Rastatt Residential Palace, detail of lacquer painting, Rastatt Residential Palace in the 18th century


Lustrous black walls and golden paintings with joyful Chinese characters this remarkable room from the Baroque period has been preserved on the upper floor of the south wing. The lacquer cabinet bears witness to the passion at the time for everything Asian.

Rastatt Residential Palace, Japanese lacquer box  with lacquered lid and filigreed European silver trim

A surviving original Japanese lacquer box

Lacquer ware from Asia and Europe

Like porcelain, lacquer ware symbolizes the 18th century love of Asian arts and crafts - either imported from Asia or replicated in Europe. Lacquer décor, often referred to as “Indian”, was valued as exotic and precious. The symbolism of the motifs has been largely lost. Two originals from Japan have been preserved in Rastatt Residential Palace: a small box and a cabinet.

Rastatt Residential Palace, vividly sculpted rhinoceros, lacquer cabinet at Rastatt Residential Palace

Lacquer depiction of an exotic rhinoceros


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 had previously created a similar cabinet at Schlackenwerth Palace, the home of Margravine Sibylla Augusta. There is also evidence of his work at the Imperial Court in Vienna. Some pieces were probably the work of a second artist.

Rastatt Residential Palace, brown unicorn and bird, painted corner pilaster in the lacquer cabinet

Unicorn and bird beneath a canopy

The motifs

The paintings were inspired by 17th-century copperplate engravings and travel accounts although they rely heavily on imagination. The white pilaster strips provide an interesting contrast to the black paneling. They are decorated with colorful grotesques décor featuring imaginative motifs from antiquity. The individual sets of figures or animals are framed by symmetrical garlands. The unicorn beneath a canopy is particularly beautiful.


Traveler Johann Friedrich Uffenbach saw the palace’s lacquer panels in 1712, before they were installed. It is assumed that Sibylla Augusta completed the cabinet after the War of the Spanish Succession ended in 1714. It was removed in the second half of the 19th century with the conversion of the wing into apartments. It was not until approximately 100 years later, during palace restorations, that the panelling was rediscovered in Schwetzingen Palace and the Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe, and subsequently reinstalled.

Rastatt Residential Palace, ceiling in the lacquer cabinet

The strong colors on the lacquer cabinet lid make an impression

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