Concerning the Layout and Organization of the Gallery in Söder Chateau
Anonymous, “Ueber die Gemähldegallerie zu Söder: Auszug aus einem Schreiben des Herrn N. an seinen Freund in Wien,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1801) 16 (Thursday, 5 February 1801) 121–25 (layout of the gallery from Catalogue de la galerie de Soeder par le Propriétaire le comte de Brabeck [n.p. mdcccviii]):
Even the very first glance upon entering piques one’s interest. With every succeeding step, one feels as if magically elevated above the quotidian, becoming instead wholly feeling, and wholly given over to a perception of the beautiful and the sublime, something the discerning disposition of the owner has managed to organize within the splendidly decorated gallery salons such that the impression that immediately comes upon the soul is enhanced with every step, and every discrete pleasure anticipates the following one.
With the sixth salon, the visitor reaches the end of this magical arrangement, and though the ordinary person may well be in a daze, those of cultivated sensibility find themselves transported into that particular condition of rapture that slowly, gently melts the soul and gradually brings about that element of surrender to which more sensitive souls are so inclined to submit.
They depart this magical place full of that charming, fetching feeling that draws them back, with irresistible power, to the locus of pleasure; and longing to enjoy such again, and better, they visit again, and with increasing yearning.
The unity of genre regnant among the paintings exhibited in each salon; — the striking effect made in each genre by several extraordinary and, in their own manner, singular pieces; — the stylistic variation offered by a whole plethora of paintings by the greatest masters, variation that becomes even more striking by the juxtaposition of the most excellent in each genre; — the carefully conceived arrangement and its gradation, something for which one searches in vain in other galleries; — the perfect conservation of each painting; — the most favorable lighting conceivable; — an incredible subtlety within the transitions from one salon into the next; — the continually changing and yet analogous furnishings: all these things, taken together, create the sublime, harmonious, simple whole that in its own turn arouses such intense interest at first glance, astonishment upon reflection, and renewed yearning after enjoyment.
This fairylike world positions the Söder gallery above all others. Through the excellent selection and equally excellent juxtaposition, these beautiful paintings arouse an element of interest as extraordinary as its effects are irresistible, all of which equally inspires both the observant connoisseur and the apprentice artist. . . .
I must not forget to mention the wonderful idea Freiherr von Brabeck came upon, namely, to interrupt the overall connection and context of the six salons comprising his gallery by a seventh, larger one situated directly in the center, one quite lacking any paintings and intended solely for ceremonies.
It constitutes the anteroom for the three sections of the gallery and, through the refined, svelte style of its architecture, offers immediately upon entry quite new stimuli for the eyes. This particular salon divides the gallery into three parts, each of which consists of two successive rooms in which paintings are exhibited. By offering entries to these sections on three opposing sides, it provides visitors to the gallery with a pleasant place of repose, and with its delicate architectural elements and furnishings occasionally offers a most pleasing diversion.
It offers the eye and the tense spirit of the engaged observer a salutary moment of recuperation by captivating that person for several moments by lighter, gentler stimuli, providing thereby both time and opportunity to refresh oneself during the course of the visit and to renew one’s attentiveness in anticipation of continued enjoyment.
I could entertain you yet quite at length were I to explain to you how this art gallery constitutes but part of the beauty of this chateau, just as the enchantment it brings about constitutes but part of the fairylike world that hovers about the entirety of Söder. [Painting reproduced by permission of Jobst-Heinrich Lampe):
But were I to describe for you how the whole here represents an entirely new genre of beauty, and how it generates feelings and emotions as unexpected as they are pleasant, such would simply become too long-winded. Might I have already said enough to stir you to experience all this in person? . . .
Should my feeble outline here nonetheless mange to prompt you to experience the original yourself, then let me yet request that you let me know after a week’s visit to Söder whether my assessment was attained merely through rapturous enthusiasm or by way of an accurate and thorough consideration. . . .
A similar anonymous article was published later in the same periodical, “Charakter der Bildergallerie von Söder,” Zeitung für die elegante Welt (1802) 104 (Tuesday, 31 Auguste 1802) 829–32:
The Particular Character of the Söder Gallery
The Söder gallery possesses a unique character distinguishing it from all others. It is more pleasing for the aficionado, more attractive for the connoisseur, and both more convenient and more instructive and useful for the student. It owes all these advantages to a particular concept of organization that is so new and important that may be recommended to all others as a model to imitate.
A quite inspired idea of its owner prompted this organization. He has organized his paintings into each peculiar class according to their genres, thereby presenting each genre especially through several selected, acknowledged masterpieces in the most accessible perfection possible for both the connoisseur and the artist.
The gallery consists of five salons and one cabinet, each of which contains select paintings of the best masters of each school, and indeed from one and the same genre, and at the same time in each genre such jewels that cannot but elicit admiration through the perfection of their inner merit.
[Enumeration of several masterpieces.]
These paintings are all excellently conserved. To avoid going on at length, I will pass over the other advantages the organization of the Söder gallery offers to the aficionado and artist. Such becomes both obvious and palpable largely merely through one’s direct experience of the gallery. [Footnote reference to the article above.]
Hence it is quite natural for connoisseurs and painters who have the opportunity to view the Söder gallery to desire, unanimously and both for the sake of promoting art itself as well of presenting a model for other galleries, that the owner might resolve to publish a complete catalog of his paintings himself — and thereby also explicate the scholarly significance and import and the academic and classical character he has managed so masterfully to impose upon his gallery.