Frau Rath’s Room

The profile portrait of Goethe’s father was painted after his death by Hermann Juncker.

Johann Caspar Goethe was born in 1710; his parents ran the Frankfurt inn Zum Weidenhof together with a flourishing wine trade. Their prosperity enabled him to pursue an academic career and study law, the first in the family to do so. In 1742 Johann Caspar Goethe acquired the title of imperial councillor which did not carry any obligations with it. In 1748 he married the 21-year-younger Catharina Elisabeth Textor. Since Councillor Goethe had a considerable fortune at his disposal, he was able to live as a man of independent means without having to practise a profession. He devoted himself to his children’s education, helped friends as a legal advisor, amassed extensive collections, and prudently administered his possessions. He died in 1782 after a long illness.

Goethe’s relationship to his father, whom he considered strict, was tense. But to him he owed his carefree youth in the best circumstances and the early fostering of his literary career.

My  father, a thorough, even elegant jurist, personally conducted his affairs, which were imposed on him both by the management of his property and by his connections with valued friends. Although his title of Imperial Councilor prevented him from practicing law, he was available as a friendly legal adviser to  many a close associate [...]. My arrival had made this activity of his all the livelier, but it was quite evident to me hat he valued my talent more highly than my legal  practice and consequently did everything possible to leave me enough time for my literary studies and works.

Goethe: From My Life. Poetry and Truth, part 4 , book 17