The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Rastatt Residential Palace

Genies, architectural decoration on the central risalit, Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Sandra Eberle
BAROQUE AND ROCOCO

History of design

Baroque art is characterized by a need for representation. This is especially evident in Rastatt Palace.

History of design.

Ideal plan of Rastatt from 1798. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Ideal plan for the town of Rastatt from 1798.

BAROQUE AS AN EXPRESSION OF ABSOLUTISM

The palace's integration into its surroundings alone speaks to the Baroque period. The residence is located at the intersection of three radial roads; the intersection of town center and the palace's central axis extends into the landscape. The orientation of town and countryside toward the palace is a manifest form of absolutist sovereignty. Another famous example of this can be found in the "Fächerstadt," or fan-shaped city, of Karlsruhe, where 38 beams run toward the palace, built by a relative of Ludwig Wilhelm, the Margrave of Baden-Durlach.

A representation of power, medallion in the ceiling fresco of the ancestral hall, Giuseppe Roli, circa 1705. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Power: a royal virtue.

GLORIFICATION THROUGH ARCHITECTURE, PAINTINGS AND STUCCO

Rastatt Residential Palace's construction is typical of a Baroque palace: the three-winged design, the symmetrical layout, the large staircases and the enfilade room arrangement paralleling either side of the ballroom. Architecture, paintings and stucco create a combined impression. The goal: to represent and glorify its builder, Ludwig Wilhelm, by illustrating his achievements, by equating him to gods and heroes and with palpable splendor throughout.  

Shackled Turks, fully stuccoed sculpture in the ancestral hall, Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Shackled Turks are reminiscent of the margrave as Türkenlouis.

SYMBOLISM AND ILLUSION

Staircases, ancestral halls and apartments are heavily decorated with sculpted and gilded stucco. The contoured, symmetrical shapes are interspersed with cherubs, busts and tools of war, all references to General Ludwig Wilhelm. Baroque art lives not just in symbolism, but in illusion as well. In Rastatt Palace, this is visible in the quadratura paintings, the illusionistic architectural style, and in the margravine's apartments, as well as in the stuccoed imitation marble in the ancestral hall.

Still-life with cherubs, birds, fruit and monkeys; former overdoor in Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Playful scene of cherub and birds.

ROCOCO

Rococo was the preferred interior decor style in palaces after 1730. In Rastatt, Johannes Schütz replaced the older ornamentation with Rococo stucco between 1747 and 1752. The shell-shaped rocailles are where the word Rococo originated. They are asymmetrical, delicate and more playful than the Baroque ornamentation style. The margravine's private apartments in Rastatt illustrate the period's basic attitude of pleasure. The wallpaper here is brighter and friendlier, furniture and frames are curved, paintings peppered with colorful

View of third room in the margravine's apartments. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

The margravine's private rooms are bright and delightful, much in the Rococo style.

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