Söder chateau and its estate are located ca. 50 km southwest of Braunschweig, today in the district of the town of Holle, the latter 16 km southeast of Hildesheim, ca. 35 km southwest of Braunschweig, and 43 km southeast of Hannover (Wilhelm Schlegel had traveled to Hannover from Göttingen while Caroline had continued on to Braunschweig; they would meet in Söder) (Karte des deutschen Reichs, ed. C. Vogel [Gotha 1907], no. 13).
Söder Chateau near Hildesheim, front view, housing the extraordinary art collection of the estate's owner, Moritz von Brabeck. Wilhelm, Caroline, and Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann (Caroline's brother-in-law) were guests in October 1800.
Caroline writes: "We arrived that afternoon at 5:00 and found Schlegel already there in the inn, where I also got off but where Brabeck had left instructions that he be alerted as soon as I arrived, since he was expecting me earlier than Schlegel. He also immediately sent his carriage for us and then received us at the entrance to his fairy castle, where we chatted away the evening because it was already too dark for viewing."
(ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv; by permission.)
Söder Heidekrug Inn, barely 1.5 km west of Söder Chateau: the inn Moritz von Brabeck had built to accommodate visitors to his estate and art collection. It was here that Wilhelm Schlegel (who had arrived from Hannover), and Caroline and Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann (who had arrived from Braunschweig) would wait for Brabeck's carriage to pick them up.
Caroline writes: "In response to word from Schlegel, I did not travel To Söder until Sunday [19 October]. Wiedemann accompanied me, it's 30 or 40 kilometers from here [Braunschweig]; we arrived that afternoon at 5:00 and found Schlegel already there in the inn, where I also got off but where Brabeck had left instructions that he be alerted as soon as I arrived, since he was expecting me earlier than Schlegel."
(Photo from an early postcard; the inn is still standing today.)
Here the rear of the Heidekrug inn in the distance, viewed from the front of Söder Chateau.
(Photo: Klaus Metzger).
Excerpt of the site plan of Söder estate ca. 1800, just as Caroline would have experienced it and as her letters reflect it. The chateau outline is indicated in blue as a guide to the following illustrations. The front façade juts out, the rear or garden façade is recessed. Note the bridge over the moat at top and the oval green space and moat (lake) at bottom. At the time, the moat extended all the way around the estate buildings and formed a lake at the rear.
(Reprinted in its entirety in Stefanie Anders, "Schloss Söder 1742–1796. Baugeschichtliche Studien zu einem repräsentativen Landsitz der Familie von Brabeck im Fürstbistum Hildesheim," Dissertation Osnabrück , image 61, p. 172.)
Caroline writes: Brabeck "would not allow us to return to the inn, and instead we were given magnificent accommodations there...they took great pains in providing for my health with Madeira and Alicante and such, for on that first evening I was extremely weak and almost feared my whole trip would be ruined; a good night’s sleep, however, restored me completely, and the next morning I was able to behold all the splendors there with completely clear eyes."
(ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv; by permission.)
Söder Estate, garden façade, essentially as Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel would have seen it.
Caroline writes: "The house has been furnished with virtually pristine taste and provides a serene disposition, as it were, for the jewels of art he possesses. We spent our time there as if in a fairy castle, and as if removed from the world of pain in which I now have my home."
(Stipple illustration ca. 1800 by Ph. Schmarr.)
"Although the setting of Söder is nothing extraordinary, it is certainly pleasant enough given the natural landscape around here, in a valley surrounded by forests, somewhat like Bocklet."
Engraving by François Aubertin after Charles-Antoine de Saqui-Sannes (S. S. Roland), S. S. Roland, Tafelband Die Kupfer zu Söder (Leipzig 1799); reproduced in Stefanie Anders, Schloss Söder 1742-1796. Baugeschichtliche Studien zu einem repräsentativen Landsitz der Familie von Brabeck im Fürstbistum Hildesheim, diss. Osnabrück (2011), 146. Used by permission.
Söder Estate, showing — a remarkable coincidence — precisely the rounded green area, the pasturing sheep, and the water feature (essentially a moat) about which Caroline writes:
"Before the house especially [i.e., on the garden side], there is an infinitely, horribly large, round, green area surrounded by a water feature where white lambs graze, which are then multiplied in the reflections in all the mirrors of the transparent house, and when the sunshine is added to all this, it seems as if one is standing in a grand crystal delicately beveled on all sides."
Line drawing privately owned by Jobst-Heinrich Lampe, Schloss Söder; illustration reproduced in Stefanie Anders, "Schloss Söder 1742–1796. Baugeschichtliche Studien zu einem repräsentativen Landsitz der Familie von Brabeck im Fürstbistum Hildesheim," diss. Osnabrück (2011). With the kind permission of Jobst-Hienrich Lampe, Schloss Söder.
Söder Chateau, front view with bridge and water feature (moat). (Early twentieth-century postcard.)
Friedrich Moritz von Brabeck, estate owner of Söder Chateau.
(Portrait: 1797, engraving by Johann Gerhard Huck, after Anton Graff; in S. S. Roland, Tafelband Die Kupfer zu Söder [Leipzig 1799].)
Caroline writes: Brabeck "did not leave us for a moment; every painting was taken down from the wall and put on an easel, he himself brought them over, and you can imagine how magnificent a view of everything I had, since they would not think of not providing a chair for me."
(Early twentieth-century ostcard.)
Caroline writes: "The view from the grand, beveled-glass windows is indeed quite nice and — as the baron himself puts it — constitutes a rather cruel sort of harmony with the inner amiability of the place."
(Early twentieth-century postcard.)
Caroline writes: "There is, by the way, absolutely nothing ostentatious about him; it is simply unbridled joy in his own creations. Nor is he really affected by the pride of nobility; he is merely concerned with touching deeply those who do indeed have a sensibility for such things."
Color chalk rendering by Anton Graff ca. 1815 of previous illustration. Foto Marburg, Foto by Lutz Engelhardt; Aufnahme-Nr. dmhl1983-1.01; Bilddatei dmhl1983-1.01; Dom-Museum Hildesheim.
Söder Chateau salon arrangements according to the 1808 catalog Count von Brabeck published when putting the collection up for sale. N.B. letters next to doors indicate the salon one is about to enter, not the salon in which these letters appear. E.g., "F" next to the door in the Grande Salle refers to salon F, i.e., the Salon des Tableaux d'histoire to its right.
Caroline comments: "His paintings are organized according to objects, that is, all landscapes, portraits, and historical compositions have been put in specific rooms, something which at least to me seemed quite appropriate and instructive for a gallery no larger than this one."
(This image and following from Catalogue de la galerie de Soeder par le Propriétaire le comte de Brabeck [n.p. mdcccviii].)
Söder Chateau, Salon B: cabinet pieces.
"Then he also owns two cabinet pieces, a Raphael — a small picture in which Simon is looking at the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother — and a Coreggio — the mother with the child, the latter of whom, beautifully abbreviated and acquiescent, fidgets on her lap...The Coreggio is unbelievably beautiful, so much so that one wishes to see it again and again."
The Corregio listed here is: 26. Madonne avec l'Enfant
Söder Chateau Salon B, cont'd: cabinet pieces 2.
Caroline writes: "...a Raphael —a small picture in which Simon is looking at the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother...you can recognize in the child, as if in embryo form, the divine grandeur of the child in the Dresden painting [Raphael's Sistine Madonna]. This child has at least convinced me that the picture is by Raphael, something that as a matter of fact connoisseurs, too, do not doubt...the Raphael immediately enters, abidingly, into one’s soul like an eternal treasure."
The Raphael piece on this wall in Salon B is: 66. Adoration de l'enfant par Siméon, though F. W. B. Ramdohr thought such to be an incorrect description.
In any event, see following gallery image for Caroline's reaction, and Ramdohr's discussion in letter 272.
Copper engraving of a small-format cabinet piece allegedly by Raphael serving as the frontispiece to Friedrich Wilhelm Basilius Ramdohr, Beschreibung der Gemälde-Galerie des Freiherrn von Brabek zu Hildesheim mit kritischen Bemerkungen und einer Abhandlung über die Kunst[,] das Schöne in den Gemälden der niederländischen Schule zu sehen (Hannover 1792).
Caroline writes to Schelling:
"Then he also owns two cabinet pieces, a Raphael — a small picture in which Simon is looking at the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother [in which] you can recognize in the child, as if in embryo form, the divine grandeur of the child in the Dresden painting [Sistine Madonna]. This child has at least convinced me that the picture is by Raphael, something which as a matter of fact connoisseurs, too, do not doubt. . . . the Raphael immediately enters, abidingly, into one’s soul like an eternal treasure."
Söder Chateau Salon D, cont'd: Landscapes 2 (1808 catalog).
It seems that by 1808 there were in fact seven landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael and one by Salomon van Ruisdael in salon D.
Three additional ones by Jacob van Ruisdael (plus one on another wall in Salon D not shown here) include: 8., 9. Chutes d'eau — 14. Ruisseau ruisseant dans bois sombre and by Salomon van Ruisdael: 11. Figures près d'un village.
Caroline also mentions "several Salvators, to which I felt drawn just as I did to the one in Dresden, also Vernets I had never seen"; here by Salvatore Rosa: 2. St. François méditant — 3. St. Pierre effrayé au chant du coq
Söder Chateau Salon H: varied genres.
Among the landscapes, Caroline mentions "Vernets I have never seen."
The Vernets on display in this salon (separate from the landscape salon proper, salon D) include: 6., 7. Paisages; [7.] avec couchant
Söder Chateau Salon D: Landscapes (1808 catalog).
Caroline remarks concerning the landscapes:
"The landscapes include 5 Ruisdaels of the rarest beauty, several Salvators, to which I felt drawn just as I did to the one in Dresden, also Vernets I have never seen."
The three pieces by Jacob van Ruisdael on this wall in salon D were: 22. Avec ruines — 27. Champ de blé — 31. Bois
No. 9, superimposed on Salon-F catalogue page: St. Catherine sitting and reading. Variously attributed to Onorio Marinari (1627–1715), Carlo Dolci (1616–86), Pietro da Cortona (1596–1669) (so Moritz von Brabeck and Basilius von Ramdohr, the latter with reservation), and Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Guercino (1591–1666) (so S. S. Roland and Caroline).
(Residenzgalerie Salzburg, loan collection Schönborn-Buchheim; photo © Ulrich Ghezzi Oberalm.)
See following gallery image for Caroline's reaction.
St. Catherine seated and reading. Currently in the Residenzgalerie Salzburg, loan collection Schönborn-Buchheim, where it is attributed, however, to Carlo Dolci. First half of seventeenth century.
Caroline writes to Schelling:
"One picture by Guercino in particular, depicting a saint who completely forgets herself while reading a book, is the one I would most like to have from him, since I would like to have had Auguste painted thus. The saint is quite youthful and is dressed in secular clothes, while the form of her head, the plaits in her hair, and her celestial, virginal expression and her enthusiastic engagement in reading — the viewer would eventually imagine it really was her; never have you seen anything as graceful. Even the mere recollection stirs my heart anew."
Guests of Friedrich Moritz von Brabeck's gallery at Söder traditionally signed the gallery guestbook. Here the cover; reproduced with the kind permission of Jobst-Heinrich Lampe, Söder.
We know from Caroline's letter to Schelling between 15 and 24 October 1800, that she, Wilhelm Schlegel, and Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann arrived in Söder on 19 October 1800 and remained two days. They seem to have signed the Söder guestbook on the same day they departed, namely 22 October 1800 (first three signatures in this excerpt):
den 22 Oct. Caroline Schlegel geb. Michaelis.
August Wilhelm Schlegel
C. R. W. Wiedemann Dr.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the painter Wilhelm Tischbein (the "Neapolitan Tischbein"), with whom Caroline and Wilhelm had spent time in Göttingen while en route from Gotha to Braunschweig and who likely delivered Moritz Friedrich von Brabeck's invitation to them from Söder, signed the guestbook on 30 October 1800 along with his nephew, the painter Wilhelm Unger (1775–1855), to whom he was giving instruction in Kassel.
Excerpt reproduced with the kind permission of Jobst-Heinrich Lampe, Söder.