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Coblentz, September, 1845.
I wanT to tell you about Pommersfelden, a place I alluded to on a recent occasion ; and which is not one of the “King of Bohemia's seven castles,” but one among several real chateaux belonging to the noble family of Schönborn,--a name widely reputed in Bavaria, or, to speak more precisely, in old Franconia, where it is situate.
About seven or eight English miles out of the main road leading from Wurtzburg to Bamberg, and in a direct line between the last-named city and Neustadt, there stands a vast and imposing edifice, built about the commencement of the last century by Lothair Francis, Count Schönborn, Bishop of Bamberg, and Archbishop of Mainz, Chancellor of the German Empire, and Lord knows what beside; who, in addition to the princely revenues derived from these high offices, inherited the estates of Pommersfelden from a Count Truchsess, his kinsman, on the death of this nobleman in 1710. Lothair Francis was a man of remarkable abilities, and enjoyed a high reputation as a statesman, jurist, and patron of the arts; with which he was himself extremely well acquainted, especially with architecture. Desiring to apply a portion of his wealth to the erection of a palace, or “schloss,” suited to the dignity of his family, of which he found himself the leading member—a monument
that should honour the memory of his generous kinsman, he commenced this undertaking, in 1711, after the design of Loyson, a Jesuit, doctor and professor of philosophy, and Chancellor of the University of Bamberg, an eminent dilettante of the period. The style of architecture employed is of the character which was then coming into vogue, and which had recently been introduced by Louis the Fourteenth in building his palace of Versailles. The plan of the edifice may be described as that of the letter E. In the hollow of the centre is placed the magnificent entrance-hall and staircase, which for lofty proportions and elegance of design may challenge any vestibule in Europe. The size of this truly regal residence may be guessed at when I mention that we passed through four large rooms occupying a part of the principal floor on the Northern front (the other part being appropriated to the library)—making, I should say, one hundred feet in length—and next, through s twelve rooms on the West front, one of which was a splendid banquet “salle,” floored with marble, forty i feet high, and not less than sixty feet long. To add that there is a chapel attached to the “schloss,” were - needless, Franz Lothair being an ecclesiastic of the highest rank. But the circumstance of its containing a valuable collection of pictures constitutes the prominent attraction of Pommersfelden; and it is to this I wish to invite your attention. The palace once built, its distinguished possessor bent his endeavours to the acquisition of a gallery of paintings fitted to adorn its interior, as well as of a good collection of books. Lothair Franz was on familiar terms with the eminent artists of his times; and,
by his own discerning judgment, as well as by the able assistance of his “hofmaler” or court painter (in fact, he had two in his pay, Byss and Cossian), he speedily got hold of a considerable number of precious works,—chiefly, however, of the Flemish school, in which our Prince-Bishop especially delighted. Herr Heller, of Bamberg, in his interesting little notice of
this chateau, published quite recently, states the
number to have been 480, as early as the year 1719. The heirs and successors of Lothair pursuing the design of enriching the gallery with choice pictures, it became, towards the middle of the eighteenth century, amply stored; and critical catalogues and notices upon it began to be published by the connoisseurs of that period. In 1759, the invasion of Franconia by the Prussian troops engaged in the Seven Years' War, occasioned the pictures to be hurried off to a place of safety; and again in 1802, when the French overran this country, the treasures of Pommersfelden were a second time dragged across the heart of Germany to another and distant residence of the Counts Schönborn, in Bohemia, there to abide the course of events. When they were finally replaced in their wonted positions, a regular keeper was installed to watch over them, named Joseph Dorn ; who lived
into the year 1841.
Although, as has been said above, the collection is more richly furnished with Flemish works than with the productions of the Italian masters, yet are there many of the latter to be found here which may fairly be classed as superior pictures. Of these, the leading specimen is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci (long attributed to Rafaelle, however, and by Byss, among the rest), of the Virgin and Child, than which I have seldom seen a more charming production. The Virgin, whose left hand and arm hang over a pedestal, is exquisitely painted; her right arm encircles the babe, who is sitting in her lap, and pointing to a vase or urn in the background. I should not wonder if this picture alone were found to be worth from one to two thousand guineas. It is of the size of life, and three-quarter length. It has undergone some injury by being carried to Munich, to serve as a model for the students in painting there: the journey has damaged the impasto in places, and this has been repaired somewhat unskilfully,–a sad return for the generous proprietor's kindness in allowing this valuable picture to go to Munich. A naked Venus, by Titian, is perhaps next in point of merit to the Leonardo; whilst a portrait of a young officer in armour, by the same master, near it, challenges the warmest admiration. A Carlo Dolce (Mater Dolorosa, according to the received pattern of this painter) is of very high quality, perhaps equal to Sir Thomas Baring's. A Magdalen, by Guido, in his brown manner, is rich in colour, but voluptuous in character; an Assumption, by Giovanni Bellini, is interesting, though not in the artist's best style; a large allegorical piece by Paul Veronese; a St. Sebastian, by Carlo Dolce (of a truly celestial expression); Tobias and the Angel, by Murillo; Isaac blessing Jacob, by Annibal; Carracci; and several subjects by Tintoretto, Spagnoletto, and Domenichino, are all more or less worthy of honourable mention. In passing to a description of the chefs d'aouvre of the other schools of art, I am apprehensive of falling into