Monday, February 22, 2016

Post-Mortem Portraits of the Dukes of Württemberg: Guest Post by Eric Huang, Morbid Anatomy Foreign Corespondent

In the following guest post, Morbid Anatomy foreign corespondent Eric Huang reports on the post-mortem portraits of the Dukes of Württemberg, which can be seen in the crypt of Altes Schlos (or "Old Castle), a Renaissance era castle turned museum in Stuttgart, Germany. All photos are his own.
Death Portraits of the Dukes of Württemberg
The Landesmuseum in Stuttgart is a history museum about Württemberg, formerly a kingdom and today a part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The collection is formed in large part by the 16th-century wunderkammer of the royal family. Paintings, decorative art, sacred art, as well as an impressive collection of clocks and glassware, fill the Altes Schloss, a Renaissance era castle and former royal residence that now houses the museum.

The only part of the building that retains its Renaissance character is the crypt. Several members of the royal family of Württemberg are buried in the inner chamber beneath grand marble monuments. The entryway to the burial chamber is an art gallery of late 17th and early 18th century death portraits. Dukes and Duchesses of the land are painted as if asleep with putti and loved ones in mournful attendance.

Herzogin Magdelena Sybilla Württemberg’s portrait (4th image down) is unique in that she is depicted sitting up rather than in a state of repose. She has been dressed in high mourning and posed in a chair, her head propped up by a left elbow that leans casually on a casket. A grave marker flanked by skeletons stands in the background to the right. The background appears to be a depiction of the burial chamber in the next room, although the room looks a different today with more recent 19th century monuments in place of the 17th century caskets.

It takes about three hours to properly tour the museum and all its collections. The crypt is a little difficult to find, though. Use the lifts in the lobby to reach the first floor Mezzanine level. Then follow the arrows to exit out of the castle, walk along a veranda, and down the stairwell to the crypt. Ask a staff member if you can’t find it, as the crypt is an unmissable feature of the museum.

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