When Gerhard von Kügelgen, member of three acedemies, painted this portrait in 1808, Goethe was nearly sixty years old. He was in the course of completing his Theory of Colors, which he always regarded as his most important work. In the past few years, he had been made Privy Councilor, had married his long-time mistress Christiane Vulpius, with whom he had three children, had withstood an occupation of his house by “spoon guards,” Napoleon’s least-disciplined soldiers. Turbulent times indeed.
This portrait is probably the closest one to the time he wrote The Castle on the Mountain.