perspectival construction of
the artwork. In both theories, Strahlen, Radien [rays] are envisioned as
converging in a Brennpunkt [focal point], Mittelpunkt [single point].
His essay on the formative imitation of the beautiful suggests, furthermore, a
causal relation between the two theories, as the process of condensing the whole
of nature into a Brennpunkt is the precondition for creating a work of art that
sich von allen Seiten auf seinen Mittelpunkt sttzt [is oriented on all sides
toward a central point] (73).
Having traced this trajectory that leads via the formative imitation of the
beautiful to the autonomous artwork, though, Moritz begins to undermine it.
Already his repeated use of the modal verb mssen to qualify each of his asser-
tions about artistic production makes it possible to read them not as simple
assertions, but as imperatives.41 He shows what must be done to create an
autonomous work of art, thereby raising the question whether it can in fact be
accomplished. He addresses this question of possibility shortly after describing

Alle die in der thtigen Kraft blo dunkel geahndeten Verhltnisse jenes groen
Ganzen mssen nothwendig auf irgend eine Weise [. . .] fabar werden: und um die zu
werden, mu die Thatkraft, worinn sie schlummern, sie nach sich selber, aus sich sel-
ber bilden. Sie mu alle jene Verhltnisse des grossen Ganzen, und in ihnen das hch-
ste Schne, wie an den Spitzen seiner Strahlen, in einen Brennpunkt fassen. Aus
diesem Brennpunkte mu sich, nach des Auges gemessener Weite, ein zartes und doch
getreues Bild des hchsten Schnen rnden [. . .]. Weil nun aber dieser Abdruck des
hchsten Schnen nothwendig an etwas haften mu, so whlt die bildende Kraft [. . .]
irgend einen sichtbaren, hrbaren, oder doch der Einbildungskraft fabaren Gegenstand,
auf den sie den Abglanz des hchsten Schnen im verjngenden Mastabe bertrgt.
P. 76; my emphases.

the path that leads through the formative imitation of the beautiful to the
autonomous artwork:
so kann auch der lebendige Begriff von der bildenden Nachahmung des Schnen
nur im Gefhl der thtigen Kraft, die es hervorbringt, im ersten Augenblick der
Entstehung statt finden, wo das Werk, als schon vollendet, durch alle Grade seines
allmhligen Werdens in dunkler Ahndung auf einmal vor die Seele tritt, und in
diesem Moment der ersten Erzeugung gleichsam vor seinem wirklichen Daseyn da
ist; wodurch alsdann auch jener unnennbare Reiz entsteht, welcher das schaffende
Genie zur immerwhrenden Bildung treibt. (77)

the living concept of the formative imitation of the beautiful can only take place in
the feeling of the dynamic faculty that produces it, in the first moment of produc-
tion, in which the work appears suddenly in dark intimation before the soul, already
complete, having advanced through all the stages of its gradual becoming; and in
this moment of its first production, it is, as it were, present before its actual exis-
tence, thereby giving rise to that unnamable charm that drives the creative genius to
perpetual formation.

There is, then, only a single point when the formative imitation of the beautiful
really takes place, and hence when the totality of nature is encompassed in micro-
cosm: the focal point into which the dynamic power concentrates this totality.
And even this Brennpunkt is not a fixed point in space; rather, this burning point
combusts instantly. In other words, the focal point turns out to be a single,
ephemeral point in time, or Augenblick. This momentary Brennpunkt gives rise
not to a timeless, autonomous artwork, but rather to the process of its immer-
whrenden Bildung [perpetual formation].
Moritz further develops this critique of his own theory of artistic production
in his essay on Goethes poetic picture. As noted, following his detailed struc-
tural analysis of the perspectival form of the poetic picture, he turns his atten-
tion to the way it depicts the process of its own production. He sees this process
articulated with particular clarity in the text of the letter that precedes and fol-
lows the poetic picture proper, and that hence forms a kind of frame around
it.42 The purpose of a frame, according to a short essay entitled Der Rahmen
[The Frame] that he published a year later, is to accentuate the autonomy of

The first part of the frame consists in four sentences that open the letter and precede
the sentence containing the poetic picture proper: Eine wunderbare Heiterkeit hat meine
ganze Seele eingenommen, gleich den sen Frhlingsmorgen die ich mit ganzem
Herzen geniee. Ich bin so allein, und freue mich meines Lebens, in dieser Gegend, die
fr solche Seelen geschaffen ist, wie die meine. Ich bin so glcklich, mein Bester, so
ganz in dem Gefhl von ruhigem Daseyn versunken, da meine Kunst darunter leidet.
Ich knnte jetzt nicht zeichnen, nicht einen Strich, und bin nie ein grerer Mahler gewe-
sen, als in diesen Augenblicken [A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my
entire soul, like the sweet spring mornings which I enjoy with all my heart. I am so alone,
and rejoice in my life in this place, which was created for souls like mine. I am so happy,

the work of art: Das Bild stellt etwas in sich Vollendetes dar; der Rahmen
umgrenzt wieder das in sich Vollendete [The picture presents something com-
plete in itself; the frame draws a further border around that which is complete in
itself ].43 His discussion of the 10 May letter, however, illuminates how the bor-
der drawn by the textual frame around the poetic picture does precisely the
opposite: rather than underscore its autonomy, the frame foregrounds the very
impossibility of that autonomy.
As in his essay on the formative imitation of the beautiful, Moritz in his essay
On a Painting By Goethe views a period of keen receptivity toward the total-
ity of nature, which he here terms Empfindung [sensation], as a prerequisite
for artistic production (146147). This stage, he remarks, is expressed in the first
part of the textual frame, in which Werther describes his sense of being so
ganz in dem Gefhl von ruhigem Daseyn versunken [so immersed in the feel-
ing of tranquil existence], to the point where his art suffers (146; original
emphasis). Nevertheless, Werther writes, although he couldnt sketch a single line,
he expresses that he has never been a greater painter als in diesen Augenblicken
[than in these moments] (146). In his commentary, Moritz extrapolates a
general insight about artistic production from these introductory remarks:
Derjenige wird die Natur am besten beschreiben, wer sie so empfindet, da sie mit
ihm selber gleichsam ein Ganzes ausmacht, indem er sich in sie versenkt, und mit
ihr auf das innigste verwebt fhlt. [. . .] In den Augenblicken, wo eine solche
Beschreibung glcken soll, mu das einzelne Selbstbewutsein, sich gleichsam in
dem Mitbewutsein des groen Ganzen der Natur verlieren, wovon das denkende
und empfindende Organ durchstrmt wird. (147)

my dear friend, so immersed in the feeling of tranquil existence, that my art suffers.
I could not draw now, not a line, and yet I have never been a greater painter than in these
moments]. P. 146; Moritzs emphasis. The second part of the textual frame comprises
a single sentence that follows the poetic picture and closes the letter: ich gehe darber
zu Grunde, ich erliege unter der Gewalt der Herrlichkeit dieser Erscheinungen [I run
aground over this, I succumb beneath the power of the magnificence of these appari-
tions]. P. 146.
Moritz: Schriften zur sthetik und Poetik. P. 210. Goethe makes a strikingly similar
observation in his autobiography regarding the binding of his manuscript of Werther:
Das nunmehr fertige Manuskript lag im Konzept, mit wenigen Korrekturen und
Abnderungen, vor mir. Es ward sogleich geheftet: denn der Band dient der Schrift unge-
fhr wie der Rahmen einem Bilde: man sieht viel eher, ob sie denn auch in sich wirk-
lich bestehe [The manuscript that was now finished lay before me in draft form, with few
corrections and alterations. It was bound at once: for the binding is to a written work
about what a frame is to a picture: one can see much better if it exists in itself ]. P. 639.
In this manner, Goethe follows the neoclassicist version of Moritzs reading of Werther
as an autonomous whole, and in so doing, distances himself from the identificatory
manner of reading exhibited by the masses who became swept up in the Werther-Fieber.

He will best describe nature who senses how it constitutes a whole, as it were, with
himself, as he immerses himself in it and intensely feels himself interwoven with it.
[. . .] In the moments in which such a description is to succeed, the individual self-
consciousness must lose itself, as it were, in the co-consciousness of the great total-
ity of nature that streams through the thinking and sensing organ.

The sensation that Moritz here describes recalls his depiction of the first phase
of the process of the formative imitation of the beautiful, in which the dynamic
faculty obscurely intimates the great whole of nature (76). As I have remarked,
in that earlier essay Moritz describes the second phase of formative imitation
of the beautiful, that of the Brennpunkt, as a momentary phenomenon; he leaves
open, however, the possibility of a continual state of the obscure intimation of
the whole of nature. But in the passage above from his essay on Goethes poetic
picture, the Brennpunkt has vanished altogether, and the state of obscure intima-
tion of natures totality becomes compressed into Augenblicke. The process
of formative imitation, then, becomes intensely accelerated in the later essay.
If the sensation of the whole of nature is momentary to begin with, Moritz
sees its momentariness further accelerated by the Darstellungstrieb [repre-
sentational drive]:

Unter der Flle des Genusses leidet wirklich die Kunst, und indem der
Darstellungstrieb dem Genu untergeordnet ist, so strebt er, um gleichsam den
Genu nicht zu lange zu unterbrechen, nach dem leichtesten und unmittelbarsten
Ausdruck durch die Sprache; die Umrisse verwandeln sich in Worte; der Zeichner
oder Mahler wird zum Dichter. (146147)

Art really suffers under the plenitude of pleasure, and because it is subordinate to this
pleasure, the representational drive, in order not to interrupt the pleasure for too long,
as it were, strives for the easiest and most immediate expression through language:
the contours transform into words; the draftsman or painter becomes a poet.

The sensation of natures eternal totality or what Moritz here describes as the
plenitude of pleasure while a prerequisite for artistic representation, also
precludes that representation; hence, in the moments of receptivity toward the
whole of nature, art suffers, as noted in the first part of the textual frame.
Conversely, this sensation suffers through the act of representation, which inter-
rupts it. Moritz claims that poetry here has an advantage over graphic art: the
more immediate expression of language does not cause as long an interruption
as does graphic representation. For this reason, the visual artist becomes a poet,
and the visual contours or circumferences transform into verbal ones. But this does
not solve the dilemma that language, too, cuts short the sensation of natures
totality that the artist attempts to represent. For even if language does not inter-
rupt this sensation for too long, how could even the swiftest verbal expression
not rupture the fleeting Augenblicke in which this sensation is present?

A potential compensation for this dilemma presents itself not so much in the
choice of a graphic or a verbal medium, as in the possibility of producing, in either
medium, an autonomous artwork, one that is capable of reproducing on a smaller
scale the eternal totality of nature as it is momentarily sensed. It is just such a
possibility that the poetic picture would seem to realize as a perspectivally con-
structed work of art that is complete in itself. But Moritz reveals that its com-
pletion is broken at two crucial points: at the point at which the poetic picture
achieves its reizende Vollendung or charming closure (145); and in the second
part of the textual frame, with which the letter draws to a close directly after the
completion of the poetic picture.
According to Moritz, the poetic picture ends with eine das Ganze umfassende
Empfindung [a sensation that encompasses the whole]: dann sehn ich mich
oft und denke, ach, knntest du dem Papier das einhauchen, was so voll so
warm in deiner Seele lebt, da es wrde der Spiegel deiner Seele, so wie deine
Seele ist der Spiegel des lebendigen Gottes! [then I often yearn and think,
oh, if only you could breathe into the paper all that lives so fully and warmly in
your soul, that it would become the mirror of your soul, as your soul is the mir-
ror of the living God!] (143). But as he also highlights, the feeling that encom-
passes the whole of the poetic picture is not one of fulfillment, and hence
closure, but rather of yearning: Die ist jene Sehnsucht, dem Papier unmittelbar
einzuhauchen, was in der Seele lebendig dasteht, und unter dem Buchstaben
nur zu leicht verschwindet [This is the yearning to breathe immediately into
the paper that which is vividly present in the soul, and which vanishes beneath
the letter only too easily] (145). According to Werther, the whole of nature
rests in his soul: die Welt um mich her und der Himmel ganz in meiner Seele
ruht [the entire world around me and the heavens rest in my soul]. As Moritz
sees it, the soul that reflects this totality disappears beneath the very letters that
are intended, in turn, to reflect the soul. Unable to present a microcosm of
this totality, the artwork cannot itself form a complete, autonomous whole.
Consequently, the reizende Vollendung embodied in the final clause of the
autonomous poetic picture turns out to be a reiende Vollendung, a closure that
ruptures the very timeless, autonomous artwork that it completes.44
Rather than draw a border around the poetic picture that would contain this
rift and perhaps establish a greater unity, the second part of the textual frame,

See, by contrast, Gerhart Pickerodt: Das poetische Gemhlde. Zu Karl Philipp Moritz
Werther-Rezeption. In: Weimarer Beitrge: Zeitschrift fr Literaturwissenschaft,
sthetik und Kulturwissenschaften 36 (1990). Pp. 13641368. Pickerodt argues that by
viewing Werthers wish as the Vollendung of the poetic picture, Moritz thereby elimi-
nates the disproportion between the experience of nature and the ability to express this
experience with graphic, or visual, means. P. 1366. I maintain, on the contrary, that
Moritz thereby highlights precisely the impossibility that the artwork can be commen-
surate with the experience.

as Moritz reads it, even more radically subverts the completion of the poetic
Die wahre Darstellung ist daher gewissermaen ein Ringen mit der Natur, die doch
immer mchtiger ist, und sich von dem menschlichen Geiste weder in Worte noch
Umrisse bringen lt; daher kmmt denn auch noch der allerwahrste Zug zu dem
Gemhlde unsers Dichters:
ich gehe darber zu Grunde, ich erliege unter der Gewalt der Herrlichkeit dieser
Erscheinungen. (146; original emphasis)

The true representation is hence, as it were, a struggle with nature, which is, how-
ever, always more powerful, and which can be brought by the human spirit neither
into words nor into contours; hence the truest feature of our poets painting:
I run aground over this, I succumb beneath the power of the magnificence of these

The process of true representation is never complete. For it is impossible to

draw either verbal or graphic Umrisse [contours] around the eternal totality of
nature, which always exceeds these confines: die doch immer mchtiger ist
[which is always more powerful]. True representation is thus a Ringen in two
ways: it is an attempt to draw a ring around this totality; and in so doing, it is a
struggle with nature, and one which it invariably loses. The truest feature of
Goethes poetic picture hence lies in its textual frame, which shows the contour
of the artwork to be a mere trace of an interminable Ringen.
If Moritzs depiction of the inner purposiveness of the beautiful artwork that
is complete in itself resembles notion of the purposiveness without end that
Kant views as characteristic of the beautiful, then his discussion of the ceaseless
struggle to represent the totality of nature within the contour of the artwork may
be seen as comparable to Kants treatment of the negativer Darstellung [neg-
ative representation] of the sublime.45 Kant regards the sublime as a sensation
arising from the subjective play of imagination and reason (182). This play begins
when the imagination is confronted by something in nature that overwhelms it,
for instance through its vastness. But this only awakens in the subject a sense of
something even greater, namely reasons idea of an absolute Totalitt [absolute
totality] (172). The subject strives to represent this idea by means of the imag-
ination, but to no avail: its representations serve only to indicate their own
incommensurability with reasons idea of totality (166); they are perceived
solely as negative representations of something unrepresentable (201). Once again,
the principle difference to Moritz lies in his objective conception of the sub-
lime as comprising nature in its totality. Reasons idea of totality plays no role
here, as it does with Kant, but rather only the obscure, momentary intimation

Kant: Kritik der Urteilskraft. P. 201.

of an objective totality, one that the artwork is forever incapable of represent-

ing within its contours.
Moritz introduced this conception of the sublime (explicitly terming it a
Begriff des Erhabenen [or a concept of the sublime] (73; original empha-
sis) in his essay on the formative imitation of the beautiful, two years prior to
the appearance of Kants Third Critique, and provided his most probing analy-
sis of an instance of the sublime in his discussion of Goethes poetic picture. The
most the artist can do and this is the true achievement, in his eyes, of Goethes
poetic picture, including its textual frame is struggle to represent the totality
of nature, and at the same time indicate its incommensurability. Indeed, as Moritz
views it, Goethe manages to do both in a single stroke: to draw an Umriss [con-
tour] that demolishes itself umreien in both senses of the word.
I have tried in this essay to keep pace with Moritz in his lifelong engagement
with Werther as he flees the transformative Augenblick of reception, seeks refuge
in the fixed point of view of the perspectivally constructed work of art that is
complete in itself, and then undermines this completion, revealing the impos-
sibility of circumscribing in an autonomous artwork the totality of nature as
intimated in the very first, sublime Augenblicken of artistic production. By afford-
ing a glimpse into the impossibility of arresting and framing that instant in per-
petuity, Goethes Werther is die einzige noch wahre mgliche Epopee unsrer
Zeiten [the only true epos of our times], as Moritz described it in 1793, the
year of his untimely death at age thirty-seven.46
I have argued that the times to which Moritz here refers were filled with a sense
of upheaval, brought about by a revolution in reading and text production. It is
tempting to view the final stage of his reading of Werther as the most modern,
most in touch with the pulse not only of his time, but of our own, prefiguring a
fascination with the sublime instant in contemporary avant-garde art.47 Yet this
would be to isolate and hypostasize merely one moment of his reading and of
his ongoing aesthetic thought. What is, in the end, most modern about the aes-
thetics of the Augenblick that he formulates through his reading of Werther, is
its very liability, its resistance to being permanently circumscribed. Like the
Neuzeit itself, his aesthetics proves to be perpetually new, transforming beneath
the readers gaze from one moment to the next.

Moritz: Der Dichter im Tempel der Natur. Ein Fragment. In: Schriften zur sthetik
und Poetik. Pp. 160166, here p. 161.
See Jean-Franois Lyotard: Newman: The Instant. In: The Inhuman: Reflections on
Time. Trans. by Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University
Press 1991.
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Clark S. Muenzer

Fugitive Images and Visual Memory in Goethes

Discourse on Color
Like his philosophical counterpart, Spinoza, Goethe envisioned the animate unity of
nature as a universal landscape where endless processes of composition and decomposi-
tion transpire to constitute the sensate world as a vast region of liminality. Goethes system
of color understood the power of light, as one of the most elusive of the modes of the
divine, through its fugitive effects in color production. His symbolic color wheel, which
records the restorative capacity of the eye to maintain itself in chromagenesis, helped
him to frame the question of visuality as a question of survival and of memory as well.

Goethes Spinozan Construction of Nature

Fundamental to Goethes understanding of a single system of nature is
Spinozas argument that the divine substance remains in essence indivisible,
although it exists physically and can exclusively be known as an infinitely
variable assemblage of interacting bodies.1 In jedem lebendigen Wesen, the
Studie nach Spinoza (17841785) asserts, sind das, was wir Teile nennen,
dergestalt unzertrennlich vom Ganzen, da sie nur in und mit demselben
begriffen werden knnen2 [In every animate being what we call parts are
inseparable from the whole in such a manner that they can be grasped only in
and through the same] (FA 25: 15). That is, even if the parts of the whole of
nature as one individual can vary in infinite ways, this necessarily happens
according to the monotheistic framework of Spinozas metaphysics without

Ethics Book I, Prop. 13 and 21. All references to Spinoza will be made according to
the Dover reprint edition of the Bohn Library, Benedict de Spinoza: Works. Vol. 2. Trans.
by R.H.M. Elwes. New York: Dover 1955. I will indicate the book and proposition num-
bers, etc. for the Ethics in parentheses. According to Spinozas metaphysical system, bod-
ies are (extensive) modes of the divine, natura naturata, or the order and connection of
things. See Genevieve Lloyd: Spinoza and the Ethics. London and New York: Routledge
1996. P. 48. Although their reality is fragmentary, each body partakes of the divine totality,
or nature (natura naturans), which is in turn expressed through the dynamic series of all
corporeal determinations and transformations. For Spinoza, bodies are virtual, or com-
memorative, sites where the effects of hidden causes collect and become visible as the per-
petual record of each bodys actions and sufferings. When Goethe characterizes colors
as the Taten and Leiden of the divine light on the first page of the Vorwort [Preface]
of Zur Farbenlehre (1810) (FA 23/1: 12), he is establishing a basic connection between
his own teachings on color production and Spinozas Ethics (1677).
Unless otherwise noted, the translations of all German citations are my own.

any change to the individual as a whole.3 The face of the whole universe
may be infinitely expressive, Spinoza muses in a letter to Tschirnhausen in
1675,4 but it endures eternally as the same face.5
Much like the unified totality of the Jewish philosophers self-generative and
metamorphosing God, Goethes system of nature strives to maintain itself in
dynamic encounters between and among finite modes of interacting bodies.6 In
its Spinozan incorporation as complex individual, the Goethean Gott-Natur7
[God-Nature] is thus a self-regulating engine, or assembly of Triebrder8
[gears] (FA 25: 81), that similarly endures as its evanescent forms constitute
and reconstitute themselves within a dynamic web of complex relatedness.9

Spinoza: Ethics Book II, Lemma 7 note.
Spinoza: Works. P. 400. For more on complexity and the facies totius universi as the
highest order individual in Spinozas thought, see Stuart Hampshire: Spinoza. Baltimore:
Penguin Books 1962. Pp. 726.
The sustaining environment that holds and contains us verbirgt sich in tausend
Namen und Termen und ist immer dieselbe [conceals itself in thousands of names
and terms and is always the same thing] (FA 25: 13), Tobler proclaims in his aphoris-
tic Tierfurt-reflections about a century later. Toward the end of his life Goethe recog-
nized Toblers nature-rhapsody as so in harmony with his own youthful Spinozism that
he might have composed it himself. See his Erluterung zu dem aphoristischen
Aufsatz Die Natur [Explication of the Aphoristic Essay, Nature] (FA 25: 81).
For treatments of the reception of Spinoza by Goethe and his contemporaries see
Mathias Victorien Ntep II: Die pantheistische Naturauffassung Goethes. Sinzheim: Pro
Universitate 1999. Pp. 3750; Albert Jungmann: Goethes Naturphilosophie zwischen
Spinoza und Nietzsche. Frankfurt/M: Lang 1989; David Bell: Spinoza in Germany from
1670 to the Age of Goethe. London: Bithell 1984; Momme Mommsen: Spinoza und die
deutsche Klassik. Carelton Germanic Papers 2 (1974). Pp. 6788; Martin Bollacher:
Der junge Goethe und Spinoza. Studien zur Geschichte des Spinozismus in der Epoche
des Sturm und Drang. Tbingen: Niemeyer 1969; and H. Lindner: Das Problem des
Spinozismus im Schaffen Goethes und Herders. Weimar: Bhlau 1960.
FA 2: 685.
Polaritt and Steigerung [Polarity and intensification] according to Goethes
completion of Toblers fragment, are the zwei groen Triebrder aller Natur [two great
gears of all of nature] (FA 25: 8). In its materiality Goethes commentary implies
polarity resembles the divine attribute that Spinoza called extension (body), while inten-
sification resembles his attribute of thought (mind). Goethes configuration of nature as an
assembly of gears in this posthumously published essay is clearly indebted to Spinozas
determinism, which had already been celebrated, as early as 1771 in his Zum Shakespears
Tag. There a fictional Shakespeare-enthusiast claims to have discovered the driving
engine of the genial playwrights theater of nature within a mysterious point where das
Eigentmliche unseres Ichs, die prtendierte Freiheit unsres Wollens, mit dem nothwendi-
gen Gang des Ganzen zusammenstot [the most intimate possession of our selves, our
imagined freedom of will, collides with the necessary course of the whole] (FA 18: 10).
In 1773 Goethe had celebrated the cathedral at Strasbourg as a living network of con-
nected parts. Its architect Erwin, the speaker proclaims, whose gothic structure is a
personal monument to his own genius, has reproduced the complex harmonies of Gods

Consequently, to explore nature globally for Goethe required his acknowl-

edging and respecting the fugitive character of all the phenomenal variation
that drives the system of nature as a whole. Was kann der Mensch im Leben
mehr gewinnen [What more from life can humans hope to win], the memo-
rial poem to Schillers skull Im ernsten Beinhaus (1827) [In the Solemn
Sepulcher] would conclude,
Als da sich Gott-Natur ihm offenbare?
Wie sie das Feste lt zu Geist verrinnen,
Wie sie das Geisterzeugte fest bewahre. (FA 2: 685)

Than knowing God in nature is revealing?

How what holds fast flows forth as thinking spirit,
How what coursed through of mind is safely fastened.

The paradoxical Grundeigenschaft der lebendigen Einheit [fundamental

characteristic of the animate unity], according to a maxim from Wilhelm
Meisters Wanderjahre (1821; 1829),10 is to exist through self-contradiction:
sich zu trennen, sich zu vereinen, sich ins Allgemeine zu ergehen, im Besondern zu
verharren, sich zu verwandlen, sich zu spezifizieren, und wie das Lebendige unter
tausend Bedingungen sich dartun mag, hervorzutreten und zu verschwinden, zu
solideszieren und zu verschmelzen, zu erstarren und zu flieen, sich auszudehnen
und sich zusammen zu ziehen. (FA 10: 577578)

to divide, to unite; to traverse the general, to endure in the particular; to transform

and to specify oneself; and as the animate world expresses itself in thousands of
states, to emerge and to disappear, to crystallize and to dissolve, to become rigid and
to flow, to expand and to contract.

That is, like his philosophical counterpart, Goethe typically envisioned nature as
a universal landscape, or topography, where endless processes of composition and
decomposition transpire under countless conditions to constitute the sensate
world as a vast region of liminality.11 Upon its stage, interacting bodies appear
in significant configurations with one another, only perpetually to disappear

universe in the soaring towers and foliating tracery on the face of the buildings mas-
sive western wall: die groen, harmonischen Massen, zu unzhlig kleinen Teilen
belebt; wie in Werken der ewigen Natur, bis aufs geringste Zserchen, alles Gestalt,
und alles zweckend zum Ganzen [the great, harmonious masses, animated in innu-
merable small cuts; as in the works of eternal nature, up to the most miniscule piece, all
living form, all purposive within the whole] (FA 18: 115).
Interestingly when the Wanderjahre was published in its final version in the testa-
mentary Ausgabe letzter Hand in 1829, Goethe printed Im ernsten Beinhaus on its
final two pages (FA 10: 774).
See Clark Muenzer: Borders, Monuments and Goethes Reconstruction of Knowledge.
Arcadia 38 (2003). Pp. 24853.

and realign themselves in new configurations. No matter how tough or how

solid, each individually composed body within this fluid place of passage is
destined to encounter other bodies,12 more or less powerful than itself, that are
similarly constituted to persevere in their own being.13 Hence, whatever stabil-
ity or balance the living network claims for itself across its various modes, each
of them, as well as all of its discrete moments of consolidation, carries the trau-
matic possibility of its own destruction.
Already in his Sulzer-review of 1772 the youthful Goethe had taught that
where sight is concerned what we see of nature the visualized object, or
the image that fills the perceptual field and, in turn, becomes the sole founda-
tion of authentic knowledge, is Kraft [power]. Within regimes of power,
however, all things are also transitory:
[D]ie Kraft verschlingt nichts gegenwrtig alles vorbergehend, tausend Keime
zertreten jeden Augenblick tausend geboren, gro und bedeutend, mannigfaltig ins
Unendliche; schn und hlich, gut und bs, alles mit gleichem Rechte neben
einander existierend. (FA 18: 99)

Power consumes nothing present everything transitory, a thousand seeds trampled

every moment a thousand born, great and meaningful, variety without end; beauti-
ful and hideous, good and evil, all things coexisting with equal right.

Just as Spinozas unified divinity understood Gods expression as corporeal

substance in terms of dynamic attributes (thought and extension) that strive to
balance active and passive affects,14 then, the observable sequences of finite modes
within Goethes natural order (rocks, plants, bones, clouds, colors, sounds, etc.)
suggest animate processes, or transitory stagings of nature, that record the efforts
of the system as a whole to organize its striving parts and, thereby, to maintain
itself as a totalizing form:
Weil nun alle diese Wirkungen im gleichen Zeitmoment zugleich vorgehen, so kann
alles und jedes zu gleicher Zeit eintreten. Entstehen und Vergehen, Schaffen und
Vernichten, Geburt und Tod, Freud und Leid, alles wirkt durch einander, in gleichem
Sinn und gleicher Mae; dewegen denn auch das Besonderste, das sich ereignet,
immer als Bild und Gleichni des Allgemeinsten auftritt. (FA 25: 113114)15

See Clark Muenzer: At the Edge of Chaos: Goethe and the Question of the Global. In:
Literatur im Spiel der Zeichen: Festschrift fr Hans-Vilmar Geppert. Ed. by Werner Frick,
Fabian Lampart, and Bernadette Malinowski. Tbingen: Francke 2006. Pp. 125140.
See Gilles Deleuze: Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. Trans. by Robert Hurley. San
Francisco: City Lights Books 1988. Pp. 21ff., for a useful discussion of Spinozas cona-
tus as an unconscious power within bodies that strives to endure as well as the minds
growing consciousness of such a power.
See Lloyd: Spinoza and the Ethics. Pp. 3138 and pp. 7274.
In Faust the fundamental connection in Goethes thinking between the fugitive
phenomenal world and the power of commemorative structures to capture the eternal, or

Because all of these effects then transpire all together at the same moment, so, too,
can each and all things come about at once. Origination and passing, creation and
destruction, birth and death, joy and suffering, everything works through everything
else, in equal sense and in equal measure; for which reason the most particular thing
that happens is always staged as an image or parable of the most general.

In this context, and in accord with Goethes Spinozan disposition, the system of
color stands in precise relation to and expresses the divine power of light, which
it stages through meaningful images within the universal system of nature as
a whole: Farben und Licht stehen zwar unter einander in dem genausten
Verhltni [Colors and light, of course, stand in the most precise relationship to
each other], Goethe announces in the Vorwort [Preface] of the Farbenlehre
(1810). But he cautions that this relationship includes all of nature:
aber wir mssen uns beide als der ganzen Natur angehrig denken: denn sie ist es
ganz, die sich dadurch dem Sinne des Auges besonders offenbaren will. (FA 23/1: 12)

but we must think of both as belonging to the whole of nature: for it is nature in its
entirety that specifically wants to reveal itself through it to the sensate eye.

Furthermore, because the animate unity of light becomes available to the under-
standing in its essence only when it physically happens, or becomes eventful,
to the eye (sich erugnen), Goethes treatise initially considers the self-organ-
izing collection of inter-connected physiological effects that are produced by
the human body within the visual organ as individual colors are retinally gen-
erated, interact, and struggle to persist.16 The Goethean system of coloring,

the divine, in dynamic networks of endurance is eloquently proclaimed, first by the

Erdgeist Geburt und Grab, / Ein ewiges Meer, / Ein wechselnd Weben, / Ein glhend
Leben, / So schaff ich am sausenden Webstuhl der Zeit, / Und wirke der Gottheit lebendi-
ges Kleid [From birth to grave, / A sea without end, / Web never slowing / Life always
glowing, / At times roaring loom I thus raise and refine / The Godheads bold garment in
living design] (ll. 498504) and in grand culmination, by the chorus mysticus Alles
Vergngliche / Ist nur ein Gleichni / Das Unzulngliche / Hier wirds Ereigni / Das
Unbeschreibliche / Hier ists getan; / Das Ewig-Weibliche / Zieht uns hinan [All things
that pass-away / Are only parable / What is deficiency / Here is eventful. / What is inde-
scribable / Here it is done. / What Ever-Womanly / Drawing us on] (ll. 1210412111).
See Beate Allert: Hidden Aspects of Goethes Writings on Color, Seeing, and Motion
and their Significance for a Feminist Visual Theory. In: Bodies of Resistance: New
Phenomenologies of Politics, Agency, and Culture. Ed. by Laura Doyle. Evanston:
Northwestern University Press 2001. Pp. 144191. Allert treats Goethes theory in terms
of the role of the observers body, including senses other than just sight. In sections on
Komplementrfarben [complementary colors], Nachbilder [after-images],
Farbige Schatten [colored shadows], Liquified Images, and Alethic Viewing,
pp. 149156, she demonstrates how sight in Goethe, including, but not limited to the
production of color, situates the semiotic process in constant change and the transfor-
mation of all interrelated elements. P. 156.

however, must not be confused with the unknowable essence of light, which
should never be atomistically reduced, as Newton had done, to a spectral sum
of ghostly parts:
Denn eigentlich unternehmen wir umsonst, das Wesen eines Dinges auszudrcken,
Wirkungen werden wir gewahr, und eine vollstndige Geschichte dieser Wirkungen
umfate wohl allenfalls das Wesen jenes Dinges. (FA 23/1: 12)
For we undertake in vain to express the essence of a thing; instead we perceive
effects, and only a complete history of such effects would in truth encompass the
essence of the thing.
Instead, as the Taten und Leiden des Lichts [the actions and sufferings of
light] (FA 23/1: 12), the color relations of Goethes spectrum (like all modes
of God as nature) constitute a self-generating web of effects that are produced
when illuminated bodies act upon, or suffer the activity of other bodies.
In the following I will concentrate my remarks on Goethes initial, didactic
treatment of physiological color production, which is staged on the interior sur-
face of the eye Netzhaut [retina], because it provides special insight into
the way the other color regimes work as well. For physiological, as well as for
physical and chemical color formation, that is, the dynamic harmonies of the
Goethean color-wheel are grounded in a Spinozan view of nature as a complex
and fluid system that strives to maintain itself, within each of its discrete deter-
minations, through transitions to more or less powerful (meaning more or less
permanent) effects. As one of the most elusive of the modes of the divine, light
Goethe appears to be instructing must be understood by understanding its
effects in color production in terms of the fugitive nature of the individual colors
that stand in reciprocal relationship to each other on a symbolic wheel. Within
the landscape of nature, moreover, colors totalizing effort at self-maintenance
expresses the hidden will17 within the animate unity of light to re-produce
when traumatized the essential wholeness of its regime.18 Goethean color, in
This kind of will is not to be confused with the autonomous and fully conscious
good will of Kants ethics. As Astrida Tantillo has shown in The Will to Create: Goethes
Philosophy of Nature. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press 2002, Goethe appears
to inscribe nature with a creative will that I, in turn, understand as largely unconscious.
Like the unconscious system in Freud, however, its mechanism becomes available to
consciousness, and thus interpretable, through memory traces that are composed in a
zone of liminality (like Freuds pre-conscious). As constructed by Goethe, such com-
memorative zones, which produce dream-like texts for the interpretative understand-
ing, can be identified with sites as varied as Shakespeares stage, the western faade of
the Strasbourg cathedral, or the symbolic color-wheel of the Farbenlehre.
Interestingly, Goethe devotes the opening sections of the introduction to his Beitrge
zur Optik (1791) [Contributions to Optics] to the stimulating experiences of colors,
or the Reize der Farben [stimuli of colors] that cover the natural landscape (die
ganze sichtbare Natur) [visible nature in its entirety]. In addition to the green that
clothes the whole of the botanical world, he finds of special note the more definitive, vernal

other words, which as the ideatum of light embodies its essence under the attri-
bute of extension, behaves like a Spinozan mode of the divine substance, because
it similarly exemplifies the effort by which each thing strives to persevere in its
being.19 The spectral record (Geschichte) of color-effects (Wirkungen) that are
left under varying (i.e., increased or diminished) conditions of lighting is also
a virtual record of color production construed as conatus.
Goethes Trek Through the Landscape of Chromatic Production
Wie leicht die Farbe verschwindet [How easily colors vanish] (FA 23/1: 231),
the heading to paragraphs 712713 of the first part of the Farbenlehre cautions.
Summarizing a theme that has recurred throughout his treatise, Goethe goes on to
identify the ephemeral moments of Mischung [color mixing], Steigerung [intensi-
fication], Vereinigung [union], Entzweiung [separation], and Forderung [harmo-
nious promotion] that his meticulously arranged experiments had described in the
first three sections of the color didactic.20 His light and shadow show there for
physiologically, physically, and chemically generated colors might at first read
like the detailed mise-en-scne of a three-act scientific spectacle.21 But as the
complete record of the actions and passions of light, its Taten und Leiden, this
Schauspiel [stage-show] also raises the curtain on the full range of chromatic
possibility. By imagining color in terms of its systematic generation, or
Chroagenesie,22 (FA 25: 819) that is, Goethe suggests that no single hue should
be seen in isolation. If the Falschspieler [charlatan] (FA 23/1: 469) Newton
had broken the sacred unity of light to produce his ghostly spectrum, his own
experiments have reclaimed and restored the shambles of the tricksters ruined
fortification (FA 23/1: 16) by re-assembling its fragmented spectra into a system
of dynamic relations among six basic colors.23

hues that nature wears in den Stunden ihrer Hochzeitsfeier [during the hours of its
wedding celebration] (FA 23/2: 15). The multi-colored flowers and blossoms of spring in
turn serve dem Grten Zweck [the highest purpose], we are instructed, by which
Goethe means die Dauer knftiger Geschlechter [the endurance of future generations]
or the Spinozan effort of each individual body to survive through its kind (FA 23/2: 15).
Deleuze: Spinoza. P. 21.
See paragraph 712, FA 23/1: 231.
See Tantillo, who imaginatively suggests that Goethes entire work may be read as
a play. P. 36.
This is Goethes neologism for the generation of colors. I will render it in English
with another neologism, chromagenesis.
See in this connection the sixth of the Zahme Xenien: Einheit ewigen Lichts zu
spalten, /Mssen wir fr trig halten, / Wenn euch Irrtum schon gengt. / Hell und Dunkel,
Licht und Schatten / Wei man klglich sie zu gatten, / Ist das Farbenreich besiegt [One
eternal light to break in parts / Must be insanity were thinking, / Even if wrong satisfies. /
Bright and Darkness, Light and Shadow / Know to wed them smart together / And youve
conquered colors realm] (FA 2: 672).

Goethes trek through the landscape of chromatic production begins as

summarized in paragraph 802 with the pure Mutterfarben [maternal col-
ors] (FA 23/1: 256), yellow and blue, which are presented in paragraph 778 as
the reciprocal modifications of white Licht [light] and Nichtlicht [not-
light] or hell [light] and dunkel [dark].24
So wie Gelb immer ein Licht mit sich fhrt, so kann man sagen, da Blau immer
etwas Dunkles mit sich fhre. (FA 23/1: 252)

Just as yellow always brings light along, it may be said that blue always brings along
some dark.

Their physical mixing next causes green to appear, the first of the three transi-
tional colors in the theorys taxonomy, while their subsequent heightening into
orange (or reddened-yellow) and violet (or reddened-blue) join (or individually
heighten a second time) to produce Purpur [pure red]. This hue is the most
dignified of all, because as Goethe goes on to suggest in paragraph 793, it
dynamically captures the multiple processes of color production across the
symbolic wheel-of-color in its totality:
Wer die prismatische Entstehung des Purpurs kennt, der wird nicht paradox finden,
wenn wir behaupten, da diese Farbe teils actu, teils potentia alle andern Farben
enthalte. (FA 23/1: 254)

Whoever knows the prismatic origin of pure red will not find it paradoxical, if we
claim that this color contains in part actu and in part potentia all the other colors.

The whole of Goethean color, moreover, appears mit der grssten Schnelligkeit
und Bereitwilligkeit [with the greatest quickness and readiness], we learn in
paragraph 712, only to disappear again just as rapidly: aber eben so schnell ver-
schwindet auch die Farbe wieder gnzlich [but colors also disappear again just
as quickly] (FA I 23/1: 231). And this holds true across the full range of condi-
tions through which Goethe walks the observer, whenever he sets the stage, step
by step, for his play of light and shadow with its successive manifestations of
physiological, physical, and chemical colors.
As Goethe next summarizes this show in paragraph 713, experiences in
the first of the fields, which belong to the eye,25 are fated to vanish almost

These conditions of color generation are already summarized in the Einleitung
(FA 23/1: 26ff.).
In the opening paragraph of the first section, Goethe emphatically reminds us that
physiological colors, which have been traditionally dismissed, constitute das
Fundament der ganzen Lehre [the foundation of the entire treatise]. He will place
them first, weil sie dem Subjekt, weil sie dem Auge, teils vllig, teils grtens zuge-
hren [because they belong in part entirely, in part largely, to the perceiving subject
or the eye itself ] (FA 23/1: 31).

immediately: Die physiologischen Erscheinungen sind auf keine Weise

festzuhalten [physiological phenomena can in no way be arrested], while those
in the second, which result when light has been engaged by colorless media
such as prisms, mirrors, and clouds, dauern nur so lange, als die ussere
Bedingung whrt [endure only so long as the external condition persists].
Finally, even colors of the third order, which have been fixed in materials like
pigments and dyes, haben eine grosse Beweglichkeit [have great instabil-
ity], he concludes, und sind durch entgegengesetzte Reagenzien herber und
hinber zu werfen, ja sogar aufzuheben [and may be altered, even eliminated,
in fact, by means of opposing reagents] (FA 23/1: 231). From start to finish,
in other words, the opening didactic section of the Farbenlehre has constructed
color to a greater or lesser degree within each of its embodiments as a fugitive
phenomenon. Like the other natural events in Goethes book of nature, it, too,
will be marked by Beweglichkeit [motion] (FA 23/1: 230).
Interestingly, however, a framing sentence from the treatises Einleitung
offers a revealing observation about chromatic production that gradually
re-inscribes its initial characterization as straightforward change. Only physiolog-
ical colors are unaufhaltsam flchtig [relentlessly fugitive], Goethe cautions.
By contrast, physical colors though likewise vorbergehend [transitory]
are also allenfalls verweilend [nonetheless enduring], while chemical colors
show a propensity to hold fast bis zur sptesten Dauer [to the longest extent]
(FA 23/1: 26). What seems inexorable in Goethes description of colors belonging
to the eye, in other words, becomes a source of lingering transitions26 in his ren-
dering of physical colors. And when chemical colors come into play, he re-
inscribes change yet again only now even more pointedly in terms of their
inherent effort to endure. Accordingly, the didactic task of his Farbenlehre will be
to represent all three kinds of chromatic experience in a series of experiments,
Goethes Anzeige und bersicht (1810) [Announcement and Outline] of the
treatise announces. The stetige Reihe [continuous series] of his instructional
demonstrations will connect die flchtigen mit denverweilenden und diese
wieder mit den dauernden [the fugitive with the tarrying and these, in turn, with

See Goethes completion of the color-wheel in the Zugabe [addendum] near the
conclusion of the color didactic, which features orange, violet, and green as the transi-
tional colors: so bilden sich aus den drei Farben, Gelb, Rot und Blau drei bergnge,
Orange, Violett und Grn (ich heie alles Orange, was zwischen Gelb und Rot fllt,
oder was von Gelb oder Rot aus sich nach diesen Seiten hinneigt) und diese sind in
ihrer mittleren Stellung am brillantesten und die reinen Mischungen der Farben [thus
are three transitions, orange, violet, and green, formed from the three colors yellow, red,
and blue (I call everything that falls between yellow and red, orange, or whatever of yel-
low and red tends toward these sides) and in their intermediate placement these are the
most brilliant and the pure mixtures of colors] (FA 23/1: 287).

the enduring], he explains, in order to preserve27 each distinct field of chro-

matic transition for ein hheres Anschauen [a higher form of seeing] (FA
23/1: 1047).28 My remaining remarks will consider how Goethes lesson of
refined seeing frames his chromatic discourse by disclosing colors endeavor
to persist as a necessary consequence of its characteristic mobility.
Chromatic Instability and the Effort to Endure
One of the instructional aids that Goethe developed to assist in his educational
project was his color-wheel of 1793.29 While Newtons experimentum crucis
had tortured nature by pressing light through a tiny aperture in order to stretch
it out on the rack of his dark chamber, the Farbenkreis [color wheel] teaches
about light contextually.30 That is to say, it schematically represents the border
regions between light and darkness where chromatic effects first arise and then
struggle to endure by systematically reappearing as related hues. Like some of
the other perceptual diagrams that were reproduced with it in the theorys third
volume of plates, then, this device helped Goethe to frame the question of visu-
ality, in accord with natures dynamism, as a question of survival and, so, of
memory as well. If the visual organ, as already claimed in paragraph 60 of the
color didactic, demands totality und schliet in sich selbst den Farbenkreis ab
[and includes within itself the color-wheel] (FA 23/1: 50), Goethes
schematic circle, as well as the serialized experiments of his treatise, con-
versely invites Durchwanderung [passage] (FA 23/1: 230) through a suc-
cession of chromatic neighborhoods.31 By recording the passage of pure

Goethes term here, no doubt influenced by Hegel, is aufheben. The suggestion
seems to be that color production accomplishes its conserving goal with the aid of anti-
thetical mechanisms of disruption.
In Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt (1793) [The Experiment as
Mediator of Object and Subject] (FA 25: 2636), Goethe had already described the
construction of an authentic experiment as a process that multiplies a single, partial
experiment to produce an idealized series.
Goethe wrote Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt during the same
time-period. See note 28.
See Ruprecht Matthaei: Goethes Farbenlehre. Ravensburg: Otto Maier 1987.
Pp. 5556, for a reconstruction and discussion of the significance of Goethes Farbenkreis.
Near the end of the color didactic, paragraph 710 reads: Die Beweglichkeit der Farbe
haben wir schon bei der Steigerung und bei der Durchwanderung des Kreises zu bedenken
Ursache gehabt [We already had occasion to consider the mobility of color in the cases
of its intensification and the trek across the circle] (FA 23/1: 230), while section XLI on
chemically produced colors bears the title Durchwandern des Kreises [A Trek through
the Circle] (FA 23/1: 184). The use of this term, which from the Rede zum Shakespears
Tag (1771) [Speech for Shakespeares Day] through Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre
(1821; 1829) frequently suggests the non-linearity of Goethes thinking, serves a simi-
lar purpose in his construction of color as a complex process of network relationships.

yellow and blue through their transitions across green, orange, and violet as a
passage of return to pure red, moreover, the Farbenkreis reproduces the eyes
capacity for restorative Farbenwechsel [chromatic change], as detailed in
paragraphs 5561 (FA 23/1: 4850). Here we can see with the minds eye how
an endeavor at self-maintenance that recalls Spinozas conatus became a nec-
essary correlate of chromatic instability in Goethes thinking.32 So wren wir,
bei Betrachtung des Entziehens, der Flchtigkeit und Vergnglichkeit glnzender
Farbenerscheinungen, wieder auf die Forderung der Dauer zurckgekehrt
[Thus, while observing the removal, or the fugitive and transitory quality of
radiant chromatic phenomena, we have returned once again to the challenge of
durability] paragraph 604 later observes which treats the permanence of the
dyes used in tapestries und htten auch in diesem Sinne unsern Kreis aber-
mals abgeschlossen [and have in this sense again completed our circle] (FA
23/1: 201). The drive of individual colors to persist by modifying themselves,
in other words, does not merely complement the constitutive Beweglichkeit
der Farbe [mobility of colors] (FA 23/1: 230), according Goethe. It comes
to stand, significantly, as the chief hallmark of all ocular embodiment.
In fact, as the first section of the didactic argues, the vulnerable eye shares a
chromatic capability with sunlight: Das Auge hat sein Dasein dem Licht zu
danken [the eye must thank light for its existence], Goethe reminds his
readers in the Einleitung [Introduction]:
Aus gleichgltigen tierischen Hlfsorganen ruft sich das Licht ein Organ hervor,
das seines Gleichen werde; und so bildet sich das Auge am Lichte frs Licht, damit
das innere Licht dem ueren entgegentrete. (FA 23/1: 24)

From the indifferent auxiliary organs of animals, light calls forth an organ that is its
own equal, so that the internal light engages the external one.

Because the visual organ, has been endowed with the attribute of divine radiance,
in other words because it is sonnehaft [sun-like] (FA 23/1: 24)33 it shares
the Creators capacity to produce, or to generate, color: Lg nicht in uns des
Gottes eigne Kraft, / Wie knnt uns Gttliches entzcken [Were not the power
of the God our own / How could a godly force amaze us?] (FA 2: 645). Anyone
who has followed the order of the initial experiments in the Farbenlehre can

For a discussion of Goethes treatment of entoptic colors in light of his Spinozism,
see Frederick Burwick: The Damnation of Newton: Goethes Color Theory and Romantic
Perception. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter 1986. Pp. 54, 58.
Here Goethe inserts the following version of one of the Zahme Xenien into his scientific
treatise: Wr nicht das Auge sonnenhaft, / Wie knnten wir das Licht erblicken? /
Lebt nicht in uns des Gottes eigne Kraft, / Wie knnt uns Gttliches entzcken?
[Were not the eye itself a sun / How could the light be seen when looking. / Were not
the force of God alive in us / How could his power so amaze us?] (FA 23/1: 24).

readily see this simply by exposing the organ to the alternating conditions of light
and darkness as described in paragraphs 514 (FA 23/1: 3234) or by simulta-
neously regarding black and white patterns, as paragraphs 1529 (FA 23/1: 3438)
specify, or by subjecting the eye to physical shock, or mechanischen Ansto
[mechanical blow] (FA 23/1: 25). Across all of these situations, Goethe will
proceed to identify the delayed Wirkungen [effects] of light and its absence
by registering the variety of familiar images that are generated on the retina in the
eyes effort to preserve chromatic balance and maintain its integrity. He also
emphasizes in the very first paragraph of Physiologische Farben [Physiological
Colors] that the varied effects of ocular disturbances Leiden [sufferings] are
not mere optical illusions, as suggested by their traditional designation with the
labels Scheinfarben, Augentuschungen, or Gesichtsbetrug (FA 23/1: 31).
Nor are they just the isolated symptoms of some underlying pathology. Instead,
the stunning variety of blinding, colored, and pathological after-images that can
be reproduced in experiment provide a visible record, in the healthy eye, of its own
creative activity Taten [deeds].34 By virtue of their grounding in chromatic
harmony, Goethe concludes, physiological colors, which are also the most sub-
jective, constitute the foundation of the entire theory (FA 23/1: 31). If earlier
investigations had typically banished retinal images and their fleeting colors as
insubstantial specters, moreover, weil man ihre Flchtigkeit nicht haschen konnte
[because their transitoriness could not be caught] (FA 23/1: 31), his own
account contends that such Gespenster [ghosts] (FA 23/1: 31) are both sub-
stantive and real. And as if to emphasize this point, Goethe finally reminds us
in remarkable anticipation of Freuds interpretation of mental pathologies that
wie jeder abnorme Zustand [as any abnormal state] (FA 23/1: 31), even retinal
after-images in the diseased eye have revelatory value. That is to say, even they are
not subjective in the usual derogatory sense, but offer eine vollkommenere
Einsicht [more complete insight] (FA 23/1: 31) into physiologically gener-
ated colors by disclosing the objective and otherwise invisible laws of all
Chroagenesie and the Eye
As I propose reading chromatic production in the Farbenlehre, the first of these
laws would maintain that color, as part of the system of nature [natura naturans]
See in this connection Tantillos illuminating discussion of the Goethean eye, as both
a physical and mental structure, in the context of polarity. Pp. 3747. Her double con-
struction of the visual organ complements my own reading of the Spinozan framework
of Goethes treatise, which understands the eye in terms of the two divine attributes,
extension and thought.
Burwick offers a detailed analysis of Goethes gradual re-evaluation of the physio-
logical section of the Farbenlehre as foundational for his entire theory through the
1820s. Pp. 9101.

is a self-generative process. Each color calls forth other, complementary col-

ors in order to survive through its opposite and keep the chromatic household
in balance. In line with Goethes Spinozan construction of color theory, I call
this process of dynamic self-maintenance color coloring which suggests a
second law of chromagenesis. Coloring operates differentially through the
productive oppositions, or polarities, that progressively constitute it as a
process of endless transitions between white and black or brightness and dark-
ness. Chromatic events happen and continue happening for Goethe, when
illuminated bodies act or are acted upon in the turbid border regions of the
Helldunkel [light-dark] (FA 23/1: 34). Like Spinozas natura naturans,
moreover, color coloring is a serial event. It involves temporal spacing ein
Zuvor und Hernach [a before and after] (FA 23/1: 13) and as with other
morphological processes in Goethe (i.e., all Bildung), its sequences exceed
simple chronology. A third law of chromagenesis, would, therefore, state that
sight, which is the defining property of the sun-like eye, symptomatically
fills successive moments in the fields of coloring with liminal images of its
own restorative efforts to sustain the activity of seeing. By carefully examining
these images, which the eye projects as the imaginative effects of its actions
and passions, the color investigator can discern how they reciprocally capture
traumatized moments of chromatic specification from the past. They do so in
order to collect and then systematically re-assemble at some future point
all of the color-wheels individual spectra within the totalizing field of
Along these lines, the visual traces, or after-images, that Goethe stages with
his experiments in physiological color provide a serial record, or monument, to
the self-maintaining life of the eye. It should not surprise us, therefore, that the
first subsection of Physiologische Farben (paragraphs 514) entitled
Licht und Finsternis zum Auge [the effects of light and darkness on the
eye] (FA 23/1: 3234) begins its discussion of the Taten und Leiden [actions
and sufferings] (FA 23/1: 12) of the visual organ by noting its mnemonic
capacity to hold onto its own characteristic turning between contrasting fields
of illumination. Reading the eyes constant passages from light to darkness or
from darkness to light, we are instructed in paragraph 9, requires our reading
the after-images where these generative conditions of visuality linger for a
Gehen wir schnell aus einem dieser Zustnde in den andern ber, wenn auch nicht
von einer uersten Grenze zur andern, sondern etwa nur aus dem Hellen ins
Dmmernde; so ist der Unterschied bedeutend und wir knnen bemerken, da die
Zustnde eine Zeit lang dauern. (FA 23, 1: 32)
If we pass swiftly from one of these states to another, even if not from one extreme
to another, but instead only from light into twilight; the difference is significant, and
we might note that the states last for a while.

Subsequently, in the more extreme case of what paragraph 8 calls, berspan-

nung [overexcitement] (FA 23/1: 32), the example of a blinding image is
considered that suddenly arises when light has been directed through a circular
aperture onto a white surface. Upon turning away from the colorless image and
into a fully darkened corner of a room, the observer will immediately experi-
ence einen starken dauernden Eindruck [a strong and lasting impression]
(FA 23/1: 41), Goethe explains, which signals that the recuperative capacity of
the eye has been awakened by some sort of trauma, or shock. As this vivid
impression of light fades, moreover, a circular Farbenerscheinung [chro-
matic phenomenon] (FA 23/1: 41), or colored after-image, is belatedly gener-
ated by the retina, which according to paragraph 40 gradually moves from the
center of the figure to its periphery through colorless brightness and yellow
hues, back to the pure red of perfect ocular balance.
In einem Zimmer, das mglichst verdunkelt worden, habe man im Laden eine runde
ffnung, etwa drei Zoll im Durchmesser, die man nach Belieben auf- und zudecken
kann; durch selbige lasse man die Sonne auf ein weies Papier scheinen und sehe in
einiger Entfernung starr das erleuchtete Rund an; man schliee darauf die ffnung und
blicke nach dem dunkelsten Orte des Zimmers; so wird man eine runde Erscheinung
vor sich schweben sehen. Die Mitte des Kreises wird man hell, farblos, einigermaen
gelb sehen, der Rand aber wird sogleich purpurfarben erscheinen. (FA 23/1: 41)

Make a round aperture with a diameter of about three inches in the window-shutter
of a room that has darkened as much as possible. Allow the sun to shine onto a white
piece of paper through the aperture, which can be opened and closed at will, and
from some distance, fix the gaze onto the illuminated circle; then close the aperture
and look toward the darkest place in the room; you will see floating in front of you
a circular image. The middle of the circle will appear bright, colorless, somewhat
yellow, but the edge will, at the same time, appear pure red.

After a while, we are instructed, the harmonious Purpurfarbe [pure red]

covers the circular field in its entirety, only to witness a bluing effect set in
from the periphery toward the center. Once the dynamic image is fully blue, its
circumference becomes colorless, and the circle steadily darkens, until it fades
and completely disappears. Thus, the retina, Goethe implies, has restored (or
collected) itself by collecting colors:36
Hier sehen wir abermals, wie sich die Netzhaut, durch eine Succession von
Schwingungen, gegen den gewaltsamen uern Eindruck nach und nach wieder
herstellt. (FA 23/1: 42)

Here we can see once again how the retina, by means of a succession of oscillations,
gradually restores itself after experiencing a violent external jolt.
To complete the Farbenkreis Goethe modifies the conditions of his initial experiment
to produce an initial greening of the illuminated circle from its periphery and a subse-
quent yellowing, rather than the reddening and bluing of paragraph 39.

As Goethe describes this process for colorless images, however, it tends to con-
ceal the trauma of chromatic origins. Accordingly, he next stages his play of
Licht und Finsternis as a series of experiments with colored images, which
progressively reveal the history of spectral formation through a spectacle of
chromatic Schwingungen [oscillations] (FA 23/1: 42). In the experiments
with colorless images, the visible effect of coloring happened belatedly as a
kind of troping, as one color had gradually turned into another, and so forth,
after the shock of an inaugurating turn. But when Goethe investigates farbige
Bilder [chromatic images] in the next subsection (paragraphs 4761), he
discovers analoge Erscheinungen [analogous phenomena] (FA 23/1: 44)
that repeat with a more intelligible visible effect his fundamental construc-
tion of the ocular image as a therapeutic site of chromatic commemoration:
Wie von den farblosen Bildern, so bleibt auch von den farbigen der Eindruck im Auge,
nur dass uns die zur Opposition aufgeforderte und durch den Gegensatz eine Totalitt
hervorbringende Lebendigkeit der Netzhaut anschaulicher wird. (FA 23/1: 44)

As is the case with colorless images, with colored ones, too, the impression remains
in the eye, only here the vital capacity of the retina to produce a totality against the
challenge of opposition may be more readily observed.

Thus, according to paragraph 50, it is the entire collection of complementary colors

within the totality of the Farbenkreis and not just one of its segments that we
are instructed to read as model for the reciprocal generation of color within the eye:
So fordert Gelb das Violette, Orange das Blaue, Purpur das Grne, und umgekehrt.
So fordern sich alle Abstufungen wechselweise, die einfachere Farbe fordert die
zusammengesetztere, und umgekehrt. (FA 23/1: 45)

Thus, yellow promotes purple; orange, blue; pure red, green; and vice versa. Thus,
all gradations of color reciprocally promote one another; the more simple ones pro-
mote the more complex, and vice versa.

Like the lebendige Einheit der Natur [animate unity of nature] (FA 10:
577) of which it is an integral organ or part, the animated retina of Goethes
experiments in physiological color has become a site of commemoration where
the full life of coloring is first visibly produced and then maintained as vir-
tual reality through the reciprocal play of too much and too little light.37
Goethe had already explained this in Paragraph 8: Jeder dieser uersten Zustnde
nimmt auf die angegebene Weise die ganze Netzhaut ein, und in so fern werden wir nur
einen derselben auf einmal gewahr. Dort [] fanden wir das Organ in der hchsten
Abspannung und Empfnglichkeit, hier [] in der uersten berspannung und
Unempfindlichkeit [Each of these most extreme states acts on the retina in its
entirety, and so, we perceive only one of them at one time. There (. . .) we encountered
the organ in the highest state of relaxation and receptivity. Here (. . .) in the highest state
of tension and insensitivity] (FA 23/1: 32).

A detailed analysis of the farbige Bilder [colored images] that Goethe sub-
sequently discusses would offer additional examples for the kind of dynamic
complementarity at work in such a site.38 Likewise, the remaining subsections
of Physiologische Farben on colored shadows in paragraphs 6280 (FA 23/1:
5157), or weakened light sources and their retinal effects in paragraphs 8188
(FA 23/1: 5759), or pathological colors in paragraphs 101135 (FA 23/1:
6269) emphasize the active effort to persist (conatus) that underlies all processes
of chromagenesis. Yet however actively the eye appears to be engaged during the
physiological production of color, a cautionary aside near the end of the section
on Farbige Bilder also acknowledges and aphoristically summarizes a basic
traumatic component within every chromatic event. If gazing at a single color
produces a Farbenwechsel [chromatic change] across the whole retina that
is gesetzmig [in accord with laws] (FA 23/1: 48), Goethe warns, the use
of sunglasses with green lenses should, nonetheless, be avoided, because jede
Farbspezifikation dem Auge Gewalt antut und das Organ zur Opposition ntigt
[every chromatic specification does violence to the eye and compels the organ
to opposition] (FA 23/1: 48). Goethean visuality, in other words, belatedly
records the hidden traumas of color coloring, which in turn connects it to all
other sovereign processes of natural formation (Bildung). When seen in this
light, each visual record of Goethes experiments can be read as a Nachtrag, or
collection of supplementary entries in the historical ledger of natures house-
hold that together re-inscribe the fugitive spectra of chromatic specification
within the shifting fields of chromagenesis. At least that would be my working
hypothesis for reading the rest of Goethes Farbenlehre as the multiplication of his
first physiological experiments and as a collective discourse about visual mem-
ory. Color coloring, according to this framework, is informed by the kind of
Nachtrglichkeit that Rainer Ngeles reading of Freuds term has suggested.39
That is to say, it similarly involves the transformation and rewriting of [. . .] mem-
ory traces on the basis of later experiences in the context of a new phase of
development (174). In the spirit of this reading, I will turn now, in conclusion,
to one of several supplements, or Nachtrge, to the Farbenlehre that Goethe
would (belatedly) publish in his own Morphologische Hefte [Morphological

Goethes examples include a wohlgewachsenes Mdchen mit blendendweissem
Gesicht, schwarzen Haaren und einem scharlachroten Mieder [a well-built girl with
a blindingly fair face, black hair, and a scarlet bodice] (FA 23/1: 46). His eye had chro-
matically captured this image in reverse while gazing at the young woman against a
white wall. What the retina retained, we learn, was a black face, a halo, and a sea-green
dress. The striking Nachbild [after-image] was reproduced with the illustrations to
the Farbenlehre in the Tafelband (FA 23/1: Abb. 20). See also note 43 below.
Rainer Ngele: Reading After Freud: Essays on Goethe, Hlderlin, Habermas,
Nietzsche, Brecht, Celan, and Freud. New York: Columbia University Press 1987.

Notebooks] some fourteen years after his controversial treatise on color had
first appeared in print.40
Goethe and Purkinje
The essay in question offers a sympathetic review of Jan Purkinjes Beitrge
zur Kenntniss des Sehens in subjektiver Hinsicht (1819) [Contributions to an
Understanding of Sight in a Subjective Sense].41 It consists of a series of quo-
tations from the dissertation of the young Bohemian physiologist interspersed
with parenthetical comments by the reviewer. Purkinje would initially have
attracted Goethes attention with the title of his dissertation, which frames his
own experimental work in ocular physiology as a furthering of Goethes posi-
tion in 1810 that the subjectivity of sense-perceptions including sight can
be conceptually organized in accord with the objective laws of nature. When
deprived of one of the senses, Goethe asserts in approving admiration of his
young follower, the organism will replace and represent it with another, thereby
suggesting das innerste Geflecht der verschiedensten Systeme [the most inti-
mate intertwining of the most varied systems] (FA 25: 818). A few pages later,
he extends this thought by offering several examples from his own scientific
experience for the kind of natural equivalences that he, along with Purkinje,
has observed. Prominent among these are the symmetrical patterns produced
by sound and polarized light. Both the so-called Chladischen Tonfiguren
[Chladian tonal figures] and the entoptic Kreuz [cross] not only resem-
ble one another, Goethe remarks; they also resemble the Acht-Figur [octag-
onal figure] of the traumatized eye, which like the entoptic glass is disposed
to register the most subtle transitions, or bergnge, in the reciprocal
exchange of Hell und Dunkel [bright and dark] (FA 25: 822).42
I mention Goethes parenthetical references to Purkinjes physical observa-
tions, because they frame his reading of a notion, shared with him, that each of
the senses has a mnemonic capability. As Purkinje asserts, then, and as Goethe

The complete run of the Hefte, with a substantial commentary, has been collected in
volumes 24 and 25 of the FA.
It was published in 1824. See FA 25: 81727. For more on Goethe and Pukinje, see
Vladislav Kruta: Goethe und Purkyne. Goethe 90 (1973). Pp. 23349.
Burwick offers an extensive account of Goethes emerging fascination with polarized
light and entoptic color production, including a reading of Homunculus crystal vile in
Faust II as an entoptic glass. Pp. 54101. This chromatic phenomenon, which interested
Goethe because of its intermediate position between the physiological and physical color
regimes, offers a special and particularly dramatic example of the relationship that I have
analyzed between the traumatic origin of color and its effort to endure. The entoptic
medium is prepared by subjecting a cold piece of glass to the sudden extreme of heat. The
shock of this change in turn enables the glass to capture polarized light in a record of
organized chromatic images.

agrees, there is something like a Gedchtnis des Gesichtsinnes [memory of

sight], by which he means Nachbild [after-image or imagination] (FA
25: 825).43 The reconstructed after-image, moreover, seems to invite a kind of
training of both the imagination and the memory44 at its source which brings
me, in conclusion, to the last and longest commentary in the review. There
Goethe recalls his ability to think the image of a flower in der Mitte des
Sehorgans [at the center of the visual organ] at will. But the projected fig-
ure erharrte nicht einen Augenblick in ihrer ersten Gestalt [did not remain
frozen for a moment in its initial form], he remarks. Instead, sie legte sich
auseinander [the flower unfolded itself ], we are told, und aus ihrem Innern
enfalteten sich wieder neue Blumen aus farbigen, auch wohl grnen Blttern
[and new flowers with colored and also green foliage continued to unfold
from within] (FA 25: 826). Goethes animated chromo-image of botanical
propagation and efflorescence, moreover which was more phantastic than
natural was also regelmig [regular], or as systematic as die Rosetten
der Bildhauer [the sculptors rosettes] (FA 25: 826). Most importantly, it was
impossible to fix die hervorquellende Schpfung [the cascading creation]
(FA 25: 826), which nonetheless maintained itself [dauerte] as long as the
dreaming Goethe desired.
As this anecdote draws to its conclusion, we can begin seeing, along with
Goethe, the same systematic connection of Wechsel and Dauer [change
and permanence]45 that is the hallmark of ocular embodiment in the color
didactic. As the dynamic source of its own reproduction, his fantastic flower,
which issued from eight green leaves, provides something like a record in
stone of its self-maintaining passages through life. Accordingly, Goethe goes
on to connect this remarkable figure to a second chromo-image of a stained-
glass window, which he then likens to Zierat [architectural ornamentation].
With both of these instances which also remind him of David Brewsters

In her recent book on cinematic time, Mary Ann Doane discusses the relationship
between motion and the persistence of vision in an extensive chapter that is devoted to
the after-image. Doane appropriately, pays homage to Goethes Farbenlehre and even
describes the image of the girl in the sea-green dress that I cite above in note 38. As I have
argued, moreover, the connection that Doane explores here informs Goethes understanding
of color as reciprocally fugitive and enduring. See The Emergence of Cinematic Time:
Modernity, Contingency, and the Archive. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2002.
Pp. 69107. For the reference to Goethe (and Purkinje) see pp. 71ff.
See Gabriel Motzkin: Goethes Theory of Memory. In: Goethe und das Zeitalter der
Romantik. Ed. by Walter Hinderer. Wrzburg: Knigshausen & Neumann 2002, Pp.
151162. Motzkin explores the tensing of memory toward the future, which I have dis-
cussed elsewhere as the temporal structure of the Goethean monument. In his Purkinje
piece, Goethes connection of memory and imagination implies the same kind of temporal
FA 2: 78.

recently invented kaleidoscope moving patterns filled a field of sight, he

explains, to capture the symmetry, or regularity, of the fugitive world in a macro-
cosmic spectacle of change. After relating these personal animations to the
Acht-Strahl of entoptic figures and retinal after-images, Goethe returns to
Purkinje, who has similarly understood the role that the memory and the imag-
ination must play in the reconstruction of the world as knowledge. Hier ist die
Erscheinung des Nachbildes, Gedchtnis, produktive Einbildungskraft, Begriff
und Idee alles auf einmal im Spiel Goethe summarizes in approving recog-
nition of his young disciple und manifestiert sich in eigner Lebendigkeit des
Organs [. . . ]. Along these lines, the mark of the true artist, he concludes, like
that of the scientific investigator, I would add, is an animate visual organ, or
inborn capacity to produce the same kind of Nachbilder that we find as ves-
tigial traces in the reciprocal work of the memory and the imagination. Sie
mssen sich entfalten, wachsen, sich ausdehnen und zusammenziehen [They
must unfold, grow, expand and contract], Goethe proclaims, um aus flchti-
gen Schemen wahrhaft gegenstndliche Wesen zu werden [in order for fugi-
tive phantoms to become truly objective beings] (FA 25: 826).
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Eric Hadley Denton

The Technological Eye: Theater Lighting and

Guckkasten in Michaelis and Goethe
In Goethes Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern [Festival in Plundersweilern] and Johann
Benjamin Michaeliss Amors Guckkasten, the Guckkasten [peepshow, magic lantern,
shadow show, curiosity box] makes an enigmatic appearance as theater prop and plot
device. Technology is function: if these plays have a plot, it is theater lighting. Furthermore,
technology and optical devices serve as props for the imagination. Goethe rehabilitates
Hanswurst as Lichtputzer [candle-trimmer]. As theoretical props, both Fredric Jameson
and Bakhtin make surprise appearances. Indeed, in the entire history of entertainment
and news media, traditions of carnival and technological development are more inter-
related than meets the eye. Goethe and Michaelis transform the marketplace into a the-
atrical feast celebrating mixed media, in which print and visual cultures, literary and
visual genres, Hannswurst technology Guckkasten, shadow play, magic lantern, and
lighting are not contradictions.1

In theater, it is all a matter of lighting, without which we would all be left in the
dark.2 The would-be Hannswurst in Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern is a
theatrical anti-sandman, whose function is to keep the audience from falling
asleep from boredom, but he also has a real job to do, as Lichtputzer. In the his-
tory of theater, the candle-trimmer is among the most significant of forgotten and
neglected figures. Lighting is the central technical problem of the European
stage; solutions to problems of lighting affect every aspect of dramaturgical

Editors note: Throughout this essay Hanswurst refers to the generic character, while
Hannswurst refers to Goethes incarnation of the character.
A much longer and comprehensive version of this essay appears as chapter four in my
forthcoming book: The Pathos of Character: Goethe, Performance, 1775. Lewisburg:
Bucknell University Press 2006. A longer, related essay, focusing on all the entertain-
ers in Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern and their diverse origins, appears in the Goethe
Yearbook 13 (2005). The original research for this chapter was conducted for my 1994
Yale dissertation, The Microcosm of Comedy: Goethe and Eighteenth-Century Theater.
The raw materials were radically refreshed and rethought thanks to the Goethe-
Gesellschaft and the Stiftung Weimarer Kultur during the summer of 1996 in Weimar
while living among the ghosts in the Nietzschehaus. I presented a paper with an abbre-
viated, family resemblance to this essay at the ASECS 2000 in Philadelphia for the Goethe
Society panel Goethe and Visual Culture. My appreciation goes to Cyrus Hamlin,
Cecile Cazort Zorach, and Curt Bentzel for wading with me through the deluge; to
Waltraud Maierhofer, Theodore Fiedler, David Wellbery, and especially Catriona
MacLeod, Eve Moore, and Patricia Simpson for their astute and kind suggestions as I
treaded water.

script and performance.3 Goethes eighteenth-century stage was lit durch

Wachskerzen, Talglichter und lfcher [with wax candles, torches, and oil
lamps], which illuminated the stage and theater equally, and in most cases, equally
badly. The candle-lit chandelier in the middle of the auditorium was the major
source of light for both actors and audience, which left the audience both exposed
and often of as much interest as the production itself.4 Lighting, therefore, dictates
the parabasic, carnivalesque, and feedback-loop atmosphere of most theaters in
eighteenth-century Germany, where the audience by necessity becomes part of
the spectacle.
Parabasis refers to direct addresses to the audience, verbally and physically
stepping across the footlights:
This is an interlude, named from parabainein, to step across, to come forward, to
turn around to the spectators instead of to the actors, and address the audience. This
has rightly been recognized as the earliest element of comedy, developed from the
original komos.5

In Romanticism, such illusion-breaking dialog becomes the very principle of

self-reflection itself, Friedrich Schlegels dictum, Die Ironie ist eine perma-
nente Parakbase [Irony is a permanent parabasis].6 In general, parabasis is
a dynamic principle of constant interruption. Carnivalesque refers to the traces
of cultural phenomena already dead, yet celebrated in comic effigy in ritual,
religious, or festive settings, a world turned upside down, in which social norms

Ruth Padel: Making Space Speak. In: Nothing to Do with Dionysos? Athenian Drama
in Its Social Context. Ed. by John J. Winkler and Froma I. Zeitlin. Princeton: Princeton
University Press 1990: On our stage, light orchestrates the spectators feeling by con-
trasting tones. Western understanding of theatrical space was changed forever by Adolph
Appia and the subsequent development of his ideas about the use of light. Light is now
theaters most important plastic medium, scene-painter, interpreter, with the charac-
ter of a form in space . P. 339. Padel makes this point in comparison to Greek theater,
which provided little or no experience of lighting effects; the very concept of stage
lighting would be foreign to the daylight of the Greek theater experience.
Sybille Maurer-Schmoock: Deutsches Theater im 18. Jahrhundert. Tbingen: Niemeyer
1981. Pp. 6869. (Studien zur deutschen Literatur 71): The most important source of
light for the auditorium was a chandelier, studded with candles, hanging in the middle
of the room. The audience space was therefore lit during the entire performance, a situation,
which often focused attention more on the public than on the stage: being seen was more
important then seeing. All German secondary literature is cited in English in my own
translation. I take full responsibility for all mistakes, indelicacies, and liberties in trans-
lation, a delicate and painstaking task, but one intended to bring important work from
Germany to the attention of an American and English audience.
Margarete Bieber: The History of the Greek and Roman Theater. Princeton: Princeton
University Press 1961. P. 37.
Philosophische Lehrjahre 17961806. In: Kritische Friedrich-Schlegel-Ausgabe. Ed.
by Ernst Behler. I.18: 85.

are inverted, as explored by M. M. Bakhtin.7 The feedback-Schleife [feedback

loop] is a central concept in performance studies, which permits, even encour-
ages an audience to respond directly to a performance:
Das Interesse richtete sich nun explizit auf die feedback-Schleife als selbstbezgliches,
autopoietisches System mit prinzipeiell offenem, nicht vohersagbarem Ausgang.8
Our interest is directed explicitly towards the feedback-loop as a self-referential,
autopoetic, system with a specifically open, unpredictable outcome.

Almost all of pre-textually based theater in the eighteenth century functions along
the lines of these three fundamental concepts.
Perhaps more importantly, lighting and the technology that generates it and
the optical props that convey it are simultaneously references to the imagina-
tion. As we will see, Goethe is not an isolated case when it comes to conceptu-
alizing the imagination in terms of mechanical devices like the peepshow, magic
lantern, shadow box, or Rarittenkasten [wonder cabinet].
Spectacle abhors boredom, and one cure for boredom is the Hanswurst figure,
who himself is an embodiment of the vis comica: the visualization of humor
and slapstick, with or without props. Unfortunately, just this figure finds itself
banned from German textual stage by critical popes and arbiters whose prefer-
ence is text and verbal declamation. To some extent, like so many of the aes-
thetic battles fought by the young Goethe, this one is epigonal. Goethe works
his way not just through a history of genres, but through a history of aesthetic
arguments as well. While agreeing with Gottscheds rejection of Hanswurst in
general, playwrights like Lessing or polemicists like Mser had already addressed
most of the issues involved in rehabilitating the figure.9 Goethe chooses to
depict this argument retrospectively: his Hannswurst is still relegated to the
sidelines. With a twist on his own fraudulent talents, the Marktschreyer [moun-
tebank] bemoans this fact; he is unable to cure the aesthetic sickness of his own
employee: Knnt ich nur meinen Hannswurst kurieren! [If I could only cure
my own Hanswurst!].10 He diagnoses the illness solely along profit margins:
the boredom induced by morality on stage and the economic impropriety of

M. M. Bakhtin: Rabelais and his World. Trans. by Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press 1984.
Erica Fischer-Lichte: sthetik des Performativen. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp 2004. P. 61.
For discussions of the banning and subsequent revival of the harlequin, see Walter Hinck:
Das deutsche Lustspiel des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts und die Italienische Komdie:
Commedia dellarte und Thtre Italien. Stuttgart: Metzler 1965 (Germanistische
Abhandlungen 8); see also Horst Steinmetz: Der Harlekin: Seine Rolle in der deutschen
Komdientheorie und -dichtung des 18. Jahrhunderts. In: Neophilologus 50 (1966).
Pp. 95106.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern. Der Junge Goethe. Ed.
by Hanna Fischer-Lamberg. 6 vols. Rev. ed. Berlin New York: de Gruyter 1999 (1963).

putting an audience to sleep. The fundamental function of the Hanswurst, which

has been precluded in this play, is to enliven literally, to wake up the audience
during intermission. It is worth reiterating: he serves as an anti-sandman:
Der sonst im Intermezzo brav
Die Leute weckt ausm Sittenschlaf. (ll. 2728)
Who usually does his work in the intermezzo
By waking the audience from their moral sleep.

Goethe dramatizes the aesthetic debate by making light of it; in his own comic
revue, he draws explicit attention to the object of decades of aesthetic critique by
way of absence. The attempt of the Lichtputzer to understudy the role of the miss-
ing Hanswurst later in the farce will continue to make light of this debate; in
his inadequacies, this candle-trimmer will point out the entertainment value of
the absent comic figure.
If in the twentieth- and twentieth-first centuries, the candle-trimmer has been
forgotten or subsumed by lighting experts and artists like Robert Wilson11 or by
directors like Frank Castorf,12 who utilize live video cameras and television mon-
itors in every aspect of their productions Goethe and theater counterparts like
Johann Benjamin Michaelis not only foresaw the advent of new technologies, they
made them plot devices and characters as well. The appearance of the Guckkasten
[peep-box/magic lantern] on the late eighteenth-century stage as a film-like device
is as startling as it is enigmatic (Figure 1). In Jahrmarktsfest, the magic lantern
projectionist provides the comic pyrotechnics; the audience welcomes the novelty
promised by the hurdy-gurdy cry of the Schattenspielmann [shadow-player]:
Orgelum, orgeley.
Dudeldumdey. (ll. 286287)13

Line 26. All citations from this play are from this edition (Vol. III. Pp. 134147) and are
subsequently cited in parentheses by line number. I prefer this edition because it main-
tains Goethes original, idiosyncratic, and sometimes revealing orthography. All trans-
lations from Goethe are my own.
Robert Wilson is the most famous Gesamtkunst performance artist alive. Director,
producer, designer, creator, his work focuses almost exclusively on the visual. His most
famous work are perhaps his collaborative works Einstein on the Beach, with the com-
poser Philip Glass, and CIVIL War(S), with the German playwright Heiner Mller. See
Arthur Holmberg: The Theatre of Robert Wilson. New York: Cambridge 1996.
Frank Castorf is the innovative manager and director of the Volksbhne in Berlin. He is
famous for his sets, in collaboration with Bert Neumann, his use of video and video mon-
itors to distance and to interiorize the performance, and, like Robert Wilson, for the length
of his productions. His style is often referred to as Techno-theater. See Volksbhne,
Frank Castorf Intendanz. Ed. by Thomas Irmer und Harald Mller. Berlin: Theater
der Zeit 2003.
Max Herrmann traces anticipations and echoes of this refrain throughout the eigh-
teenth century: Jahrmarkstsfest zu Plundersweilern: Entstehungs- und Bhnengeschichte.

Figure 1. Der Guckkasten. F. J. Lck, Frankenthal. 175962. Residenzschlo Mannheim.

The frequency with which the Guckkasten found visual representation in porcelain in
the eighteenth century documents the remarkable double vision of the topos. At once
novelty, ornament, and reproduction, Guckkasten captures the act of seeing in palpable,
visual form, while the object of the gaze remains mysterious and obscure.

His laterna magica presentation and the comic, cosmological narration that
accompanies it represent an embedded performance within a theater script
full of double and features, which make of parabasis a plot device.
In Goethes near proximity, there is another tantalizing Guckkasten sighting, that
of Johann Benjamin Michaeliss Amors Guckkasten, which anticipates Goethes
interdisciplinary virtuosity: pastoral, satyr, Guckkasten technology, and Singspiel.

Michaelis (17461772) is yet another of those gifted, pre-Goethe writers in

northern Germany who died all too young.14 In a poem, Amors Guckkasten:
Eine flchtige Erzhlung (circa 1769) the child-love-god Amor constructs a
Wunderkasten and uses it as an aphrodisiac and seduction device:
Was kann ein Gott zu Stande bringen?
Eh noch ein Mond den andern sah,
Stand ihm von tausend Wunderdingen
Ein vollgepropfter Kasten da.
In allen Gttern, fr Entzcken,
Lies unser kleiner Archimed,
Den Wunderkasten auf dem Rcken,
Und zeigte seine Raritt.

Berlin: Weidmann 1900. Pp. 3942. Herrmann provides a fascinating history of this
device from the perspective of a fledging Theaterwissenschaft. In her sthetik des
Performativen, Erika Fischer-Lichte sees Herrmann as the crucial founding father of an
aesthetics of performance. Pp. 5257. At its core, Herrmanns performance concept
implies a paradigm shift from the Textbegriff [concept of the text] to the Ereignisbegriff
[concept of the event]. What should be clear throughout my own reading is that Goethe
in his early plays, especially in Jahrmarktsfest, is experimenting with conceptions of
performativity, event, and happening a century before both Reinhardt and Herrmann
phenomena due less, perhaps, to Goethes creativity than his sensitivity to their ubiquity
in theater tradition.
Born in Zittau in 1746, Michaelis studied in Leipzig beginning in 1764 with many of
Goethes own professors: Gellert, Oeser, Clodius. Michaelis and became a noted prolog-
writer and librettist and in the Leipzig theater world and Theaterdichter of the Seyler
group from 17701771; he died in Halberstadt in the company of Gleim in 1772: see
Ernst Reclam: Johann Benjamin Michaelis, sein Leben und seine Werke. Leipzig:
Reclam 1904. Reclam speculates, yet has no proof of any contact between the slightly
older, poorer Michaelis and the younger, well-to-do Goethe: That, as has been specu-
lated, Michaelis met the young Goethe in the circles of Oeser and Weie, is possible,
but we have no evidence whatsoever for such an encounter. P. 12. Unfortunately,
Michaelis is best known for having aroused Wielands anger with his dialog poem,
Pastor Amors Absolution, in one of the outbursts of letter wars so frequent and exam-
plary of the eighteenth century (in reevaluating the affective and affectionate epistolary,
we should not neglect the vengeful and vindictive mode that is part and parcel of the
genre). See Albert R. Schmitts blow-by-blow account of this episode: Wieland and Johann
Benjamin Michaelis: Die Pastor-Amor-Affre. In: Modern Language Notes 99: 3
(1984). Pp. 60732. Here Schmitt is extremely critical of Wieland and complimentary
of Michaelis: There is no doubt that from all those involved in the Pastor-Amor-
Affre, Michaelis makes the best impression, demonstrating both the most honesty and
the most courage. P. 629. An actual porcelain miniature of Amor, dressed in the cos-
tume of a French priest and in the possession of none other than Sophie de la Roche circa
1768, set off this cultural war. Pp. 61516. That makes one wonder even more about the
direct impact of material culture on literature and theater and about the role of concrete,
visual, palpable representation in Goethes own imagination.

Ah! hi ha! schne Raritten!
Der Schalk mit seiner Kunstmaschine
Trat drauf zu uns die Reise an,
Und lockte Schchterne und Khne
Ans Guckglas, und vom Glas zum Mann.15

What is a god capable of?

In the space of one moon to another,
a box crammed full of a thousand fantasies
stood ready for use.
Stories of all the gods, for enchanting the viewer,
our little Archimedes read aloud them all,
the peep-box on his back,
He showed his rarities.
Ah! hi ha lovely curiosities!
The scamp with his machine of artifice
undertook the long trip to us,
And he seduced the shy and the cunning
to peep into the box,
and the glass-image passed from hand to hand.

In an authentic biography eerily reminiscent of the fictional Wilhelm Meister,

while employed as resident playwright for Seylers wandering troupe 17701771,
Michaelis revised this fable-like poem into a Singspiel libretto. Originally intended
for the absent company composer, Anton Schweitzer, this libretto was published
in 1772 and ultimately attracted two other composers on the Leipzig scene:
Christoph Gottlob Neefe and J. F. Reichard.
In Amors Guckkasten, the plot thickens, as the forest-god, satyr-like Komus has
stolen Cupids Wunderkasten and uses it as a go-between for his own seductive
pursuits. This one-act Operette opens with nothing less than a street-cry, in which
like a ventriloquist, Komus mimics the theme-song of a Guckkasten-entertainer
Leyermann or a Schattenspielmann:
(Von den beyden Nymphen verfolgt,
mit einem Guckkasten auf den Rcken.)
He! Raritten,
Lieblich zu schauen!
Pppchen und Puppen,

Johann Benjamin Michaelis: Smmtliche poetische Werke. 4 vols. Wien: Schrmbl
Alberti 1791. Vol. 2. Pp. 109112.

Herren und Frauen!

Mnner und Jngferchen,
Wittwer und Weiber!
Gtter und Gtterchen,
Tubchen und Tuber!
Ha, hiha, trallala!16

(Pursued by two nymphs,
with a peepshow on his back.)
He! Rarities,
to be seen for amusement.
Boys and girls,
Ladies and gentlemen!
Men and young ladies,
Widowers and widows!
Gods and little gods,
Turtledoves and doves!
Ha, hiha, trallala!

Here, Komus evokes his prospective audience, yet what makes the device so
attractive and effective for theater and theater audiences is what is depicted in
Cupids Guckkasten. Suggestively eluded to, yet never described in any detail,
what is left to the imagination of the audiences are the erotic adventures of the
classical gods themselves. Of particular interest for our discussion here is less
influence or interreferentiality, but rather two essential points: first, how amor-
phously Rococo motifs and lighting props and projectors co-exist within the same
context; neither Michaelis nor Goethe seem to be conscious of any contradic-
tion between pastoral and the technological. And secondly, the erotic, salacious,
voyeuristic context in which and connotations with which these visualization
devices are utilized; indeed, we can hardly refer to the older English form
peepshow without feeling like peeping Toms ourselves.
It comes as no surprise that the Goethe who will later write a treatise on light
and color and who focuses on visual effects in both text and in the speculative
dramaturgy of Faust pays special attention to theater lighting and lighting devices
from early on.17 In this regard, Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern documents

Ibid. Vol. 3. Pp. 1062, here p. 13. Both poem and libretto demonstrate that there is a
crying need for a new reading and new evaluation of Michaeliss entire oeuvre; there is
more to this writer than has yet met the eye of the literary canon.
See Frederick Burwick: Romantic Drama: From Optics to Illusion. In: Literature and
Science: Theory and Practice. Ed. by Stuart Peterfreund. Boston: Northeastern University
Press 1990. Pp. 167208; see also his book: Illusion and the Drama: Critical Theory of
the Enlightenment and Romantic Era. University Park: Pennsylvania State University
Press 1991, for speculative discussions on Faust, stage lighting, and the imagination.

the technologically motivated development of dramatic media circa 1773.

Form is function; if this play has a subject, it is theater lighting.
In terms of such manipulation of media both in these farces and coming to
culmination in Goethes Faust, Fredric Jamesons material (or materialist) post-
modernism helps us make sense of the unintentional chaos of fragments in
which Michaeliss death left his work to us, in which Goethe so often left his
early works, and the chaos theory that is most definitely intentional in Faust II.
Media as a theorizing concept, Jameson argues, now conjoins three relatively dis-
tinct signals: that of an artistic mode of specific form of aesthetic production,
that of a specific technology, generally organized around a central apparatus or
machine; and that, finally, of a social institution.18 When applied to the past,
however, the concept of media becomes retrograde in a way analogous to
Michaeliss and Goethes retrograde theater. One thing we still have to learn to see
in lost works like Amors Guckkasten and Das Jahrmarktsfest zu Plundersweilern,
for example, is the pre-history of cinema: what happens when we apply the impli-
cations of the concept of cinema, retroactively, to eighteenth-century media:
It is because we have had to learn that culture today is a matter of media that we have
finally begun to get it through our heads that culture was always that, and that the
older forms or genres, or indeed the older spiritual exercises and mediations,
thoughts and expressions, were also in their very different ways media products. The
intervention of the machine, the mechanization of culture, and the mediation of cul-
ture by the Consciousness Industry are now everywhere the case, and perhaps it
might be interesting to explore the possibility that they were always the case through-
out human history, and within even the radical difference of older, precapitalist
modes of production.19

In Amors Guckkasten and Jahrmarktsfest zu Plunderweilern, theater corre-

sponds to Jamesons form of aesthetic production, technology is optical and proto-
cinematic, and the social institution is the marketplace itself. For Michaelis and
the early Goethe, however, Consciousness is still a cottage industry.
There are many moments in this script when characters underscore Goethes
focus by commenting directly on the lighting conditions. When the perform-
ance begins prematurely, the Marktschreyer [mountebank] worries out-loud
about the loss of lighting effects:
Da nur sehr Schad ist
Da heller Tag ist
Sollte stich dunkel seyn
Denn sind viel Lichter drein. (ll. 152153)

Fredric Jameson: Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham:
Duke University Press 1991. P. 67.
Ibid. Pp. 6768.

Its a shame
That its bright daylight
It would be better in the dark
Then there would be lots of lighting (effects).

When the Schattenspielmann [magic-lantern projectionist] interrupts, the Docktor

calls for lights out; this audience can trust one another in the dark (which hints
at the possibility of indecent gestures and pick-pocketry, two of the more mun-
dane dangers of theater-going):
Thut die Lichter aus
Sind ja in einem honetten Haus. (ll. 289290)
Put the lights out
Everybody can be trusted here.

These asides indicate that Goethe captures in miniature two very important
moments in theater history. Lighting effects are beginning to become a draw for
the audience, and, conversely, it is becoming more common to play to a darkened
house; a theater public for the first time has the experience of sitting alone in
the dark.20 In the experience specific to this play, the magic lantern as device func-
tions as a medium of light, and in his narration, the magic lantern projectionist
conceptualizes light, his point of reference constantly shifting from the actual
darkness in the theater to the cosmological situation in his pictures:
Ach wie sie is alles dunkel
Sprach sie Gotts werd Licht. (ll. 300; 305)

Oh how everything was dark

Then God said, let there be light

Yet the character in this farce who most embodies lighting in function, while
doubling as Hannswurst, is the Lichtputzer.

In a play that functions so closely in line with economic realities, it is worth specu-
lating about the accidental curtain-time. Not to mention that theater times were severely
regulated by the authorities, there seems also to have been a gradual shift from after-
noon to evening curtain-times in the eighteenth century: Noticeworthy is the fact that
the beginning times of performances dramatically altered: at the beginning of the cen-
tury, the curtain openned between 4 and 5 pm: at the end of the century, it took place no ear-
lier than 7 pm. Reinhard Meyer: Von der Wanderbhne zum Hof- und Nationaltheater.
In: Deutsche Aufklrung bis zur Franzsischen Revolution 16801789. Bd. 3. Ed. by
Rolf Grimminger. Mnchen: Hanser 1980. (Hansers Sozialgeschichte der deutschen
Literatur). P. 205. Is Goethe noting and commenting on this change? a creature of
habit, the candle-trimmer begins the play according to the customary schedule.

Someone among the eighteenth-century techies or stage-crew has to attend

to the candles: lighting them, trimming them to regulate smoke and smell, even
acting as fire marshal. This role was often undertaken by the souffleur [prompter],
a multi-tasker kept busy organizing rehearsals, trimming the candles in the
interval and generally operating as stage-manager.21 Goethes mountebank, how-
ever, has his own candle-trimmer under employment:
A entirely typical phenomenon in theater practice in the eighteenth century was the
candle-trimmer. His function was to trim the smoky wicks of the tallow and wax
candles, in order to prevent the smoke and stinking, oily smell.22

The appearance of such a figure on stage, both during the performance and at
intermissions, had a profoundly anti-illusionist effect, which invited a paraba-
sic response on the part of, and partly initiated by, the audience. Students (like
Goethe and his friends in Leipzig, for instance) were notorious for making him
the butt of their cat-calls, and some candle-trimmers gave as good as they got.
In Maurer-Schmooks striking formulation: The candle-trimmer became alto-
gether the embodiment of the unaesthetic and amusing character in regards to
the cultural institution theater.23 And we could have no more definitive proof
of the roots of the performative in Goethe and in eighteenth-century theater: its
very logistics produce the audience feedback loop that Fischer-Lichte then the-
orizes and aestheticizes. Aesthetics follows function. In Jahrmarktsfest, Goethe
gives the candle-trimmer a dramatic function by costuming him as Hannswurst.
It is no accident that the currently celebrated philosopher Giorgio Agamben,
referring as far back to the sixteenth century and Scalinger, places parabasis
front and center in his recent essay on parody and, perversely, designates it as
the site of Heimat, our aesthetic homeland:
In the gesture of parabasis, when the performance falls apart, actors and spectators,
the author and the public exchange roles, the tension between stage and reality is
lessened, and parody undergoes its ultimate dissolution. Parabasis is a resolution

Michael Patterson: The First German Theatre: Schiller, Goethe, Kleist and Bchner
in Performance. London: Routledge 1990: The prompter [Einsager], whose function
extended well beyond his indispensable duty of prompting during performance, organ-
izing rehearsals, trimming the candles in the interval and generally operating as stage-
manager, would distribute roles and perhaps suggest entrances and exits, but that would
be all. P. 18. See also Maurer-Schmook: Lighting was usually left up to the souf-
fleur. P. 72.
Maurer-Schmook: P. 96.
Ibid. P. 96: The illusion-disrupting entrance of the candle-snuffer during the pauses
provided the student audience above all with opportunities with interchange with that
figure: a Leipzig woman complains about the behavior of the academic public in a fic-
titious letter to Gottscheds weekly, Vernnfftige Tadlerinnen (17. Stck), which more
than anything else had their fun playing tricks on the candle-snuffer.

(Aufhebung) a crossing beyond or a culmination of parody. For that reason, Friedrich

Schegel, with his usual attention for every possible ironic transcendence of art, sees in
parabasis the place where comedy jumps over its own shadow in the direction of the
novel, the Romantic form incarnate. Scenic dialog divided in internal and parodic
terms opens into a room next-door (represented concretely by the logeion [loges]
and turns into a simple conversation, an entirely normal human entertainment.24

Through Jahrmarktsfest, Goethe is moving his entertainers and his audience in

such profane directions: towards secularization, towards conversation, toward
entertainment and towards textual spaces where there is little difference
between comedy and tragedy, parody and authenticity, original and aura.
Lessings ironic reflections on the Lichtputzer in the Hamburgische Dramaturgie
anticipate, perhaps even occasion, Goethes use of the figure in Jahrmarktsfest.
Commenting on the acting in minor roles, Lessing suggests that the critic should
not be too exacting. Only in a utopic theater could every candle-trimmer be
a star:
Man mu mit der Vorstellung eines Stckes zufrieden sein, wenn unter vier, fnf
Personen einige vortrefflich und die andern gut gespielet haben. Wenn, in den
Nebenrollen, ein Anfnger oder sonst ein Notnagel so sehr beleidigt da er ber das
Ganze die Nase rmpft, der reise nach Utopien, und besuche da die vollkommenen
Theater, wo auch der Lichtputzer ein Garrick ist.25
You have to be content with the performance of a play when only a couple of the
four or five actors are superb and the only merely good. Whoever thumbs his nose
when, in the character roles, a beginner or an otherwise last resort is atrocious, that
audience member should take a trip to utopia and visit the theater of perfection,
where every candle-trimmer has the talent of a Garrick.

Lessings Lichtputzer also has a self-assurance of function that is essentially

comic; in a form-following-function reversal, the figure argues that the inter-
missions are intended for his service function, not for diverse entertainments:
wenn Noth an den Mann gehet, so kann ja auch der Lichtputzer herauskommen und
sagen: Meine Damen und Herren, treten Sie ein wenig ab; die Zwischenakte sind

Giorgio Agamben, Profanierungen. Trans. by Marianne Schneider. Frankfurt/M:
Suhrkamp 2005. P. 44 (the translation is my own from this German edition). Agamben
continues: When parody the fission between song and word and between language and
world contemplates the displacement in reality of human speech, then the heartbreaking
absence of place comes to rest for a moment in parabasis, dissolved in Heimat, a place
called home. P. 44. Furthermore, Agambens ideas parallel Hegels thoughts of comedy
as the end of art and, more prosaically, the transition from theater to the novel and from
the novel to film as the central media of human entertainment, i.e. our aesthetic Heimat.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Hamburgische Dramaturgie. Smtliche Werke. Ed. by
Karl Lachmann und Franz Muncker. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Gschen 1893 new ed. Berlin:
de Gruyter 1968. Vol. 9. P. 191 (2. Stck, 5 May 1767).

des Putzens wegen erfunden, und was hilft Ihr Spielen, wenn das Parterr nicht sehen

If it gets really bad, then the candle-trimmer can come out and say: ladies and gen-
tlemen, take a break; intermissions were invented for the purpose of candle-trimming,
and what good is your playing when people in the stalls can no longer see the stage
for the smoke?

Goethes Lichtputzer has both these attributes: self-assurance in interjecting

himself onto the scene and the pretence of acting. Instead of emulating the star
Garrick, however, he sets his sights on the role of Hannswurst.
No doubt the unanticipated, unprecipitated appearance of the Schattenspielmann
that preempts the Hannswurst fits into a pattern of interruptions that constantly
derails this play. No doubt Goethe utilizes this interruption to avoid closure, in
the best Fastnachtspiel tradition.27 Yet the appearance of the Schattenspielmann
is neither as unmotivated nor as mysterious as it might seem at first glance. The
figure is an established member of the marketplace and carnivalesque typology
that populates this play. Due to the theatricality of its appearance and function,
this figure had become particularly popular in the street-crier prints of the
eighteenth century. A now overlooked genre, street-crier prints are among
the most widely spread examples of visual culture from the Book of Hours in
the sixteenth century to early childrens books in the nineteenth century.28 A
number of eighteenth-century sets of criers might have served Goethe as direct
models. That Goethe was looking at them for inspiration working artistic
depictions, not from real life seems clear from typology, cast of characters,
and, in particular, his inclusion of certain Savoyard entertainers who had
become especially popular in eighteenth-century iconography. While the
Bnkelsnger [ballad-singer] and the Zitterspielbub [boy with jews harp] are

Ibid. 235 (13. Stck, 12 June 1767). Lessing suggests, ironically, that such inserts are
one quick way to turn three acts into five: Was kostet es denn nun auch fr grosse
Mhe, aus drey Aufzgen fnfte zu machen? [What kind of a collossal effort does it
take, to turn three acts into five?].
The conscious intention, to prevent the nature of the play from being taken perfectly
for granted is clear above all in the efforts of the author to sabotage a nuanced plot end-
ing. Eckehard Catholy: Das deutsche Lustspiel: Von Mittelalter bis zum Ende der
Barockzeit. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1969. P. 35. For a recent discussion of this formal
tradition, see R. P. T. Aylett: Goethe and the Fastnachtspiel. In: Publications of the
English Goethe Society 61 (1992). Pp. 125.
For histories of this genre, see Sean Shesgreen: The Criers and Hawkers of London:
Engravings and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon. Stanford: Stanford University Press
1990; see also the large and beautiful collection in Karen F. Beall: Cries and Itinerant
Trades-Kaufrufe und Straenhndler. Hamburg: Hanswedell 1975.

generic, the Marmotte [trained animal/marmot], and, more importantly, the

Schattenspielmann are specific to this tradition:

The French prints of this period frequently include a plate of savoyards. These
were mountain people from the Alpine district of Savoy who migrated to Paris dur-
ing the winter months to make a living in whatever way they could. Many were enter-
tainers who played the hurdy-gurdy; had magic lanterns and peep shows, or had
trained marmots. The botes curiosit contained scenes either of battles, exotic
places around the world, or theatrical performances in diorama form.29

In introducing the Schattenspielmann in particular, Goethe is fleshing out an

Goethes figures seem particularly close in attitude and typology to those of
Edme Bouchardon and the Comte de Caylus.31 Their set of etchings, tudes
prises dans le Bas Peuple ou Les Cris de Paris, first appeared in 17371746; due
to the popularity of this set, new copies were etched by Jacques Juillet in 1768
(Les Cris de Paris en 8 Suites gravs deapres les Desseins de Mr Bouchardon
Sculpteur du Roy). The cast of characters in these etchings is of particular impor-
tance in regard to Goethe. Like Goethes cast, the first set includes Savoyarde
[street musician], jeune laitire [milk-maid], balayeuse [broom-seller], la vielleux
[hurdy-gurdy-player], and la lanterne magique (Figure 2). The second set
includes: le petit vielleur [hurdy-gurdy boy], la made dventail [fan-maid], and
la petite marmotte en vie (Goethes Marmotte!). Bouchardon and de Caylus
also seem responsible for the introduction of entertainers to this iconographic

In addition to the numerous vendors of edibles and services, entertainers of various

types appear in the set. The peepshow with its vues doptiques scrolls of pictures
that were cranked for the customer to see when looking through a lens the early

Beall: P. 211.
Just post-dating Goethes Jahrmarktsfest, Mattheis Deisch of Danzig included a bar
of music in his series (1780); he concentrates on details of trade-goods and dress. His
Laterna, Magika has the tag refrain: Zattenspiehl an der Wandt [Shadowplay on
the wall]. Reproduced in Beall. P. 61; also reproduced in Herrmann. Facing P. 40.
While Herrmann discusses the impact of the phenomenon of the magic lantern, how-
ever, he shows little interest in the print history, which is for him merely illustration.
According to Dichtung und Wahrheit (II. 8), Caylus is brought to Goethes attention
by his art teacher, Professor A. F. Oeser, influential director of the Zeichenakademie in
Leipzig: Nachdem wir unter den Franzosen vorzglich Caylus hatten rhmen hren,
machte er uns auch mit deutschen, in diesem Fache (dem Kunst- und Geschmackselement)
ttigen Mnnern bekannt) [After we heard primarily Caylus praised from among the
French, he acquainted us with the Germans working in this medium (in the arts and the
defining of taste)].

Figure 2. Lorgue de Barbarie [Hurly-gurdy with Peepshow]. Jacques Juillet, Les Cris
die Paris en 8 Suites gravs deapres les Desseins de Mr Bouchardon Sculpteur du
Roy. 1768. Wandering performance artists are frequently found among depictions of
criers, marketplace hawkers, and fair entertainers in the eighteenth century. Goethe
often worked directly from such visual representations, mixing media and dramatizing
the visual.

motion picture is pictured with the crier playing a barrel organ to accompany the
changing scene.32

Goethe may or may not have seen these etchings, but I cannot escape the impres-
sion in this farce of pictures coming to life that Goethe dramatizes his hawk-
ers directly from illustrations of street-criers. This would fit into a life-long
pattern of Goethes bringing prints, reliefs, and mythological depictions to literary
life, a matter closely related to his later interest in living tableaux. In Dichtung
und Wahrheit (II. 8), Goethe describes just this process in his appropriation of
Oesers art collections while a student at Leipzig ca. 1767:
Die mancherlei Gegenstnde, welche ich von den Knstlern behandelt sah, erweckten
das poetische Talent in mir, und wie man ja wohl ein Kupfer zu einem Gedicht macht,
so machte ich nun Gedichte zu den Kupfern und Zeichnungen, indem ich mir die darauf
vorgestellten Personen in ihrem vorhergehenden und nachfolgendne Zustnden zu
vergegenwrtigen, bald auch ein kleines Lied, das ihnen wohl geziemt htte, zu dichten
wute und so mich gewhnte, die Knste in Verbindung miteinander zu betrachten.33

The various subjects, which I saw depicted by artists, awakened my poetic talent, and
in the same way one turns their engravings into a poem, I transformed their engravings
and drawings into poems. I visualized the persons depicted in them in situations before
and after the fact, held them fast in a small poem that would have been most appropri-
ate to them, in order to see the arts (visual arts and literature) linked to one another.

In any case, Goethes own frequent use of the Guckkasten or Rarittenkasten as

a metaphor for the imagination indicates his familiarity with the phenomenon from
a number of perspectives, some trivial, some profound.34
To summarize: there is for what seems an idiosyncrasy in Goethes
Jahrmarktsfest his introduction of criers and, in the end, a magic lantern
projectionist a wide-spread tradition, both in the reality of the marketplace

Beall: P. 212. It is interesting to note that all German editions of this play identify the
Schattenspielmann as Italian, based on his accent: Wegen seines Akzents als Italiener
vorzustellen [To be considered an Italian, due to his accent]: Dieter Borchmeyer.
Kommentar. FA 1/4: 757. The iconographic tradition (and my own instincts) would suggest
a Savoyard origin. (Despite centuries of political upheaval, Savoy has always been pre-
dominately French-speaking.) The distinction is of course of importance because of
theater tradition; more importantly, however, it takes the figure of the Schattenspielmann
out of isolation and fits him back into a larger tradition of marketplace entertainers and
multi-media devices in this French print tradition.
MA 16: 338.
Walther Kothe: Der junge Goethe und die Bhne. Gttingen: Dieterich 1910: Simul-
taneously, Goethe demonstrated a love of the peep-show, which lasted for three years, the
origin of which was most probably due to the fact that it inspired Goethe to let play images
of the world and of literature enter and exit the stage of his imagination, as if they were
images utilized by such an apparatus. P. 81. In Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, the narra-
tor describes it as a childhood toy; Werther describes it as an image of the imprisoned self.

and, more importantly, in the graphic arts tradition, as well as in poetry and in
Singspiel.35 From this point, it is only one step further in the history of lighting
media to Goethes Schattenspielmann, who utilized not a peepshow, but a
magic lantern:
Although there is some evidence that wandering showmen carried small magic lanterns
with them as an alternative to the more familiar peepshow, the lack of a sufficiently pow-
erful light source prevented the device from becoming a general public entertainment.36

Goethes most significant formal use of the trope, however, comes in Zum Schkespears
Tag: Schckespears Theater ist ein schner Raritten Kasten, where Goethe fills the
concept with philosophical profundity. Helmut Schanze argues that in doing so, Goethe
brings new meaning to old forms: Both Diderot and Bodmer relegated antiquated sit-
uations like the market fair to the uneducated and rejected them for that reason. By con-
trast, Goethe revitalized the old form by using it to define the problem of the collision
of the selfwith the mechanism of the determinacy of things in their entirety, and with that
the social-historical question of the time . Goethes Dramatik: Theater der Erinnerung.
Tbingen: Niemeyer 1989. P. 53 (Theatron 4). Kothes work on just this point, which as
published is only half of his dissertation, is brilliantly modernist and theoretical. I can
find no other trace of further work; did the war intervene? The most recent contribution
to this debate is Clark S. Muenzer: Wandering Among Obelisks: Goethe and the Idea
of the Monument. In: Modern Language Studies 31: 2 (Spring 2002). Pp. 534. Muenzer
does not discuss Jahrmarktsfest, but is very insightful on Goethes powerfully ambiva-
lent usage of Rarittenkasten in Zum Schkespears Tag: More in line with its carnival
origins, then, which suggested subversion and transformation for Goethe, the oft maligned
Rarittenkasten has magically broken through its enlightenment limits to rescue mem-
ory for the future. P. 14.
As proof that a re-investigation of the technological tradition of art can shake things
up, witness the furor that accompanied David Hockneys provocative suggestion that the
old masters made elaborate use of camera lucida and Philip Steadmans more substan-
tial account of how Vermeer made use of the perspectivism of camera obscura: David
Hockney: Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the lost techniques of the old masters. New
York: Penguin Studio 2001; Philip Steadman: Vermeers Camera: The Truth Behind the
Masterpieces. London: Oxford University Press 2001.
Richard D. Altick: The Shows of London. Cambridge: Belknap Press 1978. P. 117. As
always, it is tempting to look to technology for the origins of even minor transforma-
tions in popular imagination: From the mid-1770s, for some reason, interest in the
lantern became more lively. Though records of performances before audiences outside
the home are lacking, the existence of some sort of vogue is indicated by the facts that
in 1775 an exhibition of caricatures at the Great Room, Panton Street, was called the
Magick Lantern, and that satirical printmakers, always alert for timely topics, were
repeatedly using the magic lantern as a central accessory [. . .] It is tempting to think
that this increased interest had some connection with the invention in 1782 of the Argand
lamp, which, by replacing the customary oil-lamp wick with a hollow incandescent cylin-
der, provided a source of concentrated light such as was required to project images on
a wall or screen from a moderate distance. P. 117. Just as important to realize is that
technological developments and break-throughs show up in entertainment cultures as
quickly, if not more so, than anywhere else.

Goethes Schattenspielmann seems to have solved that problem; Goethe no

doubt had in mind a variant on the magic lantern, the shadow show, as the
projectionists name explicitly suggests: A second type of optical entertain-
ment which depended on lighting was the shadow show, otherwise known as
the Schattenspiel, Italian shadows, or Ombres Chinoises.37 The projection
technique differs slightly. The magic lantern projects light so as to illuminate
and enlarge scenes painted on glass slides; the shadow show illuminates trans-
parencies that can serve as the background for sketches performed by shadowy
figures, actors or more usually puppets. In either case, Goethe bridges any gap
with his dramatic imagination; the source that illuminates his magic lantern in
this script is verbal imagery. In this performative text, the Schattenspielmann
narrates the pictures that we as readers perceive.
Both visually and verbally, the Schattenspielmann presents a sound-and-
light show that becomes a cosmology of light and darkness not uncommon in
the early Goethe. The precondition for his entertainment is complete darkness,
illuminated only by his lamp. He seems a pragmatist, too, insisting that the
candles should all be put out; otherwise, the visual effect is lost:
Lichter weg! mein Lmpgen nur!
Nimmt sich sonst nicht aus. (ll. 295296)
Turn out the lights! Just my lamp!
Otherwise the damn thing doesnt work.
In the dark is where his narration begins, before creation:
Ach wie sie is alles dunkel
Finsternis is
Hab sie al nicks auf die Erd gesehen
Sprach sie Gotts werd Licht
Wies hell da rein bricht. (ll. 300301; ll. 304306)
Oh, how everything is dark,
Blackness reigns
Nothing to be seen on earth
The God said: let there be light
And brightness broke out everywhere.

Ibid. P. 117. This performance technique was popular at the court of Anna Amalia and
with the Weimar Liebhabertheater circa 1778; Duke Carl August, for example, reviews
the performance of a shadow play, Minervens Geburt, honoring Goethes thirty-second
birthday: Das Journal von Tiefurt. Weimar:Verlag der Goethe-Gesellschaft, 1892.
(Schriften der Goethe-Gesellschaft 7). Pp. 1620.

The comedy of his routine is two-fold. It consists of abrupt leaps from the
mystical-profound to the commonplace: if it were so dark, then how could any-
body see anything? These incongruities are highlighted by shifts of language
levels, in which the divine is expressed in broken dialects.38 The Schattenspielmann
speaks in tongues.
Through his narration, it is possible to glimpse several of the scenes projected
by the magic lantern.39 The Schattenspielmann dips even further back into Old
Testament stories than the theater company earlier in the play. He illustrates the
book of Genesis, if in his own exotic fashion: the creation story; the expulsion
of Adam and Eve from paradise; the sinful population explosion of the Golden
Age; and, ultimately, the apocalyptic flood. It is worth noting that Goethe lifts these
scenarios directly from the repertoire of medieval mystery plays and from Hans
Sachs himself. In effect, he revives the earliest scripts of Northern European the-
ater, church-steps drama, by way of a new medium. And all these scenes are punc-
tuated by the highly suggestive, vaguely obscene Orgelum orgeley refrain; it
distracts (even muffles the technological noise) during the frame or scene changes

That what is a geographical and linguistic coincidence becomes a formal character-
istic is of interest here. What was once heritage becomes an essential part of the
Schattenspielmann identity, whether authentic or role-playing: The sing-song, a kind
of verbal mishmash or rather a reduction of the German language to a rhythmic verse
patter, owes its origins in the beginning to the linguistic inadequacies of the Italian per-
formers. Over time, however, this kind of performance became the benchmark of every
peep-show manipulator and became identical with his image. Der Guckkasten:
Einblick Durchblick Ausblick. Ed. by Georg Fsslin et al. Stuttgart: Fsslin, 1995.
Pp. 2526. To my knowledge, Der Guckkasten is the best recent German book on the
subject and a gorgeously illustrated and informative work on visual culture it is. In
English, see the catalog to the Getty exhibition, Devices of Wonder: From the World in
a Box to Images on a Screen. Ed. by Barbara Maria Stafford et al. Los Angeles: Getty
Trust Publications 2001. And perhaps we should split the difference and give the Fsslin
volume the last word on the nationality of the Schattenspielmann: Other sources often
speak of the theme songs of the Italian man or of the Italian, who wandered from place
to place with their peep-shows. That might well lead to the conclusion that the begin-
nings of the trade are to be sought in Italian-speaking regions and that there existed a
wandering caste, which migrated over France (Savoy) in the direction of Germany and
patented their art there. P. 36.
Among the various motives from Guckkastenblttern are: Veduten, Ansichten von
Stdten, [views of cities] Landschaften mit exotischem Flair [exotic landscapes],
Katastrophen wie berschwemmungen, Erdbeben, Brnde, Einsttze von Bauten
oder Schiffskatastrophen [catastrophes like floods, earthquakes, fires, the collapse of
buildings, or the sinking of ships], historische Motive [historical motives],
Illuminationen, Ballonaufstiege, Feste [fireworks, balloon ascents, festivals];
Darstellungen aus der antiken Mythologie, dem Altem und Neuem Testaments waren
ebenfalls verbreitet [depictions from antique mythology, from the old and new
Testament]. Fsslin: Der Guckkasten. Pp. 2526.

(much as the antics of the Hannswurst during intermissions are intended to conceal
scene changes and candle-trimming).
This creation story even has elements that anticipate the big-bang cosmology
presented by the satyr in another of Goethes farces, Satyros:
Wie in Unding das Urding erquoll
Lichts macht durch die Nacht scholl
Durch drang die Tiefen der Wesen all
Dass aufgekeimte Begehrungs schwall
Und die Elemente sich erschlossen
Mit Hunger in einander ergossen
All durchdringend all durchdrungen.40
How in nothingness nothing resonated
Light broke through the night
Forced its way though the essence of existence
So that a seeded wave of desire emerged
And all the elements coagulated
With hunger poured into one another
All penetrating all penetrated.
The hermetic elements themselves intermingle; durkeinander [in-one-
another] self-parodies a favorite word and concept of the early Goethe:
Wie si all durkeinander gehn
Die Elemente alle vier
In sechs Tag alles gemacht is
Sonn Mond Stern Baum und Thier. (ll. 307310)
How they are mix in one another
All four elements
In six days, everything was made
Sun moon star tree animal.

In the expulsion from Paradise and Golden Age scenes, the Schattenspielmann
exploits the sexuality of his pictures in ways that range from the carnivalesque
to the voyeuristic to the mildly pornographic. His delivery is punctuated through-
out by the imperative Seh sie! [Behold!].
Seh sie Adam in die Paradies!
Seh sie Eva hat sie die Schlange verfhrt. (ll. 313314)
Behold: Adam in paradise
Behold: how the snake seduces Eve.

The succinctness of his narration is comic, especially in comparison to the ver-

bosity of the Marktschreyer; for the Schattenspielmann, the expulsion is a one-
word event: Nausgejagt [Expelled] (l. 315). Yet not without a tell-tale
Der junge Goethe. Vol. 3. P. 311. Ll. 297303.

aftermath: in noting the consequences of the fall, he concentrates, significantly

enough, on the curse of birth-pangs:
Mit Dorn Disteln
Geburtsschmerzen geplagt
O weh! (ll. 317318)
With thorns and briars
Plagued with birth pangs
O how it hurts!

Here is where Michael Bakhtin, surprisingly, helps bridge the gap between car-
nival and technology: childbirth plays an important role in carnivalesque rites,
where a mimicking of childbirth is one of the three acts in the life of the
grotesque body: sexual intercourse, death throes, and the act of birth. The
birth-pangs of creation are mirrored in the pain of child-bearing; as ever, Goethes
parody is serious business.41
In his skewed depiction of the Golden Age I take the phrase specifically
from the context of paintings by Lucas Cranach, which depict in sequence the
decline of that mythological Golden Age into violence and overt sexuality the
Schattenspielmann participates fully in the obscene and scatological language
of the marketplace.42 In populating the world, society has undergone a moral
decline; an aristocratic grouping of knights and ladies cavort openly in the pas-
toral meadows and groves:
Hat sie die Welt vermehrt
Mit viel gottlose Leut
Seh sie die Ritter and Damen
Wie sie zusammen kamen
Sich begehn, sich begatten
In alle grne Schatten
Uf alle grne Hide. (ll. 320321; 326330)
The world is populated
With many godless people
Behold: the knights and ladies
How they come together
Walking, mating

Bakhtin: P. 237.
For Cranachs work, see Edgar Bierende: Lucas Cranach d. . Und der deutsche
Humanismus: Tafelmalerei im Kontext von Rhetorik, Chroniken und Frstenspiegeln.
Mnchen: Deutscher Kunstverlag 2002. For the concept itself, see Bodo Gatz:
Weltalter, goldene Zeit und sinnversandte Vorstellungen. Hildesheim: G. Olms 1967.

In all the green shadows

On all the green meadows.

A number of typically Goethean elements intermingle here: sexual fantasy; a

middle-class morality in formation that rails against the improprieties of the
upper-class; contrastingly, the laughter of the marketplace, which revels in
making public the non-public, unofficial sexual sphere of life. That Goethe
leaves such elements unresolved the moralistic patter of the Schattenspielmann
veils the sexual innuendo and titillation that he simultaneously exploits
makes for the ambiguity, the lack of closure, with which the play ends (and which
will leave a later play like Hanswursts Hochzeit in pornographic fragments).
This performance piece, too, ends in apocalypse, albeit an aesthetic, inter-
referential one. There are two reasons for this, which, in their interrelation, indicate
the way the carnivalesque seizes upon technology to express itself and the way
developing entertainment media exploit the carnivalesque. Bakhtin stresses that
the seemingly innocuous cries of hawkers almost inevitably lend themselves to
parodic prophecy:

Let us stress in this prophetic picture the complete destruction of the established
hierarchy, social, political, and domestic. It is a picture of utter catastrophe threat-
ening the world. The historical calamity is increased by a cosmic disaster. The
author predicts a flood which will drown all mankind [. . .].43

This is exactly the situation presented by the Schattenspielmann in his own

depiction of the flood:

Fhrt da die Sndflut rein

Wie sie Gotts erbrmlick schreyn
All all ersaufen schwer
Is gar kein Rettung mehr. (ll. 334336)
Thus comes the deluge flooding in
How they all scream so horribly to God
All, all totally drowned,
No chance of being saved.

Goethe plays with the idea of total annihilation throughout the play; chaos is
always threatening formally, aesthetically, ideologically. Yet it is exactly such
scenes of catastrophic spectacle that new technological media of magic lantern,
shadow-show, and, ultimately, more elaborate devices like the Eidophusikon
(1781) and the phantasmagoria exploit, in order to attract and amaze an audi-
ence: shipwrecks, storms with thunder and lightning, earthquakes, volcanic

Ibid. P. 237.

explosions, scenes of imaginative destruction from Dante (inferno) and Milton

The public was now coming to some plays as much for the scenery as for the actors,
and in reviews the press devoted more and more space to the spectacle settings
whose fidelity to nature was heightened by imitations of changing light.44

Carnival and technology combine to shape the Schattenspielmann perform-

ance. There is nothing new about the onslaught of disaster and apocalyptical films
with which we are constantly entertained by Hollywood (or in the very real
catastrophes with which nature and occasionally terrorism or war confront us,
which overwhelm the ability of the media to depict and, therefore, change the
course of history). Yet Goethe and others preempt the genre. Indeed, in the entire
history of entertainment and news media, traditions of carnival and technolog-
ical development are more inter-related than meets the eye.
Carnival demands a happy ending, and the Schattenspielmann obliges:
Guck sie! in vollem Schu
Fliegt daher Mercurius
Macht ein End all dieser Noth
Dank sey dir lieber Gott. (ll. 340342)
Behold: in the end
here comes Mercury flying
Brings an end to all the horror
Thanks be to you o loving God.

In a mischievous, inter-referential twist, Goethe substitutes the vignette figure

of winged Mercury for the Biblical dove. Such playfulness also invites an ambi-
guity of meanings. Is Goethe shifting from a Judaic-Christian to a Greek mythol-
ogy, as he does programmatically in his life and works? Or is he shifting to yet
another medium: Wielands Der teutsche Merkur, which has just arrived in the
mail, as if by postmodernist post?45 Tired of writing, the author becomes a reader.
Is this play literary parody or literary reception? In terms of the carnivalesque,
the pattern is nevertheless humorously consistent:
[. . .] finally calm and gladness will once more descend upon earth. In this picture
we dimly see the threat of a universal crisis, of a fire that is to burn the old world,
and of the joy brought by a world renewed. This image is in a way related to the one

Richard D. Altick: The Shows of London. P. 120.
There wouldnt be a ending without the the literary reference to Wielands Merkur
after the work on the Frankfurter Gelehrten Anzeigen by the friends in Darmstadt circa
1772, everybody was intently anticipating the appearance of this new journal at the
beginning of 1773. Gerhard Sauder: Goethe-Handbuch, Vol. 2. Ed. by Theo Buck.
Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler 1996. P. 52 (Dramen).

we have already seen, the transformation of the funeral pyre into a kitchen hearth
and banquet.46

The Schattenspielmann completes a carnivalesque microcosm by reflecting on

what has gone before: laughter in the context of death and fertility, destruction
and renewal. Goethe not from originality, but following in the footsteps of
Michaelis transforms the marketplace into a theatrical feast celebrating
mixed media, in which print and verbal cultures; literary and visual genres; and
comic and mythological figures like Hannswurst, Cupid, and Komus and the
praxis of technology are far from contradictions.
Dr. Wolf, as his mother Catharina Elisabeth Goethe inclined to call her
famous son with equal doses of affection and irony, visualizes Jahrmarktsfest
zu Plundersweilern in terms of technical devices related to the theater. All of
Goethes references to optical props are simultaneously references to the imag-
ination.47 He conceptualizes the imagination as a mechanical device like the
peepshow, magic lantern, shadow box, or Rarittenkasten [wonder cabinet]. These
devices attempt to make room for the imagination, to create space, which is, how-
ever, miniature and enclosed much in the same way as the theater becomes a
box, an enclosed room with three walls. The invisible fourth wall is the one that
looks inward, that peeps in while always threatening to collapse in on itself.
Projection inwards is the process that creates an interiority of the imagination,
with the danger to the external self, whether character, actor, or audience, of
falling down a bottomless pit. The eighteenth-century cult of interiority, both
of imagination and feeling, which is itself a kind of jack-in-the-box, finds in
the Guckkasten its perfect symbol.
Yet Goethe would not be Goethe if having fallen into the box of imagination,
he had not simultaneously found a way out. He shifts his attention from boxes
looking-in to devices that project images outwards, onto walls and onto the-
atrical surfaces: the magic lantern and the shadow-box. The escape, even escapist
function of such projections becomes crucial in Jahrmarktsfest. Paradoxically,
it is the artificiality of such visual conceptualization to which Goethe responds.
Despite all talk of nature in Sturm und Drang and Romanticism, Goethe remains
crucially aware of the artificial nature of any artistic form or genre: Jede
Form, auch die gefhlteste, hat etwas Unwahres [. . .] [Every form, even the

Bakhtin: P. 237.
The magic lantern has remarkable resonance as short-hand for the workings of the
imagination in real life. To mention only two recent uses, the name of Ingmar
Bergmans 1988 autobiography is The Magic Lantern (Laterna Magica). The Magic
Lantern (Laterna Magika) is the name of the multi-media Prague theater associated
with Vclav Havel and at the center of both revolutionary aesthetics and politics in
1989. Goethe keeps good company.

most heartfelt consists of something inauthentic (. . .)].48 The sentiments

expressed in this often overlooked fragment, Aus Goethes Brieftasche [Straight
from Goethes Writing Portfolio] (1775), are remarkable in that they docu-
ment both Goethes detailed attention to theater praxis and his earliest theoret-
ical repudiation of nature in favor of theater illusion:

Wer brigens eigentlich fr die Bhne arbeiten will, studiere die Bhne, Wrkung
der Fernemalerey, der Lichter, Schminke, Glanzleinewand und Flittern, lasse die Natur
an ihrem Ort, und bedenke ja fleiig, nichts anzulegen, als was sich auf Brettern
zwischen Latten, Pappendeckel und Leinewand, durch Puppen, vor Kindern
ausfhren lt.49
Anybody who really wants to work in the theater should study the stage, the effect
of scenery, the lights, the ornamentation, the curtain, and the eaves, should leave nature
alone, and should strive to let nothing on stage except that which can be performed
by children, with puppets, between wooden boards, cardboard, and curtains.

The visible limits and limitations of such forms do not permit them to be confused
with nature and reality, which, conversely, is their very virtue. Leave nature at
the theatrical door, and imitate the puppet show: Goethe could not have expressed
the credo of his early farces more clearly: a strict division between art and nature,
neither one imitating the other.
Such limitations are also what permit closure; they enclose whatever is in
them. Only in such closed theatrical universes is totality possible, where that total-
ity consists of formal (not content-oriented) prerequisites. Within these forms
almost anything is possible; Goethe can fill them with the most heterogeneous
and diverse kind of theater requisites. There is a definite sense of the museal about
these works, and not just because Michaelis and Goethe revert back to antiquated
forms. Among other things, such farces are working museums of technology
and theater. Yet like the advent of silent film, which could never foresee films
that talk, peep-show and projectionist technology will never quite work out in
the way Amors Guckkasten and Jahrmarktsfest memorialize. As for a theater of

Der junge Goethe. Vol. 5. P. 353. That this quotation continues in the form of yet
another optical analogy, to kindling fire through a magnifying glass, ups the ante: Jede
Form, auch die gefhlteste, hat etwas Unwahres, allein sie ist ein fr allemal das Glas,
wodurch wir die heiligen Strahlen der verbreiteten Natur an das Herz der Menschen
zum Feuerblick sammeln [Every form, even the most heart-felt, has something inau-
thentic about it, form is no more or less than the glass, through which we focus the holy
rays that imminate from nature and ignite them into fire in the human heart]. This text
is another one of Goethes myriad donations or collaborative efforts. Along with other
Goethe pieces, it appeared in 1776 as the appendix to a translation, by Heinrich Leopold
Wagner, of Sebestian Merciers Du Theatre ou nouvel essai sur lart drammatique.
Der junge Goethe. Vol. 5. P. 353.

nostalgia,50 that point of view is what differentiates Goethe (and Michaelis) from
Lessing or Schiller and what has always made either of them difficult to desig-
nate in a canonic history of the theater. Goethe and Michaelis transform the
marketplace into a theatrical feast celebrating mixed media, in which print and
visual cultures, literary and visual genres, Hannswurst technology Guckkasten,
shadow play, magic lantern, and lighting are not contradictions.

There is a startling parallel between Goethes and Michaeliss performative Guckkasten
and Joseph Cornells shadow boxes, particularly in terms of mixed media and affect.
The following characterization by the cultural critic Adam Gopnick seems to me just as
true of the early Goethe (and to a lesser degree Michaelis) as it is of Cornell: When
you read Cornell while staring at his art, two words eventually come to mind and stick
there to help explain what makes the art last, makes it matter: weird and real . In
terms of biography, Goethe is simultaneously sincere, weird, and real, and in this sense,
the same is true of his early plays: to really see is indeed to really believe. Gopnik
argues that Cornells great subject announced and taboo in all his boxes was nos-
talgia, and his desire was to vindicate it as an emotion. Similarly, I read Goethe as the
originator of the concept of nostalgia in terms of theater; see Adam Gopnik:
Sparkings. In: The New Yorker (17/24 Feb. 2003):
Astrida Orle Tantillo

The Subjective Eye: Goethes Farbenlehre and Faust

This article first looks to Goethes Farbenlehre in order to establish his theory of
dynamic subjectivity and objectivity based upon the physical reactions of the eye. It
then uses this theory to explain some of the reasons behind the main controversies sur-
rounding Faust. It argues that the text cannot be read simply through one perspective
but needs to be read through two, opposing ones.

Polarity is Goethes best known and most written-about scientific principle.1

Like many of the most important twentieth-century philosophers, he was influ-
enced in his understanding of this principle by the pre-Socratics. However,
where many view polarities in terms of contradictions that question the exis-
tence of meaning, Goethe saw polarities as the source of creativity and
dynamic meaning of meaning or truth that may exist if only for a moment,
only then quickly to change and metamorphose into something else. In the first
part of this essay, I examine the dynamic qualities of polarities by focusing
upon Goethes discussion of the eye in his Farbenlehre. There, he extensively
analyzes the eye and argues that its most important functions are the result of
polar actions. On one level, Goethe tries to demonstrate that Newtons theories
were wrong: where Newton argues that colors arise from the breaking up and
the refracting of white light, Goethe argues that all colors arise through polar
interactions of light and shade that are analogous to the polar actions of the eye
itself. On another level, however, Goethes discussion of the eye postulates the
fluidity of the subject and object relationship. The eye, as Goethe illustrates,
will often create images in reaction to the objects that it sees. In the end, sub-
jects quickly become objects and vice versa. One can therefore only speak of
a subject or an object at a particular moment, because at the next moment,
the relationship could very well be reversed.
The second part of my essay applies Goethes theory of subject and object to
a literary text: his magnum opus, Faust. Many of Goethes works, especially
his later ones, are characterized by the ambiguities of their most central
aspects. In the case of Faust, there is not even scholarly consensus about who

For a more detailed discussion of polarities and their role in Goethes natural philoso-
phy, see my Will to Create: Goethes Philosophy of Nature. Pittsburgh: University of
Pittsburgh Press 2002. Pp. 1257.

wins the wager or whether Faust deserves to go to heaven.2 In this section, I ana-
lyze Faust to illustrate that the ambiguities in Goethes literary texts reflect the
polar philosophy of his scientific texts. In other words, his literary texts pres-
ent opposing strands that allow for at least two interpretations. Although these
interpretations conflict, this is not to argue that they negate each other. Rather,
each is correct from a particular perspective. To read the text only through one
lens, therefore, is to miss half, if not in some sense, the whole story.
Polarity and the Eye
By examining several of Goethes discussions of polarity within his scientific
texts, one can quickly see the dynamic nature of this principle. In a short sci-
entific sketch, he provides us with a list that allows us to see how far-reaching
this principle is:
Ideales und Reales [Ideal and real]
Sinnlichkeit und Vernunft [Sensuality and reason]
Phantasie und Verstand [Fantasy and understanding]

The outcome of the wager has engendered a great deal of controversy. Ada M. Klett even
composed a chart outlining how many scholars argue for 1) Faust winning in the literal
and higher sense; 2) Faust losing; 3) Faust partially winning and partially losing;
4) nobody winning. Der Streit um Faust II seit 1900. Jena: Verlag der Frommannschen
Buchhandlung 1939. P. 67. Theodor Adorno argues: Hatte Faust die Wette gewinnen
sollen, so ware es absurd, Hohn auf die kunstlerische Okonomie gewesen, ihm im
Augenblick seines Todes eben die Verse in den Mund zu legen, die ihn dem Pakt zufolge
dem Teufel uberantworten. Vielmehr wird Recht selber suspendiert. Zur Schluszene
des Fausts. In: Aufsatze zu Goethes Faust II. Ed. by Werner Keller. Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1991. P. 382. For an overview of this whole debate,
see Albrecht Schne: Faust. Kommentare. Frankfurt/M: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag
1994. Pp. 7524. Schne argues that the bet itself is largely irrelevant for the outcome
of the play. For a discussion of the controversies that the ending has generated, see
Arthur Henkel: Das Argernis Faust. In: Aufsatze zu Goethes Faust II. Ed. by Werner
Keller. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1991. Pp. 290315, and
Wilhelm Bhm: Goethes Faust in neuer Dichtung: Ein Kommentar f ur unsere Zeit.
Cologne: Verlag E. A. Seemann 1949. Pp. 30816. Many scholars focus in some way on
issues of morality. Jane Brown argues that the ending cannot be seen in moral terms
because from the very beginning, the reader knows that God will forgive whatever sins
[Faust] might commit. Goethes Faust: The German Tragedy. Ithaca: Cornell
University Press 1986. P. 251. For those that argue for the justice of Fausts heavenly
ascension, they generally focus on his relentless striving, e.g., Franziska Schler:
Progress and Restorative Utopia in Faust II and Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre. In: A
Companion to Goethes Faust: Parts I and II. Ed. by Paul Bishop. Rochester: Camden
House 2001. P. 183. James Van Der Laan, in contrast argues that the play is neither an
affirmation nor a rejection of either an orthodox or an unconventional morality. James
Van Der Laan: Fausts Divided Self and Moral Inertia. In: Monatshefte 91 (1999). P. 452.

Sein und Sehnsucht [Being and desire]

Zwei Korperhalften [Two halves of the body]
Rechts und Links [Right and left]
Atemholen [Breathing]
Physische Erfahrung [Physical experience]:

Wir und die Gegenstande [We and the objects]

Licht und Finsternis [Light and darkness]
Leib und Seele [Body and soul]
Two souls [Zwei Seelen]
Geist und Materie [Spirit and matter]
Gott und die Welt [God and the World]
Gedanke und Ausdehnung [Thought and extension] (FA 25: 142143)3

On the surface, this list may seem to be about separations and divisions.
Metaphysical and physical worlds seem to be neatly divided, as do the subject
from the object. Goethe, however, emphasizes a different aspect of the relation-
ship of these pairs. For him, the primary relationship is a dynamic one that
illustrates the indivisibility of one side of the pair from the other. Inhaling is
meaningless with exhaling, just as the body is meaningless without the soul or
light without darkness. Each side of the polar pair exists only insofar it is con-
trasted and related to the other side. In this sense, the magnet becomes a metaphor
for the relationship of all of the pairs: two opposites coexist within one entity.
To look at a magnet from only the perspective of one of its poles would there-
fore be to miss its entire essence.
Polarity is itself part of a polar pair with Goethes other main natural princi-
ple, intensification, or Steigerung [heightening]. According to Goethe, the
interactions of these two forces explain natures extensive creative powers. At
first, the two principles seem to follow the classic division of matter and spirit,
but very quickly even these divisions become blurred. He elaborates on the
relationship of these two opposites:
[. . .] jene [Polaritat] der Materie, insofern wir sie materiell, diese [Steigerung] ihr
dagegen, insofern wir sie geistig denken, angehorig; jene ist in immerwahrendem
Anziehen und Abstoen, diese in immerstrebendem Aufsteigen. Weil aber die
Materie nie ohne Geist, der Geist nie ohne Materie existiert und wirksam sein kann,
so vermag auch die Materie sich zu steigern, so wie sichs der Geist nicht nehmen
lat anzuziehen und abzustoen. (FA 1, 25: 81)

[. . .] the former [polarity] a property of matter insofar as we think of it as material,

the latter (Steigerung) insofar as we think of it as spiritual. Polarity is a state of constant

All translations from Goethes works are taken from Goethes Collected Works. 12
Vols. New York: Suhrkamp 19831989 and are abbreviated as SA followed by volume
and page number.

attraction and repulsion, while intensification is a state of ever-striving ascent.

Since, however, matter can never exist and act without spirit, nor spirit without mat-
ter, matter is also capable of undergoing intensification, and spirit cannot be denied
its attraction and repulsion. (SA 12: 6)

Polarity and Steigerung thus become yet another example of a polar pair that is
inseparable and that must work together if it is to exist at all. Moreover, what
begins as appearing strictly material ends up as partially spiritual and vice
versa. The very definition of their functioning demands the blending of one
category into the next.
The entire structure of Goethes Farbenlehre is based upon the polar princi-
ple. The work begins by describing colors as the Taten und Leiden [actions
and passion] of light. It soon becomes evident that all of nature partakes in
polarities, which are characterized as the Sprache [language] of nature:
Indem man aber jenes Gewicht und Gegengewicht von ungleicher Wirkung zu
finden glaubt, so hat man auch dieses Verhaltnis zu bezeichnen versucht. Mat hat
ein Mehr und Weniger, ein Wirken ein Widerstreben, ein Tun ein Leiden, ein
Vordrigendes ein Zuruckhaltendes, ein Heftiges ein Maigendes, ein Mannliches
ein Weibliches uberall bemerkt und genannt; und so entsteht eine Sprache, eine
Symbolik, die man auf ahnliche Falle als Gleichnis, als nahverwandten Ausdruck,
als unmittelbar passendes Wort anwenden und benutzen mag. (FA 1/23: 13)
Observers have found an apparent imbalance in the effect of weight and counter-
weight and have tried to give expression to this relationship as well. They have
noted this principle in all things and given names to it: plus, minus; aggressive,
resistant; active, passive; assertive, restraining; force, moderation; male, female. In
this process a language, a set of symbols, has arisen which we may apply to like
events in a metaphor, a closely related expression, a precisely suited word. (SA 12:

At the heart of Goethes explanation of polar color formation is the organ of the
eye: the eye serves both as the building block for his understanding of polar
color formations and also as a symbol that represents godlike creativity. His
discussion of the eye often borders on the mystical because of the importance
with which he endows its functioning. In the introduction to his Farbenlehre,
he compares this organ overtly to light and subtlety to god. In a rather compli-
cated passage, he begins by postulating that the eye is analogous to light itself
and is indeed created by light in its own image:
Das Auge had sein Dasein dem Licht zu danken. Aus gleichgultigen tierischen Hulf-
sorganen ruft sich das Licht ein Organ hervor, das seines Gleichen werde; und so
bildet sich das Auge am Lichte f urs Lichte, damit das innere Licht dem aueren ent-
gegentrete. (FA 1/23: 24)

From among the lesser ancillary organs of the animals, light has called forth one
organ to become its like, and thus the eye is formed by the light and for the light
so that the inner light may emerge to meet the outer light. (SA 12: 164)

Light thus becomes like the biblical God who creates in its own image. The
eye, too, however, has creative powers that mimic that of light and by analogy
those of God. It is a created object that itself becomes a creator: it is both an
object of creation as well as a further creator of its own objects. Goethe illus-
trates this point within the text with a poem based upon Ionic philosophy:4
War nicht das Auge sonnenhaft,
Wie konnten wir das Licht erblicken?
Lebt nicht in uns des Gottes eigne Kraft,
Wie konnt uns Gttliches entzucken? (FA 1/23: 24)

Were the eye not of the sun,

How could we behold the light?
If Gods might and ours were not as one,
How could His work enchant our sight? (SA 12: 164)

The poem argues that because like can only recognize like, the eye must be
similar in some way to light. However, Goethe goes even further than admit-
ting the similarity between light and the eye (and hence by analogy the simi-
larity between human beings and God): he posits a relationship of equality.
What begins as a proportional relationship of light to eye and God to human
beings is transformed into an equal relationship:
Jene unmittelbare Verwandtschaft des Lichtes und des Auges wird niemand leug-
nen, aber sich beide zugleich als eins und dassselbe zu denken, hat mehr
Schwierigkeit. Indessen wird es falicher, wenn man behauptet, im Auge wohne ein
ruhendes Licht, das bei der mindesten Veranlassung von innen oder von auen
erregt werde. Wir konnen in der Finsternis durch Forderungen der Einbildungskraft
uns die hellsten Bilder hervorrufen. Im Traume erscheinen uns die Gegenstande wie
am vollen Tage. Im wachenden Zustande wird uns die leiseste auere Lichteinwirkung
bemerkbar; ja wenn das Organ einen mechanischen Ansto erleidet, so springen
Licht und Farben hervor. (FA 1/23: 2425)

None will dispute a direct relationship between light and the eye, but it is more dif-
ficult to think of the two as being simultaneously one and the same. We may clarify
this by stating that the eye has within it a latent form of light which becomes active
at the slightest stimulus from within or without. We can evoke dazzling inner images
in the dark through the power of our imagination. In dreaming, we can see objects
as though in the clear light of day. When awake, we can perceive the slightest
impression of light from without, and we can even find that when the eye is struck
a burst of light and color is seen. (SA 12: 164)

Potentially, the organ of the eye contains godlike or light-like powers of cre-
ation. This potential power becomes actual either through imaginative
For a discussion of this passage and its relation to several of Goethes other works, see
Peter Michelsen: Fausts Erblindung. In: Aufstze zu Goethes Faust II. Ed. by Werner
Keller. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1991. Pp. 346ff.

processes or through physical ones. Although Goethe overtly recognizes the

difficulty of equating light and the eye (and by analogy, us to God), he explains
that the eye may call forth light (thereby creating in its own image), as well as
darkness and color.
Although the references to god, light, and the eye may seem abstract, the body
of the text gives very specific as well as very simple, everyday examples of the
eyes creative powers: if the eye views a bright color (e.g., orange) against a
light background, it will create the complementary color (blue). Although the
experiments that Goethe proposes to demonstrate these effects are quite simple
from comparing the apparent size of black and white objects to various exper-
iments that measure the effect of light upon the retina the conclusions that he
draws are far reaching:
Wir glauben hier abermals die groe Regsamkeit der Netzhaut zu bemerken und
den stillen Widerspruch, den jedes Lebendige zu auern gedrungen ist, wenn ihm
irgend ein bestimmter Zustand dargeboten wird. So setzt das Einatmen schon das
Ausatmen voraus und umgekehrt; so jede Systole ihre Diastole. Es ist die ewige
Formel des Lebens, die sich auch hier auert. Wie dem Auge das Dunkle geboten
wird, so fordert es das Helle; es fordert Dunkel, wenn man ihm Hell entgegenbringt,
und zeigt eben dadurch seine Lebendigkeit, sein Recht, das Objekt zu fassen, indem
es etwas, das dem Objekt entgegengesetzt ist, aus sich selbst hervorbringt. (no. 38)5
We may infer that in this instance we have once again recognized the retinas great
vitality and the silent contradiction every living thing is moved to express when pre-
sented with any specific state. Thus inhaling presupposes exhaling and vice versa;
each systole presupposes its diastole. Here, too, it is the eternal rule of life which is
asserting itself. When offered something dark the eye demands something bright; it
demands darkness when presented with brightness. Through this very fact it demon-
strates its living quality, its right to take hold of an object, by bringing forth out of
itself an element which is the opposite of the object. (SA 12: 173)

Like the magnet, the eye may simultaneously contain two opposite states (nos.
13, 15), and the eyes creative powers stem from the very fact that when presented
with one color, it brings forth the opposite, complementary color. The eye
becomes its own creator. It craves a balance so that when it is presented with one
phenomenon such as a bright color it quickly creates the opposite phenom-
enon. Thus, when the eye first views a colored object, it is acted upon. Soon,
however, it becomes active again and creates its own image. It is in a constant
state of action and reaction:
Das Auge eines Wachenden auert seine Lebendigkeit besonders darin, da es durch-
aus in seinen Zustanden abzuwechseln verlangt, die sich am einfachsten vom
Dunkeln zum Hellen und umgekehrt bewegen. Das Auge kann und mag nicht einen

Numbers refer to original paragraph numbers within the text.

Moment in einem besondern, in einem durch das Objekt spezifizierten Zustand

identisch verharren. Es ist vielmehr zu einer Art von Opposition genotigt, die,
indem sie das Extrem dem Extreme, das Mittlere dem Mittleren entgegengesetzt,
sogleich das Entgegengesetzte verbindet, und in der Sukzession sowohl als in der
Gleichzeitigkeit und Gleichrtlichkiet nach einem Ganzen strebt. (FA 1/23: 39,
no. 33)

The eye of a person not asleep reveals its living quality largely through its constant
need to alternate between different states; at its simplest this consists of moving
from dark to light and back again. The eye cannot and will not remain fixed for even
a moment in a particular state determined by some object. It is instead compelled to
a form of opposition: setting extreme against extreme and intermediate against
intermediate, it quickly merges opposites and strives to achieve a whole, both suc-
cessively and simultaneously in time and space. (SA 12: 172)

The eye operates as both a passive recipient and an active creator. It is

described as both object and subject. Throughout the whole process, it creates
the polar opposite of the phenomenon presented to it as a means of creating a
new whole, a harmony or balance of opposites.
Nor is this dynamic interplay of subject and object limited to the organ of
the eye. Goethe devotes an entire section of his Farbenlehre on the effects that
various colors have on our moods (Sinnlich-sittliche Wirkung) [Sensory-
Moral Effect of Color]. Colors may bring about various emotions and moods,
whether yellow has a cheering effect or green a calming one (no. 812). While
such examples seem trivial, they represent the power that objects may exert
upon us, even at their most simple levels: we are acted upon by the objects
around us at times without our even being aware of it. Although we may view
ourselves as subjects who are in control, we may instead be the passive recipi-
ents of the objects influences.
Goethe succinctly addresses this reciprocal relationship between subject and
object in a short essay, Das Unternehmen wird entschuldigt [The Enterprise
Wenn der zur lebhaften Beobachtung aufgeforderte Mensch mit der Natur einen
Kampf zu bestehen anf angt, so f uhlt er zuerst einen ungeheuern Trieb, die
Gegenstande sich zu unterwerfen. Es dauert aber nicht lange, so dringen sie dergestalt
gewaltig auf ihn ein, da er wohl f uhlt wie sehr er Ursache hat, auch ihre Macht
anzuerkennen und ihre Einwirkung zu verehren. Kaum uberzeugt er sich von diesem
wechselseitigen Einflu, so wird er ein doppelt Unendliches gewahr, an den
Gegenstanden die Mannigfaltigkeit des Seins und Werdens und der sich lebendig
durchkreuzenden Verhaltnisse, an sich selbst aber die Mglichkeit einer unendlichen
Ausbildung, indem er seine Empf anglichkeit sowohl als sein Urteil immer zu neuen
Formen des Aufnehmens und Gegenwirkens geschickt macht. (FA 1/24: 389)

When in the exercise of his powers of observation man undertakes to confront

the world of nature, he will at first experience a tremendous compulsion to bring what
he finds there under his control. Before long, however, these objects thrust themselves

upon him with such force that he, in turn, must feel the obligation to acknowledge
their power and pay homage to their effects. When this mutual interaction becomes
evident he will make a discovery which, in a double sense, is limitless; among the
objects he will find many different forms of existence and modes of change, a vari-
ety of relationships livingly interwoven; in himself, on the other hand, a potential for
infinite growth through constant adaptation of his sensibilities and judgment to new
ways of acquiring knowledge and responding with action. (SA 12: 61)

While the subject begins its relationship with the object, believing itself to be
the one in control, very soon thereafter the object begins to exert its control
over the subject. The relationship is thus one of mutual dependence between
subject and object and one in which the subject quickly becomes the object and
vice versa. The eye represents one example of such a relationship. The initial
color limits the eye, but then the eyes ability to create a complementary color
frees it by creating a whole.
Goethes view of the subject, perspective, and meaning is quite modern in
that he postulates dynamic theories. The subject and object exist, but one must
carefully consider the particular moment when discussing which is which.
What may be true for a particular moment, whether the eye is viewing a par-
ticular color or the subject believes to be the entity in control, may very well
switch in the next moment so that another color may be created and the subject
has switched to becoming the object. This same pattern of dynamic movement
of meaning, and perspective and the importance of particular moments in time
are central to interpreting Goethes Faust.

The Perspective in Faust

Polarities have long been recognized as being central components to Goethes
Faust: the entire play is premised on a bet between the devil and god, Faust
describes the agony of his own existence as due to the two conflicting souls
within his breast (the earthly and the spiritual), Mephisto defines himself as
that which desires to do evil but accomplishes instead the good, and the final
words of the play involving the eternal feminine have long encouraged reading
the whole as the struggle between masculine striving and feminine love.6

In her discussion of Act V of Part II, Brown also focuses upon the dialectical character
of the ending: The first half of the act seems to reject all of the positions the play has
hitherto sought to affirm the classical tradition, beauty, creative magic, activity and to
embrace what it earlier avoided the traditional models of tragedy and traditional ethics.
In the second half of the act a sudden reversal in tone releases all of these concerns into a
finale that exploits the full exuberance of the operatic stage. The extent to which the this
finale is understood as triumphant or bitter, genuine or ironic, dishonest or weak, will
depend very much on how one reads the rest of the fifth act. P. 231. However, whereas
Brown argues for moments of synthesis, I focus upon the moments of tension between
the two polar sides on the need constantly to move from one perspective to the next.

Similarly, the fact that the outcome of the play resides largely in how one inter-
prets a particular moment in time is also well known: Faust will lose his bet
with Mephisto should he ever desire an Augenblick [a moment] to stand
still. I contend, however, that the disagreements of the plays most basic ele-
ments (e.g., whether God cheats Mephisto, Mephisto or Faust wins their bet,
Faust is an exempllary character, his final land reclamation project represents a
utopia, or the play as a whole is moral or immoral) reside quite literally within
the eye of the beholder within the question of perspective or the glance of the
eye (Augen/blick). If in seeing, the retina is simultaneously in opposing states,7
then to see the meaning of Faust also requires the ability to view it in two oppos-
ing ways. In other words, according to Goethes views of polarities, especially
those that define the eye, it is wrong to view the play from solely one perspective.
Instead, the play is structured to encourage opposing views as a means of see-
ing the whole picture. To focus upon only one side of the interpretive debates
is therefore to miss that one polarity demands its opposite to have a whole.
It is no coincidence that the terms of the bet between Faust and Mephisto
revolve around a moment in time that is defined by the eyes activity. Although
the bet initially revolves around several terms, where Faust would lose if he
ever were to become lazy, self-satisfied, or fooled by the devil, the bet would
ultimately be lost if Faust would ever desire a moment to stand still:
Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
Verweile doch! du bist so schon!
Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,
Dann will ich gern zugrunde gehen!
Dann mag die Totenglocke schallen,
Dann bist du deines Dienstes frei,
Die Uhr mag stehn, der Zeiger fallen,
Es sei die Zeit f ur mich vorbei. (ll. 16991706)

If I should ever say to any moment:

Tarry, remain! you are so fair!
then you may lay your fetters on me,
then I will gladly be destroyed!
Then they can toll the passing bell,
your obligations then be ended
the clock may stop, its hand may fall,
and time at last for me be over!

In many ways, Faust banks on his unhappiness. Because he never believes that
he will be able to be satisfied, the terms of the bet are appealing: he will obtain
Die Netzhaut befindet sich bei dem, was wir sehen heien, zu gleicher Zeit in ver-
schiedenen, ja in entgegengesetzten Zustnden no. 13 [In the process of what we call
seeing the retina is simultaneously in different indeed, in opposite states] (SA 12:

the devil as his servant for an eternity. He is so certain that he will win because
of his knowledge of his own divided self. He views the possibility of happiness
as an impossibility:

Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,

Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
Die eine halt, in derber Liebeslust,
Sich an die Welt mit klammernden Organen;
Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen. (ll. 111217)

Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,

and each is eager for a separation:
in throes of coarse desire, one grips
the earth with all its senses;
the other struggles from the dust
to rise to high ancestral spheres.

Faust recognizes his own internal dynamism. Like the eye of Goethes
Farbenlehre, he is never at rest because the moment he is one state of being, he is
immediately drawn to other. His life therefore is constant back and forth, just as
the eye constantly moves from one state to the other. Faust overtly recognizes that
should a static moment ever occur, it would signal, if not actually be, the defini-
tion of death. Self satisfaction would be a kind of stasis equivalent with death.
Striving and life itself is premised on a dynamic tension. The cessation of the ten-
sion between the two souls means the cessation of interacting with the world.
At the end of the play, Faust dies precisely at the moment that he anticipates
the satisfaction of a static moment. He (mistakenly) believes to have accom-
plished his lifes greatest goal and further believes that therefore his name will
live on in light of his achievements. He is willing to rest on his laurels and as a
consequence withdraws from the world of activity. Although Faust is com-
pletely fooled by Mephisto and the digging that he hears is for his own grave
and not for the land reclamation project, he thinks he has conquered and con-
trolled one of the worlds most powerful forces, the ocean. He thinks that as a
result, a teeming, thriving community will be established on his newly
reclaimed shore. Though that community has not yet been established, Faust is
confident enough that it will go according to his plan that he is willing to enjoy
that static moment now:

Zum Augenblicke d urft ich sagen:

Verweile doch, du bist do schn!
Es kann die Spur von meinen Erdetagen
Nicht in Aonen untergehen.
Im Vorgef uhl von solchem hohen Gluck
Genie ich jetzt den hochsten Augenblick. (ll. 1158111586)

then, to the moment, I could say:

tarry a while, you are so fair
the traces of my days on earth
will survive into eternity!
Envisioning those heights of happiness,
I now enjoy my highest moment.

Fausts desire for time to stand still signals his death. His particular Augenblick
[perspective or eyes view] of his own project leads to the Augenblick or
moment of his death. (Significantly, at this point Faust is blind, so it becomes
especially ironic that he is misled by the moment/glance of the eye.) In being
willing to rest, Faust is no longer capable of the polar striving that would keep
him active on earth. Unlike the living eye that cannot be at rest, Fausts blinded
eye (metaphorically and literary) leads him to his moment of death.
Fausts death scene as well as the entire ending of the play has engendered a
great deal of controversy. Commentators debate whether he has won on a tech-
nicality, is deserving to go to heaven at all, or is an exemplary character.8 I con-
tend that the controversies have been so intense about these issues because
many commentators have viewed the play through one perspective, whether
through the eyes of Gretchen, God, Mephisto, or one of Fausts souls. Instead,
the polar structure of the play demands that we view the play in two, opposing
ways, from the perspective of each of Fausts souls or from both Mephisto and
God, etc. In other words, the very structure of the play demands that we view it
in two conflicting, but simultaneous ways: just as black demands white of the
eye, so too should the reader be able to see two, opposing readings of the play
as part of its whole structure.
The play itself provides many clues that we ought to read it according to a
dynamic dualism. Above, I already discussed Fausts two souls. Throughout
most of the play, Faust is driven to strive because of his dissatisfaction. Should
one soul be satisfied, whether the earthly one that is tempted by Gretchens sim-
ple world or Helen of Troys worldly sensuality, it is immediately countered by
its opposing mate, whether it drives Faust to understand nature or conquer the
waters. Mephisto further notes that although reason elevates human beings
above the animals, it also at times makes human beings tierischer als jedes Tier
zu sein [worse than any animal] (287).9 The same force, thus, is responsible
for our greatest elevation as our greatest degradation. Similarly, the devil, too, is

See note 2.
This view is a familiar one throughout Western culture, whether in Aristotles obser-
vation in the Politics that a human being is the most perfect animal, but if he has not
excellence, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals (1253a3035) to the
observation in Shakespeares Sonnet no. 94 that Lilies that fester smell far worse than
weeds. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Ed. by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton
University Press 1984.

not outrightly an evil force. As Mephisto explains to Faust, he is: Ein Teil
von jener Kraft, / Die stets das Bose will und stets das Gute schafft [A part of
that force / which, always willing evil always produces good] (ll. 13351336),
and ein Teil des Teils, der anfangs alles war, / Ein Teil der Finsternis, die sich
das Licht gebar [a part of the Part that first was all, / part of the Darkness that
gave birth to Light] (ll. 13491350). Mephistos destructive evilness creates
goodness just as the darkness that is a part of him leads to the creation of light.
The polarities are inextricable, and one automatically leads to the other.
What, then, do these polarities mean for an interpretation of the play? They
encourage the reader not to see only one side, but to read one interpretation
against another. Goethe calls his play a tragedy, but its ending mirrors Dantes
Divine Comedy. The play ends happily if we examine it from Gods perspective
or from the perspective of Fausts heavenly soul, which, unlike the earthly one,
advances into heaven (ll. 1195411965; l. 12088).10 It ends unhappily for both
Mephisto and Fausts earthly soul.11 These aims are achieved, moreover,
through an inversion of right and wrong.12 If Mephisto accomplishes good by
doing evil, what do God and his angels accomplish by doing good? In a real
sense, Faust is saved only because God cheats. Mephisto, by rights and terms
of the bet, ought to have gained control of Fausts soul. Instead, he ends up like
Job, covered in boils caused by the petals of heavenly roses (l. 11809). Hell
may be governed by rules of contract and precedent (l. 1413), but heaven does

Stuart Atkins: Irony and Ambiguity in the Final Scene of Goethes Faust. In: Stuart
Atkins: Essay on Goethe. Ed. by Jane K. Brown and Thomas P. Saine. Rochester:
Camden House 1995. P. 288. Atkins argues that although the angels postulate the desir-
ability of the separation of the earthly from the heavenly, that this separation does not
actually occur. I would argue, however, that this separation seems clear when Gretchen
says: Sieh, wie er jedem Erdenbande / Der alten Hulle sich entrafft! [See him work
loose from all the bonds / that once enveloped him on earth!] (1208889).
As Martin Swales notes, the tension between Fausts two souls is not only about striv-
ing, but also about the dynamic elation and eroding despair. And although one is
tempted to place emphasis upon the element of despair, Swales notes that we should
not undervalue the moments of delight, for they too [. . .] are part of the perennial
endowment of humanity. The Character and the Characterization of Faust. In: A
Companion to Goethes Faust, Parts I and II. Ed. by Paul Bishop. Rochester: Camden
House 2001. P. 39. Faust dualism allows for both great happiness and great despair.
That one of Fausts two souls appears devalued in heaven further places into question
whether going to heaven is an unqualified good. For a different perspective on the con-
flict of Fausts two souls, see Van der Laan who looks to them as a basis to argue that
Faust presents us with the incoherent individual whose inner division prevents moral
decision and action. P. 455.
See also, for example, Brown, who in her analysis of Act IV draws parallels between
Fausts temptation on the mountain and Christs. The logic of this scene is turned upside
down from the Biblical one: Faust can only be saved by accepting all temptations. To
reject temptation would be Christian, and hence Mephistophelean. P. 221.

not appear to be. In the end, it is the angels posteriors that determine the out-
come: the naked backsides of the heavenly, pure cherubs prove too much of
a distraction to the devil.
Moreover, if only one of Fausts souls goes to heaven, what does this mean for
Fausts future existence? In the beginning of the play, God explains that: Es irrt
der Mensch, solang er strebt [men err as long as they keep striving] (317).
Striving and error appear to go hand in hand. The ascension of one of Fausts
souls may very well mean that it will no longer err, but will Fausts immortal exis-
tence continue to strive? Or, to put the same point in another way, Gretchen and
Faust have completely exchanged roles. On earth, Faust was the active agent
(the seducer), Gretchen the passive one (the seduced). In heaven, she now is
active and he passive: she intercedes for him (ll. 1206912075), she will be
teaching him (belehren) (l. 12092), he will be following her (l. 12093), and
the feminine in general seems to determine the direction of activity (l. 12110).
One could similarly go through many aspects of the play to see how opposing
views are simultaneously represented, whether the good of private individuals
(Baucis and Philemon) trumps the greater good of society (a larger, thriving
community), whether the ends ought to justify the means, whether Fausts
rejection of magic and regret at his pact wipe out his earlier deeds, etc. One of
the strengths of the play is that it forces the reader into these various positions
and gives justification for both sides. The play does not support just one per-
spective on its main issues, but provides at least two. It therefore encourages
the same kind of dynamism that Goethe wrote about in the eye and that he saw
throughout all of nature: one perspective immediately calls forth its opposite
and vice versa. Or, to put this sentiment in Goethes own words in a letter to
Zelter (1 June 1831), Faust was to be an obvious puzzle [ein offenbares
Ratsel] that would continually entertain human beings and give them plenty
to do [die Menschen fort und fort ergotze und ihnen zu schaffen mache].
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Heide Crawford

Poetically Visualizing Urgestalten. The Union of Nature,

Art, and the Love of a Woman in Goethes Die
Metamorphose der Pflanzen
Whether scientific or artistic, Goethes treatment of his favorite themes of nature, art,
and women in his work were based largely upon a visual perception and careful obser-
vation that is based in occult philosophy. Numerous studies have been published on
Goethes poem Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen [The Metamorphosis of the
Plants], his related scientific studies, and his interests in the occult sciences and
secret societies, but to my knowledge, no study has combined these approaches by
investigating the impact of Goethes occult worldview on his approach to visualization
in his literary work. In this chapter I will demonstrate a connection between Goethes
emphasis on visualization in his poem The Metamorphosis of the Plants and his
quest for Urgestalten [primal forms] that is based in his occult worldview.

Wer [die Natur] nicht allenthalben sieht, sieht sie nirgendwo recht.
[Whoever does not see (Nature) everywhere, does not see it correctly anywhere].
Goethe: Allgemeine Naturlehre

Goethes combined interests in the sciences, the occult, the arts, women and the
quest for Urgestalten [primal forms] in all things have resulted in what I will refer
to here as an occult worldview and poetic visualization that is characteristic of
much of Goethes poetry and other literary and scientific works. Nature, art and
women were in fact the great themes that dominated Goethes life and his lifes
work.1 Whether scientific or artistic, his treatments of these themes in his work
were based largely upon a visual perception and careful observation that is based
in occult philosophy. Furthermore, he was particularly interested in observa-
tions that one could make with the naked eye; in his biological and botanical
studies he was primarily interested in the morphology of forms in nature,
specifically metamorphosis. Karl Richter mentions that although the study of
metamorphosis is not the only aspect of Goethes conception of morphology, it
is central to his thinking. In his essay, Richter quotes Goethe as saying:
Die Gestalt ist ein bewegliches, ein werdendes, ein vergehendes. Gestaltenlehre ist
Verwandlungslehre. Die Lehre der Metamorphose ist der Schlssel zu allen Zeichen
der Natur.2
Robert J. Richards: The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the
Age of Goethe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2002. P. 383.
Karl Richter: Morphologie und Stilwandel: Ein Beitrag zu Goethes Lyrik. In:
Jahrbuch der Deutschen Schillergesellschaft. Ed. by Fritz Martini, Walter Mller-
Seidel, and Bernhard Zeller. Stuttgart: Alfred Krner 1977. No. 21. P. 199.

Form is mobile, emerging, passing. The study of form is the study of morphology.
The study of metamorphosis is the key to all signs of nature.

This is also representative of Goethes influence by Spinoza. He agreed with

Herder that Spinozas philosophy had an impact on ones understanding of
nature. Goethe believed that an approach to the study of anatomy, for example,
based on Spinozas teachings, required a comparative approach. This meant
that in order to come up with an idea of an archetype or Urgestalt, one had to
visually compare similar features in different animals.3 This concept of anal-
ogy is also fundamental to occult philosophy, as will be explained in more
detail below. Goethe always looked for the Urgestalt or archetype in natures
diversity and vice versa. This symbolic approach does not only shape Goethes
thinking of the world, but it also influences his poetic imagery.4
With regard to Goethes concept of the Urpflanze [primal plant], Schiller
remarked: Das ist keine Erfahrung, das ist eine Idee [That is not an experi-
ence, it is an idea].5 Goethes response to his friends remark was simply: Das
kann mir sehr lieb sein, da ich Ideen habe, ohne es zu wissen, und sie sogar
mit Augen sehe [Thats fine by me that I have ideas without realizing it and
that I even see them with my eyes].6 In his Maximen und Reflexionen Goethe
reflects quite a bit on his scientific approach through observation, but two of
his thoughts are particularly applicable in the context of the current investigation:
Denken ist interessanter als Wissen, aber nicht als Anschauen [Thinking is
more interesting than knowing, but not as interesting as observing]; and Die
Sinne trgen nicht, das Urteil trgt [The senses are not deceptive, judgment
is deceptive].7 Visualization was important to Goethe from a scientific and an
artistic standpoint and figures prominently in much of his work. His poem
Metamorphosis of the Plants combines his interests in science (specifically
botany), the study of forms and primal forms, art and love in one holistic con-
cept that, in turn, emphasizes his occult worldview. With this poem Goethe
unites science with art to represent a worldview that is based in an occult
approach to visualization.

Richards: P. 379.
Dieter Borchmeyer: Weimarer Klassik: Portrait einer Epoche. Weinheim: Beltz
Athenum 1998. P. 198.
Quoted in Borchmeyer: P. 197. My translation from the German. It should be men-
tioned here, however, that the term idea does stem from the Greek word iden, which
means to see.
Borchmeyer. P. 197.
Goethe: Maximen und Reflexionen. Frankfurt/M: Insel 1982. Translations, unless oth-
erwise indicated, are my own.

Numerous studies have been published on Goethes poem The Metamorphosis

of the Plants,8 his related scientific studies,9 and his interests in the occult sci-
ences and secret societies, but to my knowledge, no study has combined these
approaches by investigating the impact of Goethes occult worldview on his
approach to visualization in his literary work. In the following I will demon-
strate a connection between Goethes emphasis on visualization in his poem The
Metamorphosis of the Plants and his quest for Urgestalten that is based in his
occult worldview.
Fundamental to Goethes perception of the world around him, whether man-
ifested in his scientific writings or in his poetry, is his occult worldview.
During the eighteenth century there was an increasing interest in occult phi-
losophy and the secret societies that based their tradition on occult philosophy
and the language societies of the seventeenth century.10 It is well-known that
Goethe was an initiate of the Freemasons and the Illuminati, that he was very
likely an initiate of the Rosicrucians,11 that he dabbled in alchemy, that his reli-
gious beliefs were pantheistic, and that he was a Gnostic.12 Fundamental to all
these secret societies, alchemy, pantheism and Gnosticism is a basic perception

See, for example, Gertrud Overbeck: Goethes Lehre von der Metamorphose der
Pflanzen und ihre Widerspiegelung in seiner Dichtung. In: Publications of the English
Goethe Society 31 (19601961); Christoph Siegrist: Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen.
In: Goethe-Gedichte: Zweiunddreiig Interpretationen. Ed. by Gerhard Sauder.
Munich: Carl Hanser 1996. Pp. 168177.
Dorothea Kuhn: Selbst Natur Welt. Modelle der Natur bei Goethe und seinen
Zeitgenossen. In: Allerhand Goethe. Ed. by Dieter Kimpel and Jrg Pompetzki.
Frankfurt/M: Peter Lang 1985. Pp. 3144; Alfred Schmidt: Goethes Wissenschaftsbegriff.
In: Kimpel and Pompetzki. Pp. 139164; Theodor Butterfass: Goethe und die
Wissenschaft von der Pflanze. In: Kimpel and Pompetzki. Pp. 165180.
Rolf Christian Zimmermann: Das Weltbild des jungen Goethe: Studien zur her-
metischen Tradition des deutschen 18. Jahrhunderts. Munich: Wilhelm Fink 1969. Vol.
1. Pp. 1920.
Horst E. Miers: Lexikon des Geheimwissens. Munich: Goldmann 1993. P. 254. Miers
mentions here that although there is no evidence that Goethe was in fact a member of
the Rosicrucians, his membership has been inferred from references to Rosicrucian
principles and symbolism in several of his works. Nicholas Boyle gives an example of
the Rosicrucian symbolism that Goethe used in his poem Dedication (1789). In this
poem a monk, Brother Mark comes to a monastery that bears the sign of the
Rosicrucians the cross of garlanded roses. Nicholas Boyle: Goethe: The Poet and
the Age. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1991. Pp. 397398.
Though there are numerous sources that reference Goethes familiarity with and
active participation in various occult sciences and secret societies, my sources for this
inquiry are the following: Max Seiling: Goethe als Okkultist. Berlin: J. Baum 1920;
Miers (see note above for full reference information); Andr Nataf: The Occult. New
York: Chambers 1991. Pp. 206207; Dan Burton and David Grandy: Magic, Mystery
and Science: The Occult in Western Civilization. Bloomington: Indiana University
Press 2004.

of the world that focuses on the occult concept of analogy that is represented
by the fundamental idea of the microcosm in the macrocosm. In occult philos-
ophy the microcosm, ones body, recapitulates the macrocosm, the universe.
The formula for this concept of the microcosm in the macrocosm in magic,
alchemy and other occult sciences is As above, so below. This formula is the
short version of the occult philosophical theory that everything that happens in
the universe above (the macrocosm), is directly reflected in what happens to
human beings on earth (the microcosm). Astrology, particularly the effect of
the cosmos, the constellations, and planetary alignments on human beings,
best illustrates this microcosm/macrocosm concept.13 Likewise, the opposite
of this concept is true: As below, so above. This implies that events on earth
can predict occurrences in the universe or, at the very least, they can predict
what the universe may hold for a persons future. In magic, for example, the
practitioner is able to read signs in nature that will allow him or her to predict
what will happen to a person in the future. This worldview of As above, so
below / As below, so above holds that all things that happen have a purpose and
predates our modern era, in which we are more inclined to acknowledge that
all things do in fact have a cause, but that they may not necessarily have a pur-
pose.14 Fundamental to the learned ability of the occultist to recognize signs in
nature that can affect human beings and their place in the macrocosm is careful
visual observation of events on earth and an ability to understand their relevance
in a larger cosmic context. These ideas, and by extension, Goethes own world-
view are characteristic of Gnosticism. Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge,
but in the occult sense of the term, it suggests a privileged knowledge of the
universe that was reserved for those few who had acquired an inner enlighten-
ment in contrast to the borrowed knowledge of the general populace. The early
Gnostics believed that gnosis, i.e. knowledge of Gods involvement in the cos-
mos and, by extension, of ones own origin and present situation, was far supe-
rior to faith as the ultimate path to salvation.15 Hence, Gnosticism combines the
concept of the microcosm in the macrocosm with a desire to understand the
origins of things. This idea of understanding the origins of things in order to
understand ones present situation is fundamental to Goethes worldview and is
particularly apparent in his poem Metamorphosis of the Plants.
However pre-modern the occult worldview of the microcosm in the macro-
cosm may at first appear, it is a fundamental philosophy of the occult sciences
in general and the secret societies, such as the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians
and the Illuminati in particular that developed in later centuries and based their

Burton and Grandy: P. 43.
Ibid. Pp. 4344.
Ibid. P. 290.

philosophies and worldviews in occult philosophy.16 The initial purpose of

Freemasonry was to improve society spiritually and socially by first improving
the individual with the help of a group of like-minded people. In a socio-political
context, secret societies such as the Freemasons and the Illuminati promoted and
practiced democracy and tolerance during their meetings in the lodges. Numerous
prominent intellectuals, poets, and musicians in Germany during this time,
such as Klopstock, Goethe, Lessing, Herder, Fichte, Wieland, Haydn, and Mozart,
to name a few, were Masons and many others, including Schiller and Kant were
at the very least interested in secret societies, even if they were themselves not
initiated members.17 Numerous princes and monarchs were also initiated Masons.
For example, the initiation of Frederick the Great in 1738, less than a year after
the first German lodge was founded in Hamburg in 1737, was a significant
event for German Freemasonry.18 The ideal of the Rosicrucians to gather and
combine all human knowledge sacred and secular into one all-encompassing
whole must have been particularly appealing to Goethe.19
Considering Goethes interest in and knowledge of occult sciences such as
magic and alchemy and his active participation in several secret societies, it is
not surprising to find numerous direct and indirect references to the occult and
occult practitioners in many of his works.20 In his scientific observations,
whether in botany, geology or mineralogy, Goethes idea of nature was more
typical of the traditional occult approach to nature as a knowing and sentient
organism than the prevailing materialistic Newtonian approach of his day. In
fact, Goethe argued against the singular claim that contemporary science had
on knowledge and explanation and it is well-known that he opposed Newtons
theories on optics. Goethes understanding of the world as a living and know-
ing universe is a very fundamental occult worldview. Considering mans place
in nature, Goethe viewed natures appeal to man as so primal that it could not be
divorced from itself .21 Because the opposing approach of materialistic science

Modern Freemasonry traces its roots to early eighteenth-century England. Though
the order originated centuries earlier among stonemason guilds, modern Freemasonry
started in England in 1717 when several small Masonic lodges came together to form a
Grand Lodge in London. During the course of the eighteenthcentury, Freemasonry and
its many later offshoots, including the Illuminati and the Rosicrucians, became increas-
ingly popular in Europe and especially in Germany among the educated middle class
and the upper classes. See Scott Abbott: Fictions of Freemasonry: Freemasonry and the
German Novel. Detroit: Wayne State University Press 1991. P. 15.
Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger: Europa im Jahrhundert der Aufklrung. Stuttgart:
Reclam 2000. Pp. 125126.
Abbott: P. 17.
Burton and Grandy: P. 297.
Examples include, of course, Faust, his poem Der Zauberlehrling, his play Der
Burton and Grandy: P. 304.

was so prevalent, Goethe held a Gnostic view of nature as a holy open secret.22
Much like the Philosophers Stone of the Medieval alchemists, the knowledge
or gnosis of what nature is and how humans are connected to it is attainable to
the enlightened, but at the same time concealed from those who are restricted
by a self-inflicted ignorance of the world.23 This idea that materialistic science
would never be able to satisfy mankinds desire for understanding in the sense
of gnosis because it did not consider the larger context is reflected in Goethes
Faust, for example, when Faust laments:
Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heiem Bemhn.
Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor,
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor!24

Ive studied now Philosophy

And jurisprudence, Medicine,
And even, alas! Theology,
From end to end, with labor keen;
And here, poor fool! with all my lore
I stand, no wiser than before [. . .].25

Goethe diverges quite significantly from traditional representations of the

Faust legend, in which Faust sold his soul to the Devil in return for fame,
knowledge and pleasure and was doomed to burn in hell after his pre-determined
time on earth had concluded. In Goethes version, Faust is saved from hell
because the pleasures of the material world are not sufficient to satisfy him.
Indirectly, Goethe emphasizes here that a spiritual connection to and under-
standing of the world and mankinds place in it is essential and a materialistic
focus will never be enough. It was Goethes goal to bring human beings into a
more egalitarian connection with nature than materialistic Newtonian science
could provide. But as a poet, he did more than this and more than occult scien-
tists before him. By addressing mans place in nature and the spiritual develop-
ment of love that is analogous to the physical development of a plant in his poem
Metamorphosis of the Plants, for example, Goethe combines his holistic and

Goethe quoted in Walter Heitler: Goethean Science. In: Goethes Way of Science: A
Phenomenology of Nature. Ed. by David Seamon and Arthur Zajonc. Albany: State
University of New York Press 1998. P. 59.
Burton and Grandy: P. 306.
In: Goethe: Faust Der Tragdie erster und zweiter Teil. Urfaust. HA 3: 20. Faust,
Part 1, scene 1.
Goethe: Faust, Part 1, scene 1. Trans. by Bayard Taylor. New York: Modern Library
1912. P. 15.

occult philosophical approach to the study of nature with his art and, in so
doing, he lifts the mere physical act of seeing and observing to a higher plane.
Metamorphosis of the Plants
When Goethe wrote his elegy Metamorphosis of the Plants in 1798, it was
generally acknowledged that science and art could not be combined with pos-
itive results. In his essay ber die nave und sentimentalische Dichtung [On
Nave and Sentimental Poetry] (1795), Schiller wrote that the difficulty in join-
ing art with science lay in the fact that art is vivid and science is intellectual.
With this he intended to imply that a didactic poem is intellectually descriptive
rather than poetically vivid .26 At the same time, however, he maintained that it
would be possible to overcome the disparity between the non-vivid nature of the
didactic poem and the poetic vividness of art.27 When Schiller wrote his essay
he had not yet found this type of poem, in which the scientific was joined with
the poetic or in which the scientific idea of the poem was poetic. He even
seemed to be challenging poets when he stated that Dasjenige didaktische
Gedicht, worin der Gedanke selbst poetisch wre und es auch bliebe, ist noch
zu erwarten [the didactic poem, in which the idea itself is poetic and remains
so, is yet to be written];28 Goethe seemed to meet Schillers challenge to write
a didactic poem that was poetic when he wrote his elegy eight years after he
had written a scientific essay on the metamorphosis of plants.
As an amateur scientist and as a poet, Goethe was able to combine his sci-
entific observations with artistic perception. In 1790 he published his essay
Versuch die Metamorphose der Pflanzen zu erklren [An Attempt to
Explain the Metamorphosis of Plants], one of the most important of his mor-
phological studies. In this essay on his research, Goethe defined metamorpho-
sis as a gradual developmental process that durch Umwandlung einer Gestalt
in die andere, gleichsam auf einer geistigen Leiter, zu jenem Gipfel der Natur,
der Fortpflanzung zweier Geschlechter, hinaufsteigt [ascends through the
transformation of one form into another, more or less like on an intellectual
ladder, to the peak of nature reproduction].29 Goethes representation of the
metamorphosis of plants in his poem corresponds factually with the observa-
tions he made in his scientific study.
Goethes poem Metamorphosis of the Plants is an elegy, but it differs sub-
stantially in subject matter from his other elegies, specifically his Roman
Elegies, which typically address more traditional topics such as love, departure

For example, the German Lehrgedicht.
Overbeck: Pp. 3839.
Friedrich Schiller: Werke und Briefe in zwlf Bnden. Frankfurt/M: Deutscher
Klassiker Verlag 19882002. Vol. 12. P. 206.
Goethe: FA 13: 65.

and death. In Metamorphosis of the Plants, however, a lesson in botany is

presented in the form of a poem. Hence, nature, i.e., a scientific study in
botany, and art are combined here in poetic form. Moreover, the study in
botany that is the theme of this poem is based on the visual perception of flow-
ers in the garden, the careful comparison of their basic forms that at first seem
to lose themselves in a chaotic myriad of different shapes and colors, and the
lesson is addressed to a beloved woman. The confusing multitude of flowers in
the garden that is described in the beginning of the poem (FA l: 18) dissolves
in the middle of the poem.30 In this middle portion of the poem, the law of
nature that applies to the metamorphosis of plants is explained based on the
example of the step-by-step development of a single plant (FA l: 1162). In this
second part of the poem the observers roaming and extended view that ini-
tially can only perceive the Blumengewhl [chaos of flowers] (FA l: 2)
contracts and concentrates on a single plant in its development from a seed to
full maturity and blossom, as if the observers were seeing it in a laboratory set-
ting. Just as the narrator is able to direct and guide his lovers gaze, by exten-
sion, the readers gaze is moved from the confusion of the multitude of plants
in a garden to the image of a single plant with a very basic form. This alternat-
ing expansion and concentration of visual perception is repeated in this man-
ner throughout the poem, much like a plants metamorphosis occurs according
to Goethes own observations in his scientific study.31 Hence, in a truly classi-
cal sense something general, namely the basic law of nature, becomes evident
in something particular, the single plant and its metamorphosis, which results
in the observation that all plants undergo a similar metamorphosis. A general,
lasting principle is herewith connected with a particular observation.
By describing the scientific subject matter of the metamorphosis of plants in
the ancient Greek poetic form of the elegy, Goethe combines science with
antiquity, which is yet another fundamental principle of Classicism. The basic
element of elegiac verse is the distich and the ever-recurring regular meter of
the syllables represents a fundamental organ of the poem, much like the leaf of
a plant, according to Goethes studies. As a plant follows a law of nature in its
metamorphosis, so does the distich follow a law of meter in the hexameter of
the first line and the pentameter of the second line.32 However, at the same time
that the distich holds fast to the strict rules of meter, it can vary greatly in theme
and imagery, much like a particular plant may vary greatly from others when it
blossoms. In a similar manner, the development of a relationship between a
man and a woman follows a law of nature, as Goethe shows by analogy at the
end of his poem. Two people meet, become acquainted with one another, then

Overbeck: P. 41.
Ibid. P. 57.

a friendship develops. Man and woman reach the full bloom and maturity of
their relationship, however, once they have found love, the peak of the rela-
tionship between the sexes that goes beyond mere physical interaction.
The final part of the poem answers the question that is posed at the begin-
ning. The individual phenomena appear as symbols of the die hhere Welt
[higher world] (FA l: 80). The poet moves from the world of the plants in the
garden, to the animal kingdom and then he directs his lovers gaze to interper-
sonal relationships that follow a law of nature analogous to the law of the meta-
morphosis of the plants. In this manner the relationship between a man and a
woman develops according to a natural law of metamorphosis until it reaches
a maturity, the full blossom of harmony, gleicher Ansicht der Dinge [same
view of things]; and, thus, the higher world of love.
The metamorphosis of the plants in this poem functions as a symbol for the
development of relationships between men and women and as a symbol for the
gradual, well-ordered formation of works of art, such as this poem. In this way
one can see nature reflected in art if one recognizes the laws of nature that are
at work in the creation of a work of art. Hence, a poet follows a law of meter, for
example, when he writes an elegy such as this one. The poem as dichterische
Gestalt [poetic form] is analogous to the formation of nature and it is a symbol
in the sense that Goethe explains:
Das ist die wahre Symbolik, wo das Besondere das Allgemeine reprsentiert, nicht
als Traum und Schatten, sondern als lebendig-augenblickliche Offenbarung des

True symbolism occurs where the particular represents the general principle, not as
a dream or shadow, but rather as the immediate, living revelation of that which can-
not be investigated.

In his application of the word metamorphosis Goethe seems to be address-

ing both the cause and the effect of a plants development. Hence, when he
observes the metamorphosis of a plant he does not simply see that one form
changes into the next form, but also how this development proceeds.34 Goethes
poem, then, is a dichterische Gestalt that is analogous to forms found in nature.
With his morphological principles of alternating contraction and expansion
Goethe found a formulation for the basic elements of shaping creation in
nature and in his own poetry.35 By doing so, he creates visualized concepts.
These are concepts, such as the concept of the metamorphosis of plants that are
so vivid that they can only be understood in conjunction with visualization. In this

HA 12: 471.
Overbeck: Pp. 4748.
Ibid. P. 56.

sense, then, the metamorphosis of plants is a visualized concept and conse-

quently the scientific concept of the metamorphosis of plants is combined with
the vivid art of the elegy.36 Therefore, Goethes didactic poem contains the ele-
ment of vividness that Schiller considered to be indispensable for all forms of
poetry in his essay.37 Goethes poem Metamorphosis of the Plants is the
poem that, according to Schiller, was yet to be written.
In his didactic poem about the metamorphosis of plants Goethe does much
more than offer a lesson in botany. In this poem he combines science, art and
the love of a woman to demonstrate, in a deeply occult philosophical manner,
that all things on earth, whether plant, animal or human, follow the same basic
laws of nature in their respective contexts to acquire the highest possible level
of perfection. The microcosm, i.e. the plant and by extension mankind, though
physically restricted to the earth plane, are affected by the macrocosm, i.e. the
laws of nature. And because of this, much like the plant reaches full bloom due
to the laws of nature, so too can humankind reach a higher level of awareness
and distinction from others of their kind, when they reach the ultimate peak of
human spiritual inter-connection love.
Though interest in occult philosophy and activity in secret societies that fol-
lowed occult philosophy was quite popular during Goethes lifetime, his involve-
ment was unique. As a poet and as an amateur scientist Goethe had a worldview
that was truly holistic. In a very Gnostic approach to awareness, Goethe knew
that scientific knowledge, however exciting and useful for furthering mankinds
understanding of the world around him, would never completely satisfy the
curiosity of the individual who seeks enlightenment. As a spiritual being
mankind is driven to find his place in and a higher purpose for himself in the
universe. This study of Goethes occult worldview as it is revealed through his
visualization of events in this poem warrants further study into the significance
of this aspect of Goethes life and its relevance in his work.

Overbeck: P. 49.
Ibid. P. 49.
Richard Block

Scribbles from Italy: Cy Twomblys Experiment in Seeing

Goethe See Language
Understood as a serial painting, Cy Twomblys Goethe in Italy authenticates the need
for a second sight or what Goethe called the Auge des Geistes [eye of the mind]
to recover a form that transcends the temporality of scientific and artistic observation.
But as Goethes scientific works demonstrate, the eye can only visualize its own processes.
The signature, or the penultimate image in Twomblys serial painting, thus emerges to
stabilize seeings endlessly referential structure. But reading and seeing the signature is
a blur; that is to say, the scribble, which is also the last of Twomblys images, is the sig-
nature of German Classicism or Goethes post-Italy oeuvre.

In 1978 Cy Twombly completed what appears to be a series of six different images,

Goethe in Italy. The conceit of this essay is that Twomblys serial images offer
an irresistible gloss on Goethe in Italy, or on what Goethe learned in Italy about
seeing that allowed for his studies of the arts and sciences to generate a differ-
ent kind of writing.1 Conversely, I also read Goethes scientific works or method
as a key to understanding Twomblys staging of what might be called an exper-
iment in seeing. In other words, Twomblys images have something to say about
seeing or experiments in seeing that in this instance carry the title Goethe in
Italy, and inform the literary productivity of Goethes post-Italy years. Typically,
Twombly is associated with what appear to be scribbles on paper that meander
across the entire canvas without direction or itinerary. What has been described
as a tracing of drawings performance produces a nomadic form of script that
asks to be read and seen at the same time.2 The serial work under consideration
here asks the same. As we will see, tracking the movement of the scribble or
the blur that results from seeing and reading gives way to a formal consider-
ation or a consideration of form that we might call Classicism.
In the Italienische Reise, Goethe posited an intimate relationship between
seeing and writing: Da ich zeichne und die Kunst studire, hilft dem
Dichtungsvermgen auf, statt es zu hindern; denn schreiben mu man wenig,
zeichnen viel [That I draw and study art aids rather than hinders my capacity

Helmut Mller-Sievers has demonstrated that the shift in Goethes classical poetics
results from an abandonment of immediacy and experience to a mean-time in which
the rules of an already extinguished language [Latin] are mastered all the while con-
veying the illusion of a daring immediacy. See Helmut Mller-Sievers: Writing Off:
Goethe and the Meantime of Erotic Poetry. In: MLN 108 (1993). P. 439.
Roland Barthes: The Wisdom of Art. In: The Responsibility of Forms. Trans. by Richard
Howard. New York: Hill and Wang 1985. P. 178.

for writing poetry. For one must write little, but draw a lot] (WA I 32: 159).3
If we accept the axiom that Goethes Italian experience restored his poetic tal-
ents, it is the productive relationship between the image and the word seeing and
writing that requires exploration, and it is one that Twomblys painting pursues.
This suggests as well that seeing and sketching were not simply passi-tempo for
Goethe in Italy but essential to generating a classical language in the mean-time
of classical meter.4 The image, or what the image calls forth to lend itself form,
is to draw on Goethes description of the Urpflanze the hidden germ of
his poetry.5
Save for the last image, each of the six canvases mix crayon and pencil.6 The
first four cannot be said to be related by subject matter, not because the images
are stylistically divergent or because they seem to issue from different hands. On
the contrary, they share a color palette, and while the dimensions of the canvases
change, the images, which all gesture toward representation of an unidentified
object, recall one another and seem to cluster around an object that has yet to
be captured. The images, we might conjecture, are four takes on the same sub-
ject, except that the subject cannot be confidently identified. That is to say, in
the first four canvases Goethe is nowhere to be found in Italy. Instead, a kind of
seeing that discovers its objects in parts is Goethe in Italy. That explains the full
title or description given the work in the 1982 catalogue for the Berlin exhibit,

All translations, unless otherwise indicated, are my own.
Helmut Mller-Sievers. P. 439.
WA I 31: 239. The temptation, of course, is to regard Goethes efforts as a sketch artist as
mere dilettantism, albeit a productive one. See Hans Vaget: The Augenmensch and the
Failure of Vision. Goethe and the Trauma of Dilettantism. In: Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift
75, 1 (March 2001). Pp. 1526. The quality of the sketches confirms this impression as
does Goethes own decision to enlist Christoph Heinrich Kneip to do the sketching during
their time in Sicily. That also seems to be the role Goethe assigned to his pre-occupation
with art when he noted in July 1787 the following: Ich bin im Land der Knste, lat
uns das Fach durcharbeiten, damit wir uns fr unser briges Leben Ruh und Freude
haben and an was anders gehen knnen [I am in the land of the arts, let us work
through that field so that we can have rest and peace for the remainder of our lives and
move on to something else] (WA II 32: 34). Art may be a distraction, but it is a neces-
sary one, if Goethe is to move on or return someday to Weimar and resume his vocation
as a poet.
In a strict sense one cannot speak of canvases or of a painting. Although the Zeitgeist
catalogue entitles the work a painting in six parts, there is no paint to be found on any
of the six surfaces, only crayon and pencil. The surfaces alternate between paper and
canvas. While I take up a discussion later of Goethes Zur Farbenlehre, Twomblys alternate
use of paper and canvas calls attention to the surface upon which color is perceived and
thereby puts in play the notion of chemical colors to which Goethe assigned constancy.
In other words, is the surface, the crayon, or the eye the bestower of color? Goethe, as we
know, tries to isolate these or similar aspects. Twombly, through such alterations, questions
the reliability of such distinctions in the determinations or even apperception of color.

Zeitgeist: a painting in six parts.7 The innocuous character of what also must be
considered a caption, since it appears under the first image, seeks an overall unity
that the naked eye cannot possess on its own; the Zeitgeist can be missed with
a blink of an eye or in the time required to move from one image to the next. The
action in a Twombly painting is transitive; it seeks only to provoke a result.8
The result is Goethe or Goethe in Italy since that is both the inscription and
palimpsest/pentimento of the fifth canvas. Goethe in Italy is written in non-
cursive script twice on the canvas that serves as the fifth image. The words are
imperfectly laid upon their double or upon what appears to have been an earlier
script eroded or erased by time even the time it has taken to arrive at the fifth
image in the series. The appearance of the subject(s) relates to the subject of the
previous four images only in the manner in which it re-inscribes the descend-
ing character of the images from the upper right to the lower left in images two
through four. Reading the images from left to right is a painting or act of paint-
ing that produces a subject that looks to erase itself. It is here that Twomblys
Goethe in Italy in 1978 begins to tell us something about Goethe and seeing.
Staging the Abyss of Seeing
In Der Versuch als Vermittler von Objekt und Subjekt [The Experiment as
Mediator (. . .)] (1793) Goethe insists upon the need to follow every single
experiment through its variations, or in Twomblys case, its six instances.9 In
training the eye to observe variation, the poet, artist or scientist would seek to
arrive at a form of reflective judgment whereby the Urphnomen could be
grasped.10 The simultaneous and the successive are daher [. . .] in der Idee

Zeitgeist: International Art Exhibit (catalogue). Ed. by Christos Joachmides, and Norman
Rosenthal, Berlin: Georg Brazilier 1983. P. 241.
Roland Barthes: Cy Twombly. Works on Paper. In: The Responsibility of Forms.
Pp. 15776.
WA II: 11, 22.
For an explanation of how the Urphnomenon is dependent upon Goethes so-called
Auge des Geistes and how such seeing, in turn, is related to Kants reflective judgment
in the Third Critique, see Eckart Frster: Goethe and the Auges des Geistes. In: Deutsche
Vierteljahrsschrift 75, 1 (March 2001). Pp. 87101. As Frster explains, Goethe recog-
nized the need to generate a continuous series of experiments or phenomena. Once this
series was viewed in its totality, a higher experience could be realized. It is this Auge
des Geistes that allows him to perceive the higher. We switch from a discursive and
analytical mode to an intuitive and holistic mode and view the empirical unity of an object
as developing dynamically from an archetypal form. P. 98. The question that emerges is
where to assign ontological priority: is the inner eye already there or do the series of images
give rise to it? Twomblys series is, I argue, an attempt to stage such an experiment only
to discover that what this second sight perceives is only the double vision and blur of the
fifth image. Translations of Goethes botanical writings, unless otherwise noted, are based
upon Bertha Berthaler: Goethes Botanical Writings. Woodridge, CT: Oxbow 1989.

Simultanes und Sukzessives innigst verbunden, auf dem Standpunkt der

Erfahrung hingegen immer getrennt [therefore (. . .) intimately bound together
in an idea, whereas they are always separated in experience] (WA II 11: 57). But
the idea that restores simultaneity is itself dynamic:
Ich hatte die Gabe, wenn ich die Augen schlo und mit niedergesenktem Haupte mir
in der Mitte des Sehorgans eine Blume dachte, so verharrte sie nicht einen Augenblick
in ihrer ersten Gestalt, sondern sie legte sich auseinander und aus ihrem Innern
entfalteten sich wieder neue Blumen [. . .]; es waren keine natrlichen Blumen
sondern phantastische [. . .]. [Das Sehen in Subjektiver Hinsicht] (WA II 11: 282)

I had the gift that when I shut my eyes and bowed my head to imagine in the mid-
dle of my organ of sight a flower that it did not persist in its primary form but
instead opened up from within to unfold yet again new flowers [. . .]; these were
not natural flowers; rather, fantastic ones [. . .].

That which reflective judgment presents to the eye in the form of an idea unfolds
according to a particular rhythm, perhaps that of the blinking inner eye. The
successive is not grasped, for those who possess this particular gift, as a static
image or idea, but rather the sign of possessing the gift is the ability to reproduce
even the idea serially.
Twomblys Goethe in Italy is likewise an experiment in seeing something that
is imagined reproduce itself. It is not simply a mediation of and meditation on what
was Goethes great passion in Italy, painting, a passion that eventually gave way
to writing and sponsored Goethes second dilettantism, science.11 But the painting
also tests the ability of the eye to make the laws of the fantastic visible, to display
what Twombly imagined Goethe in Italy to have seen as it originally appeared,
which is serially. For Goethe at least, that is true to the natural order of things:
Ich habe eine Vermutung, dass [die Knste] nach eben den Gesetzen ver-
fuhren, nach welchen die Natur verfhrt und denen ich auf die Spur bin [I have
a suspicion that the arts proceed according to the same laws as nature, and it is
those traces which I am now following] (WA I 30: 264). In fact, the trace by
which the inscription Goethe in Italy is doubled conforms to the laws of nature,
whereby paintings about nature in Italy mediated by Goethe (Twomblys images
are in many respects landscapes or cross-sections of a piece of land) map their own
descent or descending order. While all of this might be nothing more than a curi-
ous gloss on a cultural tradition, something that is fairly common in Twomblys
work,12 a critical aspect of this gloss is that the form apperceived only by its

Hans Vaget: Pp. 1517.
As Varnedoe notes, from the 1950s on Twombly embraced a cultural patination. He
also notes that in other works the inscriptions of Roma or Olympia sets up
a dialogue between the associations and the idea and the character of its inscription.
See Cy Twombly: A Retrospective at Moma (catalogue). Ed. by Kirk Varnedoe. New York:
Abrams 1994. P. 29.

descending character is consistent with the manner in which Goethe described

from Naples his discovery of the Urpflanze in Sicily: Den Hauptpunkt,
wo der Keim steckt, habe ich ganze zweifellos gefunden; alles brige seh ich
schon im Ganzen [. . .]. Mit diesem Modell und dem Schlssel dazu kann man
alsdann noch Pflanzen ins Unendliche erfinden [I have undoubtedly discov-
ered the main point, where the germ is hidden. Everything else I now see in its
entirety. (. . .) With this model and its key I can go on discovering plants ad
infinitum] (WA I 11: 239).
The hidden germ is known only by its progeny. Even if Goethe claims to have
found the Hauptpunkt, the seed is hidden.13 The idea that links the succes-
sive and simultaneous is present only serially. The point is emphatically stated
in a letter to Zelter from 1803: Natur- und Kunstwerke lernt man nicht kennen
wenn sie fertig sind; man mu sie im Entstehen aufhaschen, um sie einigermaen
zu begreifen [One does not come to know works of nature and art once they
have been completed; one has to catch them as they come into being in order
to grasp them in some measure] (WA IV 16: 265). What one catches sight of,
however, might not be works of nature or art but rather the workings of the eye
catching sight. Remarkably, Twomblys staging of such an experiment in paint-
ing nature leads to a form of writing that produces itself and a trace of itself in
the fifth image, Goethe in Italy. Self-citation and what else is Goethes
Italienische Reise is the inevitable result of the experiment(er) tracking its
own movements or of a traveler keeping a journal. This, in turn, produces an
iterative double that points to a common source or shared law; writing and its
traces is how experiments in seeing come to see themselves. In other words, if
Goethe learned to see in Italy and if such seeing or dabbling in art led to what
we call the renaissance of his poetic genius, it is the coming to see of writing
or to see the trace of writing, which we might call a scribbling, that sponsors this
renaissance.14 Staging an experiment so as to perceive in all of its stages a higher
unity, even an Urphnomen, only produces in Twomblys work a second sight
or double vision that is the signature of the subject.15 In this manner the phan-
tasmic dynamism of the eye is made manifest. Or, once Goethes gift to imagine
an endless unfolding assumes on the canvas more than a phantasmic presence,

It is important to note that Goethes report of his find comes after the fact; that is,
after he has returned from Sicily where he apparently discovered the Urpflanze. It is only
in looking back, in retrospect that the origin can be postulated. Curiously, that is the entire
structure of the Italienische Reise. Appended to the second Roman visit at the end of the
correspondence of each month is a Bericht or report.
Jane Brown: The Renaissance of Goethes Poetic Genius in Italy. In: Goethe in Italy.
Ed. by Gerhart Hoffmeister. Amsterdam: Rodopi 1988. Pp. 7793.
Goethes famous dispute with Schiller over the Urpflanze is relevant here insofar as
Goethe insists upon its existence since he can see it in his mind. Twombly, in this con-
text, might reply, Such ideas are only ideas of yourself .

it acquires the character of writing, of a double signature seeking to erase itself.

That is to say, it signs off. But if the experiment is said on this account to have
failed, it does succeed in producing an author.
Twomblys gloss on Goethe requires witnessing a sexpartite expression that
through a play of light, color and dimension gives way to writing. Goethes trans-
lation of Plotinius in the Farbenlehre. Didaktischer Teil is instructive here: Wr
nicht das Auge sonnenhaft, / Wie knnen wir das Licht erblicken? [How
could we see the light if the eye were not sun-like?] (WA II 1: 31). Since we
are like that which emits light, we can receive light. This self-reflective struc-
ture already seems to explain Twomblys fifth image; experiments in seeing, i.e.
scientific experiments, are exercises in self-observation, whereby the selfs trace
or what the emitting eye has seen reflected of itself is its own signature, which
is always a trace of the self. One of the more productive glosses on Goethes
words was expressed by the German scientist Wilhelm Ostwald, who observed,
rather satirically, that in order to read the eye must be tintenhaft [ink-like].16
But as Davide Stimilli has pointed out, the paradox is only apparent. Citing
Renaissance philologists, he notes how it is necessary to divine rather than to
read when we take up the challenge of reading that which was never written.17
Certainly, we cannot take this to mean that Goethe in Italy has never been
written; we have Goethes text(s). We can assert, however, that Goethe in Italy
is reading an Urform, either in the form of the primal plant or in the form of
Goethe in Italy, which journey has structured the itinerary of the countless who
followed Goethe to Italy. This relationship between divination and the unwrit-
ten leads Stimilli to conclude that reading, too, is a god.18 But according to
Twombly, what Goethe in Italy reads is his own signature, a kind of mis-en-abyme
whereby the sun-like eye receiving its own light produces its own ink. Reading
Goethe in Italy, in other words, is a god whose form is abysmal. Goethe in Italy is
both a title as well as an image and trace whose referents are countless. The divine
form preserves its unwritten character through an infinite regress of signifieds
that structures self-reflexivity.19 This will become more apparent once we consider
the kind of experiment that is being staged here; that is, how Goethes own scien-
tific writings call forth the very experiment that Twomblys images present.

Wilhelm Ostwald: Goethe, Schopenhauer und die Farbenlehre. Leipzig: Unesma
1931. P. 8.
Davide Stimilli: The Face of Immortality: Physiognomy and Criticism. Albany:
SUNY 2005. P. 19.
One of the best discussions of how self-observation can lead to an infinite regression
is to be found in Lawrence Ryans remarkable study of Hlderlins Hyperion in which
he reconstructs the various rejected versions. Hlderlins Hyperion. Exzentrische Bahn
und Dichterruf. Stuttgart: Metzler 1965. Pp. 845.

The relationship between image and word may explain the curious signature
of the fifth canvas, but it does little to explain the illegible scribble of the sixth. The
only relationship this pencil line has to the previous series of five is a formal
one; it traces or is a trace of what by the fifth image has become a constant in
the series: a descent. The double signature of the previous image, which served
as the title of the entire series and cited as well a cultural ritual, is now the path-
way of that signature, the extracted form of seeing Goethe in Italy inscribe and
erase itself. Seeing and its shadow become an irreducible difference between
light and dark, which for Goethe is color, or the irreducible difference between
the sun-like and ink-like characters of the eye. But the irreducible form of the
difference is the itinerary of a line that lacks color; the final two images are
only in pencil. The difference that sponsors color has in the end only an itiner-
ary of a line to show for itself. That might even be the best way to explain the
line, Goethe in Italy, which refers to an itinerary of its own. Certain is that what
remains or what becomes of the last traces of this experiment in seeing are the
markings of the making of a sketch, i.e., a scribble.
The spiral tendency of plants of which Goethe wrote is in question here inso-
far as its complementary principle, the vertical, is weakened: Monstrositten
[. . .] werden entstehen dadurch, da jenes aufrechtstrebende Leben mit dem
Spiralen aus dem Gleichgewicht kommt, von diesem berflgelt wird [(A)bnor-
malities (. . .) arise when that upward striving force is thrown out of equilibrium
with the spiral and is outdistanced (outwinged) by the latter] (WA II 7: 39).
The first four of Twomblys images, in fact, are very possibly cross-sections of
soil or land through which no plant has pushed forth. On the one hand, the
dizzying referential structure of the subject favors the spiral tendency; it takes
on wings of its own. The ensuing abnormality is thus two-fold. The upward striv-
ing force is captured by the changing dimensions of the image. Seeing arrests
the development. The reframing of the object in the first four images means
that the reading, or seeing of reading, of what occurs in nature requires another
step to account for what the eye captures. The spiral tendency is captured only
if one reads backwards or reads to erase what ones initial reading produced;
readings wings, oddly enough, need to be clipped. The descent of the series then
becomes an ascent, just as when one reads the sixth image from right to left. On
the other hand, this boustrophedon is not at odds with how one reads Goethe
in Italy.20 One reads about a journey to recover the spirit of antiquity in a place,
Italy, which is itself a read on an ancient Greece whose existence is verified only
by this odd reading. And Goethes own experiments in seeing and of which

Boustrophedon was initially applied to Greek law to describe writing that alternated
from right to left and then left to right, much like the plow of the ox. For a provocative
reading of the boustrophedon in relationship to the foundations of Rome see Michel Serres:
Rome: The Book of Foundations. Stanford: Stanford University Press 1991. Pp. 128.

there will be more to say in a moment reproduce this dizzying referential struc-
ture. The reader/observer stubbornly refers to himself in those moments precisely
dedicated to erasing himself. He becomes a de-facto origin, as Italy did in the quest
for antiquity. A letter from Goethe to Carl August (25 January 1788) confirms that
what has just been described is the real pleasure and lesson of Goethes stay in Italy:
Als ich zuerst nach Rom kam, bemerckt ich bald dass ich von Kunst eigentlich gar
nichts verstand und dass ich dahin nur den allgemeinen Abglanz der Naturin den
Kunstwercken bewundert und genossen hatte, hier that sich eine andere Natur, ein
weiteres Feld vor mir auf, ja ein Abgrund der Kunst in den ich mich mit desto
mehr Freude hineinschaute, als ich meinen Blick an die Abgrnde der Natur
gewhnt hatte. (WA IV 8: 328)

When I first came to Rome, I realized immediately that I really knew nothing
about art and until then had only admired copies of nature in art. But here a differ-
ent nature, a broader perspective opens before me; yes, an abyss of art into which
I look with all the more joy since I have learned to look upon the abysses of nature.

The letter joins the abysses of nature, art, and the enjoyment of art. More likely, it
is the hopeless entanglement of the three that enthralls Goethe all the more
delightfully because it signals a form of self-emanation, whose ultimate form-giver
is Goethe.21 Stated otherwise, the letter necessitates asking what the abyss is that
links both painting and this other nature in such a manner as to produce a writing
(of this letter) that nonetheless looks to erase itself or witness its own self-erasure
by handing itself over to the abyss. In Italy Goethe delights in moving beyond
a reflection of nature to an art or other nature that rehearses the abysmal structure
of nature. Is there really that much difference between one abyss and another? The
pleasure, it seems, comes not only from looking into the abyss of art but also from
the art of looking into that abyss after having learned to look into the abyss of
nature. The eternal return of the abyss is bliss, which is why Twombly goes one
step further. Looking into the abyss is falling; and if falling for Goethe in Italy
is not the last line, the scribble produced by falling for it might be.
Seeing Double. Seeing Goethe.
Although one might suspect that the highly unclassical painter Twombly would
have little to show about the highly classical writer Goethe, not much effort is

Goethes final reflections on the Roman Carnival are instructive here: [E]s bleibt
dem Theilnehmer vielleicht weniger davon in der Seele zurck als unseren Lesern, vor
deren Einbildungskraft und Verstand wir das ganze in seinem Zusammenhange gebracht
haben [Less of the carnival is left perhaps in the souls of the participants than in those of
our readers before whose powers of imagination and understanding the entire event has
been coherently presented] (WA I 32: 270). All that one can experience is unnecessary
now that Goethe has brought what was necessary before the eyes of prospective attend-
ees. Goethes sight is indispensable for our own.

required to inform their relationship and thus this particular series of Twombly
images. The works for which Twombly is most widely known, of course, are the
pencil lines that seem to be scribbled onto paper. The reversal in some of the
images from the 1950s from black on white to white on black suggests the reflex-
ive structure of a process concerned with its own performance. In doing so, these
works reflect on and supplement the work of the Abstract Expressionists, most
notably Jackson Pollock.22 The attempt to give expression to an interiority that
is bounded and contained in a Pollock painting is uncontainable in a Twombly
work: Twomblys writing no longer abides anywhere; it is absolutely in excess
[. . .].23 The writing overruns its borders and thus relinquishes claims of rep-
resentation, opting instead for pure expenditure. But this expenditure makes for
good viewing: Twomblys art consist in making things seen not the things he
represents [. . .] but those he manipulates: these few pencil strokes, this graph
paper, this patch of pink, that brown smudge.24 Painting and drawing become vis-
ible acts by tracing their own developments. What some have called a metascript
is not a discourse on writing in most instances the lines only gesture at mean-
ing rather, it is a discourse.25 It runs its course, which exceeds the place of
The question is not so much one of self-consciousness, of the pencil becom-
ing conscious of its own markings. In that instance, the fifth image in the series
Goethe in Italy would have to be overlaid by Twombly, which is to say we
would have to come to read the last image as Twomblys own signature. To be
sure, the final scribble is signature Twombly, particularly since neither this
image nor the others bear his signature.26 But just as importantly, interiority is
overtaken and undone by gesture: TW [sic] has his own way of saying that the
essence of writing is neither form nor a usage but only a gesture, the gesture
which produces it by permitting it to linger [. . .].27 The pencils pre-occupation
with its own form and structure is a morphological grapheme save that no form
or structure can contain it. In this respect Twomblys graphemes do not measure
up to Goethes definition of morphology: Betrachtung des organischen Ganzen
durch Vergegenwrtigung aller dieser Rcksichten und Verknpfung derselben

Twombly has written, Each line is the actual experience with its own innate history
[. . .]. It is the sensation of its own realization. See Kirk Varnedoe. P. 65. In other words,
each line is not just expression but also performance.
Roland Barthes: Works [. . .]. P. 161.
Roland Barthes: Wisdom [. . .]. P. 178.
See Manfred de la Motte: Cy Twombly. In: Geschriebene Malerei (catalogue). Ed. by
Michael Schwarz. Karlsruhe: Badischer Kunstverein 1975. P. 66.
Of course, even what I have called the signature of the fifth image is Twomblys or
Twomblys signing of Goethe, which extends the abysmal structure of Goethes seeing
himself seeing. Twombly seeing himself painting would have to placed at the beginning.
Roland Barthes: Works [. . .]. P. 158.

durch die Kraft des Geistes [A consideration of the organic whole by visual-
izing and linking all these considerations (of the various sciences) through mental
processes] (WA II 6: 292). Goethe, however, seems to be stymied. His own
attempts to envision the whole or to represent it generate a discourse that dou-
bles the self-generation of the form itself. In the Vorarbeiten zu einer
Physiologie der Pflanzen, for example, Goethe asserts that the basis of such
physiology is a metamorphosis that proceeds according to a two-fold law: the
law of inner nature, whereby the plant has been constituted; and the law of envi-
ronment, whereby the plant has been modified.28 The law repeats the binarism
characteristic of Goethes thinking overall, whether that be defined as dias-
tolic/systolic, centripetal/centrifugal, or contraction/expansion.29 The law might
be what Goethe called organic duality or the dualism in nature. The ques-
tion is whether these dualisms are synonymous and symmetrical. The so-called
inner law that allows for apprehension of the outer form is itself: in seinem
Innern entzweit [. . .] denn ohne vorhergedachted Entzweiung des einen lt
sich kein drittes Entstehendes denken [disunited in its interior, (. . .) for no
third developing body can be imagined without a previous division of the orig-
inal body] (WA II 6: 306). This double talk is repeated as well in the discus-
sion of the origin of the root and the leaf: Sie sind mit einander ursprnglich
vereint ja eins lt sich nicht ohne das andere denken [They are united by
origin; indeed the one cannot be imagined without the other. They are also by
origin opposed to each other].30 Unity applies only to the imagining of a self-
perpetuating duality in which ones own discourse is implicated. Before demon-
strating how Goethes own discourse performs what he comes to describe, we
can remark that a law conceding original division requires a positing of that
law that must also seek to erase itself since the dual nature of the law points to an
a priori transgression of itself. At the very least, the law is never self-identical,
just as the dualism apparent in the outer form cannot be reduced to that between

WA II 6: 292.
WA II 6: 187.
WA II 6: 306. Goethe dismissed studying the root in favor of studying the leaf. In this
respect Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattaris preference for the rhizome or that which is
both root and leaf at the same time is instructive. Their desire for de-territoralization,
of which the rhizome is emblematic, expresses an impulse contrary to Goethes for
unity, even if Goethe sought to eliminate a distinction between Kern and Schal.
Once the misprision that posits interiority is recognized, movement cannot be con-
tained, just as it cannot in Twomblys pencil scribblings on paper. Goethe requires the
root, even if he dismisses it from the field of observation, to preserve at a least a mini-
mal trace of a binarism as a guiding principle or law, which, in turn, structures his field
of vision. While the concept runs throughout much of their work, a concise illustration
can be found in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. by Dana Polan. Minneapolis:
University Press Minnesota 1986.

inner and outer. The law reproduces itself with a difference, and that difference
is what we can call an Urphnomen since it displays an original duality.31 Soon
it will become apparent that this Urphnomen is an effect that can only be
understood as language.
Metamorphosis, Goethe observes, is the alphabet of nature.32 The letter of
the law is thus constant transformation the form of which is visible only in suc-
cession. And just as the law becomes the visible form of its own transitivity in
Twombly, metamorphosis offers a basis for apprehension of the inner law in
language or in its signs. A descending series is common to both, which, as we
recall, is characteristic of the Urpflanze and its infinite progeny. But the lan-
guage offered to read the series gives rise to Goethes principle of an upward
force. Reading Goethe in Italy is instructive here. The process Goethe tracks is
read backwards. If we assign causality to the inner law that gives rise to the
outer form, we read from the form to the law, from the lower right to the upper
left in Twomblys images. That movement is one-half of a dual law, and the
process by which one seeks to undo the boustrophedon re-inscribes it: Vorwrts
und ruckwrts ist die Pflanze nur Blatt [Forwards and backwards the plant is
ever only leaf ] (WA I 32: 44). That is to say, every reading is a re-reading of
an already existing alphabet in nature that is a metamorphosis, a transitivity
that keeps giving rise only to itself in the form of a law. Goethes oft cited
remark that Alles ist Blatt [Everything is leaf/paper] (WA II 7: 282) not only
means that we cannot get to the root of things (thus, Twomblys four takes on
the same subject) but that we are also left only with a writing surface. Goethe
in Italy calls forth the poet.

My understanding departs from the traditional understanding of the Urphnomen
as the attempt to intuit an original unity. See Eckart Frster: Goethe and the Auge
[. . .]. P. 96. Hannah Arendt offers as well a definition of the Urphnomen in, of all
things, her introduction to the English translation of Benjamins Illuminations. It is an
archetypal phenomenon, a concrete thing to be discovered in the world of appearances
in which significance [. . .] and appearance, word and thing, idea and experience would
coincide Ed. by Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken 1969. P. 12. She is not the only one
to note that Benjamin and Goethe shared an understanding of the Urphnomenon
(WA I: 19). Agamben notes that Benjamins notion of Ursprung shares key charac-
teristics with Goethes Urphnomen. In the origin, in other words, there is a dialectic
that reveals every original phenomenon to be a reciprocal conditioning of Einmaligkeit,
onceness, we might say, and repetition . See Giorgio Agamben: Potentialities.
Collected Essays in Philosophy. Ed. and trans. by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford:
Stanford University Press 1999. P. 156. I argue that the advent of language in Twomblys
painting signals the reciprocal conditioning of the dual originary law. In so far as it is
just that, it succeeds in producing an Urphnomen.
WA II 6: 397. Mueller offers the highly idiosyncratic translation of alphabet for
Zeichen. P. 13. The real significance of Goethes remark is taken up at the end of the

A correction is required here. The translation offered at the beginning of the last
paragraph needs to be completed and amended: Die Lehre der Metamorphose
ist der Schlssel zu allen Zeichen der Natur [The doctrine of metamorphosis
is the key to all the signs of nature]. Nature, in other words, is a system of signs
that only the doctrine of metamorphosis can present. The author of that language
as well as that doctrine is Goethe. Just as it does in Twomblys serial painting,
the scientific endeavor always bears the signature of the reader of those signs,
which is why Vaget could characterize Goethes scientific endeavors as a dilet-
tantism; the poet is always getting in the way of the scientist. In fact, the confusion
surrounding the term metamorphosis bears this out. As one reads at least twice
in the notes to Goethes botanical studies, Wirkung dieser Schrift und weiter
Entfaltung der darin vorgetragene, the word metamorphosis was interchanged
persistently with the word metaphor.33 That confusion derives in no small mea-
sure from the fact that the signs of nature, its alphabet, cannot be reliably or con-
sistently deciphered. Or, if Twombly serves as a guide, the only name that emerges
from this scramble of signs is Goethes own.

Seeing Goethe. Seeing Language.

While the comments above offer a gloss on Twomblys painting, it must still be
shown that Goethes own scientific studies mirror Twomblys pictorial study,
Goethe in Italy. If observing nature and the observation of that process is the
kind of seeing Goethe learned in Italy, then the figuration of such seeing is a kind
of writing, which just might mean it is a scribble.34 This is why Goethes sci-
entific writings often acquire an unexpected dimension. The words or letters used
to investigate and describe the signs of nature produce a series of effects that
obscure the image. In fact, Goethes definition of morphology appears to guar-
antee overflow. Once again, In the Preliminary Notes for a Physiology of Plants,
Goethe begins by stating, Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen (ist) der Grund
einer Physiologie derselben [(t)he Metamorphosis of plants is the basis of
the physiology of plants] (WA II 6: 286), since it draws ones attention to the
two-fold law noted above the law of inner nature and that of the environment.
The drawing of ones attention would seem to be easily overlooked except that

For example, Das Wort Metamorphose [wird] mit dem Wort Metapher fr gleich
bedeutend [ge]halten [The word metamorphose is considered to mean the same as
the word metaphor] (WA II 6: 397). Also see WA II 6: 274.
Matthew Bell argues that Goethe staved off the Wertheresque hunger of the imagi-
nation in Italy by a pure seeing that he acquired through an objectivity which
resulted from being estranged from the Italians. See Mathew Bell: Goethes
Naturalistic Anthropology. Oxford: Clarendon 1994. P. 181. Such estrangement, of
course, nurtures self-consciousness.

it turns out to be the real subject of that text morphology. On the one hand, he
notes the expository methods for classifying the great mass of plants into a
system (WA II 13: 286). On the other, he is forced during the same period to
attempt a recapitulation of his evolving definitions of the various sciences. He
has already described physiology as the mental operation performed in attempting
ein ganzes zusammen zu setzen, das sichtbar und unsichtbar zugleich ist [to
put together a whole, which is simultaneously visible and invisible] (WA II 6:
290). But if physiology in its consideration of form both in its parts and as a
whole is supposedly the most comprehensive of the sciences bringing together
natural history, natural philosophy, anatomy, chemistry, and zoology its semi-
invisible content necessitates another higher science, morphology. And it is
at this point where the definition of morphology cited above is offered: the
consideration of an organic whole by visualizing and linking all these consid-
erations through mental processes.35 The process by which morphology comes
to be defined the attempt to articulate the domain of the various sciences
leads to an invisibility inherent in physiology that is left to morphology to visu-
alize. But the organicity of physiology is divided and likewise doubled:
Wir knnen eine organische Natur nicht lange als Einheit betrachten, wir knnen
uns selbst nicht lange als Einheit denken, so finden wir uns zu zwei Ansichten
gentight und wir betrachten uns einmal als Wesen, das in die Sinne fllt, ein
andermal als ein andres, das nur durch den innern Sinn erkannt oder durch seine
Wirkungen bemerkt werden kann. (WA II 6: 296)

We cannot regard an organic nature as a unit for long, without being obliged to
assume a double point of view, considering ourselves an entity sometimes perceiv-
able by the senses and at other times recognizable only with the inner sense or
noticed by its effects.

What is this double point of view? On the one hand, it refers to an inner sense
or to the pure sight referred to above. On the other, it is precisely related to the
complex relationship between image and word that Twomblys painting high-
lights. The alphabet or signs of nature are an effect of nature that includes lan-
guage or the ciphers essential for such a language. In other words, one effect
gives rise to another. For Twombly this seeing of Goethe in Italy seeing
Goethe in Italy or his double vision is a blur; it apparently can only be read
as a scribble. For Goethe, seeing himself in Italy is das weitere Feld [the
expanse of sight] referred to above. The double vision, which Twombly marks
in his fifth image, is itself the result of a divided origin as it also opens onto

Ibid. P. 292.

A way out of this abyss might be to consider Twomblys gloss on Goethe

from another perspective. Too often the tendency has been to think of Goethes
law as a simple dualism or contradiction, a result of the inner seeking its outer
form. Goethes own words from 1807 complicate this notion:
Die Produktionen der Natur erleiden zwar auch uere Bedingungen, aber mit
einer Gegenwirkung von innen. Kurz, es ist hier ein lebendiges Wirken von auen
und innen, wodurch den Stoff die Form enthlt. (WA II 2: 164)

Productions of nature, to be sure, are subject to external conditions of nature, but

to a counter-effect from within as well. In short, it is the vibrant effect of outer and
inner that lends material its form.

The simplest reading of these words is to be found in Kandinsky in ber das

Geistige in der Kunst: Form wird zur uerung des inneren Inhaltes [Form
becomes an expression of inner content].36 The counter-effect from within
is presumed to guarantee that circumstances do not lead to formlessness since
that which threatens form threatens the expression of inner content. External
influences coming from the environment or milieu give expression to the inner
content so long as the former is held in check by the latter. But if this suggests
a stable relationship between inner and outer, Goethe insists in the Ultimatum
that this is not the case: Natur hat weder Kern noch Schale. Alles ist sie mit
einemale [Nature has neither a kernel nor a shell; she is both at once]
(WA I 3: 106). Reciprocation or the mutual accommodation of inner and outer
is something only the eye does.37 The Urform, since the only form the inner
law will assume is in the inseparable entity that is both Kern and Schale at
once, is thus equally inseparable from the operations of the eye.
Goethes initial inquiry into color in Zur Farbenlehere. Didaktischer Teil,
not surprisingly, is into operations of the eye, which he calls the physiology of
colors.38 Twomblys painting could itself be considered an attempt to understand

Wassily Kandinsky: ber das Geistige in der Kunst. Mnchen: Piper 1918. For a
comprehensive exploration of how Goethes scientific writings are taken up by
Kandinsky see Barbara Hentschel: Kandinsky und Goethe: ber das Geistige in der
Kunst in der Tradition Goetheischer Natur. Berlin: Wissentschaftlicher Verlag 2000.
See Barbara Hentschel: Kandinsky und Goethe. Pp. 9496.
Reference to the Zur Farbenlehre. Didaktischer Teil are to the Hamburger Ausgabe.
I do so since this text serves for the basis of the translation which I refer to in this sec-
tion. Goethes Scientific Studies. Trans. by Douglas Miller. New York: Suhrkamp 1988. For
problems regarding the organization of Goethes scientific work see Dorothea Kuhn:
Der Arbeitsvorgang bei Goethes naturwissentschaftlichen Studien. In: Im Vorfeld der
Literatur: Vom Wert archivalischer berlieferung fr das Verstndnis von Literatur und
ihrer Geschichte. Ed. by Karl-Heinz Hahn: Weimar: Bhlaus 1991. Pp. 4457.

the nature of colors, save that changes in the color palette are accompanied by
another change in the dimensions of the image. The repeated failure to isolate
changes in color from changes in dimension results in the script of the fifth
image. The operations of the eye generate an additional movement in the
observation of color that disables efforts to restrict the experiment to one vari-
able. But if the eye is where color begins, then Zur Farbenlehre, for example,
not only explores how the eye necessarily seeks and produces a reciprocity of
color but also how it seeks a reciprocity of its own processes in the object, or
in what Goethe calls chemical colors with particular immanence. [. . .] Hell,
Dunkel und Farbe zusammen [machen] allein dasjenige aus, was den Gegenstand
vom Gegenstand, die Teile des Gegenstande furs Auge unterscheidet. Und so
erbauen wir aus diesen dreien die sichtbare Welt [(. . .) brightness, darkness,
and color operate as the sole means for the eye to distinguish among objects or
parts of objects. Thus we constitute the visible world out of these three ele-
ments] (HA 13: 323). Two things are now evident, which can be considered
Goethes own gloss on Twombly. We are on the verge of looking into an abyss;
the eye may witness its own operations but it is also co-operating. Asserting
immanence to the color of some objects serves to stabilize the operation or
bring it to a halt, but that immanence can only be language. More specifically,
it can only be Goethes signature. Twomblys fifth image, which is both inscrip-
tion and erasure, suggests as much. The ink-like character of the eye protects
the eye from being blinded by its sun-like character upon witnessing its own
operations. If what color produces is the form of the external world, then lan-
guage is very possibly an Urform that the eye calls forth to shield itself from
the sun. Goethes progression in Italy from a Weimar bureaucrat with writers
block through a sketch artist learning to see to a restored poet returning to
Weimar results from a discovery of the immanent character of language, an
immanence that extends to the conjunction of Schale und Kern or form
and content.
Goethes discourse is unable to sustain a distinction between inner/outer
that would allow for enough stability to apprehend an object. Goethe, in other
words, stubbornly holds onto such a distinction only to challenge it. His own
language becomes the Gegenwirkung [counter effect] that is the object of
observation. This is not simply a cue taken from Twomblys painting in six
parts. The following quote from the Paralipomena zur Farbenlehre confirms
an intimate relationship between seeing and speaking, image and word: [. . .]
das Auge vernimmt und spricht. [. . .] Die Totalitt des Innern und ueres
wird durchs Auge vollendet [(. . .) the eye perceives and speaks. (. . .) The
totality of the inner and the outer is completed by the eye] (WA II 5/ii: 12).
If seeing compels the eye to speak, its effect, language, cannot be said to do
much for seeing. In its attempt to grasp totality, language effects a counterforce to

a seeing that otherwise grasps only abysses; it prevents seeing from reproducing
itself endlessly or from seeing itself. By denying or counteracting its imagined
origin, language, moreover, is always only a form of erasure that invites total-
ity since perception of erasure requires a seeing of the dual action of inscrip-
tion and erasure. What Twomblys fifth image also touches upon is how
language posits what seeing cannot abide. In a letter to Smmerring from 1786
Goethe writes: [A]ber es lt sich nach meiner Vorstellungsart nur sehr
schwer und vielleicht gar nicht beweisen dass sie [die Idee] wirklich mit der
Objecten bereinkommen und mit ihm zusammentreffen msse [(A)ccording
to my manner of imagining things, it is very difficult to prove that the idea
really does coincide and join with the objects] (WA IV 11: 175). The shift in
Goethes own Vorstellungsart from seeing to writing cannot align itself with
the idea. What seeing produces is the site of its own writing Alles ist Blatt;
a difference confirms the unity of the idea in the form of something that is out
of focus. Since there seems to be no means to overcome this gap and since it
seems to re-produce itself ever anew, one is tempted to submit that the idea and
the form can never align themselves with each other so much so that the latter
is an Urphnomenon. And the idea is not wirklich [actually] except in
the form of a misalignment which misleadingly suggests a distinction between
Kern und Schal [core and shell]. Even if we could assert, in keeping with
Twomblys images, that language arises from the reading that attempts to close
that gap, there is no guarantee, as Twombly suggests, that this language is any-
thing other than a form of self-inscription as well. We also have to concede that
the possibility exists of a gap in the eye itself one between its sun-like and
ink-like characters. Might that not be the form of a scribble?
Stated otherwise, if we return to the above quote from the Paralipomena to
consider the omitted sentence: In dem Auge spiegelt sich von auen die Welt,
von innen der Mensch [In the eye is mirrored from without the world; from
within, the person], it becomes clear that totality is a product of self-refraction
that relies on an inadequate manner of imagining things. But this inadequacy
suggests an adequation of inner and outer, a totality that gives rise to an idea.
In the final analysis that idea can only be language, the language that the ink-
like character of the eye speaks, which in turn is the sign system of nature. At
the very least, it is the potential for language; everything can be leaf or folio
only insofar as everything has the potential to receive script.39 Learning to see

As Agamben points out, potentiality also implies non-potentiality or the potential
not-to-be. That could also explain the erasure of the fifth canvas; it is an expression of
this dual potentiality or a marker of its potential not-to-be. Potentialities. P. 179.

double, to see, in fact, counter-effects not only produces but also necessitates

Goethe the Scribbler

The necessary emergence of language becomes all the more compelling if we
return to Twomblys images and consider them in terms of Goethes Zur
Farbenlehre. Didaktischer Teil. The first four of Twomblys images can be con-
sidered studies in color. If an actual object is the subject of these images and
Goethe in Italy would seem to qualify as both subject and object that object
is only available in shifts or double shifts in perspective. The frame is altered,
vertically and horizontally. That can be called a change in dimensions. But another
shift, one in color, also occurs. Images two and four, in fact, are the same dimen-
sions which allows for detection of the subject. A pastiche of color in crayon has
a readable outline that is the same in both. As we know, the patch of color descends
diagonally. What is not the same is the color palette. In the first shades of
brown predominate; in the latter, shades of blue. Both of these palettes are vis-
ible in the first image of the series which has no discernible shape save for that
offered by shifts in color highlighted by shifts of light. The unreadable shape of
Goethe proceeds to assume shape only in shifts of color, a play of light and
dark. The form that takes shape perdures because the repetition of colors changes
with each repetition. If we accept Goethes assertion that one color calls forth
its polar opposite (Wirkung and Gegenwirkung) (HA 13: 325), the form
that is perceived is that produced by the automatic movement of color.
The irrepressible movement of color gives rise to form. That is the law of nature,
which Goethe avers several times in the opening pages of the Zur Farbenlehre:
[D]ie ganze Natur offenbare sich durch die Farbe [(A)ll of nature manifests
itself through color] (HA 13: 323). Or, color is die Natursprache (HA 13:
315). The play of colors, whereby one calls forth its opposite, is natures way of
finding its way. But there is something dis-cursive about this journey, which
permits Goethe to speak of color as language. If that language is a form, it is sub-
ject to a series of shifts, as Twombly reminds us, in its dimensions. A shift in colors
produces a shift in the size of the object. Those shifts, in turn, produce what
Goethe calls a record of effects: Wirkungen werden wir gewahr, und eine voll-
stndige Geschichte dieser Wirkungen umfate wohl allenfalls das Wesen jenes
Dings [What we perceive are effects, and a complete record of these effects
ought to encompass that things inner nature] (HA 13: 315). In the context of
Goethe in Italy that record is the form of a travel journal, since the subject is
marked or perceived only in stations or stages such as a painting in six parts. The
inner nature is effectively Goethe in Italy. Language of some sort is sum-
moned to help nature find its way. Or as Heine ironically remarked, Die Natur
wollte wissen, wie sie aussieht, und sie erschuf Goethe [Nature wanted to

know how it looked, so it created Goethe].40 Goethe is not so much an effect

of nature; but the effect nature summons to mark its stations or to recover its
The notion of difference referred to earlier can be illustrated more effectively
by turning to the organization of Zur Farbenlehre. If there is anything certain
about Goethes theory of colors, it is that writing about looking at colors is as
unstable as the colors themselves. The introduction asserts: Wir fanden
dreierlei Erscheinungsweisen, dreierlei Arten von Farben oder, wenn man
lieber will, dreierlei Ansichten derselben [We have three ways, three types of
color, or if you prefer, three distinguishable aspects of color] (HA 13: 325).
Ways, types and aspects sponsor in turn a tripartite taxonomy of color into
physiological, physical, and chemical whose distinguishing marks are in some
measure temporal: ephemeral, transient but lingering, and constant over long
periods (HA 13: 325). This penchant for tripartite divisions persists throughout
the text. At the end of the section concerning pathological colors, Goethe remarks
that wilde Nationen [primitive peoples], uneducated peoples, and children
have a strong preference for vivid colors; animals are enraged by certain colors;
and cultivated people avoid vivid colors entirely (HA 13: 359). This last set of
distinctions, or rather their underlying unity is difficult to perceive. Where an
animals outrage places it on the continuum that moves from uneducated and
primitive to cultivated is not clear. More than reveal a pathology for speaking in
threes, these taxonomies point to the impossibility of the dual law producing a
third term that joins the opposing terms in a symmetrical structure that would
allow for a clear representation of that law or inner nature.
That is what arguably happens throughout the text. The three parts or types
of colors are supplemented by a fourth wherein general principles are offered.
The ability to reach some form of unity, or as Goethe writes, einen geschloss-
enen Kreis [a closed circle] is the result of bestimmen, sondern, ordnen
[defining, separating, and organizing] the three kinds of color whereby each
color has in turn its own temporal category (HA 13: 476). But the circle is not
closed; rather, it is related to other phenomena in nature (HA 13: 476), which
necessitates a fifth section: Relationship to Other Fields. Given the alleged
universality of the principles derived in the first three sections and then sum-
marized in the fourth, it is not surprising that this list is as broad as it is odd:
Philosophy, Mathematics, Techniques of Dying, Physiology and Pathology,
Natural History, and Tone. The seventh of these branches is notable because it
seems to be in a different register, so much so that it is mentioned precisely
because of its lack of relationship: Wie zwei Flsse, die auf Einem Berge

Heine, Heinrich: Smtliche Werke. Dsseldorfer Ausgabe. Ed. by Manfred Windfuhr.
Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe 1973. P. VII 1: 61.

entspringen, aber [. . .] in ganz entgegen gestezte Weltgegenden laufen, so da

auf dem beiderseitigen ganzen Wege keine einzelne Stelle der andern verglichen
werden kann, so sind Farbe und Ton. [Color and tone are like two rivers which
arise on a single mountain but (. . .) flow differently through completely opposite
regions, so that no two points are comparable] (HA 13: 491).
This lack of relationship, nonetheless, points to a higher unity that serves as
the basis for part six, Sensory-Moral Effects of Color. The simile that posits
their differences links them to a single mountain, which is, it would seem, the
source of sensory-moral effects. Twomblys descending images illustrate the
direction pursued by color. Tone would thus be on the other side of the image.
But it cannot be that far removed from color, as the following descriptions make
evident: Das Blaue gibt uns ein Gefhle von Klte [Blue brings a feeling of
cold] (HA 13: 497). Die Farben von der Minusseite sind Blau, Rotblau und
Blaurot. Sie stimmen zu einer unruhigen, weichen und sehnenden Empfindung.
[The colors on the minus side are blue, red-blue, and blue-red. They bring an
anxious, tender, longing] (HA 13: 497). Tone is implicated in this new dimen-
sion of color, which leads Goethe to remark toward the end of that section: Man
wrde nicht mit Unrecht ein Bild von mchtigem Effekt mit einem musikali-
schen Stcke aus dem Durton, ein Gemlde von sanftem Effekt mit einem
Stcke aus dem Mollton vergleichen. [We would be justified in drawing a com-
parison between a picture with a powerful effect and a musical work in a major
key, or a painting with a gentle effect and a musical work in a minor key]
(HA 13: 515). The mountain that serves as a means to visualize the unity of the two
must also be related to the moral realm, since it is colors and we can surmise
tones ability through mediation to effect mans inner nature that establishes
its direct connection with the moral realm [unmittelbar an das Sittliche
anschliet] (HA 13: 494). But like the mountain the moral realm is an effect
of the eye seeking to posit harmony and totality. That totality, in fact, is the eye
seeking to present to itself a totality of colors that it can never find presented
in any object (HA 13: 501). What it can hope to find is die Summe seiner
eigenen Ttigkeit als Realitt entgegenkommt [the result of its own activity
standing before it as reality] (HA 13: 502). It does so by looking around
whereby next to every colored space it discovers a colorless one in which it can
produce the complementary color (HA 13: 502). The balance or harmony pro-
duced by the eye, however, is out of key; it registers as tone even though tone moves
in the completely opposite direction. By the end of the section Goethe thus
finds, as we have noted, using tone or tonality indispensable for describing the
effects of color.
Tone makes up for what reality cannot furnish. What the eye cannot present
to itself is on the other side of a mountain that offers itself to the eye in the form
of the language of tonality, or as ink: Jedoch wie schwer ist es, das Zeichen
nicht an die Stelle der Sache zu setzen, das Wesen immer lebendig vor sich zu

halten und nicht durch das Wort zu tten. [How difficult it is, though, to refrain
from replacing the thing with its sign, to keep the object alive before us instead
of killing it with the word] (HA 13: 492). In Twomblys fifth image, the one
which eliminates color, the erasure of Goethe in Italy is not only the palimpsest
or pentimento of tone but also a record of color dying to express itself. This
colorless language is in every sense of the word a formal one, which for Twombly
is a scribble. For Goethe it is a language that carries no reminder of its origin
(HA 13: 256). Oddly enough, that language is found in the names gelb, blau,
rot, grn [yellow, blue, red, green] (HA 13: 256). If languages colorlessness,
like a scribble, functions ohne etwas spezifisches hinzudeuten [without hint-
ing of anything specific], it thus conveys das Allgemeinste der Farbe der
Einblidungskraft [the most general quality of color to our power of imagina-
tion] (HA 13: 256). Language in exile from its origin Goethe in Italy, for
example is the best thing color can do for itself. And that is the particular
advantage, according to Goethe, of German. That is to say, learning to see in
Italy or in this instance, learning to see colors in Italy leads Goethe to discover
a particular character of German, and, as we know, that discovery becomes the
language of German Classicism.
What I have argued in this paper is that Twomblys serial painting lends a new
dimension to the record Goethe himself left of his travels in Italy. Learning to
see not only gives way to poetry, but the experiments in seeing, or the pure
sight that Goethe acquired in Italy, generate as well a language for which
German, according to Goethe, is particularly appropriate. The particular imma-
nence of a language that gives no indication of its origin is a primal one, par-
ticularly in the form of a scribble. Moreover, it is just what color calls for, if we
are to present the most general quality of color to our imagination and not
just the eyes ceaseless production of complementary colors. Of course, one
still has to strike the right tone. That perhaps was Werthers problem, when he
celebrated his inability to produce even the slightest line: Ich knnte jetzt
nicht zeichnen, nicht einen Strich, und bin nie ein grerer Mahler gewesen als
in diesen Augenblicken [At this moment I am unable to draw, not even a line,
and yet I have never been a greater artist as in these moments] (WA I 19: 7).
What Werther lacks, even if he celebrates that lack, is the power to imagine
form or the ability to strike the right tone, for it is hardly a sign of either to boast
about being in possession of something one does not possess. The inner world
to which he famously retreats and of which the eye tracking its own movements
must be a part lacks as well a language to protect against the abyss of seeing.
[M]eine vorstellende Kraft is so schwach, alles schwimmt und schwankt so
vor meiner Seele, da ich keinen Umri packen kann, aber ich bilde mir ein,
wenn ich Thon htte [. . .], so wollte ichs wohl herausbilden [My power of
imagination is so weak; everything swims and sways so in front of me that
I cannot even manage an outline, but I imagine that if I had clay (Thon), I could

well make something of it] (WA I 19: 57). Werther is unable to trace or pro-
duce a trace of that which seeing catches of itself or of that which we have
come to understand as the palimpsest of tone.41 What Goethe acquires in Italy
and what allows him to overcome Werther is a mimetic faculty for scribbling in
the proper tone.42

The two meanings of Ton [clay and character of sound] are more than conven-
ient here. The one is a palimpsest of the other. The clay Ton is related to a drying out
or dichtwerden, which is to say that the sober Werther/Goethe of Italy acquires the
ability to write poetry (verdichten). In contrast to the clay Ton the musical one is
of Latin origin and thus more accessible in Italy.
Werther is in some respects a pre-occupation of the Italienische Reise. The most telling
reference occurs when Goethe learns that a Milanese woman who has caught his attentions
and whom he has been tutoring in English is engaged: Es wre wunderbar genug, rief
ich aus, wenn ein wertherhnliches Schicksal dich in Rom aufgesucht htte, um dir so
bedeutende, bisher wohlbewahrte Zustnde zu verderben [ It would be miraculous
enough, I cried out, if a fate similar to Werthers were to have sought you out in Rome
in order to ruin for you conditions so well preserved until now ] (WA I 32: 28). That
the Milanese woman, and not Goethe, is soon stricken with a life-threatening illness is
evidence of Goethes success in avoiding such a fate, even if it comes at the expense of
another. His new-found survival instincts may also be the result of the self-referential
structure of the passage (note the use of dich) or, in the jargon of this paper, in his ability
to see himself see.
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Notes on the Contributors

Beate Allert, Associate Professor of German and Comparative Literature and

Chair of German in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at
Purdue University, 640 Oval Drive, West Lafayette IN 47907-2039, USA. Among
her recent publications are: Grenzen der Anschaulichkeit bei Lessing. In:
Lessings Grenzen. Ed. by Ulrike Zeuch. Wolfenbttel 2005. Romanticism and
the Visual Arts. In: The Literature of German Romanticism. Ed. by Dennis
Mahoney. Rochester 2004. Reconceptualizing a Pictorial Turn: Lessing,
Hoffmann, Klee and Elements of Avant-Garde Language. In: Reconceptions:
New Ecologies of Knowledge. Ed. by Marsha Meskimmon and Martin Davies.
London 2003. Goethe and the Visual Arts. In: The Cambridge Companion
to Goethe. Ed. by Lesley Sharpe. Cambridge 2002. Hidden Aspects of
Goethes Writings on Color, Seeing, and Motion. In: Bodies of Resistance:
New Phenomenologies of Politics, Agency, and Culture. Ed. by Laura Boyle.
Evanston IL 2001.

Richard Block, Assistant Professor in the Germanics Department at the

University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-3130, USA. He is also a member
of the Program of Jewish Studies as well as the Program in Criticism and Theory
at the University of Washington. He is the author of the forthcoming book
The Spell of Italy: Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe. Detroit 2006.

Heide Crawford, Assistant Professor of German at the University of Kansas,

Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1445 Jayhawk Blvd.,
Lawrence, KS 66045, USA. She specializes in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-
century literature, as well as the vampire and the occult sciences in German lit-
erature and film. She has published The Cultural-Historical Origins of the
Literary Vampire in Germany. Journal for Dracula Studies (October 2005),
and is working on a monograph: Aesthetics and the Vampire: The Origins of the
Modern Literary Vampire in 18th-Century German Literature. Further research
interests include the representation of secret societies in literature during the
eighteenth century and the effect of German Idealism and aesthetics on con-
temporary literary trends such as the vampire.

Melissa Dabakis, Professor of Art History in the Department of Art History at

Kenyon College, Gambier OH, 43022, USA. She is currently addressing the
intersection of gender, creativity, and expatriation in her study of American

women sculptors in Rome entitled, The American Corinnes: Women Sculptures

and the Eternal City, 1850-1876. She is author of Visualizing Labor in American
Sculpture: Monuments, Manliness and the Work Ethic. Cambridge 1999.

Margaretmary Daley, Associate Professor of German and Comparative

Literature and Director of Womens Studies at Case Western Reserve University,
10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH, 44106, USA. Her current research
examines gender, genre, and pathos in French and German fictions of the long
eighteenth century. She is author of a critical study of non-fictional epistolar-
ity, Women of Letters. Columbia SC 1999.

Eric Hadley Denton is Senior Fulbright Professor of German and American

Studies at the Universitt Regensburg, 20052006, and lives in Berlin. He has
published on Goethe, on the eighteenth century, on theater, and on perfor-
mance theory and has recently worked as a radio correspondent for Radio Eins
Berlin. His first book, The Pathos of Character: Goethe, Performance, 1775 is
forthcoming from Bucknell University Press. He is currently working on his<