Probably my favourite of the museums and locations I’ve visited in Rome on previous trips is the Keats-Shelley Museum by the Spanish Steps. It’s a quiet oasis of 18th century England amidst the crowds of tourists milling around the Piazza di Spagna. It’s a few years since I was there and I didn’t repeat the visit on this recent trip.
Keats Shelley House, Rome, on Second Floor with Landmark Trust Apartment Above
Crowds on the Spanish Steps – in early March
Babington’s English Tea Room by the Spanish Steps
But I did discover the existence of the Casa di Goethe in my LV Guide Bari, Milan, Naples, Rome 2012. So my final port of call in the City of Rome itself (after fortification at Canova) was a visit to the Casa di Goethe on the Via del Corso nearby. I wrote a little bit about Goethe earlier this year. Here is another place of peace and calm and amazingly right on the Via Del Corso.
“In September 1786, Goethe started out on the longest journey of his life. He was 37 when he achieved his dream of visiting Italy. He later wrote in his journal “Italienische Reise”, that he had spent the happiest period of his life there. On his arrival in Rome he stayed on the Via del Corso with his painter friend Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, scion of a dynasty of renowned artists. This huge apartment, which gives onto the Piazza Del Popolo, is still redolent of Goethe’s time here during his Grand Tour of 18th-century Italy. It has superbly painted coffered ceilings which are set off by the white of the walls. On display are writings, letters, annotations, and drawings, as well as the paintings of his friend Tischbein.
The most famous of them, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, was painted on this very spot in 1787, although the version seen here is only a copy, the original being in the Staedelsches Kunstmuseum in Frankfurt. It never fails to impress all the same. This sumptuous collection of artworks and documentary material gives us an idea of what the journey to Italy meant at the time for artists and cultivated travellers. The Casa di Goethe also offers temporary exhibitions that encourage German-Italian cultural relations. By appointment it’s possible to visit the Library which holds a number of first editions of Goethe’s work.” [LV Guide Rome 2012]
Welcome to the Casa!
This is the only German Museum on foreign soil and it was opened to the public in 1997 with support of the German Government and German cultural associations. Regular events are held here – readings, lectures, conferences, discussions and concerts – followed by gatherings and discussions in the library over a glass of wine. The Museum is also able to offer scholarships (sponsored by DaimlerChrysler) to literary figures, publishers, scientists, translators, and artists, allowing them to spend a few months in Rome collecting ideas and inspiration for their own work or finishing off projects. The work doesn’t have to be related to Goethe.
Goethe Library in Rome
The first few rooms are dedicated to the temporary exhibitions; currently Thomas Mann and his Italian novella Mario and the Magician. Displays relate to the historical and political background as it was written during the rise of Nazism and Fascism. The notes were all in German and as time was tight I didn’t spend much time in these rooms but moved on to the rooms occupied by Goethe at the front of the building.
Painted Coffered Ceilings
The restored painted wooden ceilings, which date back to Goethe’s time, contrast well with the pale walls which show off the displays and pictures. No furniture or furnishings dating back to Goethe’s time here. To me they are reminiscent of Swiss and German chalet decorations.
I was glad that I bought the excellent illustrated guide book. The first section, as in the rooms themselves, tells the story of Goethe’s time in Rome and Italy. There then follow pages of quotations by Goethe himself from his letters and his journal Italian Journey and by his friends and colleagues. Many of these quotations also accompany the room displays.
“I could not resist buying the cast of a colossal head of Jupiter . It now stands in a good light facing my bed, so that I can say prayers to him the first thing in the morning.” (Italian journey 25 December 1786
Piranesi Print of the Caius Cestius Pyramid
“Water pipes, baths, theatres, amphitheatres, the stadium, temples! And then the palaces of the Ceasars , the graves of the great – with these images I have fed and strengthened my mind.” to Carl Ludwig von Knebel 17 November 1786
1787 bust of J. W. v. Goethe by Alexander Trippel
Tischbein ‘s watercolour of Goethe at the window
1991 and 1992 were excellent years for the acquisition of many Goethe related papers, books and artefacts by the Casa including the Andy Warhol iconic contemporary adaptation of Tischbein ‘s portrait. Also some autographs of Goethe’s including a letter card written in his own hand and giving his rome address and the Goethe library of publisher Richard Dorn.
Screen Print and Acrylic on Linen 1982
At the very end of the guide book is a list of museums and memorials to Goethe in both Italy and in Germany. Amongst those listed is the grave of his son, August, in the Protestant Cemetery. Interestingly, even though he was an adult at death his father arranged for the following to be inscribed on his gravestone.
GOETHE FILIVS / PATRI / ANTEVERTENS / Obiit / Annor [VM] XL / MDCCCXXX (Goethe’s son / father / above / died / 40 years / 1830)