Exploring South America: The ornithologist and painter Anton Goering

Animal life at the middle Orinoco, chromolithographie after Anton Goering’s sketch, collection Museum Burg Posterstein

Although Christian Anton Goering (1836-1905) was the son of a craftsman he succeeded in a career as an explorer, painter and animal preparator. Like Humboldt before he went on two expeditions to South America (1856 and 1866) and conducted botanical and geographic studies.  

Anton Goering: Impressive landscape in the south of Lake Maracaibo, from the book “Venezuela”, Collection Museum Burg Posterstein

On his first journey he worked as assistant and companion of the well-known german scientist Hermann Burmeister. On the second one Goering ventured on behalf of the Zoological Society of London. He collected rare animals for the collection of the Natural History Museum, did preparations and captured his impressions of the landscape in pictures, painted in watercolor. With his work, Anton Goering made an important contribution to the study of Venezuela. Amongst other things, he discovered the up to then unknown caves at Caripe. In 1893 he published his travel impressions in Leipzig under the title: „Vom tropischen Tieflande zum ewigen Schnee, Eine malerische Schilderung des schönsten Tropenlandes Venezuela“.

Anton Goering and his way to South America

Christian Anton Goering was born on 18. September 1836 in Schönhaide in today’s Altenburger Land. His father, a craftsman, was a member of the regional society for ornithology and so his son, too, found his interest for nature. He studied in the school of arts of Bernhard von Lindenau in Altenburg, 20 kilometres from Schönhaide. Later he worked as preparator and conservator in the zoological museum of the University of Halle. His professor was Dr. Hermann Burmeister. Amongst others Christian Ludwig Brehm, and his son Alfred Brehm gave Goering natural scientific advice.  

Portrait of Anton Goering, from the book “Venezuela”, Collection Museum Castle Posterstein

The first expedition to South America (1856-1858)

Anton Goering gained his first travel experiences as a companion of Hermann Burmeister. For over two years they explored the flora and fauna of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

In September 1856 Goering traveled from Halle to Hamburg, where he met with Burmeister and his son. Goering and the young Burmeister left Hamburg on the sailing ship “Dorothea” on September 29 with the destination Rio de Janeiro. Hermann Burmeister, the leader of the expedition, took another ship. After almost six weeks they reached the coast of South America.

On December 1, 1856, the journey started in Rio de Janeiro.  Over two years the group traveled to Montevideo, San José, and Mercedes. In 1858 Goering took a ship back to Germany.

The second expedition to South America (1856-1858)

Through his patron Philip Lutly Sclater, secretary of the Zoological Society of London, Anton Goering got the opportunity to take a field trip to South America as a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of London, in 1866.

His main destination was Venezuela, where he collected bird skins for the British Museum (Natural History Museum) and explored the country’s flora.

On September 18, 1866, he left London on a steamship and reached the port of Carupano (via Trinidad) on September 30. For eight years, Anton Goering researched and painted the landscape and the flora and fauna of Venezuela. He discovered the up to then unknown caves at Caripe and sent collected bird and animal skins to the British Museum.

Anton Goering: The Caripe Caves in the state of Monagas, East Venezuela, from the book “Venezuela”, Collection Museum Burg Posterstein

In 1868 Dr. Sclater published Goerings collections in an article in the journal “Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London“. A first collection contained 173 skins, collected at Carupano, Pilar, and Caraccas. Three of the birds were described as being probably new to science. A second collection contained specimens of 99 species, the most of them Venezuelan birds.

In 1874 Goering left South America and took a ship back to Germany.

Later, in 1893, Anton Goering published his travel impressions of this secondexpedition to Venezuela in his book: „Vom tropischen Tieflande zum ewigen Schnee, Eine malerische Schilderung des schönsten Tropenlandes Venezuela“.

The later years

Since 1874 Goering worked as an animal and landscape painter in Leipzig. Together with other artists, he made the illustrations for “Brehms Tierleben” (Brehm’s Animal Life).

He remained in contact with the Altenburg naturalists for life. So he was appointed an honorary member of the “Naturforschende Gesellschaft des Osterlandes zu Altenburg” and the Ornithological Society of Leipzig. Duke Ernst I. of Saxony-Altenburg awarded him the title of Professor for his services. Anton Goering died on December 7, 1905, in Leipzig.

By Franziska Engemann / Museum Burg Posterstein

In 2019 we celebrated the 250th birthday of Alexander von Humboldt. The well-known scientist and researcher inspired not only his contemporaries to do traveling and researching all over the world, but also later generations until today. That’s why we prepared an exhibition on Anton Goering (1836-1905).

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For this event four museums of the county Altenburger Land in Thuringia, Germany – Lindenau-Museum Altenburg, Residence castle Altenburg, Museum of Natural Science Mauritianum and Museum Burg Posterstein – presented special exhibitions about Humboldt and his influence on the region together under the title: #humboldt4.

In Museum Posterstein Castle we commemorated the illustrator Christian Anton Goering (1836-1905).

The exhibition at Museum Posterstein Castle followed Goering’s progress and life from Altenburger Land, Germany, to South America. His journeys are revived in his diaries and woodcuts, loans from the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig (Leibniz Instituts für Länderkunde). Exotic animals prepared by Anton Goering put a picture of the research expeditions in the footsteps of Alexander von Humboldt across to the visitors.

Maybe the world – or at least Europe – has never been very big to begin with

Schloss Ruhental (Rundāle), Lettland Foto: Imants Lancmanis/ Creative Museum
Schloss Ruhental (Rundāle), Lettland, Foto: Imants Lancmanis/ Creative Museum

Uldis Zariņš , member of Europeana Foundation Management Board, is sharing his views on Europe in our blog parade #SalonEuropa, which is part of the experimental exhibition #SalonEurope: analog meets digital Networking then and now – Europe means to me …? You can take part in the blog parade until October, 23rd 2018. If you don’t have a blog yourself, we share your article here in the museum’s blog.

Genealogic research is always a complicated endeavour. Often it is quite impossible to trace ones bloodlines past previous five or six generations, everything before that becomes a blur, a more or less educated guess. But even the information one manages to obtain often contains unexpected surprises. We consider ourselves to be pure Latvians, Germans, Poles, but then we suddenly discover that some of our ancestors actually have an Estonian, Swedish, French or Russian origin.

And who knows what surprises a 500 or 1000 years old history would hold, if we would be able to unearth it?

We now tend to think that the world is now getting smaller and smaller, as both technology and societal values makes us more mobile than we have ever been. But maybe the world – or at least Europe – has never been very big to begin with, and we are much more closely related to each other than we think and would sometimes like to admit?

If it is difficult to establish a clear historic identity on a personal level, then for nations it is quite impossible.

Would it be possible to distil a pure original essence of a national culture? I very much doubt it.

Culture has never recognised any borders, and as a result our national cultural heritage is but a patchwork of various cultural influences, hailing from all over the Europe, reflecting the trends and values of the times and often morphing into local variations. For example, Rundale palace has a significant place in Latvian cultural heritage as the most precious late baroque building in Latvia. However it can also be considered a part of German heritage, as it tells the story of its German masters, von Biron family, including duchess Dorothea, and thus creating invisible ties with the Burg Posterstein (and in a sense making it a part also of Latvian cultural heritage). Moreover, it can be said that Rundale Palace is also a part of Italian and Russian cultural heritage, as Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, architect of the Rundale Palace, is an Italian (born in Paris) and most of his works are built in Russia.

Europe for me is first of all a shared cultural space

Thus Europe for me is first of all a shared cultural space – rich in its diversity, characterised by hundreds of different local flavours and colours, but based on the same fundamental values and traditions. Therefore we shouldn’t, for example, attribute Rundale to just Latvian or just German cultural heritage – it is truly a part of European cultural heritage. After all, it would not exist if Italians would not invent baroque in the first place. Culture is what makes us Europeans. European cultural bonds go back for hundreds and hundreds of years, shaping our attitudes and values, allowing us to recognise ourselves in the mirrors of other cultures. Culture is what stays with us when all the petty political squabbles have ended and been forgotten. Culture is what allows me to proudly say “I am a European”.

By Uldis Zariņš for #SalonEuropa

A minister close to nature – Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel

A special part of the permanent exhibition of Museum Posterstein Castle tells the story of the minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel (1744-1824). This remarkable man was a friend oft he Duchess Anna Dorothea of Courland (1761-1821)  and regular guest at her castles in Löbichau and Tannenfeld. Here we present Hans Wilhelm von Thümmels gardens.

As head of goverment Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel was one oft he most famous persons in the Altenburg part of the duchy Saxony-Gotha-Altenburg. And a minister close to nature. As a confidant of the Gotha Dukes, he represented the duchy as a diplomat in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Denmark. He initiated the geodetic surveying of the duchy and left behind a comprehensive landscape heritage. But often it did not last.

Der Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburgische Minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel (Museum Burg Posterstein)
Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel, minister in the duchy Saxony, Gotha and Altenburg (Museum Burg Posterstein)

His harmony with nature can be guessed not only at his extraordinary and beautiful tomb: the 1000-year-old oak in Nöbdenitz. It can be guessed at his horticultural heritage: for example Thümmel’s private English garden with a palace in Altenburg, his manors in Nöbdenitz and Untschen, the “Polish cottage” in Münsa, or the palace garden in Altenburg.

These gardens were not only seen as places of recreation and entertainment in the countryside, but also as educational establishment: as gardens of the Enlightenment.

Das Sommer Schloss des Fürsten im Garten zu Wörlitz. Le Palais du Prince au Jardin de Wörlitz | Nagel, Johann Friedrich (Public Domain, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek).
Le Palais du Prince au Jardin de Wörlitz | Nagel, Johann Friedrich (Public Domain, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek).

Thümmel’s private English garden in Altenburg

At the beginning of the 19th century, the garden of Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel was considered as one of the most important sights of Altenburg. In its final extension, the long park ground was enclosed by a wall with seven gates. At the highest point of the site, with the best view of Altenburg, Thümmel had a villa built in 1788 in the style of Italian classicism.

The park had artificial grottoes, streams and ponds. Small pleasure houses in different styles as well as the so-called “Kachelhaus” – or “Turkish Pavilion” – were integrated into the concept. The well-known artist Adrian Zingg captured the beauty of the Thümmel garden for eternity in his pictures.

Thümmels Garten in Altenburg auf der Thümmelschen Karten von 1813, Section VIII.
Thümmel’s garden in Altenburg on the Thümmel map from 1813, section VIII.

As Thümmels legacy the garden did not last long. Several decades after his death in 1824 the garden had been greatly reduced by Thümmels heirs by selling several areas. Today, only the preserved central building of the palace reminds of its former glory.

The palace garden in Altenburg

In addition to the design of his private garden in Altenburg Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel was also involved in the transformation of the palace park Altenburg from baroque to landscaped grounds.According to reports of the Altenburger Chronicler Christian Friedrich Schadewitz (1779-1847), the chamber president Thümmel had already 1784/86 removed yew tree figures as well as the hedged. The open spaces were laid out with grass and a new orangery was placed on it. Around 1800, the first tulip trees were planted and formed the foundation for today’s English Park of Altenburg Castle.

Nöbdenitz manor – Thümmels old-age residence

Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel came into the possession of the manors Nöbdenitz and Untschen by marriage.Especially the park around the estate Nöbdenitz with its romantic hermitage met with universal approval. In 1782, Thümmel’s father-in-law and predecessor in office, Johann von Rothkirch und Trach (1710-1782), had the old Nöbdenitz castle renovated and a new mansion built, as well as a mausoleum as family grave. Thümmel chose this peaceful place as his old-age residence.

For sailing on the pond of Nöbdenitz manor

Nöbdenitz is very close to the castles Löbichau and Tannenfeld, in which the duchess Anna Dorothea of Courland invited guests to her well-known salon. But also visits by the Duchess and her guests in Nöbdenitz at Thümmels house were usual events. Here they met to sail on the large pond of the manor and took walks to the 1000-year-old oak, which Thümmel had chosen as his future grave.

Schloss und Herrenhaus Nöbdenitz - Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel legte hier einen weitläufigen englischen Garten an mit Bächlein und "Einsiedeley" (Lithografie: Museum Burg Posterstein).
Castle and manor house in Nöbdenitz – Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel had an english garden (lithografie: Museum Burg Posterstein).

The surrounding park extended east of the 1782 built “New Manor House” whose perron led down to the garden. A little brook – the “millrace” – flowed through the park. Figures or rondels had been placed at partings of the way.  From the main way three bridges led over the millrace into the landscape on the south side, which was enclosed by a wood. A hermitage had been built next to the weir at the millrace. It was a popular motif in the gardens of the Enlightenment. The hermitage was a quiet place of contemplation amidst nature, a place where one be able to communicate with oneself, nature and God. This hermitage in Nöbdenitz was also pictured by the engraver Zingg. The building itself doesn’t exist anymore.

A “Chinese bathhouse” and a “Polish cottage”

Also the redesign of Untschen manor including the establishment of a bathhouse in the Chinese style or the creation of the destination “Polish cottage” in Münsa were realized under Thümmels direction. But he was not the only one who appreciated and promoted the local garden art. The much-admired duchess Anna Dorothea of Courland, also belonged to this circle.

Der Schlossprk in Tannenfeld im Frühjahr 2018.
The english garden in Tannenfeld in spring 2018.

Tannenfeld – pleasure garden in the English style

Contemporaneous with the building of Tannenfeld Castle also the development of Tannenfeld park started under the direction of the Duchess of Courland. The new building, with a beautiful view to Posterstein Castle, was embedded in the new landscape park. At the time of Anna Dorothea of Courland Tannenfeld was about half an hour away from Löbichau.

Schloss Tannenfeld im Frühjahr 2018 (Foto: Marlene Hofmann):
Tannenfeld Castle in spring 2018 (Foto: Marlene Hofmann):

If the visitors turned from the main road between Ronneburg and Schmölln to Tannenfeld, they passed a small gatehouse and through an alley lined with Italian poplars they came to park and castle. Sandy paths led the walkers past groups of trees or shrubs and sentimental-romantic memorial stones. One stone was bearing the inscription “Peterswiese” and reminded of the 1800 deceased husband of Dorothea of ​​Courland. A narrow stream flowed through the meadow and ended in a pond. On an island in the pond there was the so-called “Hermitage”, a grotto formed of rocks.

By Franziska Engemann, Christiane Nienhold und Marlene Hofmann, translation: Franziska Engemann, Matthias Huberti / Museum Burg Posterstein

#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.


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.



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

#TravelsMW: Travel routes through Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries

MuseumWeek:  we want to put travelling around 1800 in focus. Travel was undertaken on very different occasions. Scholars traveled to carry out their researches, to multiply and exchange knowledge. Young aristocrats were sent on “Cavalier’s Tours”, so that they could acquire the foundation of their training for the later court service at the foreign courts with the highest reputation. Travel to the Baths in Pyrmont or Karlsbad boomed. Artists flocked into the pulsating centers of European culture. A classic travel destination was Rome.

Educational journey

The focus on antiquity and the classical educational idea brought about a whole new travel culture – the educational journey. At first a privilege of the nobility, it became cultivated by the bourgeoisie. Those staying home could read the travelers’ experiences in their travel tales and journals. Landscapes, habits, culture and art were described therein as well as travel itself, political daily business or martial events. A whole industry of publishing houses was concerned with the publication of travel reports.

Schloss Löbichau ((c) Museum Burg Posterstein)
Löbichau Castle. Around 1800 it was usual to travel with the horse-drawn carriage. Poor roads, little light and hardly feathered coaches could quickly make the travel experience difficult.

Traveling at this time also meant hassle and abstinence of comfort. The roads were unsafe, in bad condition, dirty and even in large cities not always lit. Beds in the inns were infested with bugs. The horse-drawn carriages, poorly cushioned and ice cold in the winter, rocked and shook the passengers and brought little in comfort.

Sometimes insuperable obstacles forced the passengers to get out of the carriage

In France, Napoleon had straight avenues built, and good road connections were also reported from England. But in Germany most roads were unstable and poorly developed. There was often talk of axle breaks in the wagons, and it was not unlikely that the constant repairs to infrastructure and equipment were to generate good revenue for the local craftsmen.

Tolls and passport checks at the border stations cost time and money or even delayed the journey. Accordingly, trips took time, and it is said the distance from Berlin to Rome would have taken about two months to travel.

St. Petersburg – Paris – Vienna – Carlsbad: The Duchess of Courland was always on the move

Für eine Salondame wie Anna Dorothea von Kurland war eine musikalische Ausbildung ein Muss.
Salon host Anna Dorothea of Courland travelled through Europe many times.

Near the end of the 18th century, Castle Löbichau, along with the Tannenfeld Castle, developed into a center of intellectual and cultural life in Germany, just two kilometers from Posterstein. The Musenhof der Herzogin von Kurland of the Duchess of Courland, Dorothea of ​​Courland (1761-1821), in Löbichau was one of the most famous of its kind. The well-educated noblewoman drew important impulses from her first-class relations with the highest social circles in Europe and the associated network, and from her stays in famous salons of Berlin and Paris, as well as in the fashionable Carlsbad. She was acquainted with several important statesmen of her time.

Since the estates in Löbichau and Tannenfeld were conveniently located between the German cultural centers of the time, Anna Dorothea of ​​Kurland transformed them into a meeting place for the European elite by inviting artists, philosophers and leading politicians of her time. The most famous guest may well have been Czar Alexander I. of Russia (1777-1825).

Löbichau centrally located in Germany

The Duchess had chosen her estates not without reason. The two castles touched important routes of her time – strategically favorable, halfway between Berlin and Carlsbad, between Dresden and Erfurt and close to the intellectual centers of this time: Weimar and Jena. The nearby Ronneburg was still a health resort in the lifetime of the Duchess and thus a popular destination.

The travel experiences, at that time still in coaches, completely differed from the ones we make today. Nature, landscape and even the streets were perceived differently. A well-developed infrastructure enhanced the well-being of travelers. Breeches and bumps on the other hand could turn the trip into a seemingly endless odyssey.

The minister and the road construction


Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel’s priority were good streets and maps.

The roads in the Altenburger part of the duchy of Saxony-Gotha and Altenburg were easily navigable thanks to the efforts of the minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel (1744-1824). Writer Lili Parthey (1800-1829), sister of philologist Gustav Parthey (1798-1872), reported on the nature of routes at this time. She spent time with her brother and her parents at the Musehof of the Duchess Dorothea of ​​Courland (1761-1821) in Löbichau and can also be counted among the guests of the Thümmel family on their estate in Nöbdenitz. In her diary she wrote:

“Donnerstag, den 18. [7. 1816], war, obgleich die Welt untergehen sollte, das Wetter sehr schön. Ganz früh um 7 ging es fort; unsere Reise ging ziemlich schnell und sehr glücklich. Das Altenburgische Gebiet ist ein ganz wunderhübsches Ländchen, mit herrlichen Wegen und Aussichten. Die Verbesserungen der Landstraße und Wege sind vorzüglich Herrn von Thümmel zu danken. Wir empfanden diese Wohlthat doppelt nach den wahren Mordwegen von Leipzig bis Krona. […] Um 7 waren wir in Löbichau, dem Ziel unserer Bestimmung angekommen. Es ist ein reizender Aufenthalt.“

During one of her trips to Carlsbad Anna Dorothea of Courland met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was just one of many encounters with poets, thinkers, politicians and well-known personalities of society. The Duchess had some formal encounters with Goethe in 1808, 1810, 1812 and 1820. In 1820 the poet even followed an invitation to Löbichau. On the 29th and 30th of September he spends cheerful hours and describes the castle of the duchess as a “well-located house of joy”. After this visit, he went on to Altenburg.

On the way from Schleiz to Gera on May 30., 1816:

“Von früh halb 4 – bis 8 Uhr Abends sind wir auf eine strecke von 7 u. eine halbe Meile gefahren die Wege sind überaus schlecht. Ich bin viel zu fuße gegangen u. wäre so nach Auma gelangt hätte der Wagen mich nicht daran behindert.”

The Duchess of Courland traveled much herself, and with pleasure. Paris, St. Petersburg or Vienna, Kurland, Switzerland or Italy – she was always drawn back to Löbichau. Thus is the case with her last journey in 1821. In May 1821 she finally set out from Paris, with her health in a bad condition at this time. The change from Paris to Löbichau is supposed to ease her suffering. On 30 June 1821 the Duchess’ two daughters, Pauline and Johanna, leave. The mother describes this day as “a day of great mourning”. She will not see her daughters again.
On Aug. 20, Anna Dorothea of ​​Courland dies in her castle in Löbichau.

The daughters are already in Switzerland at this time. It’s not until May 9, 1822 that Johanna returned to Löbichau.
For the Duchess’ funeral on August 29, 1821, 7000 guests arrived.

By Leon Walter & Franziska Engemann / Museum Burg Posterstein; translation: M. Huberti

#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.


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

History of European salon culture in Museum Burg Posterstein

One of our favorite research subjects in Museum Burg Posterstein is European salon culture around 1800. – Not the first thing to think of when talking about a medievial castle. But only a view kilometres away from the regional history museum Burg Posterstein a popular salon hostess had her summer residence: Anna Dorothea of Courland (1761–1821) in the castle of Löbichau. Born in today’s Latvia the rich Duchess had wide connections to Europe’s high society.

Napoleons Totenmaske in der Ausstellung des Museums Burg Posterstein
Napoleon’s death mask in the salon culture exhibition in Posterstein

That’s why Napoleon’s death mask is one of the first things to see, when you enter the salon culture exhibition in Posterstein. First enthousiastic about him, the Duchess of Courland became much more opposed against Napoleon during the time.

Anna Dorothea von Kurland - Ausstellung im Museum Burg Posterstein
Portrait of Anna Dorothea von Kurland, a contemporary copy after a painting by Angelika Kauffmann, in the exhibition in the Museum Burg Posterstein

Anna Dorothea of Courland cultivated a livelong friendship to the French statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754–1834).

Tsar Alexander I. (1777-1825) visited her 1808 in Löbichau and conveyed the marriage of her youngest daughter Dorothée (1793–1862) to Talleyrand’s nephew. At the Congress of Vienna Dorothee de Dino-Talleyrand accompanied Talleyrand and after his death she became his sole heir.

Anna Dorothea of Courlands oldest daughter Wilhelmine von Sagan (1781–1839) gained great influence an the congress as well, as she led a popular salon in Schenkenstraße in Vienna. From 1813 to 1815 she had a passonate relationship with Clemens von Metternich (1773–1859), the leader of the congress.

Blick in die Ausstellung zur Europäischen Salongeschichte im Museum Burg Posterstein in Thüringen.
The exhibition in Posterstein introduces the international and local network of the Duchess of Courland.

In Löbichau Anna Dorothea of Courland brought together poets, politicans and artists. Museum Burg Posterstein has been doing intensive research about this interesting women’s life and the lifes of her daughters for more than 20 years.

The museum is cooperating with the French history society Les Amis de Talleyrand. The cooperation was officially recorded with a contract between the Museum society Burg Posterstein (Museumsverein Burg Posterstein) and Les Amis de Talleyrand in 2015.

In 2021 the permanent exhibition is being re-designed. The new exhibition, then with English summeries, can be seen from August, 1st, 2021.

Von Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein, last updated: June 2021

Further reading:
A cultural salon in Löbichau
Cooperation with Les Amis de Talleyrand (in German)
Bertel Thorvaldsen’s busts of Wilhelmine von Sagan (in German)

#heritageMW: Beautiful and mystical baroque carvings in Posterstein Church

LogoMW_PostersteinA whole week on Twitter is dedicated to the museums in the world: #MuseumWeek. At Posterstein Castle we blog on each days hashtag. Today everybody tweets and talks about #heritageMW, our chance to point at the mystical boroque castle church in Posterstein:

Burg Posterstein mit Kirche
Posterstein castle and church

Seen from outside, nobody would expect something special inside the small church of Posterstein. Built inside the former castle mout, the church looks small compared to the castle itself. After fights with the neighbouring landlords in Nöbdenitz, the owners of Posterstein Castle built their own church in the second half of the 16th century.

Legendary baroque splendour

Detail des barocken Schnitzwerkes in der Burgkirche Posterstein (Picture: Museum Burg Posterstein)
Detail of the varoque carvings in the church of Posterstein (Foto: Museum Burg Posterstein)

Although the church community always has been protestant, the church looks nearly cathlic style inside. The church became famous for the extremely rich equipment with baroque carvings that demonstrate masterly craftsmanship. The altar is seen as the highlight of the works. The baldachin, on which the passion is shown, is supported by four open-work, spiral hollow columns, made of one piece and decorated with leaves, tendrils and grapes. The pulpit shows the figures of the four evangelists and is crowned by a “roof” with a tall angel on top.

The artwork and the murder case

Inschrift unter der Empore in der Postersteiner Burgkirche
Inscribtion underneath the gallery of Posterstein church (Picture: Museum Burg Posterstein)

The only lead to the artist of Posterstein church’s wood carvings is a small inscription underneath the gallery: “Johannis Hopf 1689”. An old Posterstein legend tells that Johannis Hopf was a wood carver who committed a deadly crime on his way through the local region and was sent to the prison of the fortress. During his captivity he is supposed to make the carvings in the chapel. It is said that Hopf’s death penalty was changed into life long imprisonment as a reward for the magnificent decoration of the church.

In spite of intensive research the true story of the Posterstein carvings could not be explored yet.

Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Read more:
The Church of Posterstein