Monday, November 28, 2011

Bruchsal palace, a Baroque Masterpiece

The staggering cupola of Schloss Bruchsal, a masterpiece of baroque decoration

"I have now selected the place for my residence. I have never seen a more beautiful location in all my life." So said Damian Hugo von Schönborn in 1720. He wasted no time drawing up plans for no less than fifty separate buildings to occupy the grounds that comprise the palace. He said the reason he wanted so many buildings was so that, in the event of war, he could run into another building if one got damaged.

Detail of the grotto ceiling (photo)

There were, of course, the usual construction hiccups that happen on any project. Only these were a whole lot bigger. Balthasar Neumann stepped in when the going was rough, and created the gorgeous twin staircase that is one of the reasons his face ended up on the 50 Deutsche mark banknote. "The staircase in Bruchsal was the queen of all staircases in the baroque style, unparalleled in it's brilliant design and the high poetry of the room." (Georg Dehio)

Another of Marcini's ceilings, this one for Weissenstein Palace

Two painters, Johannes Zick and Giovanni Francesco Marcini were responsible for much of the work. Zick spent nine years working in Bruchsal, Marcini spent five, completing the dizzying illusionistic painting.

The Main Hall at Schloss Bruchsal

Detail of the rotunda ceiling in the Main Hall (photo)

Ceiling detail from the Marble Room (photo)

Hugo's vision seems prescient in hindsight: Bruchsal, like many towns in Germany, was absolutely devastated during the Second World War. The palace was barely standing, and debate raged as to whether it was even worth trying to restore it.

The palace was devastated in an air raid lasting only forty minutes on March 1st, 1945

I guess they fixed it (photo)


  1. I'm always in awe of the skill and planning that goes into those incredible domed perspectives. Someday I'd like to see a documentary on the whole process that goes into reconstructing such treasures.

    Mark R.

    P.S. Thanks for the links in the last posting - very inspiring, as all your postings are.

  2. Digging also, very much so, on all that nice Rococco sculpted relief, scroll ornament (both the white and gilt) that frames the artwork. I'd love to see a digital set of those kinds of forms made available as a toolkit for decorators/designers/artisans.

    It'd be fun to have assets of that vocabulary at the ready to experiment and play with: recombine, etc. Hmmm ....

  3. I love all those frames too, Mark. I could easily envision a modular set of digital trompe l'oeil 'frames', whereby you jigsaw them together on screen, then print out as one big design on giant canvas.

    The big blank spot in the middle could then be painted by hand, to look like the examples above.

    Get to work, maestro!

  4. I would love to meet these geniuses in my next life. How can one have so much talent? And patience...