My "Hofelich" friends already know this story and some of them encouraged me to post it on my website. A dear regular customer of mine wrote: "Life is impossible to catch up which concerns stories -- no writer can deliberate that. This story of the ROMAN KNIGHT is absolutely wonderful, so please make it public...!" I want to do that here with the permission of the protagonist -- I call him the ROMAN KNIGHT because he calls himself jokingly the CAVALIERE ROMANO or RÖMISCHER RITTER. He is really quite chivalrous, as proven by the following true story:

The ROMAN KNIGHT entered my personal digital market place at the beginning of November 2004 for the very first time – at first he terrified my "Hofelich" lovers. But in sequence:

The very first contact with the ROMAN KNIGHT goes back to November 5th, 2004 and did not even originate from a Hofelich painting. In addition to some of the works of Wilhelm Hofelich, I offered a "Tofana" painting of Kohler in an eBay auction. [Whenever I offer motives of the Dolomites, the Italians are immediately interested in it.] This time there were three Italian bidders, all completely unknown to me. All three were bidding quite competitively, so much so that I got frightened and nervous when I saw how the price was increasing for this impressive, but lightly damaged, painting. I feared - which later proved to be true - that none of the prospective customers understood German and therefore my description for the auction.

Via eBay I contacted all three bidders and sent them a detailed description of the condition of the painting in English. The ROMAN KNIGHT was the only one who answered and thanked me for the information. And like both of his compatriots, he didn’t continue to bid. A few seconds before the auction ended a fourth Italian entered a bid and won the painting. A warning at this point was obviously too late, but it's a buyer from Trento, who understood the German description and who wanted the painting nevertheless.

Meanwhile the ROMAN KNIGHT writes back to say that he is impressed that a salesman had seized the initiative – he then writes to a potential customer, in order to make him aware of my offerings. He then becomes interested in this "crazy" salesman on eBay [much like most Italians, and due in large part to my first name, he thought I was a man. He looked at my remaining eBay auction offerings and discovered WILHELM HOFELICH.

What now followed sent my Hofelich friends (and me) into a real panic. When I looked at my eBay auctions on the following morning, all the Hofelich paintings had 30 and more bids by the same bidder, whose name I did not recognize. I looked at his eBay feedback list and discovered that it was the ROMAN KNIGHT. He had changed his eBay membership name over-night and had accomplished this unbelievable bidding Marathon. But why? I did not have a plausible explanation. In the bid-list there was a second bidder with a nearly identical name, only one single letter varied. I thought of possible "psychological warfare"... and suddenly the ROMAN KNIGHT became uncanny to me.

I decided to send him an email and ask for an explanation. A response came back promptly and was quite simple: He had fallen in love with the works of Wilhelm Hofelich and would like to have them ALL! He confessed to me that he had copied from my eBay feedback list all still seizable Hofelich paintings on his computer for his own small gallery. Furthermore he visited my personal homepage, and had now discovered the fact that "Gabriele" is feminine in Germany, and had wallowed the whole night in the paintings of Ludwig and Wilhelm Hofelich. [At this point in time my Website didn't yet have the English and the Italian translations, so he wasn't able to read the texts.] Now how can that be? Are the installed paintings for sale?

I had by now calmed down -- the ROMAN KNIGHT emerged not as "psychopath", but as an art lover and passionate collector. My ignorant Hofelich friends, however, believe that all of this had to do with a "crazy person". They could not, however, defeat him and his bids -- some actually became furious. One work by Wilhelm Hofelich is won by the KNIGHT and the eBay auction losers are getting depending upon their character - enraged, desperate or lapsed into resignation. The pricing of the Hofelich paintings that resulted from the ROMAN KNIGHT's bidding is more than pleasing to me. In the preceding weeks and months some pictures had been sold for very low prices -- but now the selling price had stabilized. However, I received emails of disconcerted bidders, who inquired: "what's up with that crazy Italian -- did he win the jackpot, won't he leave one single 'Hofelich' remaining for his competitors?"

I informed my most important regular customers (i.e., those with whom I'm connected in close email contact) about the ROMAN KNIGHT. And, with all of his wild bidding behavior, most of my clients nevertheless can understand him; passionate collecting is not strange to my Hofelich friends.

Then the following happened:

One Hofelich collector, who has a weakness for Corsica, fell in love with a Corsica motive of Wilhelm Hofelich. She had already won a Corsica-Sea-painting, but now she wanted to have one of the heartland of the island. Her inspired emails reached me -- she fell in love with the Pozzo-di-Borgo motive. She was determined to win the auction, because, as she told me -- if she really wants something, then the sky is the limit as to bidding. Other Hofelich friends were also interested in this adorable painting, which Wilhelm Hofelich had painted during his study stay on Corsica in May 1931. Among them was the ROMAN KNIGHT. He wrote me to tell me how much he loves Corsica, including sailing there. It came to an absolutely embittered fight for the popular motive, but the Corsica enthusiast did not dare to bid. She probably considered her offering no match to an attack by the KNIGHT who came out again as the winner from that battle.

The disappointment of the collector was enormous – she was angry at the KNIGHT and could not be calmed down. The other collectors/bidders dealt much better with their renewed defeat. Some of them even had some admiration for that passionate ROMAN.

At the same time a further impressive painting of Wilhelm Hofelich was up for auction. This painting had a very nice landscape during the first frosts, full of atmosphere. The KNIGHT is also interested in this "Primo Gelo" painting. He set his usual bids and then left for Rome for a few days. I knew that he was at a place where he could not be on-line. Therefore he would not be able to affect the auction to his favour in the final phase; however, I did not know the extent of his bids. This proved to be a good opportunity for the other Hofelich collectors to come into operation again. And indeed the ROMAN KNIGHT is out-bid.

The lucky winner of the auction was a twelve-year-old boy. It turned out, it was the little son of the Corsica collector! He could not stand to see his mother so sadden because of the escaped Corsica motive. Therefore he bid carefully near to the KNIGHT's bids of some Hofelich paintings and then actually kept the award for the painting "First Frosts". The boy did this secretly and wanted the painting for his mother as a Christmas gift. But in his age he could not do a bank wire transfer, however. So he had to abandon his secret.

The mother became agitated to tears about the "heroic deed" of her son. The little boy had dared to attack the powerful KNIGHT and won the fight! She wrote me, how very much she had fallen in love during the 10-day-auction with the frost painting. But completely discouraged, she nevertheless decided not to bid. She was therefore overjoyed that her son did it.

When the KNIGHT returned to Rome that night, he had to concede defeat for the very first time. But he took it with sense of calm. I told him the touching story of the little boy, which with hindsight I shouldn't have done -- the realization to have fought (against) a 12-year-old boy put the ROMAN KNIGHT into despair. Such an unequal fight could not be reconciled with his strict code of ethics. He emailed me that we would have to find a solution, and the boy should be compensated for his courageous act. He suggested the exchanging of the Hofelich paintings "Pozzo di Borgo/Corsica" and "First Frost/Bavaria". He requested that I send the frost painting to him and to the boy instead his more than twice as expensive Corsica painting. The little boy shouldn't tell anything about this exchange to his mother until Christmas Eve and then put the Corsica-painting under the Christmas tree for her. The KNIGHT is totally fascinated by his idea and immediately thereafter hit rock bottom, as I told him, that we could not proceed this way.

In the meantime an inspired email from the mother of the little hero reached me. She told me of being completely overwhelmed during a walk, during which she had the feeling as if she were in Hofelich's frost painting. Everything was exactly like that as on the painting, the landscape, the shrubs covered with hoar frost, the light, the atmosphere, noticeable, visible coldness. She was on top of the world, no longer lamenting about the Corsica painting anymore!

I wrote to the ROMAN KNIGHT and explained to him why we couldn’t exchange the pictures -- but he could not be calmed down. That night he sent me a dozen of e-mails, complaints as to how bad he was feeling to having fought against a child. He asked me for help. Only my suggestion was to give the woman another Corsica motive, for which he had also announced interest, brings the turn. Yes, that is a great idea -- he therefore wound up with nothing! The subject of the last mail, which he sent from the Alps during this long night, read: "I'm free again!!!"

The powerful ROMAN KNIGHT, who was disconcerted and confused in such a way like all of us, who pushed some of my customers into the feeling of real chaos, showed himself as really quixotic. He was ready to give away his beloved Corsica painting!

Meanwhile the ROMAN KNIGHT is held the largest Hofelich-Collection in the southern Alps, and it's not out of the question - as he wrote - that he will organize a Hofelich Exhibition in Rome one day. Let's wait and see!

One of my dearest German Hofelich-friends sent me the following citation of Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe:

"Findet man auch keinen liebenswürdigeren Menschen als den Walschen, so gilt doch eben so sehr, dass seinem Charakter eine gewisse Unzuverläßigkeit beikömmt!"

(Which roughly means: There are no kinder people than the Italians, even if their character can have some unreliability.)

Let’s be surprised if our great poet laureate is proven correct or if he will be at fault in the case of the ROMAN KNIGHT!

I want to say thank you to Christopher and Uwe for their encouragement to write down the story, and to Paolo for the permission to publish it.


© 2004-2011 Gabriele Wittfeld