The Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg

The Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg

The Kurpfälzisches Museum, i.e., the Palatinate Museum, in Heidelberg possesses some of the finest examples of archeological artifacts as well as superb examples of paintings, graphic arts, sculptures, and applied arts in the greater Heidelberg area. 

The museum occupies the Morass Palace, named after its first owner, the attorney Johann Philipp von Morass, who was briefly the rector of Heidelberg University in 1700-1701.  Von Morass contracted with the renowned baroque architect Johann Adam Breunig to build the palace on the site of the former “Elende Herberge” (Hotel of Woes), which had been a hospital for the poor since 1693.

In the mid 1870s, Heidelberg city authorities purchased the art and antiquities collected by Count Charles de Graimberg, which were to become the initial pieces of the museum’s collection and established the Kurpfälzisches Museum.  In 1906, the museum relocated its collection to the Morass Palace, where it has remained to this day.

The graphic arts collection can be considered the jewel in the crown of all graphic arts collections in southwest Germany.  It contains more than 7,000 sketches and watercolors and more than 13,000 prints, all of which date from ca. the late 8th century through the 20th century.  The collection has a strong section emphasizing Romanticism, including such artists as Andreas Achenbach, Philipp Otto Runge, Anselm Feuerbach, Eugene von Guerard, Christian Ezdorf, and Carl Friedrich Lessing.  The collection also includes many unique and imaginative items and memorabilia commemorating Heidelberg.
The museum’s sculptures include items dating from the mid 12th century all the way to modern times.  This collection is especially known for the many early 17th-century baroque statuaries collected from houses in Heidelberg’s old town, a narrow strip of land beneath the magnificent Heidelberg Castle ruin on the Neckar’s left bank.  Perhaps its two most famous pieces are The Altar of the Apostles (1509) by Tilman Riemenschneider and Rückblickende (Retrospective), a profoundly evocative cast-stone statue of a woman on foot, hesitating, then turning to look back.  For many people, the woman represents Lot’s wife just before she was turned into a pillar of salt.  In addition, the collection even has gravestones from a now defunct Augustine monastery and sculptures both of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom (indicating how wise it was to build the bridge), and of Prince-Elector Charles Theodore (the ruler who exercised his wisdom in so many ways) from the so-called old bridge across the Neckar.

The applied arts are an important part of the overall collection and occupy many rooms in the palace.  Indeed, four rooms are dedicated to a recreation of the 18th and 19th centuries’ “feel” and have been specifically furnished to represent that time period.  Some of the features in that portion of the collection include typical family costumes showing how individuals dressed from the mid 18th century to just prior to Hitler’s rise to power.  There are excellent examples of furniture of that time as well as bric–a–bracs and curios, e.g., cutlery, glassware, medallions, coins and buttons, porcelain, especially Frankenthal porcelain, remind us of the important, but simple, components of everyday life more than two centuries ago.  Do not miss the Frankenthal pieces, for Frankenthal was, without question, one of the premier porcelain manufacturers in Germany in the late 18th century.  To top it all off, there are portraits of select Price-Electors of the time and Countess Palatine Elisabeth Auguste’s household silver.

The museum’s paintings include works spanning the centuries from the 15th through the 20th, particularly of renowned local prominent individuals, e.g., Perkeo, the dwarf and favorite court jester of Charles III Philip, Elector Palatine in Heidelberg and who, because he was also the official guardian of the Great Heidelberg Tun, a huge wine barrel with an original capacity of more that 221,000 litres, he became Heidelberg’s unofficial mascot.  Other paintings include Frederick V, Elector Palatine, and Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess of the Palatinate, works by the Dutch painter Rogier van der Weyden and the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, many Dutch still lifes, numerous rococo paintings, works by the German landscape painter Carl Rottmann, the leading German classicist painter Anselm Feuerbach, and the German realist Wilhelm Trübner.  It also includes notable 20th-century works by Alexander Kanoldt, a so-called magic realist and an important figure in the New Objectivity school of art.  Two of Kanoldt’s more distinguished works are The Red Belt and Still Life II; the Russian expressionist Alexei Jawlensky whose 1905 self-portrait and Young Girl in a Flowered Hat stand out as a particularly fine example of Jawlensky’s synthesis of the post-impressionist avant-garde artistic principles espoused by Jan Verkade and Paul Sérusier and the rich use of color advocated by Wassily Kandinsky and others caught up in the Munich New Artist’s Association; and the multi-talented German painter, draftsman, sculptor, and printmaker, Max Beckmann, a post-expressionist and also a proponent of New Objectivity.  Beckmann’s 1940 Self-Portrait with Horn is a justifiably popular piece, as are The Night and Carnival (a triptych).

The Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg
By 4028mdk09 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Seven rooms in the museum’s ground floor are devoted to its archeological collection and traces Heidelberg’s history from about 600,000 years ago through modern times.  Naturally, an entire room and a great deal of attention is paid to the presence of the Romans in Germany.  The next most popular archeological section is the Heiligenberg, a low sandstone mountain east of Heidelberg, atop of which are the ruins of an early Romanesque church and two monasteries:  the Monastery of St. Michael (1023 A.D.) and the Monastery of St. Stephen (1094 A.D.).  The mountain is about 440 above sea level and the so-called philosopher’s way leads up the mountain about two kilometers.  If you plan to explore the mountain, be on the lookout for remains of a Celtic fort, the Heidenloch, a 55-meter deep pit, the Heiligenberg Tower, built as a lookout from the stones of the razed Monastery of St. Stephen, the Bismarck Tower, a 1903 monument to Otto von Bismarck, and the Thingstätte, an open-air theatre created by the Nazis in 1935.  The notion behind creating the Thingstätte or amphitheater (400 were planned, but only 40 were built) was that they be community gathering places as much for entertainment as for the neighborly exchange of gossip and as opportunities for government officials to ballyhoo their propaganda.  Artefacts from the dark ages round out the museum’s archeological exhibitions.

The Morass Palace, i.e., Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg, is at Hauptstraße 97, 69117 Heidelberg; Tel. 06221 58–34020.  It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1000 until 1800 and is closed on 24, 15, & 31 December and 01 January & on Shrove Tuesday and 01 May.  Entry fees vary based on many criteria.
Visit the museum’s website for further information .  Go < a href="" target="_blank">here to get a list of fees.