1831 - 1834

The Jenisch Haus in Hamburg

Jenisch Haus, Historische Museen Hamburg

Take a tour of a classicist country estate.

The history of the Jenisch Haus
Jenisch Haus is situated in the Flottbek valley on the banks of the River Elbe to the west of Hamburg. Caspar Voght (1752–1839), a successful merchant of Hamburg, purchased five separate farmsteads in 1785 and combined them to create a large manorial domain. He was inspired by The Leasowes manor in Shropshire, England, which was hailed as the ideal ornamented farm, having agricultural facilities that weren't just practical but also designed in a harmonious and pleasant way.

After the Great Fire of Hamburg of 1842, the senator in office had to make important long-term decisions on the reconstruction of the areas affected by the fire. Thanks to his high status, illustrious guests from around the world flocked to him, including rulers and dignitaries of the first order, poets, and thinkers. The manor house served as a generously representative space.

Jenisch followed the prior owner's advice, and the highest point in the southern part of Voght Manor Park with the best view of the Elbe was chosen for the construction. Jenisch Park is the largest part of Voght Park still mostly preserved to this day.

Franz Gustav Forsmann (1795–1878) was commissioned to design the building in 1828. The house was to feature large door and window openings so there was always a good view of the countryside. His plans were based on the country houses along the Elbchaussee, designed by Danish architect Christian Frederik Hansen.

Jenisch sent the plans for review to Prussian chief surveyor Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1782–1841) in Berlin, who was widely respected at the time.

The result was a set of counter-proposals, sent in 1829, based on his conception of Glienicke Palace on the River Havel. Ultimately, in mature classicist style, a combination of plans from both architects across an almost square ground plan was used for the house, which was built and furnished from 1831 to 1834.

The tour through the ground floor
The entrance hall brings together numerous sculptural works that fit well with the sleek and distinct classical architecture of the porch, vestibule, and stairwell.

This free sculpture "Der Fischer" (The Fisherman), made in 1887 from Carrara marble, comes from the Altona sculptor Johannes Uhde. Inspired by the ballad "Der Fischer" by Johann W. von Goethe in 1778, it is the sculptural embodiment of a line of verse. Originally created for Donner Castle, the sculpture was a gift from Baron Conrad Hinrich K. von Donner, first to the Altona Museum, and later to Jenisch Haus.

Uhde first created a small model which he then fleshed out into a life-sized piece. The marble block came from Italy and was worked by the artist in Dresden.

Inspired by the ballad "Der Fischer" by Johann W. von Goethe (1778), it is the sculptural embodiment of the penultimate line of verse "...halb zog sie ihn, halb sank er hin..." ("half drawn by her he glided in.")

In the porch of the house are "Night" and "Day", two tondo plaster casts of the marble originals by Bertel Thorvaldsen from around 1815.

In Greek mythology, Nyx (Night) was one of the first powers of the world and together with Erebos (Darkness) gave rise to Aither (Sky/Air) and Hemera (Day).

The "Alexanderzug" (Wars of Alexander the Great) was created for a hall of the Quirinal Palace in preparation for a prospective visit by Napoleon I (1769–1821). However, this visit never took place and Napoleon compensated the artist by commissioning him to create the frieze in marble for Sainte Marie-Madeleine in Paris.

The fall of Napoleon prevented the marble frieze from being collected, so Count Giovanni Battista Sommariva (1762–1826) moved it to his own Villa Carlotta on Lake Como around 1826.

The original plaster model, created in 1811–1812 for Napoleon's visit to Rome, remained in the Sala della Marchesa in the Quirinal Palace.

Many plaster casts of the original model came onto the market and even reached areas of Hamburg, such as the house of the Abendroth family.

This mirror from around 1780, framed in white with gilded carvings, is a very special piece in Jenisch Haus.

This mirror with a console table represents Polyhymnia, the muse of dance and pantomime.

This console table was created at the end of the 18th century. It is painted white with gilded carvings and has a reddish marble top.

The three Panneux 
The cash room, which was once the entrée room, features three paintings. The three panneaux from 1806 - out of a total of five made by Ludwig Philipp Strack (1761–1836) - are located on the north wall of the room. 

They show the scenes of "Anienetal bei Tivoli" (Aniene Valley in Tivoli), "Ruinen von Taormina" (The Ruins of Taormina), and "Cascatelli bei Tivoli" (Cascatelli in Tivoli).

Next to the panneaux by the window is the marble sculpture "Rebecca" by the Florentine sculptor Girolamo Masini, owned by the Jenisch family.

The story of "Rebekah at the Well" comes from Genesis 24 of the Old Testament. Abraham sent for his great-niece Rebekah from the old homeland as a wife for his son Isaac, as Isaac was not to marry any of the pagan Canaanite women. The scene of Abraham's messenger finding the chosen one at a well—it was she who led him to drink—is frequently portrayed in art history.

This so-called Eutin stove consists of white glazed tiles and yellow-brown and beige-ocher ornamental tiles with motifs of mythological legends from Greek antiquity.

An ancient representation of a warrior's departure scene was chosen as the center image. This popular theme is a symbol of glorious death, or memento mori. The scorpion, a symbol of martial power, is an attribute of the heroes Hector and Achilles, as can be seen in the departures of both heroes here. In general, the scorpion is a symbol of transience and resurrection, but also of mischief, death, and change.


The stove is crowned with a kylix footed bowl with ram-headed handles. The painted floral ornamentation can also be found on antique vases. The artist Tischbein was fascinated by Greek painting and especially by floral ornamentation. He adapted the tendril work for himself and made it his signature feature, known as Tischbein tendrils.

A glass Briati chandelier hangs from the ceiling, which was made in the workshop of Joseph Pallme around the middle of the 18th century. The elaborate production processes make this chandelier a special piece.

The arms of this chandelier have a unique six-part grooving. This was achieved by the glass-maker pressing the required amount of glass each arm into a cast-iron mold that contained the grooves as a negative. The glass gob was then retrieved by an assistant using pliers, stretched to the required length and hardness, and turned slightly. On a wooden board, the still-hard glass rods were bent around two nailed wooden blocks, until they formed S shapes. Meanwhile, two other assistants formed the candle covers that were then melted onto the arms using drops of very soft glass.

The Lower Elbe Salon
By virtue of its location and design, the hall is what's known as a 'garden hall'. It was the most important room in 19th century manor house architecture. With three almost room-height French windows, it is designed as a portico on the south side of the house. The French windows allowed for both a view of the park, framed by columns, and access to the open-air terrace.

The large frieze on the walls of the salon is reminiscent of the palmette frieze from the north door of the Erechtheion of the Acropolis in Athens, first discovered in 1821.

The dark-green and gilded wooden sofa and the chairs with Sphinx figures on the armrests and curved backrests can be traced back to a design by Percier & Fontaine. Charles Percier was a French architect and decorator who was also commissioned to complete more grand projects such as furnishing the the Château de Malmaison and constructing the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris during the First French Empire.

The bronze chandelier (Paris, around 1795) above the seating is taken from the Baursche Landhaus.

Jenisch most likely acquired the marble fireplace and the large black-and-gold mirror above in Florence around 1829. On one hand, the mirror had an esthetic function as it brought the house exterior into the building interior by reflecting an image of the garden. It also reflected the candlelight in the evening. On the other hand, it subtly conveys the wealth of the owner as mirror glass was still very expensive in the 19th century.

To the left of the fireplace is a copy of the antique statue of Venus de' Medici, created in Italy around 1880 and owned by Adolph Godeffroy, the presiding director of Hapag.

The Venus de' Medici is one of the most famous antiques of Rome, rediscovered there in the 1630s and named after its later owners, the Medici family. The life-sized marble sculpture, actually made in the 2nd century, is a copy of the Greek bronze sculpture which dates back as early as the 1st century BC. Originally depicted was the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, who has often been associated with the Roman goddess Venus since the 4th century BC.

The youthful goddess is portrayed in a pose of movement, as if she were climbing out of the sea. The dolphin plays at her feet and would not have been just an accessory—it probably also acted as the required support for the bronze original.


The restoration of the arms was carried out by Ercole Ferrata (1610–1686) who gave the figure long, tapering, mannerist fingers.

This white marble clock with bronze fittings and blue-and-white Wedgwood medallions on the mantelpiece was made by renowned watchmaker Jean Antoine Lépine in Paris.

The clock is flanked by two bronze chandeliers from the house of the functionary G. F. Baur on Palmaille in Altona.

On the right side of the chimney stands "Die Badende" (The Bather), also known as "Mädchen an der Quelle" (Girl at the Spring), made by Johan Nyclas Byström in Sweden in 1838 and owned by the Rücker Jenisch family.

Senator Jenisch most likely acquired her on one of his trips to Italy in 1829 to 1830, or 1838 to 1839 from Rome.

On pillars between the windows are the pair Genius of Fishing and Genius of Hunting (c. 1824) by Pietro Tenerani, bought by the Jenisch couple during a trip to Italy in 1829.

Pietro Tenerani was a student of Antonio Canova and, until 1829, an assistant to Berthel Thorvaldsen. His bust can also be seen in the lower Elbe salon.

Bertel Thorvaldsen lived mainly in Rome and died in Copenhagen in 1844 after receiving royal honors from his native city in 1838. His studies at Copenhagen Academy earned him the highest honor, the gold medal, and a three-year Rome scholarship at an early age. In Italy, he became one of the greatest classicist sculptors in Europe.

A large painting hangs on the wall above a serving table. This was painted by Johan Lauritz Jensen (1800–1856) in Rome and shows a floral still life with a southern landscape backdrop.

Trumpet bushes in a terracotta-colored chalice with an antique relief can be seen, as well as an orange tree, roses, dahlias, and agaves.

The White Hall
The large hall to the left of the vestibule originally served as a banqueting room for representative purposes. To this day, it is still used for receptions. Three floor-to-ceiling windows open to the east onto the park. The two-tone diamond-pattern parquet dates back to the building's construction. The walls and ceiling still bear the original stucco which was probably once colored.

Above a basement closed off with tall antique ornamental friezes are grand quadratic wall panels bordered with stuccoed ornamental ribbons. Putti friezes and a coffered ceiling close off the room above.

His palmette ornamentation is reminiscent of the gilded window grilles of Jenisch House. The inspiration for this was the pilaster capital of the Temple of Apollo in Didyma, or the geison of the Athena Temple in Priene.

The chandelier was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and comes from a manor house in East Holstein.

Two semicircular gilded wall tables with white marble tops complete the ensemble. They date back to around 1800 and have fire-gilded candelabras on top.

The first floor of the Jenisch Haus
In the west wing on the second floor are the former private rooms of the Jenisch family. Today, the rooms are dedicated to the life and work of the Caspar Voght (1752–1839), a figure in the philosophical and intellectual Enlightenment movement.

According to an inventory list from 1859, the bedroom of Senator Jenisch's wife contained "one bedstead, eight chairs, one armchair, one chiffonier, one bathroom mirror, one commode with toilet, two tables, one washbasin, one towel rail, one bedside table, one étagère, one clock, one fire basket, one grate with tongs and shovel, curtains, and a mat; in the bathroom there are one linen closet, one wardrobe, four chairs, one washbasin, two tables, one towel rail, one bedside table, one toilet with mirror, one grate with tongs and shovel, curtains, and a bath mat. In the corner room is a sofa."

Jenisch's wife also had a bathtub; the house had been fitted with a plumbing system.

These rooms are now home to a permanent exhibition on the previous landowner, Baron Voght.

The hall directly above the lower Elbe salon was the "Lord's room." It was a completely private space and originally had a bathroom in the western part.

The large mahogany furniture collection consists of an extending table, ten chairs, and two armchairs.

This table from around 1830–1840 owned by Schleswig-Holstein nobility can be extended from its original size (128 cm diameter) to a length of approximately 470 cm using its eight extendable leafs.

On the table is part of a Pierre-Philippe Thomire centerpiece that belonged to Jenisch the Elder. Some of a total of 29 items are on permanent loan to Jenisch House. Composed of fire-gilt bronze, the centerpiece was most likely presented to Senator Jenisch the Elder in 1811 during Hamburg's French era.

This tiled stove is made of whitewashed clay. The finely cut reliefs of the cylinder form an ogee above and a lidded vase to crown the piece, and an antique-style scene can be seen below.

Depicted is a seated Athena/Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, craft, and war. On her head is a helmet, in her left hand an olive branch, and in her right hand she holds a shield bearing the head of Medusa, the most famous of the Gorgons.

Next to her are two winged putti with a wreath of olive or laurel leaves over their arms. A helm and bow lie in front of the rocks on which the figures stand. The scene is bordered on the left by a palm, the symbol of victory.

Twenty of a total of twenty-five sections of a panorama wallpaper hang on the north wall. This was hand-printed from 1820–25 by manufacturer Joseph Dufour in Paris using wooden molds on paper. The motifs of the wallpaper show scenes from Étienne-François Lantier's 1798 fictitious travel novel "The Travels of Antenor in Greece and Asia."

On the left is the "Boat Trip," depicting when the Greek sculptor Antenor (active around 510–480 B.C.) visited the poet Sappho.

In the center is the "Scene in the Park," showing Spartan women in a footrace.

The "Departure for the Hunt," which shows the Amazons ready for battle, is displayed in the right part of the wallpaper.

On the south wall between the windows is a pair of light-green and dark-green framed mirrors, with carved ledges decorated with rosette friezes and beading. These are finished with an acanthus cornice. The reliefs on both show a character scene with mythological themes.

Credits: Story

Project, coordination, and realization: Anna Symanczyk, Martina Fritz
Text: Dr. Nicole Tiedemann
Photos: Michaela Hegenbarth

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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