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The early modern Goethe on show

He's perhaps Germany's most famous author, but he was much more. A new display marking the 263rd anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's birth at the Goethe National Museum in Weimar seeks to show that.

Goethe is known primarily as a poet and playwright, but the latest display "Flood of Life, Storm of Deeds" at the Goethe National Museum is meant to show visitors a broader array of his talents. More than 500 exhibits show some of the writer's artistic and scientific works, as well as more personal items like letters and diaries.

The exhibition focuses on the early modern period starting in 1800, after Goethe's 50th birthday, when he had matured into a botanical enthusiast and statesman.

The museum, a historical house where Goethe once lived, says the new display "paints a vivid picture of Goethe's personal and family life; the exhibition offers a deep insight into the wide-ranging achievements of the esteemed poet, scientist and statesman."

Tourists walking close to the Goethe National Museum in Weimar

Around 150,000 people visit the museum each year

Strictly speaking, the display opened prematurely, one day before the 263rd anniversary of Goethe's August 28 birth. Part of this has to do with German birthday traditions, however, where it is typical to celebrate on the eve of one's birthday, reveling through to midnight to ring in the happy day. The museum was set to stay open until midnight Monday to that end.

Goethe is perhaps most famous for his two-part play Faust, with a part of the display dedicated to this work. He was also an accomplished scientist, with particular interest in botany, meteorology, color and mineralogy; the iron-oxide mineral Goethite is named after him. Goethe's political orientation, however, was anything but avant-garde. Conservative even by the standards of the time, he viewed the French Revolution with skepticism, and efforts to unite German states into a single country did not excite him.

The semi-permanent exhibition is the sixth of its kind to be launched since the Goethe National Museum opened 124 years ago. It replaces the "Repeated Reflections" display that opened in 1999. Goethe died in Weimar on March 22, 1832, aged 82.

msh/tj (dpa, EPD)