General Introduction. This blog consists of 11 chapters (so far) discussing Austrian and German wunderkammern that can be visited today,despite being up to 450 years old, and comparing these to one I designed. In blog format, the first posting (chapter) is listed last and the last one (this one) first. Refer to the Contents, at right, to orient yourself…or if you don’t mind beginning in the middle, read on. Antiques for sale, appropriate for wunderkammern, are shown in Inventory and by Category, listed below Contents (right).
Chapter 11: The Wunderkammer I Designed and Built
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10) Vienna, 200-plus Years of Hapsburg Collecting
Vienna is about 300 miles (5 hour’s drive time) east of Innsbruck. About 100 miles into the trip you will pass through Salzburg, home of the Dommuseum. Located in the dome of the cathedral, simply called Dom, this wunderkammer was founded in the late 17th century by the archbishop of Salzburg. Unfortunately this was closed for renovations during our May, 2009 passage but has since been reopened, and my research indicated it my well be worth a visit.
Vienna, of course, is a cultural hub. We focused on two national museums situated in two imposing baroque and vitually identical buildings facing each other across an open mall, the Natural History Museum and the Art History Museum. The parallel architecture and placement of these museums suggest that art and natural history are equally important, a familiar wunderkammer theme. Read the full article »
About 6 hours south of Kassel, and on the other side of the Alps is the beautiful city of Innsbruck, Austria, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and nestled in a lush green valley ablaze, in early May, with the cherry and lilac blossoms.
It is here that Hapsburg Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595) moved to in 1564, converting a gothic castle into a Renaissance palace, and here that one of the most satisfying wunderkammern can be seen today. It is exhibited in the same place and in much the same manner as was first installed by Ferdinand in the 1560’s. Read the full article »
Kassel is about 2 hours east of Halle by car. Here the noble family, the Landgraves of Hessen-Kassel, presided over a prosperous community for centuries and, not surprisingly, reflected their good fortune in the family wonder chamber.
Their collection was begun by Landgrave Wilhelm “the Wise” (Wilhelm IV who died 1597), continued by his son, Moritz “the Learned” (died 1627), and his descendant Karl in the late 17th century. And in the 1770’s, Landgrave Frederich II sponsored one of the first museums open to the public.
Unfortunately the princely wunderkammer no longer exists, but many of the items remain in the city distributed among the museums there. Thus you must assemble the wunderkammer in your mind by visiting the Ottonium for natural history, the nearby Orangery for scientific instruments and the kunstkammer for art. Read the full article »
Halle is about a 1 ½ hours’ drive northwest of Dresden. This is the home of the Francke Foundation and its cabinet of curiosities and artifacts.
Founded in 1698 by Lutheran theologian and educator August Herman Francke (1663-1727), the Foundation was first and foremost an orphanage and secondly a progressive school for all social classes. Thus Francke formed the wunderkammer as a teaching tool. Francke was obviously an effective fundraiser for not only did he raise the money to build the substantial Foundation but also induced people worldwide to provide as gifts most of the almost 5000 items of the collection. Read the full article »
Although only an hour’s drive from our last stop, Waldenburg, the wunderkammern of Dresden are clearly in another world.
Despite being firebombed to rubble by the Allies during World War II, Dresden has arisen from the ashes miraculously to its former baroque glory and today houses two, not one, over-the-top wunderkammern. The Historic Green Vaults were designed by Augustus II and opened (very selectively) to the public in 1730. The New Green Vaults contain other princely assets originally housed elsewhere, plus items added after Augustus’s death in 1733. Together they represent Europe’s most magnificent treasury museum, and to the American mind, an embarrassment of riches. Read the full article »
About 3 hours by car northeast of Landshut (our last stopover) and say 4 to 5 hours from Munich is the little town of Waldenburg, Germany (formally, East Germany) which houses an appealing wunderkammer, the Cabinet of Natural Sciences. The wunderkammern discussed in the last two chapters in Munich and Landshut were both first-period (pre-1650) and princely. At the other end of the spectrum is this one. Began in the second period (post-1650), this systematically-presented collection was founded by commoners and focused almost exclusively on natural history.
The wunderkammer was founded about 1670 by pharmacist Heinrich Linck (1638-1717) of Leipzig and added to by his son, Johann (1674-1734) also a pharmacist, and in turn by Johann’s son, Johann the Younger (1734-1807). Otto Victor I (1785-1859) prince of Schonburg-Waldenburg, purchased the Linck collection in 1841, moved it to its current location, and significantly added to it. It retains a Victorian character today and occupies over 9 rooms in a sea of glass cabinets. Read the full article »
Installed in the 13th century Trausnitz Castle, overlooking the town of Landshut, about 50 miles northeast of Munich is the wunderkammer begun by the Bavarian Duke Wilhelm V (1548-1626), Duke Albrecht V’s son. When Wilhelm assumed the title of duke in 1579, he moved his whole household including his collection to Munich, joining his wunderkammer with his father’s (see prior chapter). Interestingly in 1597 at the age of 47, Wilhelm turned over the government to his son, Maximillian, and thereafter until his death in 1626 led a life devoted to piety, asceticism, chastity, and the placid enjoyment of his collections of works of art and curiosities (Catholic Encyclopedia on line).
The present collection has been rebuilt based upon archival records. The exhibits are split into 4 sections, naturalia, artificialia, the expected two plus two others, exotica, marvels from foreign lands, and scientifica, scientific tools and instruments. Read the full article »
The wunderkammer of Bavarian Duke Albrecht V (1528-1579) was one of the grandest 1st period ones ever built. It housed over 3500 items and was installed over the ducal stables in several rooms, some of which were over 100 feet long (MacGregor, p13-15). Reportedly it consisted of both naturalia and artificialia, and according to contemporary expert, Samuel Quiccheburg, was arranged according to materials (ivory items grouped together, then wood items, etc) (Kenseth, p85). It was very much a microcosm of God’s world, and thus served as a suitable model for Quiccheburg to refer to in his important wunderkammerist’s manual of 1565.
Unfortunately, it was over 95% destroyed by war and voluntary dispersal, and the only vestige today is the collection of precious materials retained by the Bavarian treasury. Fortunately, the items which do remain are well worth a visit.
While the entire wunderkammer before dispersal may well have demonstrated a thirst for universal knowledge, the princely items which remain in the treasury certainly would have inspired the kind of respect and fear that must have favorably impacted Albrecht’s statecraft.
The collection today is placed in 10 adjoining rooms in the Munich Residence in modern, well-lit display cases. Some of these princely objects include:
The earliest English Queen crown extant, made about 1575. Read the full article »
Ferrante Imperator, Dell'historia naturale, 1599, the first published image of a wunderkammer
Generally there were few rules governing the creation of a wunderkammer. 1) Be broad in your collecting. These after all were renaissance men. But the impetus to be broad was more than good manners. Consultants in this field back then advised you to be so broad that you were creating a microcosm of the entirety of God’s world. 2) Use symmetry where you can in your display. 3) Heighten the magic of your presentation by juxtaposing unlike objects for dramatic effect. Otherwise, there really weren’t rules…so the collections tended to be a very personal reflection of the owner’s interests…sort of your own 3-D walk-thru sculpture. And no two were alike.
Nonetheless, you can fit them into categories, based on their date founded, contents, and status of the owner Read the full article »