“When I arrived in Italy I felt reborn; now I feel re-educated . . . When I get home you will judge for yourselves how well I have used my eyes. My old habit of sticking to the objective and concrete has given me an ability to read things at sight, so to speak . . . Angelica [Kaufmann] has paid me the compliment of saying that she knows very few people in Rome who see better in art than I do.”

Goethe’s letters from Italy, which make up the greater part of this compilation[1] (originally published in installments as Italienische Reise), were increasingly punctuated by these confident testimonials to himself as an Augenmensch, a seeing eye in the chapels and galleries of art, a daily improving connoisseur convinced that he was on the track of those “laws of Nature” which...


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