The Wittelsbachs’ collection of Far Eastern art consists of over 500 pieces of East Asian porcelain and some lacquered items. Most of the exhibits were acquired in around 1700 by Elector Max Emanuel.
The oldest porcelain items in the Residence are the blue-and-white Chinese bowls and plates from the Ming dynasty, which date from around 1600. The collection also includes Japanese porcelain and Chinese Imari porcelain, which was based on Japanese models and produced specially for the European market. The numerous items with mounts of fire-gilt bronze are a particular highlight. The mounts were made in France and increase the preciousness of the porcelain.
Few museums have collections that display the full diversity of miniature painting. The Nottbohm Collection in the Munich Residence is thus of outstanding importance.
The avid collectors Klaus and Helga Nottbohm have amassed an extensive collection of the finest miniatures from a period ranging from the late sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, when photography ousted miniature painting as a way of recording likenesses on a small scale.
The collection primarily contains portraits, but also includes still lifes and landscapes. The wide spectrum of artistic techniques represented includes watercolour on vellum or ivory, oil on silver or copper and enamel painting.
Silver chambers in residences were used for storing regularly used silver services, which at a princely court were of course always of great artistic value. With the 3,500 items that have been preserved, the Silver Chambers (Silberkammer) of the Munich Residence are among the most important of their kind in Europe.
Since the court silver also formed part of the state treasure, in times of financial difficulty the precious services were frequently melted down to mint coins. Older silver was also often melted down to make more “modern” services.
During the Thirty Years' War, much of Munich’s silver treasure was lost. However, after 1777 the collection was substantially replenished with items belonging to the Palatine Wittelsbachs when they moved to Munich to rule over the combined Electorate of Bavaria and the Palatinate. The collection was additionally expanded with large services from the prince-bishoprics of Bamberg and Würzburg, when these were secularized in 1803.
The 502-part silver-gilt service of King Max I Joseph is a highlight of the collection. Made in 1807-09 by the Paris goldsmiths Martin-Guillaume Biennais and Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot, this outstanding Neoclassical service had originally been commissioned by King Jérôme of Westphalia, the brother of Napoleon. It was acquired shortly afterwards by the Bavarian court.
Relics usually include not only the bones of saints but also objects closely associated with them or used in their daily lives. The collection of relics in the Munich Residence was begun during the Counter-Reformation. In 1577 Duke Wilhelm V was given the required permission to acquire relics by the pope. Wilhelm's son, Maximilian I, expanded the collection and housed the reliquaries (precious containers made for relics) in the Rich Chapel, his private place of worship.
In the 19th century the reliquaries were still regarded as the most valuable treasure in the Residence. Some sixty reliquaries have survived from a period dating from around 1590 to 1640. They include outstanding works by Munich and Augsburg goldsmiths.
In the colourful treasury of the Wittelsbach porcelain collection masterpieces from the Wittelsbach’s own manufactories in Nymphenburg and Frankenthal are surrounded by acquisitions from the centres of early European porcelain art such as Meißen and Sèvres. Admire the fragile presents from the French court or Ludwig I’s »Porcelain Pinakothek« – a highpoint of 19th-century porcelain painting!
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