Winckelmann

For the Bicentennial of His Death

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Two hundred years have now passed since the nineteen-year-old Johann Wolfgang von Goethe heard the news that struck him “like a thunderclap from a clear sky” Johann Joachim Winckelmann had been murdered in Trieste while awaiting a ship that would take him back to his adopted home in Rome. The news was particularly shocking to Goethe because he and his associates were still under the impression that Winckelmann was en route to a reunion with his old acquaintances in Germany, and that the opportunity to see such an important figure would soon be theirs. Goethe reports that he and his friends had entertained no hopes of actually speaking with Winckelmann, but that they had anticipated watching him from afar. The enthusiasm which the young writer felt towards his older countryman did not fade with the ensuing years. Indeed, thirty-seven years after Winckelmann’s death, Goethe edited a small booklet entitled Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert, in which his praise was still very considerable.

 

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