Letter 272

• 272. Caroline to Schelling in Jena: Braunschweig, 15–24 October 1800 [*]

[Braunschweig] 15 [–24] October [1800]

|7| Tu m’étonne avec ton françois, mais je ne sens pas la moindre tentation d’y tomber aussi. Ta facilité est grande en toutes choses, si tu voulois seulement en mettre un peu plus dans ton existence. Tu es trop abattu, mon ami, malgré qu’il y en ait de quoi, il ne faut jamais être aussi trist que son sort. [1]

Alas, my dear, if only I knew how you are reacting to my paltry letters. You will receive one tomorrow, though this present one will arrive more swiftly. Tomorrow I will be going to Söder; [2] the weather is a bit more favorable. Hence I will probably not be able to write next Tuesday. [3]

I do not have Auguste’s picture now; it remained behind in Göttingen to be copied, and I do indeed greatly miss it. [4] If you yourself but had it |8| that it might pour out peace over you as my own words have almost never been able.

I, too, have reached the point that it seems I no longer have words, can no longer use words, only signs. We can only agree concerning our situation, not talk about it. Once we are together again and everything has been settled, let us then occupy each other with all sorts of other things and in the more general sense simply forget ourselves. You will see that I can still learn even though it does not really interest me at all that I know it, but rather only the simple fact that it is known. —

What sort of domestic arrangements have you made? [5] The food is supposed to be best at the Meders [6] — and what about wine? As soon as Schlegel comes, you will be getting your bouteilles. [7]

Your — at just this moment, your letter of 13 October arrived, addressed to me by name. [8] There is something calming in it, though I admittedly do not really know whether I can trust it, and the fact that you — already so worried about me and about the fate of your letters — still have to wait to receive news from me — not until tomorrow midday — that is almost enough to drive me crazy; I already wept about it in bed this morning.

In the future, please never be anxious about whether your letters are arriving safely. You can be assured that no one here is interested in keeping watch over me. [9] That notion is completely false; my relatives can do nothing either for or against me. I am simply staying with them, and they love me. My sister’s children are a joy, the little boy is especially handsome, his name is August. [10] Luise herself is far more healthy, cheerful, and pretty than a year ago. [11] With her alone have I spoken about Auguste. My mother believes she can protect both me and herself by maintaining silence. Wiedemann is laconic by nature.

|9| In the letter I just received, you unfortunately do [not] answer a couple of questions I raised. The problem with the food is irksome, for how am I to do it myself when I return, given that Rose cannot cook? If I am healthy enough, I will be glad to teach her how. —

Among my reasons for postponing my return, I did not mention my health because I am not thinking so much of the danger — it is just that the extremely foul weather during the journey and the prospect of undergoing the fatigue [12] of a 4-day journey too soon might harm me. I am using the quinine. [13]


[Braunschweig, 22 or 23 October 1800]

In response to word from Schlegel, I did not travel to Söder until Sunday. [14] Wiedemann accompanied me; it is 4 or 5 miles from here. [15] 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. [16] 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. [17] He would not allow us to return to the inn, and instead we were given magnificent accommodations there. [18]

Madam von Brabeck is much younger than he; he did not get married until two older brothers had died and he had to leave the clergy, which had, however, cultivated him into a man of the arts. She was extremely courteous, and 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. [18a]

You, dear, were so kind in wishing you could find some way for me to see the exhibition at Goethe’s [19] — |10| how much more beautiful would it have been had we been able to share this exhibition together.

Brabeck’s painting collection is quite select, not a single piece is indifferent, almost all are excellent, and several are of the most sublime beauty. [20] Add to that the fact that you find this gem amid the most gracious surroundings, in a country house whose furnishings are arranged in a pure, harmonious fashion free of all ostentation and clutter, and where everything exhibits a character of utterly transparent serenity.

Brabeck was not able to recast the building, since it was his father who built it in the first place, but he did wholly transform it, touching it at every point with a magic wand; only the chapel is still in its original — not simplicity, but rather — misshapenness, and has been deferred until now. I promised him I would make a new pilgrimage there when it is finished.

I do not want to describe anything for you; that is too boring. Architecture, plaster of Paris, and paintings: that is what especially makes Söder what it is, and the most remarkable thing is that all the decorations and ameublement [21] were created by country folk whom Brabeck has gone to considerable pains to train as tradesmen, indeed, even as artists, something in which he has wonderfully succeeded. [22] The entire undertaking is surely singular in Germany and derives solely from Brabeck’s own bustling activity, just as everything is also his own idea.

This is no sham. Söder is his work, and he has genuine sensibility. That notwithstanding, how much does he nonetheless lack in order to be the uncle! [23] One would prefer he not be the guide through the collection, since he is constantly, noisily trying to convince one of the quiet harmony of the whole, constantly drawing unequivocal attention to every, even the tiniest evidence of intention and merit, all of which would otherwise certainly speak sufficiently for itself.

The result is a rather petty being amid such rare grandeur and purity of vision. We recommended he read Wilhelm Meister, and the book will doubtless have a powerful effect on him when he reads the part about the |11| uncle’s house.

In the meantime, however, it will probably not be possible inject a sense of grandeur into him. 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.

In any event, he 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. [23a]

His paintings are organized according to objects, that is, all landscapes, portraits, and historical compositions have been put in specific rooms, which at least to me seemed quite appropriate and instructive for a gallery no larger than this one. [24]

The landscapes include 5 Ruysdaels of the rarest beauty, several Salvators, to which I felt drawn just as I did to the one in Dresden, [25] also Vernets, which I had never seen.

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 [26] — and a Correggio — the mother with the child who, beautifully abbreviated and acquiescent, fidgets on her lap. [27]

In the first one, you can recognize in the child, as if in embryo form, the divine grandeur of the child in the Dresden painting. 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. [28]

The Coreggio is unbelievably beautiful, so much so that one wishes to see it again and again, whereas the Raphael immediately enters, abidingly, into one’s soul like an eternal treasure.

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 |12| 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. [29]

Friday morning [24 October]

Brabeck simply would not let us go; we had to remain 2 days. [30] I was quite healthy and was able to enjoy it all; indeed, I was sufficiently disposed to assert myself once more and to take over the leading role in things, which no doubt will not fail to provide a bit of amusement for you. I am quite certain you could now hear extremely gracious things said about me there. Madam de Brabeck herself, and not merely her spouse, parted from me with great cordiality. —

Although the setting of Söder is nothing extraordinary, it is certainly pleasant enough given the natural landscape around here, in a valley surround by forests, somewhat like Bocklet. 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. You must understand that he speaks German just as it occurs to him, and in the process is so utterly permeated by the goodness of his own creation that the most naive remarks come out. —

Before the house especially, 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. [31]

There was something on Brabeck’s writing desk that I repeatedly went back to gaze upon — a small piece from antiquity, an altar with basreliefs, small enough for me to encompass with both hands, |13| and on it, carved in wood, the entire figure of the mother with the child in her arms, and a scapular draped over her arm, by Albrecht Dürer. It looks as brown as Meister Hans and is one span tall. Absolutely delightfully, beautifully conceived and executed. If we had been together, we would have been embarrassingly delighted by it. [32]

Brabeck related how an Englishman (all of whom he despises, especially as a man of art, as he refers to himself) had objected that it was quite tasteless positioning the pagan and the Christian so closely together — and out of sheer annoyance, it occurred to Brabeck to counter by saying, “Aye, but do you not see that by placing the Madonna on this piedestal, I am alluding to the triumph of our religion?”

And so you see, my sweet friend, I have returned home with a great many beautiful impressions. If only you were not alone and I might hope you are not dissatisfied with me. Although I still do not want to promise you anything definite, I do hope to be seeing you again very soon, indeed sooner than I thought. [33]


[*] This letter is the primary document recounting Caroline’s visit to Söder, the estate of Friedrich Moritz von Brabeck with its remarkable art collection, between 19 and 22 October 1800 (see also Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 24 November 1800 [letter 275]).

The experience associated with Söder and its collection had a remarkably salutary effect on Caroline, whose sensibility for art seems to have elevated her at least for a time above her depression and grief at Auguste’s loss.

Click on the image below to open the more extensive gallery while reading this letter, though illustrations pertaining directly to the letter are included in footnotes here as well:



[1] Fr., “You surprise me with your French, though I feel not the slightest temptation myself to fall into it as well. Your facility is considerable in all things, if only you might put a bit more of it into your existence. You are too depressed, my friend, and despite the fact that there is reason enough to be so, one should never be as sad as one’s lot.” Back.

[2] I.e., Thursday, 16 October 1800; Caroline is writing this portion of the letter on Wednesday, 15 October. Back.

[3] Tuesday, 21 October 1800. Back.

[4] A drawing of Auguste rather than, presumably, the larger portrait (see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 24 November 1800 [letter 275]).

Concerning illustrations of Auguste, see Sophie Tischbein’s letter to Caroline on 28 Auguste 1800 (letter 267), note 2.

Concerning the stay in Göttingen, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 18 September 1800 (letter 268), note 1. Back.

[5] Schelling had arrived back in Jena from Bamberg on 3 October 1800. Back.

[6] Identity unknown. The family or locale presumably offered a table d’hôte. Back.

[7] Fr., “bottles.” Back.

[8] Not extant. Back.

[9] Caroline had been prohibited from remaining in Göttingen for any lengthier stay; see the rescript of the Hannoverian University Board of Trustees of 26 September 1800 (letter 269). Her Mainz past continued to follow her in the future as well. Back.

[10] The Wiedemanns had two children: Emma and August. Back.

[11] Luise and Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann, their two children, and Luise’s and Caroline’s mother had visited the Schlegels in Jena in early August 1799 (Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate XXIX):


See Luise’s account in her memoirs, in which she also mentions Auguste’s death. Back.

[12] In French in original. Back.

[13] See the supplementary appendix on quinine concerning its history and uses at the time. Back.

[14] 19 October 1800. Back.

[15] Ca. 30—40 kilometers; Caroline reference to Söder’s distance “from here” indicates she is back in Braunschweig.

Söder estate is 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 itself consists of but this single estate (Georges-Louis Le Rouge, L’ Eveché de Hildesheim: Traduit de l’Allemand [Paris 1757]; Bibliothèque nationale de France):


For an exhaustive history of the chateau and its construction, see Stefanie Anders, “Schloss Söder 1742–1796. Baugeschichtliche Studien zu einem repräsentativen Landsitz der Familie von Brabeck im Fürstbistum Hildesheim,” diss. Osnabrück (2011), from which some of this brief description is drawn (photograph ca. 1900 from Friedrich Günther, Der Harz, Land und Leute: Monographien zur Erdkunde 9, ed. A. Scrobel [Bielefeld, Leipzig 1901], 25):


The original complex for the Söder estate dates back to 1288; in 1450 the von Bortfeld family constructed a fortified castle on the site surrounded by two moats, the inner one traversable only by drawbridge; i.e., the house was constructed on a kind of island, a feature maintained by Brabeck in the eighteenth century. Because Brabeck’s only son died young, the estate was inherited by Brabeck’s daughter, Philippine, who in 1817 married a son of the writer Friedrich Leopold von Stolberg.

That son, Andreas Henning von Stolberg, sold the estate in 1862 to Jobst Ernst von Schwicheldt, which also resulted in Brabeck’s original art collection being auctioned and dispersed. Schwicheldt’s great granddaughter eventually inherited the estate, whose daughter inherited the estate in 1968 and later married Heinrich Lampe. The Söder estate remains in the possession of the Lampe family today; it is privately occupied and can no longer be visited. Although various changes were made to the chateau during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the fundamental layout and appearance have remained much the same.

The chateau structure Caroline visited was begun in 1742. Over the course of its construction and expansion, one architect described it as an “Italian summer palace,” suggesting, among other things, that Brabeck’s father, who likely spent time in Hildesheim and his administrative locale of Liebenburg, may have used it as a summer residence. In the 1780s, Friedrich Moritz von Brabeck seems to have been the first in his line to have lived in the chateau year round.

His expansions to the chateau and grounds began in 1788 and concluded in 1796. Shortly before its conclusion, the French emigré author Charles-Antoine de Saqui-Sannes signed the guestbook on 7 September 1795, just five years before Caroline’s visit; under the pseudonym S. S. Roland, Saqui-Sannes published one of the books about Söder that both Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel read and that Wilhelm reviewed (see below).

The translator of that book, Carl Gottlieb Horstig (1763–1835), similarly visited Söder several times, signing the guestbook on 12 May 1797 and 5 September 1798. Caroline, Wilhelm Schlegel, and Christian Rudolf Wilhelm Wiedemann signed the book on 22 October 1800. Wiedemann and his wife, Caroline’s sister Luise, and Madam Michaelis had already visited Söder Chateau around Whitsun (early June) 1797. Back.

[16] The inn, known as Söder Heidekrug, was built ca. 1 km west of the estate especially for visitors to Brabeck’s collections and still stands today. Here on an early postcard:


Here the rear of the inn in the distance, viewed from the front of Söder (photo Klaus Metzger):



[17] The only other extant document in which Caroline refers to a “fairy castle” (Germ. Feenschloss) is Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 22 June 1785 (letter 57), in which the expression refers to the estate house in Katlenburg in Lower Saxony; see note 9 there.

Caroline and Wilhelm’s evening reception at Brabeck’s chateau likely quite resembled a conflation of the scenes in the following illustrations ([1] illustration from Aglaia: Jahrbuch für Frauenzimmer auf 1803 [Frankfurt], Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung; [2] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki’s illustration to Wilhelm Gottlieb Becker’s W. G. Becker’s Reise nach Paris, vol. 1, in Taschenbuch und Almanach zum geselligen Vergnügen [1799]; attested in Wilhelm Engelmann, Daniel Chodowiecki’s sämtliche Kupferstiche [Leipzig 1857], 46, illustration no. 869):




[18] A noteworthy show of deference, since the inn Söder Heidekrug had been built specifically to accommodate visitor’s to the art collection in the chateau (anonymous, Junges Paar steht vor einem Herrn in einem Zimmer [ca. 1776–1800]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. Res. A: 374.4):



[18a] Caroline writes to Luise Gotter on 24 November 1800 (letter 275) that, having suffered a bout of diarrhea the previous evening, she had felt close to fainting for most of this first evening in the chateau (Genealogischer Kalender auf das Jahr 1810; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Otherwise, guests generally had bedrooms on the second story in Söder Chateau. Söder’s layout (see note 24 below) seems to have resembled in some respects Horace Walpole’s estate Strawberry Hill near Twickenham in England, of which several illustrations are extant. The next morning Caroline — “with completely clear eyes” — Wilhelm, and Wiedemann would have descended a staircase to a central foyer leading to the salons similar to the one in Strawberry Hill in the illustration below (John Carter, Passage to the gallery and interior of the Holbein Room at Strawberry Hill; Yale Lewis Walpole Library, lwlpr15061m, Folio 49 3678.8+):



[19] Goethe’s periodical Propyläen was part of his unsuccessful initiative to guide contemporary artistic development back to a classicist style; to that end, a group called the Weimar Friends of Art (Weimarer Kunstfreunde) held thematically styled competitions for younger artists.

The competition in 1800 was won by Joseph Hoffmann and Johann August Nahl; Goethe had published the announcement of the winners on 24 September 1800 (Weimarer Ausgabe 1:48:225). It is uncertain exactly how long the paintings remained on exhibit in Weimar that autumn.

Concerning this competition and the winning entry, see Dorothea Veit’s letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on ca. 23 September 1800 (letter 268a), esp. with note 11.

The competition of 1801 is discussed in Caroline’s later letters (e.g., Caroline to Wilhelm Schlegel on 16 November 1801 [letter 330]). Back.

[20] Caroline is about to enter a world as if made for her receptive sensibility for art. The salons and parlors in Count von Brabeck’s estate Chateau Söder through which she moves in the rest of this letter recall the galleries at Horace Walpole’s estate Strawberry Hill near Twickenham in England. Here the main parlor in Strawberry Hill (John Carter, The Parlour at Strawberry Hill; Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University):


In his monograph on the Söder collection, 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), Friedrich Wilhelm Basilius Ramdohr provides descriptions of 266 pieces.

When in 1808 Brabeck was putting feelers out with the idea of selling his collection as a single piece in order to keep in intact, he commissioned the following catalogue, which thus arguably provides a complete inventory of that collection as of 1808: Catalogue de la Galerie de Soeder, par le propriétaire le Comte de Brabeck (S.l., s.n. 1806; Cassel 1808). Brabeck’s preface to the catalogue reads as follows:

The undersigned, owner of the Söder gallery, herewith informs the public that he has resolved to sell that gallery and that he wishes to find a buyer who, for the well-being of art, might want to purchase it in its current disposition, reunited as a whole.

To this end, and motivated by the conviction that, transplanted into some distinguished capital, this gallery can come to serve a grand purpose for young artists, painters, and engravers, and even for the state itself (just as a past example has demonstrated such so well in Düsseldorf) by combining it with the establishment of a drawing school and an engraving institute and its commerce, he has resolved to wait until Michaelmas 1811 before publicizing some other sales plan.

He feels obliged to add that the Söder gallery possesses a unique character distinguishing it from all others, namely, insofar as it is classified by genres in each of which it reunites several homogeneous jewels, it offers an element of harmony so fortunate that the connoisseur is quite unable to decide which is the most precious and as such merits preference.

He responds similarly concerning the excellent condition regarding the conservation of these paintings.

Söder near Hildesheim (Westphalia), Auguste 1809.

Caroline mentions the following paintings in this letter to Schelling, only one of which (see below) can be reliably identified:

(1) five Ruysdael landscapes;
(2) several Salvator landscapes, to which she feels drawn just as to the one in the Dresden gallery;
Vernet landscapes she has never seen;
(4) two cabinet pieces she identifies as:

(a) a Raphael, with Simon looking at the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother, the child of which seems an “embryo” of the child in the Dresden painting (Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, 1513–14); 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), includes a copper engraving of this piece as the frontispiece to his monograph on the Söder collection (see below);

(b) a Correggio, depicting the Madonna with the child fidgeting on her lap;

(5) a piece by Guercino with a young woman (a saint in secular clothes) reading a book, who reminds her of Auguste (this piece can be identified; see below);
(6) on Brabeck’s writing desk a small piece from antiquity, an altar with basreliefs, with a wooden figure (carved) of the Madonna with the child in her arms and with a scapular over her arm by Albrecht Dürer.

Concerning the art collection, which was finally dispersed in 1859, the best contemporary witnesses are:

(1) Charles Antoine de Saqui-Sannes, using the pseudonym S. S. Roland, Söder par S. S. Roland (Göttingen 1797) (in French). German translation: Söder von S. S. Roland, aus dem Französischen ins Deutsche übersetzt von C[arl] G[ottlieb] Horstig, mit zwey malerischen Ansichten un einem Grundrisse von Söder, nebst dem Bildnisse des Freyherrn von Brabek (Leipzig bey Voss und Comp., 1799); Tafelband (plates volume) Die Kupfer zu Söder (Leipzig 1799).

Wilhelm and Caroline read Roland prior to visiting Söder. Caroline mentions both the French original and the translation in her letter to Luise Gotter on 24 November 1800 (letter 275), and Wilhelm had reviewed the original French version in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1798) 263 (Monday, 3 September 1798) 481–85 (Sämmtliche Werke 11:310–16) (supplementary appendix 272.1);

(2) Friederich Wilhelm Basilius von 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).

Wilhelm mentions Ramdohr’s piece in his review of Roland cited above. Back.

[21] Fr., “furnishings.” Back.

[22] Concerning Brabeck’s enlistment of local craftsman in outfitting Söder chateau, see S. C. [?] Horstig, “Ueber Söder, den Landsitz des Hrn. von Brabek im Hildesheimischen,” Der Neue Teutsche Merkur (1799) 1:175–80 (translation supplementary appendix 272.2). Back.

[23] Caroline is referring to the character of the “uncle” in Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister; for those passages, see supplementary appendix 272.3. Back.

[23a] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Où suis je? (1774–75); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (85):



[24] Here the floor plan of the chateau’s two stories (final plate in Söder par S. S. Roland [=Charles Antoine de Saqui-Sannes] [Göttingen 1797]; guests were presumably assigned rooms on the second floor) along with that of the gallery arrangement on the first floor (Catalogue de la galerie de Soeder par le Propriétaire le comte de Brabeck [n.p. mdcccviii]):



For comparison: This period illustration (1798) of the gallery in Horace Walpole’s estate (mentioned above) likely resembled Caroline’s surroundings in Count von Brabeck’s chateau (illustration from “A Description of the Villa of Mr. Horace Walpole At Strawberry-Hill near Twickenham, Middlesex,” The Works of Horatio Walpole, Earl of Orford, 5 vols. [London 1798], 2:395–516; here: plate following p. 460):


In this context, see esp. the two anonymous articles in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt in 1801 and 1802: “Ueber die Gemähldegallerie zu Söder: Auszug aus einem Schreiben des Herrn N. an seinen Freund in Wien,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1801) 16 (Thursday, 5 February 1801) 121–25, and “Charakter der Bildergallerie von Söder,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1802) 104 (Tuesday, 31 Auguste 1802) 829–32 (translations in supplementary appendix 272.4).

Concerning the further organization of the gallery with respect to ease and pleasure of viewing, see the editor of Catalogue de la Galerie de Soeder, par le proprietaire le Comte de Brabeck (S.l., s.n. 1806; Cassel 1808), who provides a brief note about the layout Caroline likely experienced:

The Söder Gallery is composed of seven salons separated by a grand room containing not a single painting, serving instead as a place of repose for viewing. The principle entry is disposed such as to present a brief survey of the entire suite of apartments such that one’s view, initially soothed by the general visual disposition of the gallery, then focuses on the specific enclosure of each salon, lingering with less fatigue and distraction on the objects exhibited there. Back.

[25] Concerning the Dresden landscape painting of Salvator Rosa, see the essay “Die Gemählde. Ein Gespräch von W.,” in Athenaeum (1799) 39–151, here 56–57; Louise (essentially representing Caroline’s voice) is reading from a description of three landscape paintings:

“I saw three landscapes alongside one another, by Salvator Rosa, Claude Lorrain, and Ruysdael.

The first is a restricted area with trees, water, and rock formations. No high rocks, solely an overgrown mass of rocks gently rises to the right; a hint of a view into the distance can be perceived through the shrubbery in the center. Farther to the right the water trails off into the bushes; a large rock emerges brightly from the left side (that is, the left of the observer, not of the picture itself; it is thus that I will refer to the expressions right and left in the following).

On this rock there stand and sit three men in conversation, truly expressive figures. But almost like the first figure in the entire painting, a powerful, bare limb juts out before the trees on the left. It strives upward and outward like a regnant being, one can almost sense animate power at work in it, and the men below its branches stand there like its servants. The colors of their clothing concur with those of the larger branch itself and the brighter parts of the rock formation, transitioning into yellows and grays such that the most beautiful and characteristic elements in the painting seem illuminated. Here, too, everything is full of spirit, animated, active.

The foliage in these trees is not calm at all; the air seems to rip through it, separating it into lengthy, stretching sections. And yet no storm rages at this locale; the quiet blue of the sky peeks out from behind the gray clouds, and the movement I see is that of sublime life, not a raging disposition. In other landscapes, one can sometimes perhaps more easily lose oneself, isolated, in the wasteland: once you have settled in here, however, you are in the company of an inspired soul.

It is as if these wondrous human figures were inviting you into closer contact with them: the romantic positioning and garments — though these suggest the presence of simple rural people or residents of the wilderness — the locale where they are conversing, everything contributes to an evocation of the most distinguished presence.

It is not chance that has assembled them; they are one with the whole, and they themselves complete the specific expression that not even the superficial observer can fail to notice. Those who normally are rather indifferent to landscape paintings might well have the sense here of a historical painting, at the very least like that of music to some grand text.” Back.

[26] Although this painting, which may or may not have been by Raphael, seems to have been lost, a copper engraving of it provides the frontispiece to Friederich Wilhelm Basilius von 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):


See the treatment of this painting in the two works to which Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel had access, namely,

Söder par S. S. Roland (=Charles Antoine de Saqui-Sannes) (Göttingen 1797) (in French), 145–48; German translation, Söder von S. S. Roland, aus dem Französischen ins Deutsche übersetzt von C[arl] G[ottlieb] Horstig, mit zwey malerischen Ansichten und einem Grundrisse von Söder, nebst dem Bildnisse des Freyherrn von Brabek (Leipzig 1799), 84–85; and

Friederich Wilhelm Basilius von 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), 11–16.

Translations of both in supplementary appendix 272.5. Back.

[27] See the assessment of this painting as well in the two works to which Caroline and Wilhelm Schlegel had access, including a comparison with Raphael’s painting discussed above, namely

Söder par S. S. Roland (=Charles Antoine de Saqui-Sannes) (Göttingen 1797) (in French), 148–50; German translation, Söder von S. S. Roland, aus dem Französischen ins Deutsche übersetzt von C[arl] G[ottlieb] Horstig, mit zwey malerischen Ansichten und einem Grundrisse von Söder, nebst dem Bildnisse des Freyherrn von Brabek (Leipzig 1799), 85–86; and

Friederich Wilhelm Basilius von 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), 8–10.

Translations of both in supplementary appendix 272.6. Back.

[28] In the same essay, “Die Gemählde. Ein Gespräch von W.,” in Athenaeum (1799) 39–151, here 128–29, Louise (Caroline) is speaking about the child in Raphael’s Sistine Madonna in Dresden:

Louise. . . . You see, even the fact that her [the madonna’s] bare feet are walking on the clouds, unconcealed by her garment, is not without a specific effect; one sees the figure more distinctly, and as a result it appears more human.

Waller. And in my opinion also more majestic.

Louise. Indeed, precisely because her appearance is so pure, unadorned with what people normally believe inspires reverence, standing there instead within her own, unique nature. And consider now how grandly she carries the child on the veil, allowing the veil to remain open on top, with only the ends tucked together below the child. Her right hand grasps the child beneath its right arm, while her left hand support the child’s right leg, which is crossed over the other leg and to which the child’s holds with its left hand, albeit not playfully, the way children are wont to do, but amid the calm that has come about.

In this seated position, it is turned toward the front and seems to want nothing, though that which it will one day have the capacity to want is immeasurable, or rather that which it has wanted, for everything has already happened, and it shows itself merely in the arms of the Mother of Earth again just as when it first entered that world. Its forms are those of a child, its head broadly rounded, its limbs strong and full, not at all delicate, but its eyes and mouth rule the world. Indeed, its mouth is particularly serious, a pronounced curve with both sides of the lips drawn down.

I would suggest that it is precisely this alien feature depicted in a child that lends it the incomprehensibly sublime expression. Similarly also the short hair surrounding the head as it were with an upward striving. The eyes seem like two unmoving stars; they are deep set, and the forehead full of reflection. And yet one cannot say that this youth is already a man. It is not hypermaturity, but rather hyperhumanity.

For to the extent that the divine can be revealed in the form of a child, such has indeed happened here, and I cannot even imagine the man to this child.

Waller. Is that also one of the reasons you consider a painting of the head of Christ impossible?

Louise. Yes, I do confess that I prefer to see the Redeemer of the World as a child. The mystery of the admixture of the two natures seems to me best resolved in the wondrous mystery of childhood, whose nature is equally boundless and bounded. Back.

[29] Compare the following illustration of a similar situation by Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki just a year earlier (illustration for the Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen [1799]):


The picture was in Söder Chateau Salon F (historical pieces), no. 9 in Brabeck’s 1808 catalogue: St. Catherine seated and reading (there as Ste. Cathérine assise et lisant), oil/canvas, 92.5 x 119 cm, and is the only picture Caroline mentions in this letter that can be reliably identified (Catalogue de la galerie de Soeder par le Propriétaire le comte de Brabeck [n.p. mdcccviii]). Later, in the Verzeichniss der in der Galerie zu Söder befindlichen Gemälde, 2nd ed. (Braunschweig 1824), 18, it is identified under “historical paintings” in hall F, third wall, “no. 31. Saint Catherine sitting and reading. Pietro da Cortona“:




It has been variously attributed to Onorio Marinari (1627–1715), Carlo Dolci (1616–1686), Guido Reni (1575–1642), Pietro da Cortona (1596[7]–1669) (thus also Moritz von Brabeck and Basilius von Ramdohr, the latter with reservation), Guercino (1591–1666) (thus S. S. Roland and Caroline), or even an unknown older French painter who studied in Rome (Ramdohr’s final, albeit still tentative suggestion). It is currently housed in the Residenzgalerie Salzburg, loan collection Schönborn-Buchheim, where it is attributed to Carlo Dolci (photo Ulrich Ghezzi Oberalm):


Here an excerpt from Auguste’s portrait (Otto Cramer Family Archives) juxtaposed with that of St. Catherine:


See the assessments in

Söder par S. S. Roland (=Charles Antoine de Saqui-Sannes) (Göttingen 1797) (in French), 102–3; German translation, Söder von S. S. Roland, aus dem Französischen ins Deutsche übersetzt von C[arl] G[ottlieb] Horstig, mit zwey malerischen Ansichten und einem Grundrisse von Söder, nebst dem Bildnisse des Freyherrn von Brabek (Leipzig 1799), 59; and

Friederich Wilhelm Basilius von 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), 17–19.

Translations of both in supplementary appendix 272.7.

One may point out that the motif of the “reading girl” was otherwise variously popular at the time (Angelika Kauffmann, Lesendes Mädchen [1770]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur MAKauffmann AB 3.25):



[30] Caroline, Wilhelm, and C. R. W. Wiedemann signed the Söder guestbook on their day of departure, 22 October 1800. That is, after arriving on the evening of 19 October 1800 and viewing the collection on 20 and 21 October, they departed on 22 October. Back.

[31] A remarkable description of a painting of Söder that is still in the possession of the owners of the estate (reproduced by the kind permission of Jobst-Heinrich Lampe):



[32] “Meister Hans”: The reference is to a carving that Caroline and her companions had seen earlier in Bamberg. See Schelling’s letters to Goethe from Bamberg on 8 August 1800 (letter 265k):

Yet another noteworthy literary item here is a resident who possesses a treasure of all sorts of old German manuscripts. Schlegel, who was summoned here by the extraordinarily painful misfortune that befell his daughter, has found that this man owns quite a few interesting items. Among other things, he has a quite refined likeness of Hanns Sachs carved from wood (the inscription reads “Meyesteer Hanns”), which I would be glad to send to you if I knew you were interested.

Goethe responded on 27 September 1800 (Goethe und die Romantik 212): “Give my regards to Herr Schlegel, and if the small likeness of Meister Hans can be acquired for a reasonable price, I would be quite pleased to own it.”

Although the carving of the Madonna Caroline mentions may or may not have been by Albrecht Dürer, Caroline’s description resembles the anonymous late 15th-century carving in the following illustration from the Strasbourg School (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz; the carving is similarly 28cm tall including the pedestal, which makes the carving itself approx. a span of 9 or 10 inches):



[33] Such was not to be the case; Caroline did not return to Jena until 23 April 1801. Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott