Cleo in Munich

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Silken wallpaper, golden trim, and lavish embroidery would have well suited our Egyptian queen. Instead, she’s stuck in a gallery with stuffy old philosophers and tyrannical emperors. All of them are at home in the Munich Residenz, the main palace of the House of Wittelsbach.

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Owing to never-ending repair and restoration work, the approach to the Residenz is a little underwhelming, followed by a somewhat disjointed entry into the palatial museum itself.

Instead of a three-story entrance hall with a set of sweeping twin staircases or a similarly opulent welcome arrangement, one is directed by small and easily missed arrow signs to a patio with a gigantic and gigantically unattractive fountain as a centerpiece.

I genuinely liked the Escheresque tile floor and I would love to have such a nicely shaded dining terrace if one could only discretely disappear the water feature, please. Once upon a time it must have been amazing, but the stained and pitted surfaces of the statuary and the boundless fuzziness of patterns created with shells leaves only a vague sense of unpleasantness.

This faded and equally damaged fresco, on the other hand, is a quirky visual relief.

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From this ducal picknick spot, a series of darkish hallways open up into the Aquarium, äh, Antiquarium.

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This is what such a thing looks like, at least in the Munich Residenz.

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“richly decorated” doesn’t quite cover it, I think.

And “richly decorated” certainly remained the watchword throughout our visit of this magnificent palace. I wish I could see an accountant’s record for the purchase of gold leave per annum, it must have been a right princely sum!

Since there were this handy signposts, I’m taking the easy way out and simply copy their wisdom for you ….

They were clever, weren’t they, these artisans creating yet more grandeur than this vast palace already provided in itself? The illusionistic architectural painting is trompe l’œil, making it difficult to discern where the walls meet the [flat] ceiling. A technique which has been well known to painters since antiquity. Pliny the Elder reported a story about a contest in which two accomplished painters, Parrhasius of Ephesus [now Turkey] and Zeuxis of Herakleia [now Italy] challenged each other for the title of ‘best painter’. Zeuxis painted grapes so live like that birds swooped in to peck at the painted fruit. However, Parrhasius was declared the winner because Zeuxis tried to pull aside an illusionary curtain Parrhasius had painted. [paraphrased after an entry in the 1911 Encyclodædia Britannica, volume 20]

Scagliola, by the way, is another technique to poshify architectural features. The doorframes were not cut of marble but fashioned from plaster and glue, which was then painted and polished to resemble stone.

Next, we toured gallery after gallery with display cases filled with the most exquisite collections of objects from the Far East to the Baltic North. Like Aladdin’s treasure cave, only better organized and labeled.

A succession of apartments for the extended ducal family, as well as apartments solely for representational purposes, and suites for princely visitors followed one another in inordinate splendor. So much gold – everywhere!

For the following two rooms, though, I would immediately take out a long term lease! Empire over Rococo – I’ve always admired Napoleon’s chutzpah.

And then there is pure beauty and artisanal skill without compare, it brings tears to your eyes.

In contrast, we soon enter the realm of such visual overload that it is neither beyond compare nor comparable. It is unique. I believe I mentioned in my previous post that much the excess of baroque and rococo design had a political background. It was meant to overwhelm and intimidate.

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More inclined toward green, per chance?

What the heck, let’s just stick with gold!

In this portrait gallery, we discovered a painting of a lady named Mechtildis. My mother’s name was Mechthild,
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and the current Herzog [Duke] Leuchtenberg is a lifelong friend of the family. Coincidence? I think not! What a fun conclusion to our afternoon at home with the Wittelsbachs. The guards were already waiting for us, impatient but courteous, nevertheless literally closing the doors on our heels while I took one more quick glance back toward mother’s portrait.
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