Nymphenburg Palace

Nymphenburg Palace was the main summer residence for the Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Maria¹, Elector of Bavaria, in 1663. He and his wife, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy (shown below), were so grateful for the birth of their long-awaited male heir, Maximilian II Emanuel (born in 1662, 12 years after their marriage), that they had both Nymphenburg Palace and the Theatiner Church built. (The Theatiner Church was the beautiful yellow church referenced in the “Salt, Walls & Beer Halls post).

The central section of the Palace was finished in 1675, and the Palace has gradually expanded over the years. At the time of its construction, it was still located a good distance outside of Munich in the open countryside.

Below: Early Nymphenburg Palace, copperplate engraving by M. Wening 1701.

In 1701 Ferdinand Maria’s son, Maximilian II Emanuel², added the two flanking pavilions on either side of the central building, and connected them with gallery wings, which gives the Palace its appearance today. He was obliged to spend some time abroad in France and the Netherlands during the War of the Spanish Succession between 1701-1715 and, when he returned, brought back some French-trained artists to help him enlarge and design a few of his architectural projects, including Nymphenburg Palace. He was also inspired by the canals that he saw in the Netherlands and added a few of those to his properties.

Below: One of the canals in the park around Nymphenburg Palace.

The tour of the Palace begins in the Great Hall. The central room in the Palace has not changed much in form since Nymphenburg was first built. Maximilian III Joseph commissioned the stunning frescoes and rococo stucco-work that decorates the roof and walls of the Hall between 1755-1757. The Great Hall has remained unchanged since 1758.

The painting on the ceiling is Olympia, the heaven of the Greek gods. Apollo is in the centre with his sun chariot.

In the section of the painting featured below, nymphs pay homage to Flora – a fellow nymph who has become a Goddess. This is a reference to the name of the Palace.

Everywhere you look in this room, there’s another pocket of beauty.

Below is the North Salettl (antechamber). It features a picture of Maximilian III Joseph on one wall, and his second wife Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska on the other.

The picture on the ceiling is of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture.

This painter shows Maximilian III Joseph’s son, Karl Albrecht/Carl Albert (German spelling/English spelling, used interchangeably depending on the source).

The table below is from the Medici court workshop in Florence. 

This room used to be a bedchamber, but was repurposed in 1803. The large painting is of the Bavarian and Saxon family in 1761, making music and playing cards. Maximilian II Emanuel had his own Little Gallery of French Beauties, which he brought back from Versailles. They are exhibited on the walls of this room.

The fabric on the Parisian style seating in this room is a 2014 reproduction from an old pattern.

More Beauties. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get very close to them.

A painting of the Sea Goddess Thetis, dating from around 1674, is on the ceiling of the same room.

The Writing Cabinet.

Maximilian II Emanuel’s Great Gallery of Beauties features five ladies from the French court of Louis XIV, painted in 1715.

A nearby information panel read that the person below is Mary-Louise Elisabeth of Bourbon-Orléans, Duchess of Berry (1695-1719): “She is the highest-ranking lady in Maximilian II Emanuel’s Great Gallery of Beauties. She is the daughter of Duke Philippe d’Orléans, who ruled France from 1715-1723, and granddaughter of King Louis XIV. She wears a coat embroidered with Bourbon lilies. Painted next to a Seville orange tree as a symbol of life in full bloom. Married at 14, dead at 19, she lived a short life that was surrounded by scandal.” She sounds like someone I want to know more about.

The Coat of Arms Chamber. The tapestry shows the combined coat of arms for the Kurpfalz (Electorate of the Palatinate) and Pfalz-Sulzbach of Elector Charles Theodore and his first wife Elisabeth Augusta.

I really liked the floral aspects of the tapestry.

The chair was gorgeous.

Let me indulge in one more photo of it.

The marble bust portrays Elector Charles Theodore as Hercules, made in 1780.

The Carl Theodore Chamber with a picture of, you guessed it, Carl Theodore. I took such an extreme angle of the photo in an effort to not get any glare on it from a nearby light.

This is Carl Theodore’s second wife, Maria Leopoldine of Austria-Este. I like that you can see the towers of the Frauenkirche in the background of her portrait!

The North Gallery was used for ceremonial entry into Maximilian II Emanuel’s apartment. Visitors had the chance here to study Maximilian’s building projects featured in these paintings. They were painted in 1722/1723.

Nymphenburg Palace viewed from the front. (This also shows how the Palace used to be located in the open countryside).

Nymphenburg Palace viewed from the back, from the gardens.

Nothing like a good fancy ship.

A close-up of the fancy ship.

Dogs chasing a stag on a hunt out into the water.

The antechamber. This features a photo of Ferdinand Maria, and his wife Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, Maximilian II Emanuel’s parents.

The ceiling painting is of Cybele, Mother Earth.

This bedchamber features portraits of Maximilian II Emanuel and his second wife, Therese Kunigunde. They were painted in 1704. The bed is from a later time period.

The Electress did sleep with this painting of the flower goddess Flora on her ceiling.

The Queen’s Bedroom. Maximilian II’s wife, Marie of Prussia, gave birth to their son, Ludwig II, in this room.


Swans, everywhere.

The Amalienburg. Karl Albrecht commissioned this in 1734 as a small pleasure palace and hunting lodge for his wife, Maria Amalia.

The Large Salon, or Hall of Mirrors, is the central feature of the building.

The Yellow Room. The picture on the left is Karl Albrecht, the picture on the right is Maria Amalia.

A close-up of the bed.

There are lots of paintings in the Yellow Room.

Looking back out towards the Hall of Mirrors.

The Kitchen.

The Badenburg, “the House of Baths”, was built between 1718-1722. It was commissioned by Maximilian II Emanuel. In addition to the Bathing Room, there are apartments for the Elector and a Banqueting Hall.

A small corner of the Banqueting Hall.

The painting on the ceiling of the Banqueting Hall feature some classical scenes involving bathing.

The gold gilt work sticks to the theme as well.

The wall in one of the Elector’s apartments.

People were able to look down into the bathing area from the gallery on the second storey.

Below is the bathing area.

The Pagodenburg was commissioned between 1716-1719 by Maximilian II Emanuel. It was used as a resting place after playing a game of “Mailspiel”, a largely forgotten ball-hitting game.

There was a fourth small building that we didn’t make it to – the Magdalenenklause (Magdalene Hermitage). At this point in the day our feet were aching and I still wanted to see the carriage museum. I knew that we would probably only have energy for one of them, so I prioritized the carriages. Which is a shame because, as you can see from the picture I pulled from the Bavarian Palace Department, the Magdalenenklause looks super cute. Perhaps next time!

The Magdalenenklause was commissioned by Maximilian II Emanuel, commissioned the building in 1725 but passed away (in 1726) before its completion in 1728. His son, Karl Albrecht, completed the project. The building was conceived of as the living quarters of a hermit, and as a place for the Elector to escape from reality.

There is also a Museum of Nymphenburg Porcelain on-site, as there was a porcelain factory on the Palace grounds! We were running out of time and porcelain is not quite my thing, but I bet it would be fun to look into if you are interested in porcelain. The picture below is also from the Bavarian Palace Department website.

Wandering around the grounds of Nymphenburg Park reminded me a lot of wandering the grounds of Versailles. This is probably no accident, as Maximilian II Emanuel spent some time there and brought his French team of artists and landscapers back with him. It is a beautiful park with a gorgeous palace, especially that Grand Hall. My favourite parts of the Palace, Ludwig I’s Gallery of Beauties and the Carriage Museum, will be continued in my next two posts!

As a special treat, here are some pictures I found of Nymphenburg Palace from Pixabay. King Ludwig II would probably really like the one with the swans!

A maybe-not-so-brief overview of Nymphenburg Palace occupants that I mention in this post, and their relationship to the Palace:

¹Ferdinand Maria:Elector of Bavaria, reign 1651-1679. Son of Maximilian I, who was referred to as “Maximilian the Great.” Wife Henriette Adelaide of Savoy (married 1650). They were so grateful for the birth of their long-awaited son, Maximilian II Emanuel (born 1662), that they had the Theatiner Church built in 1663 and Nymphenburg Palace in 1664. He also purchased Lake Starnberg and had Berg Castle built (where Ludwig II’s death took place under mysterious circumstances over 200 years later).

Maximilian II

Maria Antonia of Austria

²Maximilian II Emanuel: Elector of Bavaria, reign 1679-1726. Ferdinand’s son. Added the two sidepavilions and connected them to the central pavilions with gallery wings. Commissioned the Badenburg and the Pagodenburg. Brought French designers to the palace, and added canals like the ones he had seen in the Netherlands. He was the centre of lots of political intrigue, detailed below:

First wife: Maria Antonia of Austria (married 1685-her death in 1692). She was the daughter of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. Their son, Joseph Ferdinand, had a claim to the Spanish throne through his mother. But he died in 1699. His death was quite sudden, and rumoured to be due to poison.

Second wife: Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska (married 1694). She was the daughter of the King of Poland, John III Sobieski. One of their sons, Charles Albert/Karl Albrecht, would become Holy Roman Emperor in 1742.

Joseph Ferdinand

When Charles II of Spain died in 1700 naming the grandson of French king Louis XIV as his heir, the Spanish War of Succession happened (1701-1714). The rest of Europe didn’t want France and Spain united. In 1701, Maximilian had hatched a plan for how the Wittelsbach family would supplant the Habsburgs as Holy Roman Emperors. He would ally himself with the French against the Habsburgs. But he and the French would be defeated in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, and he would have to flee to the Netherlands, and later France, with his court, leaving Bavaria to the Austrian Habsburgs. Theresa was in Venice as she had gone there after discovering letters from Maximilian’s mistress, and wasn’t allowed to return. Maximilian became separated from his sons and they were held prisoner for several years in Austria. The family wouldn’t be reunited again until 1715, after the war had ended and they returned to Munich.

³Karl Albrecht/Charles Albert: Elector of Bavaria, reign 1726-1745; King of Bohemia, reign 1741-1743; Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles VII), 1742-1745. Wife Maria Amalia of Austria (daughter of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor). Great grandson of Maximilian I. Son of Maximilian II. First person NOT born of the House of Hapsburg to become Emperor in three centuries, but was connected to the house by blood and marriage. Continued the construction projects of his father on Nymphenburg. Added the Amalienburg. Died at Nymphenburg Palace in 1745.

Maximilian III Joseph: Elector of Bavaria, reign 1745-1777. Spouse Maria Anna Sophia of Saxony. No children. His death led to a succession dispute. He was succeeded by a distant cousin, Charles Theodore, Elector Palatine. He added the opulent decoration that can be seen today in the Great Hall at Nymphenburg Palace.

Charles Theodore: Elector Palatine 1742-1777; Elector of Bavaria and Count Palatine of the Rhine 1777-1799. Had no surviving legitimate children with his first wife, Countess Palatine Elisabeth Augusta of Sulzbach, nor his second wife Archduchess Maria Leopoldine of Austria-Este. Had lots of illegitimate children, but they couldn’t succeed him as ruler of Bavaria. He was succeeded by his cousin Maximilian Joseph IV (as Elector of Bavaria) and I (as King of Bavaria). Didn’t change much at Nymphenburg Palace. He did open the park to the public in 1792.

Maximilian Joseph IV (Bavarian Elector) and I (Bavarian King): Elector of Bavaria, reign 1799-1806; First King of Bavaria, reign 1806-1825. First wife Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt. Second wife Karoline of Baden. Father of Ludwig I. Redesigned some of the rooms and appointed them with Neo-classical furniture. He had the geometrical French gardens changed into an English-style landscape garden. Father of Ludwig I. Ludwig II, who was born here, was his great-grandson. (Maximilian IV/I → Ludwig I→ Maximilian II → Ludwig II).

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