10 May 2013

Frankfurter Goethe-Haus

I actually knew something about Goethe before venturing in to his house in Frankfurt. That was thanks to a recent episode of Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time, always worth a listen and now it counts as a travel guide too.

Goethe-Haus is in the old town (understandably) on the western side so was easy for me to get to from my hotel on the same side of town. The signs were helpful too as the house was tucked away a little.

It was quite an imposing town house spread over five floors, but then Goethe was rich. The wealth was evident from the contents too though old furniture does not do a great deal for me and most of the photos that I took were of the wallpapers and the furniture fabrics.

There was some furniture that I liked, such as the large clock on one of the landings.

The layout of the house was fairly simple and each floor looked much the same. The stairs led off a large landing/hall off which there were a series of linked good-size rooms.

The rooms were presented much as they would have been in Goethe's time except that the daily clutter from living had been removed. It was like looking through a show home, which was probably the intention.

The furniture and fittings were all original but the house wasn't.

A display in the museum explained how the house was all but destroyed by bombing during the war. Such was its importance that it was rebuilt soon afterwards. The contents had been stored elsewhere and escaped harm.

Of course there had to be a desk.

Goethe did more than write but write is what he is best known for so the desk was an important exhibit. What struck me was how it small is compared to contemporary desks, my desk at home is 1.7m long and 1m wide.

Like everything else in the house it lacked the details of use, such as pens and paper, which I think I would have preferred to see.

At least the chairs had been neatly upholstered. They are my favourite part of this picture.

Next to the Goethe House, and accessible directly from it, is the Goethe Museum that has a collection of German art from Goethe's period.

A lot of the pictures were just the sort of thing that I do not like in art, that is portraits of people I have no interest in and landscape in which nothing is happening, but there was some weird stuff too and I like that.

The crazy picture with the horse is Johann Heinrich Füssli's The Nightmare and the swans above are from Carl Gustav Carus' Allegory on the Death of Goethe.

I have no idea what the imagery is about, and that was not important to me. What I liked was the fantasy nature of the composition, clearly something was going on and part of the fun was trying to work out what.

There were around fifteen rooms in the gallery altogether, about the same as in Goethe House, and while I was able to skip past the portraits quite quickly there were still plenty of dark and brooding pictures for me to marvel at.

Together Goethe House and Museum were more fascinating than I expected and what I thought was going to be a chore of duty turned out to be a real pleasure instead.

All that was left to do was have a coffee and the cafe across the road was just the job for that.

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