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).

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

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.

An important strategically centre: Altenburg during the battle of Leipzig

Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg was commander-in-chief of the allied armies against Napoleon in 1813
Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg was commander-in-chief of the allied armies against Napoleon in 1813 (picture: Museum Burg Posterstein)

Karl Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg, commander-in-chief of the 1813 allied armies against Napoleon, planned to occupy the town Altenburg as a strategically important place. From Altenburg further military actions against Napoleon could be planned. Also the Saxon, Russian and Prussian general Johann Adolf Freiherr von Thielemann (1765-1824) emphasized in a letter to Schwarzenberg on October 3rd 1813 the militarily advantages of the town, that has a castle lying high up on a hill that could easily be defended.

Tsar Alexander I. arrived in the evening

In fact Altenburg was the right place to accommodate thousands of soldiers as well as supreme commanders, generals, diplomats and their entourage over a longer period. On October 7th 1813 the allied troops occupied Altenburg. The headquarters were moved there from the town Penig. Tsar Alexander I. arrived on the same day and resided in Altenburg castle. Thereafter the Austrian foreign minister Metternich, the English legate Cathcart, the Russian diplomat Nesselrode and other politicians and important brass arrived.

On October 14th the Austrian emperor Franz received a message from Schwarzenberg that a stay in Altenburg would be save. The Prussian king and the Austrian emperor reached Altenburg on October 15th and stayed in the castle as well.

A town with 10.000 inhabitants accommodated more than 500.000 soldiers

Special exhibition on the battle of Leipzig in the museum Posterstein Castle near Altenburg
Special exhibition on the battle of Leipzig in the museum Posterstein Castle near Altenburg

In the year 1813 altogether 671 generals, 46.617 officers and 472.399 soldiers have been accommodated in the small town Altenburg, that had about 10.000 inhabitants at that time. Only in September and October 1813 the town spent the unbelievable amount of 147.681 thaler on the supply of the troops.

There is existing a detailed record (view here on Google books) on the year 1813 in Altenburg, written by the minister of finance of the town Altenburg, Friedrich Wagner (1792-1859). He is describing, how the citizens of Altenburg, all the villages and farms near-by and other towns in the neighbourhood (as Borna, Meuselwitz, Gera, Zeitz) had to deliver a substantial quantity of food, cattle, textiles and other things to the different armies.

All houses had to shelter 2, 3 or more wounded soldiers

Prisoners and wounded soldiers had to be accommodated and taken care of as well. The canon fire of the battle of Leipzig, 9 hours walk from Altenburg, could be heard in the town as well. After the first fights, masses of wounded soldiers arrived in Altenburg – and with them epidemic deceases. Nearly all official buildings of the town were already used some military hospitals, so that all houses in the Altenburg had to house 2, 3 or more wounded soldiers.

“Heaven help us to harvest”

The farms and manors in the region felt the war as well. Anna Dorothea Duchess of Courland, who owned the manor Löbichau near Posterstein, wrote in her letters from July and August 1813 that there was no day without soldiers who had to be accommodated. Often they took all food and horses with them. Special war taxes had to be paid and workers and farmers were recruited as soldiers. “Heaven help us to harvest”, the Duchess wrote to her friend. – Years after the wars of liberation from Napoleon the people of Altenburg had to pay special taxes to pay the war debts of the Duchy of Saxon-Altenburg.

Special exhibition at Museum Posterstein Castle

Plakat Sonderausstellung "Napoleon - IM Spiegel zeitgenössischer Karikaturen" im Museum Burg Posterstein
Poster of the special exhibition “Napoleon – IM Spiegel zeitgenössischer Karikaturen” in Museum Posterstein Castle in 2013

The Museum Posterstein Castle, regional history museum in the county of Altenburg, shows from September 1st to November 17th 2013 a special exhibition on the battle of Leipzig, which now is 200 years ago. Basis for the exhibitions are about 50 Napoleon caricatures, Wagner’s record of Altenburg in 1813 and original military letters from 1813. On October 13th a book will be published as well (in German). For more information, contact the museum at info@burg-posterstein.de.
(Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein)