The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Rastatt Residential Palace

Rastatt Residential Palace, lacquer painting; Photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Witness to Chinese fashion

The Lackkabinett

(Lacquer Cabinet)

Lustrous black walls and golden paintings with joyous Chinese – a remarkable room from the Baroque age has been preserved on the upper floor of the south side wing. The Lackkabinett (Lacquer Cabinet) bears witness to the passion at the time for everything Asian.

Rastatt Residential Palace, Japanese lacquer casket; Photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Adi Bachinger

An original Japanese lacquer casket that has been preserved.

Lacquer ware from Asia and Europe

Like porcelain, lacquer ware symbolizes the 18th century love of Asian handicrafts – they were either imported from Asia or replicated in Europe. Lacquer décor, often referred to as “Indian,” was valued for its exotic, precious character. The symbolism of the motifs was largely lost. Two originals from Japan have been preserved in Rastatt Palace: a small casket and a cabinet.

Rastatt Residential Palace, lacquer depiction of an exotic rhinoceros; Photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

Lacquer depiction of an exotic rhinoceros.

The Rastatt Lackkabinett (Lacquer Cabinet)

The black walls are populated by golden figures and animals in front of exotic plants and landscapes. Red and black three-dimensional motifs are featured in certain places. The lacquer paintings were created by Bohemian artist Johann Adalbert Cratochwill. He already created a similar cabinet at Schlackenwerth Palace, the home of margravine Sibylla Augustas. There are also records of his works at the Viennese imperial court. Some pieces were probably the work of a second artist.

Rastatt Residential Palace, unicorn and bird beneath a canopy; Photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

Unicorn and bird beneath a canopy.

The motifs

Inspiration for the paintings were 17th century copperplate engravings and accounts of travel – although they incorporate a lot of imagination. The white wall projections provide an interesting contrast to the black panelling. They are decorated with colourful grotesques – décor featuring imaginative motifs from antiquity. The individual sets of figures or animals are framed by symmetrical garlands. Exceptionally beautiful is the unicorn beneath a canopy.

The fate of the Lackkabinett (Lacquer Cabinet)

Traveller Johann Friedrich Uffenbach saw the lacquer tables in the palace in 1712 although they had not yet been installed. It is assumed that Sibylla Augusta completed the cabinet after the War of the Spanish Succession ended in 1714. With the conversion of the side wing into apartments, it was removed in the second half of the 19th century. It was not until around 100 years later, during palace restorations, that panelling was found in Schwetzingen Palace and the Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe – and was subsequently reinstalled.

Rastatt Residential Palace, ceiling in the Lacquer Cabinet; Photo: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

The strong colours on the lid of the Lacquer Cabinet are impressive.