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Quote and image of the month 11.2018

Posted on UTC 2018-11-10 10:19.

Image of the month

Follower of Caravaggio, 'Saint Matthew and the Angel', 1620-30

Follower of Michelangelo da Caravaggio (1571–1610), Saint Matthew and the Angel, 1620–30? Image: Princeton University Art Museum Princeton, New Jersey. [Click on the image to display a larger version in a new tab (1681 x 1308 px)]

Quote of the month

Karl Friedrich von Kübeck (1780-1855) had a stellar career in the Austrian government. His diaries are an important source for historians of the period.

His student years were equally stellar, in that he completed the final two years of his Jurisprudence course – a subject he actually considered 'repellent' – at the University of Vienna in only one year.

The moment of truth came on 10 September 1810, when he was summoned for his final viva voce examination before the renowned Professor Heinrich Josef Watteroth (1756-1819). Watteroth was not a stiff person despite his eminence and was popular with his students. Kübeck has left us an account of this remarkable examination in his diary.

He lives in his own house, on the Landstrasse [in Vienna]. It had a garden and it was there that I – the examination candidate – found the Herr Professor – very painterly, with a watering can, half in a shirt. He put on a sort of dressing gown, seated himself on a barrel smeared with soil and chalk, and pointed to a block of tree trunk for me to sit on.

Er bewohnt sein eigenes Haus, auf der Landstrasse, das einen Garten hat, in welchem ich Prüfungskandidat den Herrn Professor, sehr mahlerisch, mit einer Gießkanne, halb im Hemde, fand. Er nahm eine Art Schlafrock auf sich, setzte sich, auf ein mit Kalk und Erde beschmiertes Faß, und wies mir einen nahen Baumklotz zum Sitzen an.

After a few rather odd pleasantries, Watteroth put the Gretchen-Frage of the times to Kübeck. We must remember that ever since the Austrian Emperor Franz II's accession in 1792, fearful of what had happened in France in 1789, Franz had progressively lowered a belljar of censorship and repression over his empire. Watteroth's topical question required a dangerous and skilful answer from Kübeck:

Tell me now, what do you think of censorship and the freedom of the press? I answered: Herr Professor, in the work of Herr Sonnenfels and in your writings, this question is resolved differently to my own convictions. I once read, I no longer know where, that the only difference between angels and humans is that angels think aloud. It is for that reason that they live in blessedness. If only humans would and could think aloud, they, too, would become angels. As far as censorship is concerned, it is said that children who learn to walk with a walking harness are usually hump-backed.

Watteroth jumped up from his barrel, grabbed my head roughly and shouted 'Foolish lad! I advise you not to think out loud, otherwise they will make a silent angel of you. Our examination is finished. Farewell – collect your diploma tomorrow.'

Sagen Sie mir einmal, was halten Sie von der Censur und der Preßfreiheit? Ich antwortete: Herr Professor, diese Frage ist in dem Werke des Herrn von Sonnenfels, und in Ihren Schriften verschieden von meiner Ueberzeugung gelöst. Ich habe ein Mahl, ich weiß nicht mehr wo, gelesen, die Engel unterscheiden sich von den Menschen nur, weil sie laut denken, und darum allein leben sie in Seligkeit. Wenn also auch die Menschen laut denken würden und dürften, so würden sie Engel werden. Was die Censur betrifft, so sagt man, daß die Kinder, die am Führband gehen lernen, meist bucklicht werden.
Watteroth sprang von seinem Faß, nahm mich ziemlich unsanft beim Kopf und schrie „Teufelskerl Du! Ich rathe Dir, denke nicht laut, sonst machen sie Dich zu einem stummen Engel. Unsere Prüfung ist vorbei. Adieu, hohle Dir morgen das Zeugniß ab.“

Good advice – in 1801 as in 2018.

Quoted from the Tagebücher des Carl Friedrich Freiherrn Kübeck von Kübau, Wien 1909, Band I, 70f. by Michael Lorenz, 'Baronin Drossdik und die "verschneyten Nachtigallen". Biographische Anmerkungen zu einem Schubert-Dokument' in Schubert durch die Brille, 2001, Heft 26, p. 47-87. Translation ©FoS.