Munich – Germany And Austria

Art has done everything for Munich. It lies on a large fiat plain sixteen hundred feet above the sea and continually exposed to the cold winds from the Alps. At the beginning of the present century it was but a third-rate city, and was rarely visited by foreigners; since that time its population and limits have been doubled and magnificent edifices in every style of architecture erected, rendering it scarcely secondary in this respect to any capital in Europe. Every art that wealth or taste could devise seems to have been spent in its decoration. Broad, spacious streets and squares have been laid out, churches, halls and colleges erected, and schools of painting and sculpture established which draw artists from all parts of the world. All this was principally brought about by the taste of the present king, Ludwig I., who began twenty or thirty years ago, when he was crown-prince, to collect the best German artists around him and form plans for the execution of his grand design. He can boast of having done more for the arts than any other living monarch; and if he had accomplished it all without oppressing his people, he would de-serve an immortality of fame.

We went one morning to see the collection of paintings formerly belonging to Eugene Beauharnais, who was brother-in-law to the present King of Bavaria, in the palace of his son, the Duke of Leucbtenberg. The first hall contains works principally by French artists, among which are two by Gerard—a beautiful portrait of Josephine, and the blind Belisarius carrying his dead companion. The boy’s head lies on the old man’s shoulder; but for the livid paleness of his limbs, he would seem to be only asleep, while a deep and settled sorrow marks the venerable features of the unfortunate emperor. In the middle of the room are six pieces of statuary, among which Canova’s world-renowned group of the Graces at once at-tracts the eye. There is also a kneeling Magdalen, lovely in her wo, by the same sculptor, and a very touching work of Schadow representing a steepherd-boy tenderly binding his sash around a lamb which he has accidentaly wounded with his arrow.

We have since seen in the St. Michael’s Church the monument to Eugene Beauharnais from the chisel of Thorwaldsen. The noble, manly figure of the son of Josephine is represented in the Roman mantle, with his helmet and sword lying on the ground by him. On one side sits History writing on a tablet; on the other stand the two brother-angels Death and Immortality. They lean lovingly together, with arms around each other, but the sweet countenance of Death has a cast of sorrow as he stands with inverted torch and a wreath of poppies among his clustering locks. Immortality, crowned with never-fading flowers, looks up-ward with a smile of triumph, and holds in one hand his blazing torch. It is a beautiful idea, and Thorwaldsen has made the marble eloquent with feeling.

The inside of the square formed by the arcades and the New Residence is filled with noble old trees which in summer make a leafy roof over the pleasant walks. In the middle stands a grotto ornamented with rough pebbles and shells, and only needing a fountain to make it a perfect hall of Neptune. Passing through the northern arcade, one comes into the magnificent park called the English Garden, which extends more than four miles along the bank of the Isar, several branches of whose milky current wander through it and form one or two pretty cascades. It is a beautiful alteration of forest and meadow, and has all the richness and garden-like luxuriance of English scenery. Winding walks lead along the Isar or through the wood of venerable oaks, and sometimes a lawn of half a mile in length, with a picturesque temple at its farther end, comes in sight through the trees.

The New Residence is not only one of the wonders of Munich, but of the world. Altho commenced in 1826 and carried on constantly since that time by a number of architects, sculptors and painters, it is not yet finished; if art were not inexhaustible, it would be difficult to imagine what more could be added. The north side of the Max Joseph Platz, is taken up by its front of four hundred and thirty feet, which was nine years in building, under the direction of the architect Klenze. The exterior is copied after the Palazzo Pitti, in Florence. The building is of light brown sandstone, and combines an elegance, and even splendor, with the most chaste and classic style. The northern front, which faces the royal garden, is now nearly finished. It has the enormous length of eight hundred feet; in the middle is -a portico of ten Ionic columns. In-stead of supporting a triangular facade, each pillar stands separate and bears a marble statue from the chisel of Schwanthaler.

The interior of the building does not disappoint the promise of the outside. It is open every afternoon, in the absence of the king, for the inspection of visitors. We went early to the waiting-hall, where several travelers were already assembled, and at four o’clock were admitted into the newer part of the palace, containing the throne-hall, ball-room, etc. On entering the first hall, designed for the lackeys and royal servants, we were all obliged to thrust our feet into cloth slippers to walk over the polished mosaic floor. The walls are of scagliola marble and the ceilings ornamented brilliantly in fresco. The second hall, also for servants, gives tokens of increasing splendors in the richer decorations of the walls and the more elaborate mosaic of the floor. We next entered the audience chamber, in which the court-marshal receives the guests. The ceiling is of arabesque sculpture profusely painted and gilded.

Finally we entered the Hall of the Throne. Here the encaustic decoration so plentifully employed in the other rooms is dropt, and an effect even more brilliant obtained by the united use of marble and gold. Picture along hall with a floor of polished marble, on each side twelve columns of white marble with gilded capitals, between which stand colossal statues of gold. At the other end is the throne of gold and crimson, with gorgeous hangings of crimson velvet. The twelve statues in the hall are called the ” Wittelsbach Ancestors” and represent renowned members of the house of Wittelsbach from which the present family of Bavaria is descended. They were cast in bronze by Stiglmaier after the models of Schwanthaler, and then completely covered with a coating of gold; so that they resemble solid golden statues. The value of the precious metal on each one is about three thousand dollars, as they are nine feet in height.

We visited yesterday morning the Glyptothek, the finest collection of ancient sculpture except that in the British Museum I have yet seen, and perhaps elsewhere unsurpassed north of the Alps. The building, which was finished by Klenze in 1830, has an Ionic portico of white marble, with a group of allegorical figures representing Sculpture and the kindred arts. On each side of the portico there are three niches in the front, containing on one side Pericles, Phidias and Vulcan; on the other, Hadrian, Prometheus and Daedalus. The whole building forms a hollow square and is lighted entirely from the inner side. There are in all twelve halls, each containing the remains of a particular era in the art, and arranged according to time; so that, beginning with the clumsy productions of the ancient Egyptians, one passes through the different stages of Grecian art, afterward that of Rome, and finally ends with the works of our own times—the almost Grecian perfection of Thorwaldsen and Canova. These halls are worthy to hold such treasures, and what more could be said of them? The floors are of marble mosaic, the sides of green or purple scagliola and the vaulted ceilings covered with raised ornaments on a ground of gold. No two are alike in color and decoration, and yet there is a unity of taste and design in the whole which renders the variety delightful.

From the Egyptian Hall we enter one containing the oldest remains of Grecian sculpture, before the artists won power to mold the marble to their conceptions. Then follow the celebrated AEgina marbles, from the temple of Jupiter Panhellenius, on the island of AEgina. They formerly stood in the two porticoes, the one group representing the fight for the body of Laomedon, the other the struggle for the dead Patroclus. The parts wanting have been admirably restored by Thorwaldsen. They form almost the only existing specimens of the AEginetan school. Passing through the Apollo Hall,’ we enter the large Hall of Bacchus, in which the progress of the art is distinctly apparent. A satyr lying asleep on a goatskin which he has thrown over a rock is believed to be the work of Praxiteles. The relaxation of the figure and perfect repose of every limb is wonderful. The countenance has traits of individuality which led me to think it might have been a portrait, perhaps of some rude country swain.

In the Hall of Niobe, which follows, is one of the most perfect works that ever grew into life under a sculptor’s chisel. Mutilated as it is, with-out head and arms, I never saw a more expressive figure. Ilioneus, the son of Niobe, is represented as kneeling, apparently in the moment in which Apollo raises his arrow, and there is an imploring supplication in his attitude which is touching in the highest degree. His beautiful young limbs seem to shrink involuntarily from the deadly shaft; there is an expression of prayer, almost of agony, in the position of his body. It should be left untouched. No head could be added which would equal that one pictures to himself while gazing upon it.

The Pinacothek is a magnificent building of yellow sandstone, five hundred and thirty feet long, containing thirteen hundred pictures selected with great care from the whole private collection of the king, which amounts to nine thousand. Above the cornice on the southern side stand twenty-five colossal statues of celebrated painters by Schwanthaler. As we approached, the tall bronze door was opened by a servant in the Bavarian livery, whose size’ harmonized so well with the giant pro-portions of the building that until I stood beside him and could mark the contrast I did not notice his enormous frame. I saw then that he must be near eight feet high and stout in proportion. He reminded me of the great “Raver of Trient,” in Vienna. The Pinacothek contains the most complete collection of works by old German artists anywhere to be found. There are in the Hall of the Spanish Masters half a dozen of Murillo’s inimitable beggar-groups.

It was a relief, after looking upon the distressingly stiff figures of the old German school, to view these fresh, natural countenances. One little black-eyed boy has just cut a slice out of a melon, and turns with a full mouth to his companion, who is busy eating a bunch of grapes. The simple, con. tented expression on the faces of the beggars is admirable. I thought I detected in a beautiful child with dark curly locks the original of his celebrated infant St. John. I was much interested in two small juvenile works of Raphael and his own portrait. The latter was taken, most probably, after he became known as a painter. The calm, serious smile which we see on his portrait as a boy had vanished, and the thin features and sunken eye told of intense mental labor.