#WomenMW: The Lady behind the pseudonym „Ernst Ritter“

On the first day of this year’s international #MuseumWeek women take centre stage. The Hashtag #WomenMW leads us to Löbichau Castle and Tannenfeld Castle near Posterstein. Between 1795 and 1821 there was a living salon in both castles. The hostess was the beautiful duchess Anna Dorothea of Kurland (1761–1821), one of the most impressive salonniéres of her time. But also among her guests in Löbichau, important women can be found – like Emilie von Binzer.

Der Salon der Herzogin von Kurland in Schloss Löbichau zählte zu den bekanntesten seiner Art.
The salon of the Duchess of Courland was one of the most famous of its kind at the beginning of the 19th century.

With the 18th century Parisian salons, where members of the court, scholars and artists met, a culture emerged during the Enlightenment, spreading throughout Europe. At the end of the 18th century Löbichau Castle became such a center of intellectual and cultural life in Germany. The salon of the Duchess of Courland was one of the most famous of its kind at the beginning of the 19th century.

How a box came from the estate of Emilie von Binzer to Posterstein Castle

In 2014 the Museum Posterstein Castle – promoted by financial resources of the Free State of Thuringia and from Bürgerstiftung Altenburger Land – could purchase a unique collection of portrait drawings. The 47 watercolored drawings date back to 1819/20 and represent the guests in the salon of the Duchess of Courland as mythical creatures. The unique pieces were stored in a box made of dark green colored half leather.

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Ernst Welker. – Museum Burg Posterstein, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The authors of these amusing portraits are the painter Ernst Welker and probably also his pupil Emilie von Binzer, née von Gerschau (see picture above, which has the signature „Emilie del“). Emilie was a foster daughter of the Duchess Wilhelmine of Sagan, the eldest daughter of Dorothea of ​​Courland. The drawing of the caricatures is described by Binzer in her memoir „Three Summers in Löbichau“ („Drei Sommer in Löbichau“). One can imagine the drawing teacher aged 35 and his pupil at the tender age of 19 spending a summer on the idyllic country estate Löbichau and Tannenfeld and throw a humorous glance at the famous and lesser-known guests in the salon of the Duchess of Courland. The salon visitors are pictured as mythical creatures, mostly in animal form or as an object with a human portrait head. It’s a moot question whether the persons knew about the existence of these drawings. The authors of the caricatures did not spare themselves: Emilie is depicted as an asparagus, Welker as an oyster.

 

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Ernst Welker. – Museum Burg Posterstein, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Her famous aunt introduced her to the world of salons

The writer Emilie Henriette Adelheid von Binzer (1801-1891), née von Gerschau, was born in Berlin. She lived with her aunt Wilhelmine of Sagan and two other foster daugters. Her father Peter von Gerschau is said to have been an illegitimate son of the Duke of Courland. He served as Russian Consul General in Copenhagen. Duchess Wilhelmine introduced her to the salon life and so the young girl met famous personalities, such as Metternich, Talleyrand, Tsar Alexander, Windischgrätz, Wellington, Blücher and Schwarzenberg.

In 1819/20 Emilie stayed in Löbichau und Tannenfeld together with Wilhelmine of Sagan and her teacher Ernst Welker. More than 50 years later, she wrote her memoir „Three summers in Löbichau“ („Drei Sommer in Löbichau“), in which she individually characterizes the people portrayed by Welker.

Aufnahme Frauenlobs des 2 ten am 8. September in Löbichau 1819, Aquarell, gemalt von Ernst Welker, Museum Burg Posterstein
One of the authors in Dorothea of Courland’s salon is honoured with a special prize in September in Löbichau 1819, painted by Ernst Welker, Museum Burg Posterstein

In Löbichau Emilie met among others the poet Jean Paul, Families Körner and Feuerbach, Carl August Böttiger, Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus, Christoph August Tiedge and Elisa von der Recke. Here she also became acquainted with her future husband: the Burschenschaftler (member of a student fraternity) August Daniel von Binzer. They married in 1822 in Sagan Castle. By using the pseudonym „Ernst Ritter“ Emilie von Binzer published a collection of novellas entitled „Mohnkörner“ („poppy grains“). In particular, people and experiences of the time of the Congress of Vienna influenced her literary work. She formed a close friendship with Adalbert Stifter and Franz Grillparzer.

The collection Welker at the open cultural data hackathon „Coding da Vinci“

In 2015 the Museum Posterstein Castle showed the collection of caricatures drawn by Ernst Welker for the first time within the framework of a special exhibition. Afterwards, the pictures were integrated to a touchscreen in the museum’s permanent exhibition. Since 2018 they are digitized and accessible via platform “Museums in Thuringia”. For the cultural hackathon Coding Da Vinci East the leaves are now to find in high resolution and with CC-BY-SA license also on Wikimedia Commons.

 

Unser erster Kultur-Hackathon: Die Sammlung Welker bei Coding da Vinci Ost in der Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig.
Our first hackathon: the Welker collection takes part in the hackathon Coding da Vinci in the university library in Leipzig.

In context of the hackathon some of the 140 participants – including designers, programmers and students of various disciplines – work with the data of the Museum Posterstein Castle. For the next nine weeks they’ll spend their free time to create modern playful applications by using the playful historical drawings. We will support them with professional information and we are very excited about the results, which will be presented on the 16th of June!

The projects can be followed in the Coding da Vinci Hackdash. There is even still the opportunity to join the project.

by Marlene Hofmann, translation: Franziska Engemann / Museum Burg Posterstein

#FoodWM: A whole new food culture in medieval times?

Day 1 of #MuseumWeek 2017 from June 19th to June 25th: We have prepared a new blog post each day. Today’s hashtag is #foodMW. Leon, who did an internship at Museum Burg Posterstein, was interested in medieval food culture:

When thinking of the Middle Ages and food, many people picture knights dining at kingly laid tables as well as the starving farmer sitting in his deteriorating house. But which of these images comes closer to the truth? How did people in medieval times actually eat?

How did people in medieval times eat?
How did people in medieval times eat?

As a matter of fact, a whole new food culture of its own developed in medieval Europe. Contrasting the culinary arts of late antiquity, which had heavily influenced the early medieval cuisine, the chefs in western Europe almost completely renewed their seasoning arsenal. Weeds and spices, such as nutmeg and clove, first entered medicine, and later found their way into the kitchen. Up until the 13th century new rites and traditions of consumption developed in a slow, barely interrupted process. Though „Lucullian“ paralleles as well as equivalences to Byzantium and the Arabian world are to be found, Western Europe brought forth a very own and specific food culture.

But attitude towards food was not the only thing to change. There were also differences in positioning between ancient and medieval times. Roman banquets were often taken in lying down. Accordingly, the served food came in small and handy portions. The medieval man however sat upright. The cutting of food, especially of meat, became an intricate part of dining, and such an honorable chore at a feast was the privilege of the „Steward“.

Dependent of Christian year there was a big difference between „fat“ and „meager“ days.
Dependent of Christian year there was a big difference between „fat“ and „meager“ days.

Between „fat“ and „meager“ days

Medieval Christian man discerned, dependent of Christian year, between „fat“ and „meager“ days. At least one out of three days a Christian was to make do with fish and vegetables. On fast days (as before Easter) dairy, eggs, meat and other forms of animal fat must not be eaten. Exceptions were made for pregnant women, the poor, the sick, the old and children. Fish was not considered meat and thus often served as a replacement. The abundance of food on „fat“ days, which were the holidays, was all the more.

The gorgeously feathered pheasant served as an adornment at every knight’s table

The medieval diet heavily depended on social status. This does not necessarily mean that peasants starved while lords feasted. Crop failures indeed brought upon famines, yet in years of good harvest such troubles were far away. Grain was the basic source of nutrition, mostly made to bread and brought to courts an manors. With bread came meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, fat, cheese and wine. Besides that, grain was also gladly taken in the form of porridge or beer.

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Smoked fish at the medieval marked at Burg Posterstein.
Smoked fish at the medieval marked at Burg Posterstein.

Roots and weeds growing on or near the ground were considered rough and rural. Precious fruit grew on trees. The higher it hang, the higher it was considered. This does not mean that the consumption of vegetables was limited to the world of farming. Especially town citizens appreciated soups and stews and build gardens around and within the cities.

The last centuries of the Middle Ages saw a rise in meat intake. Cattle breeding and hunting brought various sorts of delicacies. Poultry was regarded classier than pork, and the gorgeously feathered pheasant served as an adornment at every knight’s table. The knights of Posterstein were most likely no exception.

So, food in medieval times depended on several factors: social status, religion, season. Knight’s did not exclusively eat meat, and farmers didn’t necessarily starve. Quite the contrary, a new and own food culture developed.

By Leon Walter and Franziska Engemann/ Museum Burg Posterstein

Loebichau Manor – occasionally 300 guests

Loebichau castle, postcard from 1904 (Museum Burg Posterstein)
Loebichau castle, postcard from 1904 (Museum Burg Posterstein)

Loebichau was mentioned for the first time in the13th century as a moated castle. The old manor house dates back to the 16th century and was rebuilt in 1908.

The neo-classical castle was built in 1796/98 on behalf of Anna Dorothea of Courland. In the castle’s park stood a small theatre at that time. The duchess’ cultural salon had illustrious international visitors; the most famous among them was probably Tsar Alexander I. of Russia. Occasionally more than 300 guests stayed in Loebichau at the same time. The guests were free to time their day at the „court of muses“; and the highlight of the day was the tea time in the evening hours in the grand hall of the castle. Then there was time for small-talk, philosophy, poetry, dance and music – sometimes the guests played theatre plays themselves; also in the smaller castle Tannenfeld, close to Loebichau.

Tannenfeld castle in 2000 (Museum Burg Posterstein)
Tannenfeld castle in 2000 (Museum Burg Posterstein)

As a result of the East German land reform in 1945 the manor’s owners were expropriated. The castle and the economical buildings were strongly modified after 1945. The buildings are housing a nursing home since DDR time. In 2009 the castle and the manor house were pulled down to make room for a new nursing home building of the operating company from Schmoelln. The remaining economical buildings are restored and host the communal administration.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

A part of the museum Burg Posterstein’s permanent exhibition is dedicated to the court of muses in Loebichau and the museum has published the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Which castle resisted an air attack but not the East German land reform?

Rittergut Meuselwitz / Meuselwitz Manor (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Rittergut Meuselwitz / Meuselwitz Manor (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

Between 1724 and 1724 the German statesman Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff (1626-1692) let build a castle with park and orangery on his manor in Meuselwitz. A baroque gate led into the estate.

Von Seckendorff, born in Herzogenaurach, had graduated at a grammar school in Gotha, Thuringia, and was later on supported by Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg. During the Thirty Years‘ War the Swedes executed his father in Salzwedel because of high treason. Von Seckendorff studied philosophy, law and history in Strasbourg. In 1655 he published his book “Der deutsche Fürstenstaat“, a handbook of German public law. This book, which long time had been a benchmark for political science at German universities, was already in von Seckendorffs lifetime published in several editions.

From 1651 to 1663 he achieved a number of important functions at the duke’s court in Gotha. In 1664 he started working for the duke Maurice of Zeitz (†1681). In 1680 he stopped working as a chancellor and retired to his estate in Meuselwitz. But he still had political positions as a chief tax collector in Altenburg and as landscape director. In 1685 his book “Christenstaat“ (the Christian state) was published. Shortly before his dead he was appointed to chancellor of the new founded university in Halle. He died in Halle and was buried in the church in Meuselwitz at December 30th in 1692.

Under an air attack against Meuselwitz at February 20th in 1945 the economical buildings of Meuselwitz Manor were badly damaged. The castle itself suffered from only small damages.  But as a consequence of the East German land reform in 1945 all buildings were pulled down. Only the badly damaged orangery and the well preserved baroque gate were conserved. In spite of protests from the local office for preservation of historical monuments the gate was pulled down, too, in 1950. The orangery could be restored by Walter Gruner, an architect from Leipzig, in 1957. An historic mill, belonging to the old estate, was pulled down in 1988. The free space, where Meuselwitz manor once had been standing, is today used as a parking space.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Who was buried under a tree?

Die 1000jährige Eiche von Nöbdenitz / the 1000 year old oak of Nobdenitz (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Die 1000jährige Eiche von Nöbdenitz / the 1000 year old oak of Nobdenitz (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

In Nobdenitz, a small village in Eastern Thuringia, stands an old oak tree. People say that it is about 1000 years old. Last year the local authorities fitted the tree with further support columns to match the requirements of the German traffic regulations. The so called “1000 year old oak” is hollow inside – and houses a minister’s grave.

Nobdenitz once had a manor, which in the 12th century was mentioned fort he first time. The former medieval mouted castle was later converted into a castle. Awhile manor in Nobdeniz was owned by the minister Hans Willhelm von Thummel (1744-1824). Between 1803 and 1808 he was – with diplomatic mission – travelling to Denmark, Berlin, Königsberg (Kaliningrad), Dresden and Paris. As a friend of the duke Ernst from Saxony-Gotha and Altenburg (1745-1804) his influence on court was huge. Today he is still known because of his engagement in the county: He founded one of the first banks (Kammerleihbank), supported the building of roads, mapped the region and founded the local hospital in Altenburg.

East from Nobdenitz castle Thummel had a pleasure garden. From here visitors had a straight-lined view alongside a way to a summer house. A path along the lake invited the guest to dander. Friends of the family, as the duchess Dorothea of Courland (http://www.facebook.com/burgposterstein?v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=166366573376663&index=1), who had a castle near-by in Lobichau, liked to visit Nobdenitz to sail on the lake and to enjoy the view of the old and the new castle.

Before his dead Hans Willhelm von Thummel decided to get buried at an inconvenient place – under the oak of Nobdenitz. He bought the tree from the local church and let arrange a grave between the trees roots. This grave was inspected in 1959 by the local teacher and historian Ernst Braunlich. He documented that there was a small oratory with a wooden bench inside the hollow tree, to commemorate the death. The body lies in a coffin parallel to the street. Today one can only look at the 1000 year old oak from outside. A tablet tells its story.

As a consequence of the East German land reform in 1945 the Nobdenitz Manor’s owners were expropriated. The new castle and large parts of the economical buildings were pulled down. A mausoleum from 1782, the Thummel’s family grave, was pulled down in the end of the 1960s. The manor house, dating back to 1692, still exists and is now used as the communal administration department.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

What does a sphinx in the county of Altenburg?

Die Sphinx von Prößdorf / the sphinx of Proessdorf (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Die Sphinx von Prößdorf / the sphinx of Proessdorf (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

In the 15th century a knight’s residence in Proessdorf was mentioned in the records for the first time. The manor’s high period started in 1818, when Carl Heinrich von Tettenborn bought the property. He was said to be a strong admirer of fine arts like architecture, sculpture and painting. He decorated the buildings and the park according to his taste. That included enlargement and rearrangement of the park. After Tettenborns treatment shady access balconies decorated the pleasure garden. An antic pavilion invited the guests to stay. Grots, a number of statues as lions and a sphinx as well as small fountains decorated the park. Exotic plants of all kind blossomed in beds and flower buckets.

The castle Proessdorf, dating back to 18th century, was converted into an apartment building in 1969. The estate buildings, which were built in the 19th century, were expanded in 1906/07. As a consequence of the East German land reform the manor’s owner were expropriated. In the following time the farm buildings were pulled down bit by bit, lastly in 1998. By the installation of apartments between 1969 and 1973 the castle was strongly deformed. Rests of the impressing port are still remaining.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Where stands „half of a castle“?

(c) Museum Burg Posterstein, Schloss Langenleuba-Niederhain
(c) Museum Burg Posterstein, Schloss Langenleuba-Niederhain

The Langenleuba-Niederhain manor is a former medieval castle with moat, which was surrounded by water. The manor house was rebuilt during 1707 and 1711. In 1838 one part of the castle was pulled down – that is why the manor got the nickname “the half castle”. In 1805 the half castle was still surrounded by water and the farm buildings could only be reached by a bridge. In 1946 the owners were expropriated in the aftermath of the East-German land reform. On the manor’s land new farms were built during DDR time. The manor house, the half castle, served as a school building. Since ca. 1980 the building is vacant and decaying. The farming houses and the manor’s guest house are preserved in a good condition.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

The Langenleuba-Niederhain manor is a former medieval castle with moat, which was surrounded by water. The manor house was rebuilt during 1707 and 1711. In 1838 one part of the castle was pulled down – that is why the manor got the nickname “the half castle”. In 1805 the half castle was still surrounded by water and the farm buildings could only be reached by a bridge. In 1946 the owners were expropriated in the aftermath of the East-German land reform. On the manor’s land new farms were built during DDR time. The manor house, the half castle, served as a school building. Since ca. 1980 the building is vacant and decaying. The farming houses and the manor’s guest house are preserved in a good condition.