The Landscape Guide

Baroque Gardens in Germany

 Herrenhausen Wilhelmshöhe Schleissheim Nymphenburg Karlsruhe Ludwigsburg Brühl Schönborn Marquardsburg Favorite Gaibach Pommersfelden Brüchsal Waghäusel Würzburg Veitshochheim

As we have said before, Italians were for long the ruling architects, but gardens were left for the most part to the care of French artists. Even at the court at Munich art was not wholly inspired by Italian feeling in the second half of the seventeenth century. In the sixties a whole tribe of Italian artists arrived at Munich in the train of Princess Adelaide of Savoy. This lady, with her great joie de vivre, contrived to drag her dull husband into a whirl of gaiety; and when in 1662, after eight years of marriage, she presented him with a son, not only did he fulfil his vow of building a Theatine church, but, to please his wife very specially, he arranged to build a pleasure-castle near Munich, to be called Nymphæum (Nymphenburg). For both these buildings an architect from Bologna, Agostino Panelli, was employed, and after him Enrico Zuccali, who was also to carry out the new work at Schleissheim.

The early death of the duke and duchess put an end to their work; so their son Max Emanuel, who was proud and ambitious, must be regarded as the real founder of both Schleissheim and Nymphenburg. In the first splendid years of his rule the warlike prince was so much abroad that the building did not begin with full vigour before the eighteenth century; but very soon, disaster befell Bavaria, and in 1704 the country was seized by Austria. The duke was deprived of the crown and had to flee, and he lived the next eleven years in Paris. Here in exile he had leisure to study French gardens thoroughly, and he had scarcely returned home before he showed in the laying-out of his gardens at Nymphenburg and Schleissheim that he had learned to some purpose. Garden artists of the French school were busy from the start. 

Before his exile Max had summoned Carbonet, a Belgian by birth; but the chief merit for the complete work is due to François Girard, who was responsible for  the outside of these remarkable places, when he came to Munich after the duke's return. In both gardens the whole effect depends on the position of the canals, which form the centre line of the castle.

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At Schleissheim (Fig. 454) the parterre, rising by a few steps from the terrace, is particularly well designed, partly in its size and the variety of broderie, and partly in the number of its springs and fountains. Besides the two basins whose waters play in the parterre, there are two narrow canals alongside the middle walk, and twenty-six water- jets, which make a sort of balustrade—an idea first carried out by Le Nôtre at Vaux-le-Vicomte. The middle avenue leads to the cascade which faces towards the parterre at the beginning of the canal, where there are waterfalls, fountains and various figures. This canal is in the middle line, running from the new castle parterre, with hedges and boskets full of statues along its course, until it arrives at a small casino, which is older than the great house, and was built in the nineties. It was named Lustheim by Maximilian, who wanted it to be his Trianon, as is indicated by the two pavilions flanking it. Later on these were connected by a semicircular gallery with the castle between the two (Fig. 455). 

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This was at the time when Lustheim was at the end of the large garden, and so marked out the middle axis for the buildings of the new castle. At the same time an ornamental parterre was made in front of the casino, while the canal was conducted as a small strip round the galleries, and then joined on to the park that lay behind by six separate paths. But by these arrangements the little house was sacrificing its peculiar feature as a Trianon, that is to say, as an independent place, removed from the stir of outside life; for it was now, on the contrary, an actual point de vue for the whole picture as seen from the castle—a very unusual plan in a French garden. It required an unimpeded view over the open country, for which some church tower in the far distance would generally give a good resting-point.

The second of Max Emanuel’s two castles, Nymphenburg, was less restricted. In the grand style of its waters, and the variety in the park, it unquestionably holds the first place among the level gardens of Germany (Fig. 456).

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 Just as at Schleissheim, one small branch of the Würm was converted into a canal, so that the approach to Nymphenburg from the town side is marked by this long piece of water, which ends in two broad ponds with fountains. This fine approach is carried out further in the garden; for there are narrow canals passing round the court of honour, the castle, and the great parterre de broderie with its ornamental fountains. These smaller canals come together again in a wide lake that, includes six springs, and forms the head of the large canal, which as a middle axis cuts through the raised boskets that lie on either side of it (Fig. 457). 

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It ends in a wide pond, into. which a fine cascade discharges its many waters towards the castle. This falls over marble and is decked with many statues, and loses connection with the canal, which then proceeds farther into the park, whence the eye can range as far as to the church tower of Pasing.

A traveller, a nobleman called von Rothenstein, visited Nymphenburg in 1781, and thus describes the splendour of the place, which up to the end of the eighteenth century remained undisturbed by the assaults of the new fashion (Figs. 458 and 459).

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see


Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see


The garden has 19 fountains, which give out 285 jets; and such a number of water-devices, gilt vases and statues, meet the eye that they are better imagined than described. The great flower-parterre is 138 fathoms in length, and has one large fountain, four smaller ones, and a six-headed one. The parterre is laid out with box, and with vases, and beds between with many flowers, which each month present a different picture. . . . Right in the front stand six gilt urns, ells in height . . . next there are dragon fountains to right and left with ever so many dragons and snakes separately lying on hills of stone. . . . In the parterre there stand 28 gilt statues, groups, vases, and urns, and near the box- espaliers 17 statues made of white marble. After the dragon fountains come two of children, each child seated on a gilt whale. . . . Finally in the centre comes the great fountain of Flora, which is octagonal, made of white marble, and over 100 feet in circumference. In the middle is a great basket with flowers, from which there springs a jet 30 feet high, and as thick as a man’s body. On the side of the basket you see the goddess Flora seated, 12 feet high. Beside her is a Zephyr, who holds a great wreath of flowers in one hand, while with the other he expresses his astonishment at a monkey who is working the water from the basket. On the hill stand a lion, a shaggy dog, 3 large swans, 2 storks, and a great deal of sea-weed. Further there are in the pond 8 tiny gilt mountains, with love-gods on four of them, and on the other four tritons, holding in their hands corals, pearls and the like: they are seated on whales. On the edge of the tanks on the border round it, there are 8 gilt frogs, spurting water upward in arches. This grand fountain cost 6o,ooo gulden, and used 250 cwt. of lead. Then you come to another great tank, which has 6 springs all in a row, and into this basin the canal runs right and left, passing onward to the great cascade.

When we read this, the fantastic ideas for "princeley" fountains that Becker suggests in his Fuerstlichen Baumeister (Architects for Princes) do not seem so preposterous. The question is always insistently arising, as to where all these ornaments came from, for the number of new things of the smaller sort are peculiar to Nymphenburg, and they are actually in excess of those found in the French places we know. The separate pavilions, to live in, correspond to similar ones at Marly-le-Roi; but here they appear for the first time in a half-circle, surrounding the handsome court of honour, and with the town canal in the middle. This arrangement was very popular in Germany, and at Nymphenburg there are several extra pavilions at the side of the canal (Fig. 456).

The small scattered houses with their separate gardens, which remind us in their variety and number of the hermitages at Buen Retiro at Madrid, form an important feature of the park. Their erection was due to the differing requirements of the princes, but they divide the great park with a pleasing regularity. One cross-road through shrubberies was laid out as a tennis-court, and near this was the garden theatre, with green side- scenes. Max Emanuel set up a pavilion for actors and spectators to rest in and take refreshment, and had it made à l’indien, giving it the name of Pagodenburg (Fig. 460). 

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The prince had certainly never seen the old Trianon de Porcelaine since he lived in Paris; still its name was in everybody’s mouth, and the little blue and white central building at Nymphenburg is a direct imitation of it. In front of the Pagodenburg was a large pond adorned with fountains, and on the opposite side was the theatre, approached by several steps. Seats for spectators were not provided, and perhaps people sat round the pond to see the performances. On the other side of the little house there was a narrow canal in the park. Also there was the bath-house (Fig. 461), containing the bath itself and a number of rooms beside a large piece of water, and on the other side a pretty parterre.

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In addition to these garden pavilions there was wanted a real hermitage, which was to unite religion and fashionable life in the Spanish-French style. The hermitage with the chapel of St. Magdalene was first put up in 1725—8, and its neo-Gothic architecture bears the stamp of the growing Romanticism of the period. Later on, the opposite erection, the shooting-box called Amalienburg, was built by Charles Albert, Max Emanuel’s successor. It served as a resting-place, after the hunt, for the prince’s wife, who loved the chase. All these agreeable rococo houses, that so badly need their own surroundings,. were absorbed into the English park. We can only recognise the old design in the lines of the canal, the basins, and the parterre, now poor and barren of ornament.