Wesendonck, Mathilde

POET, WRITER, TRANSLATOR (GERMANY)
BORN 23 Dec 1828, Elberfeld - DIED 31 Aug 1902, Traunblick am Traunsee
REAL NAME Luckemeyer, Agnes
GRAVE LOCATION Bonn: Alter Friedhof

Daughter of a merchant. She grew up in Wuppertal and in 1848 she married another merchant, Otto Wesendonck. At his request she changed her first name from Agnes into Mathilde. In 1850 she and her husband went to live in Zurich. On 20 Jan 1852 they attented a concert conducted by Wagner, who had fled from Dresden in 1849.

In 1853 Wagner became infatuated with Mathilde and he wrote a piano sonate for her. She certainly became his muse, but it's not clear if their relationship was also sexual. Mathilda was opposed against vivisection and under her influence Wagner developed an interest in the right of animals. Her house in Zurich was also visited by Franz Liszt as well as Hans and Cosima von Bülow.

In 1857 Wagner moved into his "Asyl", a house in the garden of the Wesendonck villa. In 1857/1858 he composed his "Wesendonck Lieder" ("Wesendonck Songs"), based on five of her poems. He used these songs for "Tristan and Isolde". After Wagner's wife Minna intercepted a love letter to Mathilda on 7 apr 1858 they had to break off their liaison and he left the "Asyl" on 17 Aug 1858. In 1863 he still wrote in a letter to Eliza Wille that Mathilda was his first and only love.

Apart from writing poetry, Mathilda wrote children's books and also translated works into German. In 1871 the Wesendoncks had to leave Zurich, because they had celebrated the beating of France by Prussia in 1870 a little too visibly, almost causing the local people to set their house on fire. They went to live in Dresden.

When their son Hans died in Bonn during his studies, they bought a family grave at the Alter Friedhof. Mathilda herself was buried there in 1902.

Related persons
• admired Brahms, Johannes
• had a relationship with Wagner, Richard

Sources
Villa Wahnfried (Wagner Museum), Bayreuth
Mathilde Wesendonck

Images

The grave of Otto and Mathilda von Wesendonck at the Alter Friedhof, Bonn.
Picture by Androom (18 Nov 2001)

 

The Villa Schönberg stands at the spot of the former Riegelhaus (or Asyl") where Richard Wagner lived and worked from 1857 to 1858. The Riegelhaus was owned by Otto and Mathilda Wesendonck who sold it in 1872. The present villa was built in 1882.
Picture by Androom (18 Aug 2005)

 


Wessely, Paula

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 23 Dec 2011