Contributor: Alexander Knopf
Location: Freies Deutsches Hochstift / Frankfurter Goethe-Museum, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Description: In October 1809, Bettine Brentano sent a long letter to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. With this letter, a remarkable etching was enclosed. The work, fashioned by Ludwig Emil Grimm (1790-1863), depicted Bettine herself, sitting on a chair with a voluminous book. A closer look reveals the title on the spine. It is Achim von Arnim’s Wintergarten, a collection of short stories published in 1809. Yet Bettine does not hold the book like a reader. With the folded hands pressing the book against her bosom, she seems to rock it like her own child. The whole composition is meant to display a link between the book or, respectively, its author and Bettine’s heart. In 1811, Bettine would become von Arnim’s wife. The portrait, however, was first sent to Goethe. The feelings suggested by the picture were not exactly the feelings that Bettine was harbouring in her chest.
Continue reading “Portrait of Bettine Brentano with Achim von Arnim’s “Wintergarten””
Contributor: Anne Bohnenkamp, Frankfurt am Main (Deutsches Romantik-Museum
Location: Frankfurt am Main (Germany)
Description: Letters belong to the most important media of the Romantic era. Apart from the general rise of private correspondence in the eighteenth century, which was marked by profound social, political and technical change, specific characteristics of the Romantic movement are responsible for the growing importance of letters in this period. These include characteristic tendencies of border transgressions – such as to abolish the distinction between life and art, to declare life a work of art and art as life, so that the distinction between private letters and works of art begins to blur. Last but not least emerging forms of female authorship frequently operate with the medium of the letter because it allows the author to disguise their claim to produce a literary work, which was still considered to be a very inappropriate aspiration for women. Today, the letters of the Romantic period give us intimate insights into the communication between the protagonists of this era.
This letter that Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau in Frankfurt am Main wrote on July 16, 1834, is addressed to “Frau von Arnim / née Fräulein Brentano / frey / in Berlin.” This handwritten inscription can be found on the reverse of the sheet shown here. The recipient of the letter – Bettine von Arnim, née Brentano – is one of the most important female authors of Romanticism in the German-speaking world. Her published work consists almost exclusively of ‘letter books’. Her “epistolary worlds of desire” combine a documentary impression with imaginative inventions forming “fantasy correspondences”, which are based in part on letters that were actually exchanged.
Continue reading “Bettine! (Or a Letter Without Text)”
Contributor: Wolfgang Bunzel
Location: Freies Deutsches Hochstift/Frankfurter Goethe-Museum, Grosser Hirschgraben 23-25, D-60311 Frankfurt/M., Germany
Description (English): In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were folding travel desks, often equipped with bottom drawers (cp. folding travel desk in the Beethoven-Haus Bonn from the collection of H. C. Bodmer) enabling travellers to work during their journeys. Suitable for excursions and journeys, Bettina von Arnim’s handbag, foldable from both sides, adopts exactly this design principle. It has a drawer underneath with a removable long wooden box, which served as storage for writing utensils (ink pot and several quills), drawing tools (pencil and chalk) and different needlework (knitting- and sewing-needles as well as fixing pins). Thus, the authoress was always provided with the necessary writing material while travelling. Continue reading “Bettina von Arnim’s handbag”