Frau Rath’s Room

Above a small desk with a sewing box hangs the portrait of Goethe’s mother. It is a pastel drawing of 1776 by Georg Oswald May. Catharina Elisabeth Goethe is depicted at the age of 45, with a bonnet, as was the custom for married women.

Catharina Elisabeth, born in 1731, was the daughter of the town mayor Textor. She entered marriage at the age of 17 without any education to speak of but acquired a wide horizon for herself. Frau Rat or Frau Aja, as she was affectionately called, possessed character, a fresh sense of humour, warmth, and a great deal of worldly wisdom. Goethe was very drawn to her spontaneous, emotional nature. Fun-loving by nature, she liked to visit the theatre and harboured a fondness for acting circles. She wrote about herself in a letter: “I am fairly tall and rather stoutish, have brown eyes and hair, and fancy I might impersonate the mother of Prince Hamlet not so badly.”

After her husband’s death she remained in the house on Hirschgraben until 1795, but then sold it since she could not manage it herself. She moved into a small apartment on the Roßmarkt, where she died in 1808.

My mother, who was always cheerful and happy and liked others to be the same, figured out a better method of instruction: she knew she could reach her goal by offering rewards.

Goethe: From My Life. Poetry and Truth, part 1 , book