Three gentlemen come together behind the theater.

They pay no attention to the lion observing the hustle and bustle on the square, nor to the theater director Brühl, who receives three obsequious poets, nor to Baron Fouqué, who rushes up in his horse-drawn carriage, nor to Mr. Kunz from Bamberg, who in the inn studied an extensive wine list, and certainly not at the sharp-nosed man who registers everything from his window in order to draw it.

Tilman Spreckelsen

Editor in the Feuilleton.

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But what do the three gentlemen have to say to each other, fat Bernhardi, aging Ludwig Tieck and slim Brentano?

Tieck and Bernhardi could have talked about Tieck's sister Sophie, Bernhardi's divorced wife, Tieck and Brentano about their publisher Friedrich Wilmans.

And all three about the man with the eagle nose at the window, who is in the process of immortalizing it, with all the others on the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin.

The "Kunzischer Riss" from 1815, a drawing by ETA Hoffmann in which he captures his surroundings and does not want to distinguish between real people and imaginary figures, no longer exists, we only know it from reproductions.

But he is more present than ever, no better book about Hoffmann, no exhibition will do without him, not even the one called “Unheimlich Fantastisch”, which was shown in Bamberg and Berlin on the 200th anniversary of Hoffmann’s death this year and from today in Frankfurt is shown.

Each station not only sets its own accents, but the very different rooms that are available for this in the Berlin and Bamberg State Library as well as in the German Romantic Museum in Frankfurt make the partly identical exhibits and similar stations appear completely different.

In Berlin, room followed room in a row with narrow transitions, which in turn were clearly perceptible as such and separated the stations from one another.

In Bamberg, two darkened rooms full of originals formed a kind of treasury.

In Frankfurt, the recently inaugurated Ernst Max von Grunelius Hall not only continues the plausible concept of the permanent exhibition, in that the stations, separated only by long panels of fabric, flow into one another and leave it up to the visitor to find an order.

Two stations in which Hoffmann plays a role on the upper floor are also taken up in the basement - Hoffmann as an interpreter of Beethoven, whom he describes as a romantic in an essay that has become famous, and above all as the author of "Meister Floh", a text which he settled in Frankfurt, although he never visited the city, and had it published by said Frankfurt publisher Wilmans.

The exhibition is rich in exhibits that illuminate Hoffmann's work in a wide variety of disciplines, including a jukebox in the shape of a trumpeter.

The stations that have been newly integrated here are also rich and surprising, to the otherwise often overlooked Wilmans, who would be worth a cabinet exhibition of his own, or, perhaps most surprisingly, to the "hidden work dialogue" between Hoffmann and Clemens Brentano from Frankfurt, with whom he worked in Berlin, and whom he may have depicted in that tiny, virtually unknown drawing seen here.

Don't miss them.

And neither does everything else.

Incredibly fantastic – ETA Hoffmann 2022


German Romantic Museum, Frankfurt;

until February 12th.

The catalog costs 34 euros.