Cornelia’s Room

Cornelia’s portrait was drawn by Johann Ludwig Ernst Morgenstern, one of her father’s favourite Frankfurt artists. With her slightly inclined head she seems graceful and sensitive, but also somewhat melancholic. She was clever, witty, very well-read, and surely prettier than her brother describes her in Poetry and Truth. As a young girl she thought herself ugly and suffered from a lack of self-confidence. Goethe called her “an indefinable being, the strangest combination of strictness and softness, of stubbornness and compliance.”

She was, however, really disfigured, to the point where her face could sometimes actually look ugly, by the fashion of those times, which not only bared the forehead but also enlarged it to the utmost, whether by suggestion or in fact, whether by coincidence or design. Although her forehead was very feminine and most smoothly curved, she had a pair of heavy black eyebrows and prominent eyes, and the resulting contrast, if it did not repel a stranger at first sight, certainly did not attract him.

Goethe: From My Life. Poetry and Truth, part 2 , book 6