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The oldest ecclesiastical Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Bruchsal Palace

Schloss Bruchsal, Außen, Hauptbau von Osten, Fassade; Foto: Dr. Manfred Schneider, Nußloch, www.manfred-schneider.de
Baroque and Rococo in Bruchsal Palace

History of design

Visitors approaching Bruchsal Palace quickly notice that representation, illusion, and presentation determine the architecture. When the foundation was laid in 1722, the Baroque period was already in its last phase. It was only a few decades later that the Rococo style became dominant.

Bruchsal Palace, View of the main building from the west side; Image: Dr. Manfred Schneider, Nußloch, www.manfred-schneider.de

View of the main building from the west side.

Spatial staging

On the highest point of a long, gently rising axis soars the palace: an intentional conceptual design that lends the royal building a special presence. Balthasar Neumann's staircase in the interior is also cleverly staged. It plays with the light: From the "earthly" ground floor with its dark grottoes, the visitor ascends up to the bright, "godly" world.

Bruchsal Palace, Illusion painting on the facade of the former Orangery; Image: Dr. Manfred Schneider, Nußloch, www.manfred-schneider.de

Illusion painting on the facade of the former Orangery.

Baroque illusionistic painting

On the exterior facade of Bruchsal Palace, colorful paintings imitate three-dimensional decorations. The "brick buildings" around the main courtyard also are not what they appear. The brickwork is only painted. Inside the palace, other illusionistic paintings can be seen in the intrada, which is to say the front hall, and in the adjacent grottoes, for example, seemingly three-dimensional stone benches on the wall. The edges of all ceiling frescoes are architecture painted to look like frames; a typical motif during the Baroque period.

Lively Rococo

The ceremonial halls on the upper story were built between 1751 and 1754. The Royal Hall and the Marble Hall are significantly different: both are decorated with stucco work in the Rococo style, called rocailles. Yet the strict patterns of the Royal Hall, with a clearly delineated ceiling, does not fit with the Baroque style. The Marble Hall is quite different: Luxurious stucco work covers the space and hides the transition between ceiling and walls. A playful, energetic work of art composed in stucco and paint!

Royal Hall in Bruchsal Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
The Marble Hall in Bruchsal Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Christoph Hermann

Clearly identifiable: there was considerable stylistic development between the Royal Hall and the Marble Hall.

Northwest corner of the Red Room in Bruchsal Palace, historical photography from before its destruction. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Rococo stucco in the destroyed red room.

Rococo and Classicism

In the former apartments, once reached from the side of the ceremonial halls, Rococo was in full bloom: in stucco, paintings, and carvings on wall paneling, console tables, and mirrors. The decorations in the Chamber Music Hall in the chamber wing were made in 1776 in the Louis Seize style and thus are examples of early Classicism. A certain playfulness beloved by Rococo remains, yet geometries and symmetries determine the design as a whole, and the ornamentation makes references to antiquity.

Chamber Music Room in Bruchsal Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Symmetrical stucco in the Chamber Music Hall.

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