All right, it’s time to check out some sleighs!
No, not that kind, although it is that time of the year, and it’s certainly on my mind.
The Marstallmuseum (Museum of Carriages and Sleighs) was our last stop at Nymphenburg Palace. I was most excited about seeing the sleighs so we’re going to start the post with them although, while touring the museum, you’ll see the carriages first. It’s a week until Christmas and I’m feeling a little festive.
Cue the jingle bells.
This gorgeous velvet horse blanket was made for Karl Albrecht¹ in 1737-1738. It contains 426 gilded brass bells.
The sleighs and carriages discussed in this post were designed during the Baroque period (around 1600-1725ish). What is Baroque? Basically, the bigger and fancier, the better. The Munich Residenz and Nymphenburg Palace have a lot of examples of Baroque decor. Get ready to see some more gold gilt.
An information sign at the museum read that: “opulent, gilded sleighs with figural decoration can be dated back to the 16th century at the Munich Court. In the inventory to the Court stables from the year 1600 they are listed separately to the “ordinary” sleighs for overland travel. These carousel sleighs were the glorious high point in European sleigh culture in the Baroque period.”
Processions of these exquisitely decorated sleighs were a favoured winter activity of the Munich Court. They were held to mark important visits, on January 6 (Epiphany), and were especially popular during Carnival time. During Carnival, members of the Court would dress up in costumes and wear masks. Sleighs would also be driven along a marked course by a “cavalier” while the lady would use a lance, sword, or other tournament weapon to hit a ring or paper-mâché target. (You can see some of those lances in the picture above). After the day’s amusements, a masked ball would be held at the Munich Residenz.
Here are some pictures from a Winter parade in Nuremburg.
To ensure that the sleighs had a smooth ride, city authorities were responsible for making sure the streets were clean and in good condition.
Classical figures from Greek and Roman mythology were popular emblems of the splendidly decorated sleighs. The Carousel Sleigh with Hercules is the oldest sleigh in the museum, constructed around 1680-1683. Maximilian II Emanuel would have commissioned it at the beginning of his reign (1680-1726). Maximilian adopted the image of Hercules slaying the seven-headed hydra as his personal emblem.
The Carousel Sleigh with Cupid was made between 1725-1730. Sleigh riding had an erotic component to it. (Scandalous!) A favoured lady would be seated in the front of the sleigh, with the man holding the reins and half-standing, half seated, very closely behind her.
The Carousel sleigh with Diana is my favourite! It was commissioned by Karl Albrecht around 1740. Karl and his wife, Maria Amalia, loved hunting. (He built the Amalienburg as a hunting lodge and pleasure palace for her).
Diana is seated in the front of the carriage, as if she were the driver. She originally held a drawn bow in her hands.
This is a child’s sleigh with “Jupiter as a Putto.” (A putto is a naked child, especially a Cupid or cherub figure, in Renaissance Art). This sled was built between 1730-1733 and was intended for indoor use. Ponies, large dogs, or sheep would pull the little princes and princesses. Karl Albrecht acquired this sleigh for his son, Maximilian III Joseph, who was born in 1727.
Here’s the grown-up version, Carousel Sleigh with Jupiter as a Putto.
King Ludwig II was renowned for his moonlit sleigh rides. I was so excited to see his sleighs. Unfortunately, they had been roped off the day before we came to the museum, in advance of doing some work in the hallway the sleighs were kept in. GAH! These pictures were the best I could do with my zoom lens. I was so tempted to just jump over the rope, run in, and snap a few quick photos. But one of Neil’s rules for our trip is to not get arrested, so I stayed where I was (barely). Hopefully when we go back to Munich I’ll be able to see them closer up then, and take some better photos.
Here are some illustrations and paintings of Ludwig riding about in his sleigh. He had the latest of technological advances, like electrical lights, added to his sleighs.
Below are some better pictures of his sleighs, taken from around the Internet.
Maddeningly, I can’t find a photo of the Grand Sleigh. If I do, I will update this post with it.
All right, onto the rest of the museum!
I really wanted to use Maria Antonia’s Gala Sedan Chair to get us home after a long day of walking around the Palace and its grounds. Probably wouldn’t have worked out, though. It was tiny! The chair is is made of red silk velvet, silver gilt thread, and gold relief embroidery. The interior is upholstered with gold cloth. Maximilian II Emanuel commissioned the chair, along with a bridal coach, from the Parisian master saddler who also supplied the French Court in Versailles. His wedding to Maria Antonia was celebrated in Vienna. The chair was last used in 1727 for a procession celebrating the baptism of Maximilian III Joseph (Maximilian II’s grandson through his second wife).
I’ve never actually seen one of these chairs in person, although I’ve read a lot about them. Getting to see this was really cool.
This Gala Sedan Chair features the colours of the Wittelsbach family, silver and blue. It was made for Maximilian III Joseph’s wife, Maria Anna Sophia of Saxony, when they wed in 1747. She would have used it for traveling around the grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace during the summer.
This is a children’s carriage that the young princes and princesses would have used to play in the gardens and residences of Nymphenburg Palace. The carriage dates to 1697 or 1698 and is the oldest carriage in the collection. It would not have been used on official occasions. Its wheels were lined with felt to protect the floors. The carriage would have been drawn by a pony, a large dog, a sheep, or a goat. It would have originally been decorated in blue and silver colours, similar to the second sedan chair featured above. It was made for Prince Joseph Ferdinand, the ill-fated boy who died at the age of six, son of Maximilian II Emanuel and Maria Antonia of Austria.
After Bavaria was elevated to a Kingdom in 1806, Maximilian Joseph IV and I commissioned the construction of this coach. It was modelled after Napoleon’s coronation coach. Although the originally planned coronation ceremony did not take place, the coach was used for other important state ceremonial occasions. It was completed in 1813.
Did you know that a “Berlin/Berline” is the name for a type of carriage? The Berlin coach replaced the heavy caroche-style carriage in the middle of the 18th century. (The first coach in this post looks like one of those). Instead of being supported by a single solid perch, the Berlin carriage rests on two lighter-weight rails, and the body of the coach is attached to these rails by adjustable leather straps (later, steel springs). The first model of this carriage was used to travel from Berlin (which it was named after) to Paris. It was lighter, less likely to overturn, and more comfortable.
Maximilian IV and I’s coronation coach was modelled after Napoleon’s coronation coach. Bavaria became a kingdom because of its alliance with Napoleon. Well, Bavaria later switched its alliance and Napoleon was exiled, so the first coronation coach of 1813 was… no longer appropriate. Maximilian had this second coach built in 1818.
Interestingly, this coach was modelled after the coronation coach of French King Louis XVI. (I would think you’d want to avoid comparison with a guillotined King? Oh well.)
This Gala Berlin coach belonged to Elector Karl Theodore. It was built around 1747-1750.
The interior is upholstered with gold-embroidered silk velvet.
All right, that’s it for the Marstallmuseum! I hope you enjoyed the post. It was definitely a fun place to visit. Maybe next time, we’ll take the train to Nymphenburg Palace, instead of spending an hour walking there first. Our feet will thank us for it.
¹A brief overview of the owners of these splendid sleighs and carriages mentioned in this post:
Maximilian II Emanuel:Elector of Bavaria, reign 1679-1726. 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 IIISobieski. One of their sons,Charles Albert/Karl Albrecht, would become Holy Roman Emperor in 1742.
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. He returned to Munich in 1715, after the war had ended. He dedicated himself to lots of building projects, including those at Nymphenburg.
Karl 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. Really liked sleigh riding.
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/Karl 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).
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. Father of Ludwig I. Ludwig II, who was born here, was his great-grandson. (Maximilian IV/I → Ludwig I→ Maximilian II → Ludwig II).
Ludwig II: If you don’t know who Ludwig II is at this point, I haven’t done my job!