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The Beholder’s Hurt Feeling

Johann Heinrich Meyer’s Critical Discussion of Restoration
Claudia Keller

Résumés

Cette contribution discute les implications du classicisme de Weimar – et en particulier sa conscience moderne d’une différence herméneutique entre l’antiquité et le présent – sur la réception et la restauration des statues. En analysant les expériences italiennes de Johann Heinrich Meyer et Johann Wolfgang Goethe, ce texte montre comment une critique des restaurations précédentes conduit à une nouvelle sensibilité au sujet des œuvres d’art et à une esthétique du fragment.

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Texte intégral

  • 1  On Meyer’s biography, cf. Klauß, J., Der “Kunschtmeyer. Johann Heinrich Meyer: Freund und Orakel (...)
  • 2  On the origin and development of this periodical, as well as on its aims in education and history (...)

1This contribution will consider the implications of Weimar Classicism and its theory of art on the perception and the methods of restoration. In doing so, I will mainly refer to an essay by Johann Heinrich Meyer, who is also known by the slightly derisive names ‘Kunschtmeyer’ and ‘Goethemeyer’ because of his close collaboration with Johann Wolfgang Goethe over a period of nearly 4 decades. Born in Zurich in 1760, he was trained as a painter first by Johann Koella and later by Johann Caspar Füssli (who was the father of Johann Heinrich Füssli). In 1784, Meyer, who had already been influenced by the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann during his studies, travelled to Rome, where he made friends with Goethe and where they examined the city’s artistic treasures together. After Goethe’s return to Germany, he secured Meyer a post at the Fürstliche freye Zeichenschule, the drawing school in Weimar, where Meyer remained from 1791 until his death in 18321. Of his many and varied activities there, it is only his historical and theoretical contribution to various projects by Goethe that is of importance in this context. In fact, it is only in the last few years that researchers have started to recognise Meyer’s participation in these projects – such as Goethe’s periodical entitled Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift2as an integral part of Weimar Classicism; and indeed, many of his texts, such as those on restoration, have not yet been investigated at all.

  • 3 Meyer has often been described as “Goethe’s friend and advisor in the field of art”, cf. for exampl (...)
  • 4  [Goethe J. W.], “Einleitung”, Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von [Johann Wolfg (...)

2Meyer was not simply Goethe’s assistant in the field of art3, but the two of them divided up their work in a specific manner: although Goethe was always interested in all areas of art – including its technical aspects – it was Meyer who actually wrote the majority of the essays on visual art, which the two of them had discussed together. In doing so, he expressed the theoretical position of the “harmoniously conjoined friends” – as Goethe describes them in the introduction to the Propyläen4. This also applies to the article Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken, which was published in the aforementioned periodical in 1799: this is Meyer’s most detailed theoretical reflection on restorationand includes a discussion of different methods of protecting and restoring ancient sculptures, various types of paintings as well as copper engravings.

The erotic force of the fragment

  • 5  Winckelmann, J. J., Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums, special edition, unchanged reprographic re (...)
  • 6  Harald Tausch’s dissertation, entitled Entfernung der Antike, refers to the historicistic constitu (...)

3The image at the end of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums conceptualises the distance from the ancient world and the longing for it in the melancholic metaphor of a young lady mourning the loss of her ‘beloved’, who is sailing away5. As a consequence of this new historical consciousness, Weimar Classicism around 1800 also recognises the “Distance of Antiquity”6 as unbridgeable. Meyer reflects on the consequences of this distance:

  • 7  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Lehranstalten, zu Gunsten der bildenden Künste”, Propyläen II, 2 [1799], op (...)

“Yet nature has established iron walls between each age, over which no man can jump; the happiest, the best may at the most let himself be seen on the battlement to look over it; but no-one has ever yet been able to step beyond their circumference7.”

  • 8  Cf. Winckelmann, J. J., “Beschreibung des Torso im Belvedere zu Rom”, idem, Kleine Schriften, Vorr (...)
  • 9  Schneider, S. “Klassizismus, eine rückwärtsgewandte Moderne? Perspektiven auf die ‘Weimarer Klassi (...)

4The only way of looking over this insurmountable wall and catching a glimpse of the bygone world lies in the apparently enlightened contemplation of artworks, by which the gulf between antiquity and modernity can be bridged for a brief moment. But the success of this attempt is – given that it is bound to one moment – always at risk. This approach to art as a coping strategy is demonstrated by Winckelmann in his famous Beschreibung desTorso im Belvederezu Rom: in the course of his description, the time-ravaged stone is gradually transformed back into a ‘whole’, and thus allows the beholder to glance over the ‘walls’8. Just as Pygmalion longs for his ivory statue to come to life, it is here the beholder’s “loving dream” that, as Sabine Schneider explains, completes “the dismembered remains in his productive imagination” and makes “the dead, incomprehensible stones” talk9.

  • 10  Schneider, S., ibid. The myth of Pygmalion is, as pointed out by S. Schneider, the paradigm employ (...)
  • 11  [Meyer, J. H.], “Die capitolinische Venus”, Propyläen III, 1 [1800], op. cit., p. 159 (p. 871).
  • 12  [Meyer, J. H.], “Die capitolinische Venus”, op. cit., p. 159 (p. 871)
  • 13  [Meyer,J. H.], “Die capitolinische Venus”, op. cit., p. 163 (p. 875).

5Similarly, Meyer’s approach to antique sculptures depends upon the “Eros of the beholder”10 to bring them from the dead and distant past into the living present: the form of the so-called Capitoline Venus is, Meyer writes in his description of the statue, so “soft that one is tempted to say the marble seems to have abandoned its true nature and to have transformed itself into soft down in the hands of the artist”11. And, he adds: “It is as if living breath were raising her chest and a tender, graceful word were hovering on her lips12.” However, the phantasmagoric rebirth of antiquity in the form of a goddess that seems to be alive, comes to an end when Meyer looks at the details of the statue. After describing the remaining original parts of it, Meyer turns his attention to the restorations. Above all, it is the “modern nose, with its heavy shape and sharp edges” which, Meyer notes, reduces the “beauty of the face” and which must have been the reason, he argues, why the beauty of the whole head had never been fully appreciated13.

  • 14 “But full of sorrow I stand still and, just as Psyche started to weep over love, after she had come (...)
  • 15  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, Propyläen II, 1 [1799], op. cit., p. 92-93 ( (...)
  • 16  By enlarging on this subject, one could be led to a new way of looking at Classicism’s discussion (...)

6Unlike in Winckelmann’s description of the Torso, where it is the sudden recollection of its fragmentary state that disturbs the imagination of a ‘whole’14, in Meyer’s description it is the physical additions, made to restore the integral wholeness of the statue, which disturb the meaningful contemplation of it: the desire for the ancient world cannot be fulfilled by the physical addition of the missing features, because this fails to recreate the original condition. Meyer’s statement in the aforementioned essay Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken that an ancient work of art will always be appreciated more if it is “Vergine15, meaning ‘untouched’, shows how the erotic force between beholder and object is mainly focused on the fragment16: while the beholder is conscious that his desire cannot be fulfilled in reality, his erotic gaze becomes productive at the sight of an object which has remained untouched by posterity.

  • 17  Cf. the commentary by Stefan Greif in: Goethe, J. W., Sämtliche Werke, Briefe, Tagebücher und Gesp (...)
  • 18  W.K.F. [Meyer, J. H.], “Königliches Museum zu Berlin”, Über Kunst und Altertum III, 3 [1822]. Here (...)
  • 19  W.K.F. [Meyer, J. H.], “Königliches Museum zu Berlin”, op. cit., p. 239.
  • 20  W.K.F. [Meyer, J. H.], “Königliches Museum zu Berlin”, op. cit.,p. 240. A. Fendt points out that, (...)

7Meyer is aware of the fact that the beholder’s loving gaze can be disturbed when no additions have been made – especially in the face of the statue – and yet he sees at least the same danger in restoration: with his essay Königliches Museum zu Berlin, which was published in Goethe’s Ueber Kunst und Altertum in 1821 and 1822, Meyer contributes to the debates surrounding the what is now called Altes Museum, which was not opened until 183017. In this essay, he considers the “feeling of the beholder” offended, when parts of the face, such as the nose, the lips or the chin, are missing. In the same breath, however, he points out, that unsatisfactory restorations can cause a “discord in the whole” – as was the case with the Capitoline Venus18. This disruption can, according to Meyer, be so severe that the pleasure of contemplating the monument shrivels even for a beholder who is most open to the beauties of art, and finally hurt his ‘feeling’19. Regarding a few Torsi from the museum’s collection, Meyer consistently postulates that their ‘bad additions’, which “make the truly beautiful ancient parts nearly unenjoyable”, should unquestionably be removed and that the remaining “old honorable fragments” should be exposed “as such at a convenient time in the new museum”20. Thus, the beholder’s hurt feeling becomes the criterion of whether or not ancient statues should be restored – and if so, how.

A new concept of restoration

8The interdependency between the condition of the artwork and its perception is reflected on by Meyer in his essay Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken, where he compares the experience of viewing restored ancient statues with that of contemplating unrestored fragments. He asserts that, when examining

  • 21  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 95 (p. 457).

“[...] fragments, beholders will fix their attention on the beauty of the forms, because they must make an effort to add the missing parts in their minds, in order to contemplate the imagination of the whole. For someone who is unpractised, it may well be that any restoration is welcome, because it excuses him from making this effort; but if the restoration is wrong, and changes the original meaning and character of the whole, then the result is internal ambiguity and contradiction in the work, which must necessarily be detrimental to the formation of taste21.”

  • 22  Schneider, S., “Sehen in subjektiver Hinsicht? Goethes aporetisches Projekt einer ‘Kritik der Sinn (...)
  • 23  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 96 (p. 458).

9A fragment requires an active way of looking, through which an image of the entire artwork is created by adding the missing parts in one’s imagination. By contrast, the additions made to a restored statue may be incorrect and may have a negative influence on the perception due to the shift in its “meaning and character”. The static, physical illusion of entireness that restoration gives to the artwork contrasts with the dynamic inner vision that originates from the productive imagination: reshaping the perception of the external world by an ‘inner vision’ which, as S. Schneider points out, is otherwise usually pathologized in Classicism,22 seems here to be the only possibility to transpose ancient works of art into the modern age. The delusion of the senses by the productive imagination, which cannot be but momentary, allows for a dynamic involvement with the fragment, whereas additions which are perceived as inaccurate reduce the “pleasure” and make it impossible to give life to the “old fragment”23.

  • 24  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 96 (p. 458). The german genitiv (...)
  • 25  [Meyer J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 99f. (p. 461f.). As often in his (...)
  • 26  [Meyer J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken” op. cit., p. 121 (p. 483).
  • 27  This becomes clear, for example, from this passage: “Abrading a painting completely does not mean (...)
  • 28  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 103 (p. 465).
  • 29  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 103 (p. 465).
  • 30  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 104f. (p. 466f.).
  • 31  Cf. Fendt, A., op. cit., p. 61 and: http://www.ecco-eu.org/about-e.c.c.o./professional-guidelines. (...)

10This experience leads to the conclusion that the way in which restorations have been carried out in the past must be changed: so far, collectors and restorers had treated works of art, Meyer writes, “mostly as dead treasures […], not as living instructive monuments [created, C. K.] by [or: ‘to’, C. K.] fine spirits and beautiful times”24. However, the beholder with a loving gaze wants restorers to handle “the holy remains of the old […] art with pious awe”25. This principle also applies to the treatment of oil paintings, for which Meyer favors ‘simple conservation method’26: he warns against harmful varnishes, points out the importance of storing the paintings in a dry place, and encourages careful, regular – but not excessive – cleaning with breadcrumbs or water. In particular, Meyer deplores any attempt to give old paintings the appearance of a ‘fresh look’27. This critique echoes the one concerning the restoration of ancient sculptures: the attempt to imitate a rough surface with a “cream of pulverized tuff”28 he calls “make-up of false tartar”29. As the use of this method covers over the joins between the original and the later restoration, it is part of Meyer’s critique against all interventions which belie the fragmentary condition of the statue: the impossibility of bridging the gap between past and present should not be hidden by restorers. As a consequence of this, Meyer prefers a restoration method which he saw in Florence while examining ancient engraved gems: “This method of restoration”, he writes, “certainly deserves the greatest praise because of its innocence and modesty: all the new parts differ from the old in material and colour, and the restoring artist seems to give only his opinion, or to offer a suggestion as to how the work could be restored to a whole30.” The notion of a reversible restoration which contrasts with the original material and does not change it, as was to become important in the 20th century31, is essentially already present in this passage.

  • 32  [Meyer J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 120 (p. 482).
  • 33  On the development and the failure of this project, cf. for example the commentary by Christoph Mi (...)
  • 34  On the relation between the failed project and the Propyläen, cf. for example Kemper, D., op. cit.(...)
  • 35  On Pietro Edwards and his restoration workshop in Venice, cf. Conti, A., Storia del restauro e del (...)
  • 36  The draft is published in: Goethe, J. W., “[Aeltere Gemälde. Neuere Restaurationen in Venedig, bet (...)
  • 37  Goethe, J. W., “Tag- und Jahreshefte. Als Ergänzung meiner sonstigen Bekenntnisse”, idem, Sämtlich (...)
  • 38  Goethe, J. W., “Aeltere Gemälde. Neuere Restaurationen in Venedig, betrachtet 1791”, idem, Ueber K (...)

11Meyer’s plea for a new way of handling works of art is mainly addressed to those readers of the Propyläen who are “in possession of, or have the control of, precious artworks”: he wants to speak “to [their, C. K.] hearts”, and hopes that the “importance of these reminders” will be generally felt32. For an understanding of this impetus, it is worth looking at the context from which the Propyläen emerged. This periodical, published from 1798-1800, was created as a substitute for a proposed historico-cultural presentation of Italy which could not be realised for a variety of reasons – among others, the Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleon’s art thefts33. During his second stay in Italy from 1795-1797, Meyer engaged in research for this project by taking notes on the artworks in Italy with the help of a so-called “Rubrikenschema”, a list of categories. Under one of these categories, Meyer noted observations on the condition of the artwork and indicated where restorations had been made. The knowledge gained from this research not only formed the basis for the Propyläen but also shaped Meyer’s views on restoration34. Of no less importance for both Goethe’s and Meyer’s understanding of restoration was their experience of the progressive restoration workshop run by Pietro Edwards in Venice in April and May 179035. Goethe, who had already written a short draft on his observation of Venetian art in situ, planned to write “something about the Venetian institution” as an additional comment on Meyer’s essay Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken36. Although he did not carry out this plan, the experience was still on his mind in 1816, as becomes clear from a passage of his Tag- und Jahreshefte, where he said that he could have imagined for Dresden a similar academy of restoration as in Venice, because “such recovery and salvation” is “more important than one would think” and would need both appropriate workers and facilities37. The importance of the Venetian restoration workshop as a model for a new way to organise restoration in Germany was emphasized again by Goethe in 1825, when he finally published the extended version of his original draft in Ueber Kunst und Altertum. There, speaking of the “kind of academy for the restoration of paintings”, he called attention mainly to the “benefit that all the experience that has been acquired in this art is collected and preserved by a community […]”. The individuality of the artists and the specific condition of every artwork require, as Goethe noted, many different methods, which can be developed in such a kind of academy over many years of experience38.

  • 39  Kemper, D., op. cit., p. 579. D. Kemper notes that the articles treating the practical experience (...)
  • 40  A. Fendt has shown that the “standards of restoration” of the studio run by Rauch in Berlin also h (...)
  • 41  Koester, C. P., Ueber Restauration alter Oelgemälde, booklet 3, Heidelberg, C. F. Winter, 1830, p. (...)

12To educate in matters of art and thereby contribute to the aesthetic perfection of artists and art lovers was one of the main purposes of the Propyläen39. This goal is also clearly apparent in Meyer’s writing on restoration: it is an attempt to transpose knowledge from the south to the north and to sensitise the public to the appropriate handling of artworks40. The significance of Meyer’s observations on restoration was acknowledged, for example, by the painter and restorer Christian Philipp Koester. He comments in his writing Ueber Restauration alter Oelgemälde that they contain “the first healthy tones on repairing damage to old oil paintings”41. It becomes clear that, along with others of his contemporaries, Meyer, too, contributed to laying the foundation of modern restoration in Germany.

Restoration as revelation of the hermeneutical difference

  • 42  Szondi, P., “Antike und Moderne in der Ästhetik der Goethezeit”, idem, Poetik und Geschichtsphilos (...)
  • 43  Jerry Podany comments that the “long-present direct link to the past, as well as the security of t (...)
  • 44  Schneider, S. “Klassizismus, eine rückwärtsgewandte Moderne? Perspektiven auf die ‘Weimarer Klassi (...)

13These different phenomena of transfer – be they the spatial transfer of knowledge from south to north or transfers from Antiquity into the present – show how debates on the theory of art and the aesthetics of reception have an impact on the way restoration is discussed in Weimar around 1800. Following the political and social upheavals after the French Revolution and the no less traumatic experience of Napoleon’s Italian campaigns, which Meyer experienced during his second stay in Italy, Weimar Classicism disputes the hermeneutical difference between the ancient Greek “dreamland of beauty”42 and the prosaic present also with regard to issues of restoration43. Mainly in the light of this new consciousness, it becomes easy to understand the degree to which Winckelmann’s and Meyer’s approach to art must be understood as a “phantasmatic triumph over the contingency of the lost and dismembered”44.

  • 45  For this development, Orietta Rossi Pinelli writes, that tradition “had called for fragments to be (...)
  • 46 Podany, J., op. cit., p. 16. Cf. as well O. Rossi Pinelli, who sees this scientific interest based (...)

14The fact that, in restoration, the cult of the fragment arises just at the time of this epochal change45has been described, for example, by Jerry Podany or Orietta Rossi Pinelli as the growing demand for “historical accuracy”46. But in the context shown in this contribution it could also be understood as a counterpart to the experience of contingency at the beginning of modernity. A new concept of time is at the heart of Meyer’s critique of the way in which restorations were previously carried out: the main principle of restoration should not be the creation of an illusion which hides the difference between the past and the present; rather, the temporality of the artwork should be clearly revealed, as it forms the basis for the imaginative completion by which the beholder copes with his desire for the past.

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Bibliographie

Printed sources:

[Goethe, J. W.], “Einleitung, Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von [Johann Wolfgang] Goethe, I,1 [1798], p. III-XXXVIII. Here: Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1798-1800], reprographic reprint, introduction and appendix by Wolfgang Frhr. von Löhneysen, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1965, p. 7-42.

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[Idem], “Ueber Lehranstalten, zu Gunsten der bildenden Künste”, Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von [Johann Wolfgang] Goethe, II, 2 [1799], p. 4-25 and p. 141-171; Propyläen III, 1[1800], p. 53-65 and Propyläen III, 2 [1800], p. 67-74. Here: Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1798-1800], reprographic reprint, introduction and appendix by Wolfgang Frhr. von Löhneysen, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1965, p. 542-563; p. 679-709; p. 765-777 and p. 965-972.

[Idem], “Die capitolinische Venus”, Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von [Johann Wolfgang] Goethe, III, 1 [1800], p. 157-166. Here: Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1798-1800], reprographic reprint, introduction and appendix by Wolfgang Frhr. von Löhneysen, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1965, p. 869-878.

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Kemper, D., art. “Propyläen”, Witte (Bernd) et al. (ed.), Goethe-Handbuch in vier Bänden, Stuttgart, Metzler, 1997-1998, vol. 3: Prosaschriften, p. 578-593.

Klauß, J., Der Kunschtmeyer. Johann Heinrich Meyer: Freund und Orakel Goethes, Weimar, Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 2001.

Osterkamp, E., Im Buchstabenbilde. Studien zum Verfahren Goethescher Bildbeschreibungen,Stuttgart, Metzler, 1991 (= Germanistische Abhandlungen; vol. 70).

Podany, J., “Lessons from the Past”, Burnett Grossman (Janett), Podany (Jerry) and True (Marion) (ed.), History of Restoration of Ancient Stone Sculptures,Papers Delivered at a Symposium Organized by the Departments of Antiquities and Antiquities Conservation of the J. Paul Getty Museum and Held at the Museum 25-27 October 2001, Los Angeles, Getty Publications, 2003,p. 13-23.

Rossi Pinelli, O., “From the Need for Completion to the Cult of the Fragment. How Tastes, Scholarship, and Museum Curators’ Choices Changed Our View of Ancient Sculpture”, Burnett Grossman (Janett), Podany (Jerry) and True (Marion) (ed.), History of Restoration of Ancient Stone Sculptures,Papers Delivered at a Symposium Organized by the Departments of Antiquities and Antiquities Conservation of the J. Paul Getty Museum and Held at the Museum 25-27 October 2001, Los Angeles, Getty Publications, 2003, p. 61-74.

Schneider, S., “Klassizismus, eine rückwärtsgewandte Moderne? Perspektiven auf die ‘Weimarer Klassik’”, Online-Zeitschrift der SAGG, 2006, p. 17-30.

Eadem, “Sehen in subjektiver Hinsicht? Goethes aporetisches Projekt einer ‘Kritik der Sinne’ und seine Interferenzen zur Romantik”, Pfotenhauer (Helmut) and Schneider (Sabine), Nicht völlig Wachen und nicht ganz ein Traum. Die Halbschlafbilder in der Literatur, Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann, 2006, p. 37-52.

Steiger, R., Goethes Leben von Tag zu Tag. Eine dokumentarische Chronik von Robert Steiger und Angelika Reimann, Zürich and München, Artemis Verlag, 1982-1997, vol. III: 1789-1798.

Szondi, P., “Antike und Moderne in der Ästhetik der Goethezeit”, idem, Poetik und Geschichtsphilosophie I. Studienausgabe der Vorlesungen, vol. 2, ed. by Senta Metz and Hans-Hagen Hildebrandt, Frankfurt a. M., Suhrkamp, 1974.

Tausch, H., Entfernung der Antike. Carl Ludwig Fernow im Kontext der Kunsttheorie um 1800, Tübingen, Niemeyer, 2000 (= Studien zur deutschen Literatur; vol. 156).

Website:

http://www.ecco-eu.org/about-e.c.c.o./professional-guidelines.html (28/1/2011).

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Notes

1  On Meyer’s biography, cf. Klauß, J., Der “Kunschtmeyer. Johann Heinrich Meyer: Freund und Orakel Goethes, Weimar, Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 2001.

2  On the origin and development of this periodical, as well as on its aims in education and history of art, cf. Kemper, D., art. “Propyläen”, Witte, B., et al. (ed.), Goethe-Handbuch in vier Bänden, Stuttgart, Metzler 1997-1998, vol. 3: Prosaschriften, p. 578-593.

3 Meyer has often been described as “Goethe’s friend and advisor in the field of art”, cf. for example Fröschle, H., Goethes Verhältnis zur Romantik, Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann, 2002, p. 371.

4  [Goethe J. W.], “Einleitung”, Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von [Johann Wolfgang] Goethe, I, 1 [1798], p. V. Here: Propyläen. Eine periodische Schrift. Herausgegeben von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1798-1800], reprographic reprint, introduction and appendix by Wolfgang Frhr. von Löhneysen, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1965, p. 9. From 1804 on, it was, among others, Meyer who published essays and reviews using the initials “W.K.F.” (“Weimarische Kunstfreunde”) in various publications, such as Goethe’s Ueber Kunst und Altertum (cf. Boettcher, I., and Tausch, H., art. “Meyer/Weimarische Kunstfreunde”, Witte, B., et al. (ed.), op. cit., vol. 4/2: Personen, Sachen, Begriffe, p. 702-706). Here and elsewhere, all translations from German to English are my own, C. K. I would like to thank Andrew Torr for revising the English manuscript.

5  Winckelmann, J. J., Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums, special edition, unchanged reprographic reprint from the Wien 1934 edition, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1993, p. 393.

6  Harald Tausch’s dissertation, entitled Entfernung der Antike, refers to the historicistic constitution of Classicism and its exposure to an antiquitiy, which has been cut from the present (Tausch, H., Entfernung der Antike. Carl Ludwig Fernow im Kontext der Kunsttheorie um 1800, Tübingen, Niemeyer, 2000 (= Studien zur deutschen Literatur; vol. 156)).

7  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Lehranstalten, zu Gunsten der bildenden Künste”, Propyläen II, 2 [1799], op. cit., p. 14 (p. 552) (the figure in brackets refers to the reprographic edition used).

8  Cf. Winckelmann, J. J., “Beschreibung des Torso im Belvedere zu Rom”, idem, Kleine Schriften, Vorreden, Entwürfe, ed. by Walther Rehm, with an introduction by Hellmut Sichtermann, Berlin, de Gruyter, 1968, p. 170.

9  Schneider, S. “Klassizismus, eine rückwärtsgewandte Moderne? Perspektiven auf die ‘Weimarer Klassik’”, Online-Zeitschrift der SAGG, 2006, p. 20f.

10  Schneider, S., ibid. The myth of Pygmalion is, as pointed out by S. Schneider, the paradigm employed by the theory of art around 1800 to discuss the hermeneutical problem of the difference between past and present. On this subject cf. the seminal study by Oskar Bätschmann (Oskar Bätschmann, “Pygmalion als Betrachter. Die Rezeption von Plastik und Malerei in der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts”, Kemp, W. (ed.), Der Betrachter ist im Bild. Kunstwissenschaft und Rezeptionsästhetik, revised and enlarged edition with updated bibliography, Berlin, Reimer, [1985] 1992, p. 237-278.).

11  [Meyer, J. H.], “Die capitolinische Venus”, Propyläen III, 1 [1800], op. cit., p. 159 (p. 871).

12  [Meyer, J. H.], “Die capitolinische Venus”, op. cit., p. 159 (p. 871)

13  [Meyer,J. H.], “Die capitolinische Venus”, op. cit., p. 163 (p. 875).

14 “But full of sorrow I stand still and, just as Psyche started to weep over love, after she had come to know it! […] so I lament the irreparable damage done to this Hercules [den unersetzlichen Schaden dieses Herkules, C. K.], now that I have gained an insight into its true beauty.”(Winckelmann, J. J., “Beschreibung des Torso im Belvedere zu Rom”, op. cit., p. 173).

15  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, Propyläen II, 1 [1799], op. cit., p. 92-93 (p.454-455). The quotation can be found on p. 93 (p. 455).

16  By enlarging on this subject, one could be led to a new way of looking at Classicism’s discussion of the ‘whole’: Classicism, thereby, would be seen as close to Romanticism and its “emphatic concept of the fragment” (Fetscher, J., art. “Fragment”, Barck, K., et al. (ed.), Ästhetische Grundbegriffe. Historisches Wörterbuch in sieben Bänden, Metzler, 2000-2005, vol. 2: Dekadent-Grotesk, p. 570). It is a Classicism which must consistently be understood as a “backwards-looking debate of modernization, which is not inferior to the reflexive energy of early Romanticism, but which, in discursive competition with it, is grappling with the same, specifically modern problems” (Schneider, S., “Klassizismus, eine rückwärtsgewandte Moderne? Perspektiven auf die ‘Weimarer Klassik’”, op. cit., p. 18).

17  Cf. the commentary by Stefan Greif in: Goethe, J. W., Sämtliche Werke, Briefe, Tagebücher und Gespräche, ed. by Henrik Birus et al., Frankfurt a. M., Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1985-1999, vol. I, 21, p.839ff.) It is not known to me whether and how, for example, Christian Daniel Rauch, who started to restore the ancient sculptures for the Altes Museum in 1824, and Christian Friedrich Tieck, who was in charge of the restoration from 1829, took Meyer’s recommendations into consideration. Yet it must be borne in mind that his proposals refer to the idea of converting the rooms of the academy of arts into a museum and not yet to the plans for a new building, which became accepted after 1823 (Heilmeyer, W. D., “Einleitung: Die Einrichtung der Rotunde”, Heilmeyer, W. D., Heres, H., and Maßmann, W., Schinkels Pantheon. Die Statuen der Rotunde im Alten Museum, Mainz, von Zabern, 2004, p. 4). On C. D. Rauch and C. F. Tieck, as well as on the restorations actually carried out in Berlin, cf. also Fendt, A., “Standards in der Antikenrestaurierung um 1800. Restaurierungsverständnis und Werkstattpraktiken von Bildhauern in Berlin und Rom”, Peltz, U. and Zorn, O. (ed.), kulturGUTerhalten. Standards in der Restaurierungswissenschaft und Denkmalpflege,Papers Delivered at the International Colloquium 23 – 25 April 2009 at the National Museums in Berlin, Mainz, von Zabern, 2009, p.61-69.

18  W.K.F. [Meyer, J. H.], “Königliches Museum zu Berlin”, Über Kunst und Altertum III, 3 [1822]. Here: J. W. Goethe, Sämtliche Werke, op. cit., vol. I, 21, p. 239.

19  W.K.F. [Meyer, J. H.], “Königliches Museum zu Berlin”, op. cit., p. 239.

20  W.K.F. [Meyer, J. H.], “Königliches Museum zu Berlin”, op. cit.,p. 240. A. Fendt points out that, at the opening of the Altes Museum, apart from four torsi (to which Meyer probably refers) all objects were restored  (Fendt, A., op. cit., p. 65).

21  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 95 (p. 457).

22  Schneider, S., “Sehen in subjektiver Hinsicht? Goethes aporetisches Projekt einer ‘Kritik der Sinne’ und seine Interferenzen zur Romantik”, Pfotenhauer, H., and Schneider, S., Nicht völlig Wachen und nicht ganz ein Traum. Die Halbschlafbilder in der Literatur, Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann, 2006, mainly p. 40-42. She chiefly refers to Goethe’s and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s different models of perception.

23  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 96 (p. 458).

24  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 96 (p. 458). The german genitive construction can mean as well “created by” as “to”: “[…] nicht wie lebendige lehrreiche Denkmale schöner Geister und schöner Zeiten […]”.

25  [Meyer J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 99f. (p. 461f.). As often in his writing, Meyer stands in the tradition of J. J. Winckelmann, who called for “responsibility to the ancient original” (Heres, H., “Von Bartolomeo Cavaceppi zu Christian Daniel Rauch – Die Restaurierung der Statuen im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert”, Heilmeyer, W., Heres, H., and Maßmann, W., op. cit., p. 20).

26  [Meyer J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken” op. cit., p. 121 (p. 483).

27  This becomes clear, for example, from this passage: “Abrading a painting completely does not mean restoring it but damaging it, and the safest way is always to let the Patina, or the tint, that time has given to it remain, and to try only to slightly lighten the darkened areas again.”([Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 113 (p. 475)). This mainly because the “original spirit of the work” suffers due to excessive cleaning ([Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 119 (p. 481)). On the use of the term “restoration” by C. D. Rauch and Alois Hirt, cf. the comments by A. Fendt (Fendt, A., op. cit., p. 63).

28  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 103 (p. 465).

29  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 103 (p. 465).

30  [Meyer, J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 104f. (p. 466f.).

31  Cf. Fendt, A., op. cit., p. 61 and: http://www.ecco-eu.org/about-e.c.c.o./professional-guidelines.html (28/1/2011).

32  [Meyer J. H.], “Ueber Restauration von Kunstwerken”, op. cit., p. 120 (p. 482).

33  On the development and the failure of this project, cf. for example the commentary by Christoph Michel in Goethe, J. W., Sämtliche Werke, op. cit., vol. I, 15/2, p. 1568-1573.

34  On the relation between the failed project and the Propyläen, cf. for example Kemper, D., op. cit., mainly p. 578ff. The “Rubrikenschema”, which was used by Meyer, has its roots in the Renaissance and was known to Goethe and Meyer through Anton Raphael Mengs (Osterkamp, E., Im Buchstabenbilde. Studien zum Verfahren Goethescher Bildbeschreibungen,Stuttgart, Metzler, 1991 (= Germanistische Abhandlungen; vol. 70), p. 92-113). Apart from the aforementioned essay Die capitolinische Venus (Propyläen III, 1 [1800]) also the essays Einige Bemerkungen über die Gruppe Laokoons und seiner Söhne. Im März 1796 (Propyläen I, 2 [1798]) or Niobe mit ihren Kindern (Propyläen II, 1 [1799]) deal with matters of restoration.

35  On Pietro Edwards and his restoration workshop in Venice, cf. Conti, A., Storia del restauro e della conservazione delle opere d’arte, Milano, Electa Spa, 1988, chapter 6. In 1790, while waiting for the arrival of Anna Amalia and her entourage, which also included Meyer, Goethe devoted time and attention to acquiring knowledge on Venetian art. On the 6th of April 1790, Goethe paid his first visit to the workshop, which was situated in the monastery of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. On a further visit on the 9th of May, he was accompanied by Meyer, who had arrived in Venice 4 days earlier (cf. Steiger, R., Goethes Leben von Tag zu Tag. Eine dokumentarische Chronik von Robert Steiger und Angelika Reimann, Zürich and München, Artemis Verlag, 1982-1997, vol. III: 1789-1798, p. 71-86).

36  The draft is published in: Goethe, J. W., “[Aeltere Gemälde. Neuere Restaurationen in Venedig, betrachtet 1791]”, idem, Sämtliche Werke, op. cit., vol. I, 18, p. 274-279. The correct date is 1790. Goethe, who used to edit Meyers texts, saw an opportunity to publish these observations about the Venetian workshop in the Propyläen: in a note on Meyer’s essay, he writes that it must be looked through and that some additions concerning the Venetian workshop must be made (Goethe, J. W., “Weitere Ausführung der Aufsätze, Jena. d. 24. Sept. 1798”, idem, Sämtliche Werke, op. cit., vol. I, 18, p. 483).

37  Goethe, J. W., “Tag- und Jahreshefte. Als Ergänzung meiner sonstigen Bekenntnisse”, idem, Sämtliche Werke, op. cit., vol. I, 17, p. 269.

38  Goethe, J. W., “Aeltere Gemälde. Neuere Restaurationen in Venedig, betrachtet 1791”, idem, Ueber Kunst und Altertum V, 2 [1825]. Here: Idem, Sämtliche Werke, op. cit., vol. I, 22,p. 115.

39  Kemper, D., op. cit., p. 579. D. Kemper notes that the articles treating the practical experience of art (mostly written by Meyer) are a “consistent addition to the educational effort” of the Propyläen (ibid., p. 588).

40  A. Fendt has shown that the “standards of restoration” of the studio run by Rauch in Berlin also had its origins in Rome: C. D. Rauch, A. Hirt and Wilhelm von Humboldt had lived there for many years and in 1820 C. D. Rauch sent for sculptors, stonemasons and plaster moulders to collaborate on the restoration (Fendt, A., op. cit., p. 65).

41  Koester, C. P., Ueber Restauration alter Oelgemälde, booklet 3, Heidelberg, C. F. Winter, 1830, p. 17.

42  Szondi, P., “Antike und Moderne in der Ästhetik der Goethezeit”, idem, Poetik und Geschichtsphilosophie I. Studienausgabe der Vorlesungen, vol. 2, ed. by Senta Metz and Hans-Hagen Hildebrandt, Frankfurt a. M., Suhrkamp, 1974, p. 32.

43  Jerry Podany comments that the “long-present direct link to the past, as well as the security of that link, was being cut by two massive upheavals: the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. In response, restorers tempered their invention and became more open to the trends of objectivism espoused by the burgeoning disciplines of archaeology and art history” (Podany, J., “Lessons from the Past”, Burnett Grossman, J., Podany, J. and True, M. (ed.), History of Restoration of Ancient Stone Sculptures,Papers Delivered at a Symposium Organized by the Departments of Antiquities and Antiquities Conservation of the J. Paul Getty Museum and Held at the Museum 25-27 October 2001, Los Angeles, Getty Publications, 2003, p. 15f.). Cf. also the seminal study by Werner Busch on the consequences of the French Revolution (Busch, W., Dassentimentalische Bild. Die Krise der Kunst im 18. Jahrhundert und die Geburt der Moderne, München, Beck, 1993).

44  Schneider, S. “Klassizismus, eine rückwärtsgewandte Moderne? Perspektiven auf die ‘Weimarer Klassik’”, op. cit., p. 21.

45  For this development, Orietta Rossi Pinelli writes, that tradition “had called for fragments to be completed, but in the early years of the nineteenth century this trend was reversed” (Rossi Pinelli, O., “From the Need for Completion to the Cult of the Fragment. How Tastes, Scholarship, and Museum Curators’ Choices Changed Our View of Ancient Sculpture”, Burnett Grossman, J., Podany, J. and True, M. (ed.), op. cit., p. 61). As the turning point in this development towards ‘the cult of the fragment’ scholars frequently refer to Antonio Canova’s refusal to restore the so-called Elgin Marbles in 1803 (cf. Conti, A., op. cit., p. 197; Rossi Pinelli, O., op. cit., p. 63-67 or Heres, H., op. cit., p. 20).

46 Podany, J., op. cit., p. 16. Cf. as well O. Rossi Pinelli, who sees this scientific interest based (among others) on the collaboration between J. J. Winckelmann and Bartolomeo Cavaceppi, who both shared “the need for an exchange of skills between restorers and scholars” (Rossi Pinelli, O., op. cit.,p. 63). A. Fendt concludes her study by saying that the period around 1800 was “trend-setting” for the restoration of ancient stone sculptures: on one hand, “generally accepted technical, aesthetic and scientific standards” already existed; but on the other hand, a “problematization of these standards” was started at the same time in the course of the “scientification of archeology” (Fendt, A., op. cit., p. 67).

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Claudia Keller, « The Beholder’s Hurt Feeling », CeROArt [En ligne],  | 2012, mis en ligne le 23 avril 2012, consulté le 29 mai 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/2401

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Claudia Keller

Claudia Keller (1984) is a doctoral student at the Doktoratsprogramm am Deutschen Seminar, University of Zurich. She studied German Philology, General and Comparative Literature and Art History in Zurich and Tel Aviv and obtained her Master's degree from the Department of Modern German Literature with the thesis “Die Zeit ist's eben, die den Menschen Kunstwerke entbehrlich macht.” Krisendiagnose und Bewältigungsstrategien: Johann Heinrich Meyers Beitrag zu den Problemkonstellationen des Klassizismus um 1800.

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