Sunday 5 April 2015

Seidler's painting of Goethe, 1811
After meeting Goethe in Jena in 1806, Luise Seidler saw him again four years later, when she was painting at the gallery of a friend in Dresden.

The news of Goethe’s arrival in the city struck our gathering like a lightning bolt. Everyone wanted to see him, speak to him, hear him, enjoy his company. He will come, Fromman said, taking great pride in his friendship with the great poet. I’ll invite him. Surely he will come and, as formerly in Jena, spend his evenings here, and my friends will be happy to greet and get to know him.

One morning, as I was working in the gallery, I heard the news: He is here. He is in the gallery! I’ve seen him, Fromman announced. I talked to him, and he is in a very good mood.

The prince of poets appeared at the very end of the gallery, an imposing figure and in spite of his 61 years, glorious in his masculine beauty. The others rushed forward. I alone remained behind, taken by surprise. With childish embarrassment because I had let the moment slip by to greet him, I took refuge in a recessed window. There I heard Goethe approach and stop at the easel that held my painting. That is a very nice piece of work, he said. -- St. Caecilia after Carlo Dolce. Who painted it? He was told my name. He looked around the corner and saw me standing in my hideout. I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks as he offered me his hand. In a fatherly and well-meaning tone he told me how nice it was to see me again and hear of a talent he never knew I had.
And where do you live? he said.
In Ostra Street, near the botanical garden.
Then I’ll call on you, and we will go to the botanical garden together and enjoy those wonderful August evenings. Only he did not want it to be talked about.

He frequently came to the gallery and took me for outings in the surroundings of Dresden.
People often asked. Where does Goethe spend his evenings? I  stuck by my promise and was careful not to give anything away .. I was pleased and proud that a poor hanger-on like me was secretly favoured by this widely admired man.

(Source: Luise Seidler. Erinnerungen und Leben; my trans.)

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