For centuries, Nuremberg's distinctive panorama has fascinated viewers and inspired one artist after another to document it in drawings, watercolors, paintings and photographs. Their works illustrate how the city and its panorama have changed – through growth, progress and war – from a medieval trading center to a modern industrial metropolis.
Early views and panoramas of the city
The earliest surviving portrayal of Nuremberg is on the altarpiece of the St. Bartholomew altar in the Lorenzkirche, which may have been donated by a priest named Jodokus Krell in 1472. Cities had not yet become an established subject for depiction in themselves, but Netherlandish painting had already begun a tradition of showing views of towns from inside and out as part of a painting's background.
Picture credit: Parish of St. Lorenz, Photo: Thomas Bachmann
This two-page view of Nuremberg, titled NVREMBERGA, occupies a prominent place in the Nuremberg Chronicle, an illustrated description of world history published in 1493. This is the first-ever printed view of Nuremberg, and also the best known. All the most important buildings are on view here, including the Castle, the parish churches, and the gate towers, even though not all of them would have actually been visible from the chosen vantage point. To get them into the picture, the eastern side of the city, with the inlet of the Pegnitz River and the Laufertor gate, has been bent a bit toward the viewer.
Painter Paulus Reinhart took on a more cartographic task when he was engaged in 1577 to make a "mappa" of Nuremberg's external fortifications. He portrayed Nuremberg's environs from an imaginary elevation. Inside the city only the main towers, gates, moat and Castle are visible, but the environs are reproduced in detail. Villages, cemeteries, buildings and even many garden owners are identified.
This unsigned sheet was probably commissioned by Johann Wilhelm Kress. It shows the village of Neunhof in the agricultural region known as Knoblauchsland – "Garlic Country" – with its farmhouses and barns, as well as the Kress family mansion, built around 1479.
Baroque portrayals of the panorama
In this engraving by Nicolaus Visscher, Albrecht Dürer is enthroned like a god above his home town, a symbol of both the most famed period of the city's history and the Baroque era's pan-European veneration of Dürer. Visscher, who had never been to Nuremberg himself, forgoes topographical accuracy for the sake of an ideal view. The finished copperplate print, more than two meters wide, has been assembled from four large plates. City vistas of this size are rare, and were hung on the wall like paintings.
This panoramic view portrays everyday life in the Baroque era in rich detail. Firewood is stacked between the Spital buildings; textiles are spread on the bank of the Pegnitz to bleach. At the center, the town watch escorts a prisoner to the "Männereisen" dungeon tower.
Nuremberg engraver Johann Adam Delsenbach was famed most of all for his many views of the Imperial City. His three-part masterpiece, the "Nürnberger Prospekte," conveys a sense of 18th-century Nuremberg with numerous views of the city's squares and buildings. Delsenbach also enlivened most of his engravings with diverse sprightly figures – in this image, for example, an aristocratic-looking gentleman relieving himself against a tree.
This uncompleted silk embroidery shows Gleisshammer Castle and the adjacent "Bastion Building," viewed from the southeast. The settlement of Wöhrd is visible at left, and beyond it, the walls of Nuremberg and the Laufertor tower. The authorship of the embroidery is uncertain, but various clues point to Anna Elise Sophia (1778–1849), the daughter of Eberhard Jodokus König von Königsthal, who owned the castle at the time. We do not know why the embroiderer stopped work; two of her fine embroidery needles are still threaded through the borders of the fabric.
Baroque panoramas do not always reflect the facts as reliably as it might seem. Often an intelligent, visually persuasive composition was considered more important than portraying reality as accurately as possible. That is the case as well with this picture by Peter von Bemmel, showing a deer hunt in a forest clearing with Nuremberg in the background – even though by that time the real forests nowhere came as close to the city walls as one would assume from the painting.
A Biedermeier enthusiasm for panoramas
This view is from a series of more than 20 watercolors in which painter, draftsman and engraver Carl Kaeppel documented Nuremberg's enclosing walls. It is a good example of the work of an artist who dealt primarily with highly detailed views of Nuremberg and the "Franconian Switzerland" region north-northeast of the city. This is a view from the west toward the city across the Deutschherrenwiese fields – almost the same view that the painter of the Krell Altarpiece chose when portraying the first recorded general vista of Nuremberg in 1483.
Even though this watercolor was made almost contemporaneously with Carl Kaeppel's, here Friedrich Eibner provides an atmospherically romantic scene: his focus is not on a detailed reproduction of how the city looks, but on the sunset and the resulting mood.
This is one of eight panels that provide an all-around view of Nuremberg's Market Square in the early 19th century. Because the subjects of various panels overlap, these are probably preparatory studies or just studies in perspective. Their exact purpose is uncertain. But documentation suggests that the panels are connected with the presentation of a panoramic painting by lithographer Georg Paul Buchner that was exhibited on Schütt Island in 1825.
Panoramas of Nuremberg in the early industrialization age
In 1841, the Royal Rail Construction Commission was founded in Nuremberg to organize a rail line from Lindau to Hof by way of Augsburg and Nuremberg. The area outside the Frauentor gate was chosen as the site for the Nuremberg station. To document its previous appearance, artist Georg Christoph Wilder was commissioned to produce three large views of the region. This one looks southwest from the Frauentor tower; the former military outworks left over from the Thirty Years' War are still clearly identifiable.
This pencil drawing by architectural and landscape painter Carl August Lebschée offers a view from what was then the canal port at the edge of Gostenhof, in the vicinity of today's Rothenburger Strasse. The port was on the Ludwig Canal between the Main and Danube, completed in 1846. That ambitious project, intended to open up a navigable channel between the Mediterranean and the North Sea, proved unprofitable – the railroad, shown in the background here on a segment of the South-North line, was a considerably less expensive mode of mass transport.
The left part of a 360-degree view of Nuremberg – probably the first to be made with the aid of a camera obscura. The Sebalder Altstadt is in the center. Here, outside the Neutor gate, was where the town's government would really have preferred to see the new railroad station built. But the Bavarian state railway decided for a location outside the Frauentor gate, thus triggering an immense appreciation of value in the Lorenzer Altstadt. From 1846 onward, the Lorenzer Königstrasse thus became the most significant transportation and business artery on this side of the Pegnitz.
Nuremberg evolves into a modern metropolis
This photograph, taken from the "Freiung" sanctuary area at the castle, illustrates the city's gradual expansion beyond the city walls. Thus construction likewise expanded beyond the walls at the Frauentor gate. At the left, next to the towers of the Sebalduskirche, we can see the hospital on Sandstrasse, built in 1845 – this was the first large municipal structure to rise outside the fortifications. Clues that date the photograph to around 1890 are the scaffolding around the hall choir at the Sebalduskirche, and August Essenwein's gallery structure on the Rathaus, completed in 1888.
Ferdinand Schmidt can be considered Nuremberg's most significant visual chronicler from the second half of the 19th century. Perhaps his most impressive pictures are the three 360-degree views from the Spittlertor tower, showing both the Old Town and the southwestern suburbs. Each taken about two decades apart, they document the city's explosive growth over half a century, and allow a clear and detailed recognition of the changes in architecture and urban planning.
In 1882, Heinrich Josef Wenglein founded the Nadelwaren-Fabrik H. Wenglein in Nuremberg – a "needle goods factory." As a newcomer, he chose an industry with a tradition – Nuremberg was one of the oldest production centers for needles and pins, going back to the 14th century. And Wenglein's choice of his company name also reflects his connections to the city. The foreground of this picture includes an angled view of the Norica needle works on Glockenhofstrasse – a location clearly identifiable from the city view in the background.
This postwar panorama is composed of sixteen 35-mm color slides taken from the Laufer Schlagturm tower in July 1956. From the Castle, which appears above the scaffolded Egidienkirche, the gaze is drawn to the Willstätter-Gymnasium at the lower edge of the picture. The overgrown wasteland between the buildings was accurately nicknamed the "Sebald Steppe." The ruined Tucher Mansion on Hirschelgasse stands in isolation. The building, now part of the Nuremberg Municipal Museums, was not rebuilt until the 1960s. The smokestacks beyond it are part of the Tucher Brewery; its remains gave way in the 1970s to new buildings for the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. We can see that Rathenauplatz has already been surrounded by insurance-company and office buildings, with their typical 1950s-style grid façades.
Picture credit: Stadtarchiv Nürnberg
Guidelines for rebuilding had already been set in the 1950s: within the city walls the Old Town was to be reconstructed; but outside, construction would follow modern standards. This 360-degree view embraces a panorama ranging from what is known as the "Schuldturm" to the Imperial Castle, and at its center is Hans-Sachs-Platz with the Heilig-Geist-Spital, still under construction. For architect Friedrich Neubauer, the view of life at the construction site was the most significant priority. He repeatedly portrayed scenes with a construction crane rising above everything.
Bruno Weiss shot his panoramic series from the Plärrer area shortly before the turn of the millennium. Considering how severely it was devastated in World War II, the Old Town seems amazingly unchanged. We owe this illusion of an almost "preserved" cityscape to the reconstruction standards for adhering to historic street layouts and building heights. Outside the city walls, only the Opera House and the building for the former "KaLi" movie house seem to have survived from before. The rest of the buildings are in the style of the 1950s to 1990s. Above this sea of buildings rises the symbol of the German "Economic Miracle" – the Plärrer high-rise built in 1952-53.
In this frontal view of Nuremberg's Old Town, De la Riestra gives particularly effective expression to the self-contained quality of the cityscape and its medieval flavor. The gently curving foreground outline that encloses the Old Town incorporates the long segment of the city walls from the Neutor tower to the Spittlertor tower. Various buildings and sightseeing destinations can be recognized among the roof lines. The straight-line silhouette in the background is defined by the city's towers.
This exhibition is based on the exhibition catalog
THE BROAD VIEW.
Seven Centuries of Nuremberg Panoramas
Published by Ludwig Sichelstiel for the Nuremberg Municipal Museums
Nuremberg Municipal Museums publication series, Vol. 20
Edited by Thomas Eser
Design and project management: Ludwig Sichelstiel
Cooperating partners: Förderverein Kulturhistorisches Museum Nürnberg e.V., Freiherr von Hallersche Familienstiftung Nürnberg-Großgründlach
Texts: Silke Colditz, Andreas Curtius, Ruth Bach-Damaskinos, Bertold Frhr. von Haller, Theo Noll, Birgit Rauschert, Lena Schmiedl, Ludwig Sichelstiel, Jana Stolzenberger, Ursula Timann, Bruno Weiss
Implementation: Brigitte List