August 25: Ludwig das große

2012/08/25 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1786 King Ludwig I of Bavaria was born.

Although Ludwig’s political reign was fraught with some difficulties and by its end he was forced to abdicate, his rule as King of Culture was undisputed.  Ludwig (d. 1868) was a huge fan of Renaissance painters and ancient sculptors, amassing a fabulous collection which is the core of Munich’s Nymphenburg.  As a patron of architecture he had few peers, employing Freidrich von Gärtner and Leo von Klenze to design all these great things that sound like they would make great desserts if they weren’t already buildings: the Befreiungshalle, Ruhmeshalle, Glyptothek, two Pinakotheks (Alte & Neue).  Clearly, Ludwig had a taste for ancient grandeur (he was not alone among Germans establishing a cultural/historical link between the Mutterland and Hellas) and put his money where his mouth was.

Rising above them all, quite literally, is the Walhalla rising out of Ludwig’s imagination around 1807 and built over the Danube by Klenze.  The king’s notion was to erect a massive monument to Bavarian greatness, stirring up (or maybe inventing) ethnographic links between ancient Greece (the temple form), Nordic legend (the idea of a Walhalla and the bearskin-clad telamones inside) and modern Germany (the portraits of Great Men kept in the cellar during their lifetimes; they would ‘rise’ to the cella after death).  It’s a brilliant historical mashup, the kind of thing that didn’t fly very much beyond the borders of the nineteenth century, and that would never get off the ground without a great patron.

Image: Walhalla stair (from this source)

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