My View: Looking At Munich

I thought I had seen every thing in Vienna that could excite admiration or gratify fancy; here I have my former sensations to live over again, in an augmented degree. It is well I was at first somewhat prepared by our previous travel, otherwise the glare and splendor of wealth and art in this German Athens might blind me to the beauties of the cities we shall yet visit. I have been walking in a dream where the fairy tales of boyhood were realized, and the golden and jeweled halls of the Eastern genii rose glittering around me-” a vision of the brain no more.” All I had conceived of oriental magnificence, all descriptions of the splendor of kingly halls and palaces, fall far short of what I here see. Where shall I begin to describe the crowd of splendid edifices that line its streets, or how give an idea of the profusion of paintings and statues-of marble, jasper and gold?

Art has done everything for Munich. It lies on a large, flat 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 deserve an immortality of fame.

Now, if you have nothing else to do, let us take a stroll down the Ludwigstrasse. As we pass the Theatiner Church, with its dome and towers, the broad street opens before us, stretching away to the north, between rows of magnificent buildings. Just at this southern end, is the Sehlusshalle, an open temple of white marble terminating the avenue. To the right of us extend the arcades, with the trees of the Royal Garden peeping above them; on the left is the spacious concert building of the Odeon, and the palace of the Duke of Leuchtenberg, son of Eugene Beauharnois. Passing through a row of palace-like private buildings, we come to the Army Department, on the right-a neat and tasteful building of white sandstone. Beside it stands the Library, which possesses the first special claim on our admiration. With its splendid front of five hundred and eighteen feet, the yellowish brown cement with which the body is covered, making an agreeable contrast with the dark red window-arches and cornices, and the statues of Homer, Hippocrates, Thucydides and Aristotle guarding the portal, is it not a worthy receptacle for the treasures of ancient and modern lore which its halls contain?

Nearly opposite stands the Institute for the Blind, a plain but large building of dark red brick, covered with cement, and further, the Ludwig’s Kirche, or Church of St. Louis. How lightly the two square towers of gray marble lift their network of sculpture ! And what a novel and beautiful effect is produced by uniting the Byzantine style of architectur√© to the form of the Latin cross! Over the arched portal stand marble statues by Schwanthaler, and the roof of brilliant tiles worked into mosaic, looks like a rich Turkey carpet covering the whole. We must enter to get an idea of the splendor of this church. Instead of the pointed arch which one would expect to see meeting above his head, the lofty pillars on each side bear an unbroken semicircular vault, which is painted a brilliant blue, and spangled with silver stars. These pillars, and the little arches above, which spring from them, are painted in an arabesque style with gold and brilliant colors, and each side-chapel is a perfect casket of richness and elegance. The windows are of silvered glass, through which the light glimmers softly on the splendor within. The whole end of the church behind the high altar, is taken up with Cornelius’ celebrated fresco painting of the ” Last Judgment,”-the largest painting in the world–and the circular dome in the centre of the cross contains groups of martyrs, prophets, saints and kings, painted in fresco on a ground of gold.

The work of Cornelius has been greatly praised for sublimity of design and beauty of execution, by many acknowledged judges; I was disappointed in it, but the fault lay most probably in me and not in the painting. The richness and elegance of the church took me all “aback it was so entirely different from anything I had seen, that it was difficult to decide whether I was most charmed by its novelty or its beauty. Still, as a building designed to excite feelings of worship, it seems to me inappropriate. A. vast, dim Cathedral would be far preferable; the devout, humble heart cannot feel at home amid such glare and brightness.

As we leave the church and walk further on, the street expands suddenly into a broad square. One side is formed by the new University building and the other by the Royal Seminary, both displaying in their architecture new forms of the graceful Byzantine school, which the architects of Munich have adapted in a striking manner to so many varied purposes. On each side stands a splendid colossal fountain of bronze, throwing up a great mass of water, which falls in a triple cataract to the marble basin below. A short distance beyond this square the Ludwigstrasse terminates. It is said the, end will be closed by a magnificent gate, on a style to correspond with the unequalled avenue to which it will give entrance. To one standing at the southern end, it would form a proper termination to the grand vista. Before we leave, turn around and glance back, down this street, which extends for half a mile between such buildings as we have just viewed, and tell me if it is not something of which a city and a king may boast, to have created all this within less than twenty years.

We went one morning to see the collection of paintings formerly belonging to Eugene Beauharnois, who was a brother-in-law to the present king of Bavaria, in the palace of his son, the Duke of Leuchtenberg. 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 attracts the eye. There is also a kneeling Magdalen, lovely in her woe, by the same sculptor, and a very touching work of Schadow, representing a shepherd boy tenderly binding his sash around a lamb which he has accidentally wounded with his arrow.

We have since seen in the St. Michael’s Church, the monument to Eugene Beauharnois, 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 upwards 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. I was bet-ter pleased with this park than with the Prater in Vienna. Its paths are always filled with persons enjoying the change from the dusty streets to its quiet and cool retirement.

The New Residence is not only one of the wonders of Munich, but of the world. Although 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 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 on 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 ; instead 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 ; fortunately for us, his majesty is at present on a journey through his provinces on the Rhine. We went early to the waiting hall, where several travellers were al-ready 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 splendor in the richer decorations of the walls and the more elaborate mosaic of the floor. We next entered the receiving saloon, in which the Court Marshal receives the guests. The ceiling is of arabesque sculpture, profusely painted and gilded. Passing through a little cabinet, we entered the great dancing saloon. Its floor is the richest mosaic of wood of different colors, the sides are of polished scagliola marble, and the ceiling a dazzling mixture of sculpture, painting and gold. At one end is a gallery for the orchestra, sup-ported by six columns of variegated marble, above which are six dancing nymphs, painted so beautifully that they appear like living creatures. Every decoration which could be devised has been used to heighten its splendor, and the artists appear to have made free use of the Arabian Knights in forming the plan.

We entered next two smaller rooms containing the portraits of beautiful women, principally from the German nobility. I gave the preference to the daughter of Marco Bozzaris, now maid of honor to the Queen of Greece. She had a wild dark eye, a beautiful proud lip, and her rich black hair rolled in glossy waves down her neck from under the red Grecian cap stuck jauntily on the side of her head. She wore a scarf and close-fitting vest embroidered with gold, and there was a free, lofty spirit in her countenance worthy the name she bore. These pictures form a gallery of beauty, whose equal cannot easily be found.

Returning to the dancing hall, we entered the dining saloon, also called the Hall of Charlemagne. Each wall has two magnificent fresco paintings of very large size, representing some event in the life of the great emperor, beginning with his annointing at St. Deny’s as a boy of twelve years, and ending with his coronation by Leo III. A second dining saloon, the Hall of Barbarossa, adjoins the first. It has also eight frescoes as the former, representing the principal events in the life of Frederic Barbarossa. Then comes a third, called the Hapsburg Hall, with four grand paintings from the life of Rudolph of Hapsburg, and a triumphal procession along the frieze, showing the improvement in the arts and sciences which was accomplished under his reign. The drawing, composition and rich tone of coloring of these glorious frescoes, are scarcely excelled by any in existence.

Finally we entered the Hall of the Throne. Here the encaustic decoration, so plentifully employed in the other rooms, is dropped, and an effect even more brilliant obtained by the united use of marble and gold. Picture a long 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 “Wittlesbach Ancestors,” and represent renowned members of the house of Wittlesbach 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 $3,000, as they are nine feet in height ! What would the politicians who made such an outcry about the new papering of the President’s House, say to such a palace as this?

Going back to the starting point, we went to the other wing of the edifice and joined the party who came to visit the apartments of the king. Here we were led through two or three rooms, appropriated to the servants, with all the splendor of marble doors, floors of mosaic, and frescoed ceilings. From these we entered the king’s dwelling. The entrance halls are decorated with paintings of the Argonauts and illustrations of the Hymns of Hesiod, after drawings by Schwanthaler. Then came the Service Hall, containing frescoes illustrating Homer, by Schnorr, and the Throne Hall, with Schwanthaler’s bas-reliefs of the songs of Pindar, on a ground of gold. The throne stands under a splendid crimson canopy. The Dining Room with its floor of polished wood is filled with illustrations of the songs of Anacreon. To these follow the Dressing Room, with twenty-seven illustrations of the Comedies of Aristophanes, and the sleeping chamber with frescoes after the poems of Theocritus, and two beautiful bas-reliefs representing angels bearing children to Heaven. It is no wonder the King writes poetry when he breathes, eats, and even sleeps in an atmosphere of it.

We were shown the rooms for the private parties of the Court, the school-room, with scenes from the life of the Ancient Greeks, and then conducted down the marble staircase to the lower story, which is to contain Schnorr’s magnificent frescoes of the Nibelungen Lied-the old German Iliad. Two halls are at present finished ; the first has the figure of the author, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, and those of Chriemhilde, Brunhilde, Siegfried and the other personages of the poem; and the second, called the Marriage Hall, contains the marriage of Chriemhilde and Siegfried, and the triumphal entry of Siegfrled into Worms.

Adjoining the new residence on the east, is the Royal Chapel, lately finished in the Byzantine style, under the direction of Klenze. To enter it, is like stepping into a casket of jewels. The

sides are formed by a double range of arches, the windows being so far back as to be almost out of sight, so that the eye falls on nothing but painting and gold. The lower row of arches is of alternate green and purple marble, beautifully polished ; but the upper, as well as the small chancel behind the high altar, is entirely covered with fresco paintings on a ground of gold ! The richness and splendor of the whole church is absolutely incredible. Even after one has seen the Ludwig’s Kirche and the Residence itself, it excites astonishment. I was surprised, however, to find at this age, a painting on the wall behind the altar, representing the Almighty. It seems as if man’s presumption has no end. The simple altar of Athens, with its inscription to the Unknown God,” was more truly reverent than this. As I sat down awhile under one of the arches, a poor woman came in, carrying a heavy basket, and going to the steps which led up to the altar, knelt down and prayed, spreading her arms out in the form of a cross. Then, after stooping and kissing the first step, she dragged herself with her knees upon it, and commenced praying again with outspread arms. This she continued till she had climbed them all, which occupied some time; then, as if she had fulfilled a vow she turned and departed. She was undoubtedly sincere in her piety, but it made me sad to look upon such deluded superstition.

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 Da dales. 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, afterwards 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 mould the marble to their conceptions. Then follow the celebrated Egina marbles, from the temple of Jupiter Panhellenius, on the island of Egina. 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 Eginetan 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 goat-skin 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, without 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 proportions 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 “Baver 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-dyed 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.

One of the most remarkable buildings now in the course of erection is the Basilica, or Church of St. Bonifacius. It represents another form of the Byzantine style, a kind of double edifice, a little like a North River steamboat, with a two story cabin on deck. The inside is not yet finished, although the artists have been at work on it for six years, but we heard many accounts of its splendor, which is said to exceed anything that has been yet done in Munich. We visited today the atelier of Schwanthaler, which is al-ways open to strangers. The sculptor himself was not there, but five or six of his scholars were at work in the rooms, building up clay statues after his models and working out bas-reliefs in frames. We saw here the original models of the statues on the Pinacothek, and the “Whittelsbach Ancestors” in the Throne Hall of the palace. I was glad also to find a miniature copy in plaster, of the Herrmannsschlacht, or combat of the old German hero, Herrmann, with the Romans, from the frieze of Walhalla, at Ratisbon. It is one of Schwanthaler’s best works. Herrmann, as the middle figure, is represented in fight with the Roman general ; behind him the warriors are rushing on, and an old bard is striking the chords of his harp to inspire them, while women bind up the wounds of the fallen. The Roman soldiers on the other side are about turning in confusion to fly. It is a lofty and appropriate subject for the portico of a building containing the figures of the men who have la-ored for the glory and elevation of their Fatherland.

Our new-found friend came to visit us last evening and learn our impressions of Munich. In the course of conversation we surprised him by revealing the name of our country. His countenance brightened up and he asked us many questions about the state of society in America. In return, he told us something more about himself-his story was simple, but it interested me. His father was a merchant, who, having been ruined by unlucky transactions, died, leaving a numerous family without the means of support. His children were obliged to commence life alone and unaided, which, in a country where labor is so cheap, is difficult and disheartening. Our friend chose the profession of a machinist, which, after encountering great obstacles, he succeeded in learning, and now supports himself as a common laborer. But his position, in this respect, prevents him from occupying that station in society for which he is intellectually fitted. His own words, uttered with a simple pathos which I can never forget, will best describe how painful this must be to a sensitive spirit. “I tell you thus frankly my feelings,” said he, “because I know you will understand me. I could not say this to any of my associates,. for they would not comprehend it, and they would say I am proud, because I cannot bring my soul down to their level. am poor and have but little to subsist upon; but the spirit has needs as well as the body, and I feel it a duty and a desire to satisfy them also. When I am with any of my common fellow-laborers, what do I gain from them? Their leisure hours are spent in drinking and idle amusement, and I cannot join them, for I have no sympathy with such things. To mingle with those above me would be impossible. Therefore I am alone-I have no associate !”

I have gone into minute, and it may be, tiresome detail, in describing some of the edifices of Munich, because it seemed the only way in which I could give an idea of their wonderful beauty. It is true that in copying after the manner of the daguerreotype, there is danger of imitating its dullness also, but I trust to the glitter of gold and rich paintings, for a little brightness in the picture. We leave tomorrow morning, having received the sum written for, which, to our surprise, will be barely sufficient to enable us to reach Heidelberg.