Germany is a large country of Europe divided into several states and principalities which are united under one head distinguished by the title of Emperor. (..) The most received division of Germany is that which was made by the Emperor Maximilian I in 1512 into ten circles. (..) The circle of Bavaria contains: 1 the dutchy of Bavaria proper, on the Danube, subject to the elector of Bavaria, chief town Munich (..); 2 The Upper Palatinate subject to the elector of Bavaria; 3 The county of Leuchtenberg; 4 The bishopric of Freysingen subject to its bishop; 5 The bishopric of Passau subject to its own bishop; 6 The principality of Sultzbach and the dutchy of Neuburg subject to the elector Palatine; 7 The archbishopric of Salzburg subject to its own archbishop; 8 The Imperial city of Ratisbon.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France 1756.
This excerpt shows what a mosaic of states made up Germany in the XVIIIth century. In total there were some 300 states in the ten circles.
(above) Hunting lodge in Munich; (below) canal leading from there to the "schloss" (country palace)
Munich is a place visited by most of the strangers who go into Germany; the elector's palace in the town was finely furnished. (..) The palaces of Schleistian and Nimfleberg are very fine; the gardens of the latter, and the buildings about them exceed any in Germany.
Richard Pococke - A Description of the East and Some Other Countries - 1743 (read his descriptions of several locations in Lebanon).
Three quarters of a mile from Munich is the charming palace of Nymphenburg, situated in the midst of a plain. (..) A grand avenue leads to the iron gates of this palace from Munich, consisting of a double row of elms on each side of a magnificent canal, which has at each end a spacious basin adorned with water works. Nugent
Nymphenberg, a Royal Palace
about 3 miles off, built in the latter
end of the XVIIth century, is an
agreeable afternoon's excursion. It
presents towards Munich a semicircular facade broken so as to look like
a number of small pavilions. In
front are gardens in the French style,
traversed by a straight canal filled
with water of crystalline purity falling
over ledges of masonry. (..) The fountains,
supplied with water from the Lake of
Staremberg, throw up a jet 85 ft.
high, by the aid of an hydraulic machine.
J. Murray - A Hand-Book for Travellers in Southern Germany - 1837
The entrance to this castle is by an ascent of marble steps.
It consisted at first of only one great pavilion built by the electress Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, but her son Maximilian caused several apartments to be added to it together with fine stables and grand gardens. Nugent
Henriette Adelaide, daughter of Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy, married Ferdinand Maria of the House of Wittelsbach, Elector of Bavaria in 1650; she was also cousin of King Louis XIV of France. She invited a number of Italian architects and artists at her court in Munich and in 1664 she promoted the construction of Nymphenburg. The main building was designed by Agostino Barelli who was involved also in that of Theatinerkirche, a church resembling S. Andrea della Valle in Rome, the seat of the Theatine Order. Initially the summer palace was a mighty cubic pavilion, flanked by a church, several outbuildings and a small, walled, geometrical garden. By 1679 the palace complex, in its first aspect was almost finished.
The first room you come to is a high spacious saloon, from each side of which there is a passage into several apartments, beautifully laid out, and magnificently furnished. Nugent
The interior of the palace is not at all remarkable. Murray
The two sentences show the dramatic change in artistic tastes between 1743 and 1837. The Great Hall has identical windows with views on both the two long water ponds which characterize the gardens. The size of the main building is relatively small; Nymphenburg, unlike Versailles, was not meant to be the site where state affairs were dealt with; for these the Bavarian Elector had a large palace in town which was redesigned in a Florentine Renaissance style in 1835.
Antechamber of the North Apartments: Ceres by Antonio Zanchi (1675), a Venetian painter
Some of the rooms of apartments have retained their first ceiling paintings. These were not frescoes, but teleri, large canvases, a practice which was introduced in Venice, because the high level of humidity damaged the frescoes (see an example at Chioggia). When compared with the XVIIIth century paintings which were subsequently created for the decoration of the enlarged palace, the work by Zanchi has a less frivolous appearance and the scythe and the dragons have a rather threatening aspect.
Adjoining to the gardens there is a little park which as well as the adjacent fields abounds with pheasants and partridges. (..) There is also a neighbouring park eight leagues in compass and cut into a great number of fine long roads. Nugent
Either in going or returning the visitor should drive through the Hirschgarten, which abounds with deer and other game. Murray
Karl Albrecht and his wife gave a new character to Nymphenburg by building a hunting lodge; the formal gardens were surrounded by woodland, where they could go hunting. They shared this passion with Clement Augustus, brother of Karl Albrecht and Archbishop-Elector of Cologne.
In 1740, at the death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, Karl Albrecht claimed the German territories of the House of Habsburg and rejected the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 by which the late Emperor had established that his possessions could be inherited by a woman. He intervened in the Austrian Succession War and with the help of his brother he was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1742 (learn more about the electoral process). In the long run however he did not have the military strength to cope with the reaction of the Austrian party and he was even ousted from Bavaria. He returned to Munich in October 1744, but in February 1745 he died of gout at Nymphenburg.
Great Hall: details of the decoration
The present elector of Bavaria Maximilian Joseph was born March 28, 1727 and married on June 20, 1747 Anna Maria of Poland born August 29, 1728. He is reckoned one of the richest and most powerful princes of the empire having several towns well fortified, a noble arsenal and a standing force of about 30,000 men. His revenues arise chiefly from his monopolizing the three principal commodities of his country, viz. salt, corn and strong beer. He also ingrosses the tobacco trade to himself which together with his own domain and the tolls on the Danube and other rivers make his yearly revenue. Nugent
Maximilian Joseph gave up the imperial ambitions of his father; he signed a peace treaty with Austria and he agreed to the election of Francis, husband of Empress Maria Theresa as the new Holy Roman Emperor. He gave the Great Hall its current elaborate decoration.
Great Hall: detail of the decoration
The immediate environs of Munich
abound in taverns and gardens,
the resort of the middle classes, where
a profusion of beer is drank, and
waltzes are danced for 6 or 8 hours
without intermission, to the sound of
very tolerable music, provided by the
proprietors of these places of entertainment. A visit to some of them, especially on Sundays and holidays, when
they are chiefly frequented, will give
the stranger an opportunity of obtaining some insight into the manners of
the people. (..) Munich has the reputation of being
a very dissolute capital; and the fact
that by the population returns of
1833-4 the number of illegitimate
births exceeded the legitimate, confirms this. Murray
The paintings in the Great Hall, although being consistent with traditional images of Italian landscapes, show the Bavarian passion for folk dancing.
Garden façade, almost identical to the town one
You enter the gardens from the great hall, by a descent of marble steps. The first thing that strikes the eye is a parterre of vast extent, at the end of which is one of the most agreeable woods in the world. This wood is cut by three walks; the middlemost fronts the great pavilion of the castle, has a large canal in the middle of it, and is adorned with fine statues. Nugent
The second on the right hand leads to the mall, where you see a pavilion called the castle of the Pagods, built in the form of the Pagods temples and richly adorned with Indian furniture. Nugent
The Pagodenburg was built in 1716-1719 by Joseph Effner for Elector Maximilian Emanuel, father of Karl Albrecht. It is situated north of the main canal. Chinoiserie is a French term meaning "Chinese-esque" and it is used with reference to the adoption of Chinese decorative patterns in European artefacts and to a lesser extent in buildings. These patterns were made known in the XVIIth century, first by the Jesuits and later on by the development of trade with China.
Effner was trained in architecture in Paris and he was sent to Italy for a study trip.
Magdalenenklause: Grotto Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene
A grotto was a typical facility of a summer residence. Cardinal Ippolito d'Este had them on the slope of the hill of his Villa; the Medici had them at Boboli, the Farnese at the Palatine. At Nymphenburg a grotto resembling the chapel of a hermit was designed inside a bizarre pavilion which looks like a ruin from the outside. Fake ruins were another popular embellishment of Roman villas (e.g. Villa Borghese) and palaces (e.g. Palazzo Barberini). They can be seen also in the gardens of the Royal Palace of Caserta.
The third leads to the castle of Baths, a more considerable building, over against the castle of the Pagods, on the other side of the canal. This beautiful house, in which are spacious baths lined with marble, is surrounded with fine pieces of water, adorned with cascades and statues. Nugent
A travel account of 1792 warns that no visit to Nymphenburg should omit either of two things: "One is the Amalienburg, the other, in a different corner of the park and built by Elector Maximilian Emanuel, are the finest baths imaginable, splendidly equipped with all conveniences. I do not recall seeing anything more delicate or better thought-out anywhere. The pool is so large that one can comfortably swim in it, and if there are people who just want to watch, there is a place (the gallery) where they can position themselves and look on.
As reported by the Nymphenburg website.
Statues in the garden
By and large the statues in the gardens are pretty conventional in the depiction of seasons and deities. Occasionally some of them catch the interest of the viewer: Hercules is rarely seen wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion and at the same time patting another lion on the head. Other statues are hid in the wood to create a surprise effect, similar to what occurs in the English Garden of Caserta.
Behind, near the Bath House or Pavilion, is an
extensive lake, the borders of which
are prettily laid out in the English
style, diversified by art, and planted
with trees and shrubs. Murray
In 1865 parts of the garden were redesigned and a round temple without a cella was built near a large pond. These buildings were originally inspired after the Temple of the Sibilla at Tivoli and they became a typical embellishment of English landscape gardens; the Borghese built a very English one at their villa in Rome.
The Amalienburg is the finest of the four main pavilions in the park of Nymphenburg. It was designed by François Cuvilliés the Elder, court architect, whose first main projects were developed at Bruhl, the residence of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne for whom he designed Falkenlust, a hunting lodge. He was eventually asked to build a smaller one at Nymphenburg.
Amalienburg: Hall of Mirrors
The imposing Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) of Versailles (it opens in another window) was a reference point in the design and decoration of all the royal mansions which were built in Europe after that of King Louis XIV. At Amalienburg however the mirrors have the same purpose of the landscape perspectives of some Renaissance palaces, e.g. La Farnesina, i.e. they enlarge the size of the hall and they multiply the images of the surrounding garden.
The flat land upon which Nymphenburg was built did not allow for the spectacular effects of the Grand Canal at Versailles or of the Waterfalls at Caserta and La Granja. The Great Waterfall was completed in 1717 and it was not modified when the gardens were redesigned in 1865.
View from the Great Waterfall
A group of large XVIIIth century paintings depicting Schloss Nymphenburg show that the Elector and his guests moved about the ponds on Venetian gondolas, one of which can be seen in the image used as background for this page. At Lake Stamberg, 16 miles south-west of Munich, the Elector had a fleet of ceremonial Venetian boats for the festivities of the court.
In 1805 the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved and the rulers of Bavaria assumed the title of King. In 1866 the Prussians defeated the Austrians and the Bavarians at Sadowa and their country acquired a hegemonic role over Germany which in 1871 led to the proclamation of the German Empire with King Wilhelm I of Prussia as Emperor. The powers of the King of Bavaria were greatly reduced and Ludwig II chose to estrange himself from state affairs. He enjoyed moonlight sledge rides. He died three days after having been deposed on medical grounds.