Caspar Voght was one of the most significant figures in Hamburg around 1800. One of his major projects involved building an agricultural model estate in the English style in Klein Flottbek, Hamburg. The key component of the model estate's English landscape garden, Jenisch Park, is still there today. This exhibition in Jenisch House provides a comprehensive insight into the different facets of the life and work of Voght, which was characterized by Enlightenment ideals.
In the west wing on the second floor are the former private rooms of the Jenisch family. Today, the rooms are dedicated to the life and work of the Caspar Voght (1752–1839), a figure in the philosophical and intellectual Enlightenment movement. The Hamburg businessman, together with his friend and business partner Georg Heinrich Sieveking, ran one of the largest trading houses in Hamburg in the second half of the 18th century. Voght was a key figure in the social development of the Hanseatic city at the time. He took on a pioneering role through his commitment to social, cultural, and scientific projects.
The French portrait painter Mosnier depicts Voght as an enlightened landowner. The bookcase and view from the window demonstrate his interest in science, gardening, and agriculture.
Paris-born Jean Laurent Mosnier was one of the most famous portrait painters in Hamburg around 1800. His clients came from the well-to-do bourgeoisie and nobility.
The idealization of the people presented, particularly their faces which are often partially shadowed, shines through Mosnier's work. He understands how to attribute character to his subject in terms of both their environment and personality. You can see that he is less concerned with an accurate portrayal of the figure and facial features than with reflecting the inner thoughts of the person portrayed. This is something that an artist must be able to recognize in order to depict the subjects appropriately.
Caspar Voght's library in Klein Flottbek consisted of around 3,800 volumes, 200 maps, and a number of copper engravings. He collected works on geography and history, horticulture and agriculture, the poor and imprisonment. Travel writing, books on the "beautiful art of speaking," and Voght's own treatises on welfare and agriculture were represented. He kept his mineral collection and physical instruments in glass cabinets.
Many authors whom Voght knew personally, such as F. G. Klopstock, J. J. Rousseau, Goethe, and Lessing, sent copies of their books with personal dedications. When Voght died in 1839, his collection was auctioned off. It is not known who bought the books. With the help of the auctioneer's preserved directory, part of the library has been reconstructed in this exhibition.
The Country House in Klein Flottbek
Caspar Voght's home was the meeting point for many communities and was where he invited
his friends to visit. It was a country house in the middle of his "ferme ornée" in Klein Flottbek. After
the old farmhouse—Voght's first home—was destroyed by fire, he commissioned
architect Johann August Arens to construct a new house in 1794. Arens designed an unusual building with a colonnade on the third floor from which Voght could look out onto his garden. Instead of a style reflecting his reputation, he emphasized the rural character of the house. For Voght, Klein Flottbek was a rural idyll—a place of nature, sociability, and science.
The porcelain dining set on the table was received by Caspar Voght by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III as a gift for his contribution to reforming the welfare system.
Blooming blue field bindweeds are depicted on the porcelain with high botanical accuracy and in fine color shades. The monogram "FWR"—Friedrich Wilhelm Rex—shows it to be a gift from the Prussian king. The field bindweed as a decoration could be interpreted as the king's homage to Voght and his ornamented farm.
Painter Louis Gurlitt was one such guest of Baron Voght. Although he only spent the first 20 years of his life in Altona and neighboring Hamburg, he is considered one of the most significant artistic figures of both cities. Louis Gurlitt's extensive oeuvre ranges from his early work, which clearly conveys his love for 17th-century Dutch landscape paintings, to his paintings, oil studies, and artworks inspired by strict naturalism, to large-scale panorama landscapes based particularly in Italy and Schleswig-Holstein, which bring together idealist landscape views and his observations of nature.
Caspar Voghts ornamented farm in Klein Flottbek
In Klein Flottbek, Caspar Voght created the greatest ferme ornée (ornamented farm) in northern Germany, following
the example of English poet William Shestone's The Leasowes. He
combined beauty with practicality and integrated agricultural land into a
park landscape in the style of an English landscape garden. Voght bought his first farms
in 1785 and expanded his property over the following years.
The country model estate became a model for advanced farming. He constructed houses for his farm workers on what is now Baron-Voght-Straße. He paid an above-average wage and cared for the sick and widowed. In Klein Flottbek, Voght was able to bring his ideas to life as a landscaper, farmer, and social reformer. In 1828, Voght sold his property to Martin Johan Jenisch.
Projektkoordination und Umsetzung: Anna Symanczyk, Martina Fritz
Texte: Dr. Nicole Tiedemann, Martina Fritz
Fotos: Michaela Hegenbarth