One traditional form that I did not consider when I wrote my dissertation was that of the legend. Goethe mentions the Ursula legend in Kunst und Altertum am Rhein und Main (on which I wrote in my March 27 posting in connection with the Veronica icon). Basically he used the legend to transition from the influence of Byzantine art in the Christian West to a discussion of Netherlandic and Old German art.
I recently encountered this wooden sculpture of Ursula (at the top of this post) at the Metropoplitan Museum. As Goethe rightly indicates, Ursula was said to be a Breton princess. Her association with Cologne comes from a 4th-5th century inscription that says Clementius restored a church in that city in honor of a band of virgin martyrs. According to Goethe, she arrived in Cologne with her retinue of virgins (said to have been 10,000 in number) at the same time as a group of young Christian men, led by Gereon, whom Goethe calls "an African prince." Gereon in Christian martyrology is associated with the Theban legion, an entire legion that had converted to Christianity.
At the height of the artistic development Goethe was describing, the 14th and 15th century, these legends offered rich artistic themes. During his visit to Cologne he saw the "Kölner Dombild" by "Master William of Cologne," who has since been identified as Stephan Lochner. The two wings portray Saints Ursula (left) and Gereon (right), which may have given Goethe the idea of combining the two legends in his discussion of the contribution of the "cultural physiognomy" of the Cologne region to the Christian art.
According to Nicola Tumparoff's 1910 study (Goethe und die Legende), it was Goethe who introduced the legend into German literature as a self-sufficient modern genre. "Der Gott und die Bajadere," for instance, derives from Indian legends. Ottilie in Elective Affinities becomes a legend in her own time, a treatment by Goethe that I find, at the least, tongue in cheek. The lovely image above, by the Austrian artist Marian Stokes (1855-1927) is, of course, not of Ottilie but of Snow White. The Christian legend in particular was popular with the Romantics, but it was Goethe and Gottfried Keller, according to Tumparoff, who created "living types" (lebendige Typen). The legend, like the idyll, offered Goethe rich thematic material. In both cases, he departed from the genre's originating conditions -- the religious veneration of the saint in the legend or the domestic security represented by the idyll -- to problematize the past. In that way, Goethe is indeed a modern, but he crafts this status from traditional material.