Bavarian Royal Palaces in Color

Photochrom Prints 1890–1905

Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

In 1887, the Swiss Hans Jakob Schmidt, employee of the Zurich company Orell Füssli & Co, invented a novel process for color reproductions. The photographic archive of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI) contains several such "photochrom prints" showing the Bavarian palaces of the so-called fairytale king Ludwig II.

Color and Gold

A photochrom is not a photograph but a planographic print reproduced photomechanically in a screenless multicolor printing process. This process gives the individual colors exceptional luminosity. In particular, gold ink was used. Photochrom prints from Photochrom Zürich can be identified by a serial number followed by the letters P. Z. and a caption in gold lettering at the bottom of the image.

King's House on Schachen (1870/1872) by Georg von DollmannZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Neuschwanstein Castle (1869/1884) by Christian JankZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

From Photography to Photochrom Printing

Firstly, a black-and-white negative, which is exposed onto a lithographic printing plate coated with asphalt, is required. Then the individual color layers are printed separately. The ZI's collection also includes prints of the original photographs that served as a template.

Schwangau: Neuschwanstein Castle, Christian Jank, Eduard Riedel, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Neuschwanstein Castle, Christian Jank, Eduard Riedel, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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The photographs of the royal palaces were taken by Joseph Albert (1825-1886), court photographer of the Bavarian royal family, in 1886, shortly before his death on May 5.

Comparing the photographs and the color prints, it is noticeable that some of the photochrom prints are laterally reversed. In these cases, a copy had been used instead of the original negative.

New Palace Herrenchiemsee, Georg von Dollmann, 1880/1883, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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New Palace Herrenchiemsee, Georg von Dollmann, 1878/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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King Ludwig II and his Fairytale Castles

"I want to remain an eternal riddle for myself and others".

When Ludwig II (1845–1886) was crowned King of Bavaria, he was just 18 years old. As a patron of the arts, he pursued a lively and costly building activity. The palaces Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee and Neuschwanstein, as well as the King’s House on Schachen, are today among the most visited architectural monuments in Bavaria.

Linderhof Palace (1872/1880) by Carl Joseph von EffnerZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Linderhof Palace

Ludwig II spent by far the most time in the smallest of the three royal castles. The remodeling and new construction of the palace, including the park and surrounding buildings, complemented the former hunting lodge of his father, Maximilian II.

There is no lack of gold and splendor in the wall and ceiling surfaces of the interiors. The interior design combines Baroque and Rococo motifs and quotes both French and southern German architectural styles.

Linderhof Palace (1874/1886) by Christian JankZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Linderhof Palace, Christian Jank, 1874/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Linderhof Palace, Christian Jank, 1874/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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The oval hall of mirrors on the upper floor.

Linderhof Palace, Christian Jank, 1874/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Linderhof Palace, Christian Jank, 1874/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Linderhof Palace, Christian Jank, 1874/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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The oval study, dining room and bedroom upstairs.

Linderhof Palace (1874/1886) by Christian JankZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

In the dining room, there was a so-called Tischleindeckdich. The table could be lowered into the kitchen below, set there, and elevated again by hand. The royal bedroom is the largest room at Linderhof Palace and is based on that of the French king Louis XIV.

Neuschwanstein Castle (1869/1884)Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Neuschwanstein Castle

Rising above Hohenschwangau in the southeastern Allgäu region, the palace is a romantic ideal of a medieval knight's castle. Commenced in 1868, it is probably the most famous Bavarian royal palace.

A theatrical dream world comes to life in the interior decoration. As an admirer of Richard Wagner's operas, Ludwig II chose motifs from musical dramas such as Tannhäuser and Lohengrin for some of the scenic decorations. 

Neuschwanstein Castle, Christian Jank, Eduard Riedel, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Neuschwanstein Castle, Christian Jank, Eduard Riedel, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Neuschwanstein Castle, Julius Hoffmann, Wilhelm Hauschild, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Two views of the Singers' Hall on the fourth floor and the Throne Room.

Neuschwanstein Castle (1869/1884) by Julius HoffmannZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

The Throne Hall extends over the third and fourth floors. Besides, the Singers' Hall is the second most important room of the castle and was one of the king’s favorite projects. The picture program shows the saga of Parzival and the Holy Grail.

Neuschwanstein Castle, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Neuschwanstein Castle, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Neuschwanstein Castle, 1869/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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The bedroom and dressing room and the upper landing of the staircase.

Neuschwanstein Castle (1869/1884)Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

In the exceptionally richly decorated bedroom, the legend of Tristan and Isolde is depicted. Swans, a leitmotif of the interior, can be seen on the carpet.

New Palace Herrenchiemsee (1878/1886) by Georg von DollmannZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Herrenchiemsee Palace

The palace is located on the Herreninsel island in Lake Chiemsee. Clear references to the Palace of Versailles show the Bavarian king's intense preoccupation with the French model. Some parts of the building, begun in 1878, remain forever unfinished.

New Palace Herrenchiemsee, Georg von Dollmann, 1878/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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New Palace Herrenchiemsee, Georg von Dollmann, 1878/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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Grand staircase and second antechamber (so-called Œil-de-bœuf  Hall)

The grand staircase in the south wing is a reconstruction of the Versailles Ambassador’s staircase. Its counterpart in the north wing is still in a skeletal state today.
The second antechamber of the Parade Bedroom is also called the Œil-de-bœuf  Hall in allusion to the salon de l'Œil-de-bœuf  in Versailles. Two oval “bull’s eye” windows in the cornice zone give the room its name.

New Palace Herrenchiemsee (1878/1886) by Georg von DollmannZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

New Palace Herrenchiemsee, Georg von Dollmann, Johann Heinrich Riesener, 1882/1884, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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New Palace Herrenchiemsee, Georg von Dollmann, 1878/1886, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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View of the study and view of the ceiling painting in the bathroom.

King's House on Schachen (1870/1872) by Georg von DollmannZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

King’s House on Schachen

At the foot of the Wetterstein mountain range, Ludwig II had a remote mountain house built for himself at an altitude of 1866 meters. The king used the small wooden palace, built between 1869 and 1872 in the so-called Swiss chalet style, as a place of refuge.

While the living rooms on the first floor are wood-paneled, the upper floor is a stately room with gilded and richly ornamented furnishings. The so-called Turkish Hall is based on a hall in the Eyüp Palace of Sultan Selim III.
The photochromic prints show particularly impressively the brightly colored fabrics and the golden decorations.

King's House on Schachen, Georg von Dollmann, Joseph Röhrer, 1870/1872, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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King's House on Schachen, Georg von Dollmann, Joseph Röhrer, 1870/1872, From the collection of: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte
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King's House on Schachen (1870/1872) by Georg von DollmannZentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Credits: Story

All images from the Photothek of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte München

Concept & Text: Nadine Raddatz (Photothek, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte)
With the support of Sonja Hull and Ralf Peters

For further reading:
Sabine Arqué, et al.: Photochromie. Voyage en Couleur. 1876-1914. Paris 2009.
Winfried RankeJoseph Albert - Hofphotograph der bayerischen Könige. München 1977.
Uwe Gerd SchatzDie Schlösser König Ludwigs II. von Bayern. In: Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung - Unser Schlösserblog. 26.08.2020
Christine TauberLudwig II. Das phantastische Leben des Königs von Bayern. München 2013.
Bruno WeberVom Lichtbild mit Farben zum Photochromdruck. In: Librarium: Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Bibliophilengesellschaft. 50 (2007), issue 1.

Credits: All media
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