Concerning the Transfer of the
Düsseldorf Art Gallery to Munich in January 1806
Catalogue of the Paintings in the Old Pinakothek Munich with a Historical Introduction by Dr. Franz V. Reber, trans. Joseph Thacher Clarke (Munich 1885), xii–xx:
After the death of Charles Theodore in 1799, who was succeeded by Max Joseph of the Palatine-Zweibrücken line, a third collection of paintings from the Palatinate, that of Zweibrücken, came into possession of the Wittelsbachs.
(“Typical German States Before and since the French Revolution: I: Baden,” from William R. Shepherd, Historial Atlas [New York 1923], 142):
These pictures, nearly two thousand in number, had been subject to so many vicissitudes during the years of the French Revolution that their preservation seems little less than miraculous. Upon the advance of the Sans-Culottes in 1793, the paintings were saved at the last moment, before the Carlsberg Palace at Zweibrücken, in which they had formerly been preserved, fell a sacrifice to the flames, together with a valuable cabinet of natural curiosities still remaining in it.
(The castle, built between 1778 to 1788, was essentially burned to the ground by French troops on 28 July 1793; here the castle ca. 1790, illustration by Philipp LeClerc:)
The Gallery was also in great danger at Mannheim. The protection assured by the French, through an especial clause in the Capitulation of 1795, afforded it no security; and the safety of the paintings was even more endangered during the siege of the city by the Austrians, at which time they had been placed in damp underground vaults. Later on these much-threatened treasures escaped even a greater risk: Count Rumford had planned a sale in England which the pecuniary position of Max Joseph seemed to render unavoidable, and had even taken steps to have the collection sent out of the country.
But happily the definite negotiations had only proceeded so far as to include the engravings, the cabinet of coins and medals, and the jewels, when Charles Theodore died and the succeeding Ducal Family of Zweibrücken [Maximilian Joseph] took up its Electoral residence in Bavaria.
With the transportation of the Zweibrücken Collection to Munich in 1799, which, in the disturbed condition of Mannheim, was only effected through the self-sacrifice and ability of [Joseph Christian von] Mannlich, commenced the concentration in the Capital of all the Wittelsbach galleries. But for some time the pictures were not in security, even there, for hardly had the galleries of the Palatinate been installed in Munich, Schleissheim and Nymphenburg, before it became necessary to hide some of the best works in Ansbach, from the beginning of 1800 until October 1801.
(Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):
And when, in the spring of 1800, Moreau made his entry into Munich, General [Claude Joseph] Le Courbe made forcible requisition of a number of pictures from the Electoral Palace for his own private possession, while the French Commissioner for Science and Art in Germany, Citizen [François Marie] Neveu, selected as his booty seventy-two pieces from Munich and Schleissheim. [ . . . ]
Next after the removal of the Zweibrücken Collection to Munich followed that of the Cabinet of Pictures from Mannheim. This latter was founded by the Elector Charles Philip, last descendant of the House of Palatine-Neuburg, who had as little desire for the restoration of Heidelberg as for occupying the remote residence of his ancestors at Düsseldorf. The Cabinet was further enriched by Charles Theodore [Karl Theodor] [ . . . ] The collection, containing seven hundred and fifty-eight numbers, was chiefly Dutch. [ . . . ]
Hardly had the two collections found scant accommodation in the gallery-buildings at Munich and Schleissheim and the palaces of Munich and Nymphenburg when, in 1803, the secularization of the Ecclesiastical Estates in Bavaria and the Tyrol, then belonging to that country, brought to them a rich addition. [ . . . ]
(Germany and Italy in 1806, from William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas [New York 1926]):
The results of the secularization were not without importance in regard to works of the Early German schools [ . . . ] By this act of secularization works of hardly less value were obtained from the Archiepiscopal Galleries of Wurzburg and Bamberg. The evacuation of the palaces of Dachau, Neuburg and Haag, in the years of 1803 and 1804, contributed little of note. [ . . . ]
All these accumulations from the entire kingdom were, collectively, of less value than one single acquisition: namely the Dusseldorf Gallery, the removal of which to the capital could no longer be delayed. Upon the last day of his rank as Elector, while still Duke of Berg, the 31st of December, 1805, Max Joseph ordered this collection to be brought to Munich. [ . . . ]
(Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Besetztere und illuminierte Landkarte von Deutschland Elementarwerk, from the (Kupfersammlung zu J[ohann] B[ernhard] Basedows Elementarwerke für die Jugend und ihre Freunde: Erste Lieferung in 53 Tafeln. Zweyte Lieferung in 47 Tafeln von L bis XCVI [Leipzig, Dessau, Berlin 1774], plate xlv):
Perhaps no other collection of similar value and importance , yet so limited in number as that of Düsseldorf, — which consisted of only three hundred and fifty-eight pieces, — has ever been brought together; certainly not in Germany. Its importance is well characterized by the fact that, while hardly one of the pictures included in the before mentioned Inventory of the Heidelberg Cabinet of the Elector Charles is today recognizable, in the Düsseldorf Gallery, on the other hand, there is scarcely one, with exception of merely decorative works, which cannot be identified with certainty.
The Rubens Hall of Munich, which had already been known as the most important collection of this artist’s paintings in the world, received from Düsseldorf not less than forty additional masterpieces. Of the twenty-nine larger van Dyck’s, which our Gallery now contains, seventeen are from this source, also three of the finest Snyders, two pieces by Jordaens, the large G. de Crayer, and the two by Doufeet, the celebrated Biblical Series of six by Rembrandt, and his Portrait by Himself, the large Dou, the Twelfth-night Festival by Metsu, and many choice Dutch and Flemish cabinet pictures. Among the Italian paintings then acquired, besides masterpieces by Carracci, Domenichino and Reni, are Tintoretto’s Portrait of Vesalius, the two Madonnas with Saints and Donors by Palma Vecchio and Titian, notably also the Holy Family by Andrea del Sarto, and Raphael’s Holy Family of the House Canigiani. [ . . . ]
His [Karl Philip’s] heir, Charles Theodore of Sulzbach was so disinclined to the grander style of painting, in comparison with the cabinet pieces which he favored, that when, during the Seven Years’ War, at the siege and bombardment of Düsseldorf by General Wangenheim, in 1758, the Gallery had been sent to Mannheim for protection, he returned it after six years, professedly for want of room, — and this notwithstanding the immense extent of the Mannheim Palace! The peculiar relations of this prince with France in the matter are not quite clear. Mannlich, in his manuscript memoirs, asserts that Denon, during the second visit of Napoleon to Munich, claimed a right to choose forty pictures from the Düsseldorf Gallery, according to an old treaty of peace made by Charles Theodore with the French.
But King Max Joseph succeeded in obtaining from the Emperor a declaration that, even if such a contract existed, it should be considered as void. Directly after the death of Charles Theodore, Max Joseph even had the intention of parting with these treasures. On the 17th of December, 1799, he wrote to von Utzschneider, who was at that time Councilor of Finance, that the exhaustion of his funds by the pressure of the war had forced upon him the resolution either to mortgage or sell the Dusseldorf Gallery, which, since the advance of Bernadotte in 1794, had been removed to Gluckstadt. Utzschneider was authorized to enter into negotiations with his London correspondents for this purpose, fortunately, however, without result.
Scarcely was the collection returned from Gluckstadt to Dusseldorf, when, shortly before the surrender of the Duchy of Berg to France in return for the Margraviate of Ansbach [see Caroline’s letter to Schelling on 30 April 1806 (letter 405), note 24], a third removal took place, this time to Kirchheimbolanden. Finally, on the 19th of January, 1806, this much travelled gallery was taken from what was then French territory, in twelve wagons with four and six span of horses, and, upon the evening of February 7th, arrived safely in Munich. (See the account by the superintendent of the removal, Professor Medicus of Wurzburg, dated March 20th, 1806.)
Concerning the particulars of the transfer, see the Juristenfacultät der Universität Salamanca, Rechtsgutachten über die von Seite Preussens gegen Bayern erhobenen Eigenthums-Ansprüche auf die vormals in Düsseldorf befindlich gewesene, spatter nach München gebrachte Gemälde-Galerie (Munich 1870), 26–28:
When as a result of military developments in late autumn 1805 — which ended with the Treaty of Pressburg on 26 December 1805 between France and Austria — Prussia, visibly vexed by the presumptuous movement of French soldiers through Ansbach, quickly took measures to break with France by stationing a corps in the Graviate Mark and by assuming a threatening posture toward the Rhine, posing thereby a serious potential threat to France’s ally Bavaria, the general commissar in Düsseldorf unexpectedly received a prince-electoral order from Munich in early November  stipulating that the gallery was to be packed up and for the sake of security transferred to the left shore of the Rhine, i.e., into French territory. [Questions concerning who paid in advance for this transfer.]
When preparations for the removal of the gallery became known in Düsseldorf, the directory of what at the time was the assembled parliament received only rather vaguely reassuring responses from both General Commissar von Hampesch and the governor Duke Wilhelm, and on 19 November 1805 it addressed a counter proposal . . . directly to the Prince Elector Max Joseph himself. [Petition explaining why the collection ought not be removed from Düsseldorf under any conditions.]
Prince Elector Max Joseph responded with a rescript on 6 December 1805 to the effect that he was well aware of the costs and inconveniences to the Berg tax funds associated with the packing and transport of the gallery, but that the value of the collection, which the Berg estate deputies themselves quite rightly ascribe to it, and political developments made these measures necessary. The rescript concluded with words expressing the prince elector’s confidence that the deputies would recognize in these measures his concern for the fatherland, of which the Duchy of Berg, to the extent the urgency of circumstances permit, could also be assured.
But events swiftly overtook everyone at precisely this time . . . ten days after this decree, Bavaria was forced by the [previously mentioned] treaty of 16 December 1805 in Schönbrunn to cede the Duchy of Berg to France in return for the Margraviate of Ansbach, or rather to the prince appointed by its emperor [Napoleon]; because the treaty with Austria had not yet been concluded, the terms of this contract initially had to remain secret.
Firmly convinced that the art collection previously housed in Düsseldorf represented a trust estate of his family, an opinion strengthened by the secondary terms in the conclusion of that contract . . . prince elector Max Joseph of Bavaria and his administration immediately took measures to ensure that the art collection, removed from Düsseldorf with the best of intentions, would not be returning there and would instead, under circumstances and conditions radically different than those of its earlier exhibition, be transferred permanently to the capital of his prince electorate (and soon: kingdom). With these easily comprehensible and quite natural intentions, on 31 December 1805, the same day the gallery arrived in Kirchheim-Bollanden, the necessary orders were sent out from the prince-electoral cabinet to the general commissar in Würzburg, Count von Thürheim, to arranged forthwith the transport of the paintings to Munich.
Count von Thürheim immediately dispatched Professor Medicus from Würzburg to Kirchheim-Bollanden armed with the necessary authority, where Medicus arrived on 6 January 1806 and immediately took into custody from Hofrath Kerreis not only the paintings, but also the funds arranged for their transport, allegedly 1224 Rchsthl, a situation some tried one-sidedly to describe as confiscation, since Hofrath Karreis, too, was a prince-electoral rather than territorial official. The transport with the collection departed Kirchheim-Bollanden for Munich on 22 January 1806, where it arrived during the initial days of the following month, February.
Here the most valuable paintings were incorporated into the main prince-electoral gallery, and several less significant pieces distributed among the art collections in Schleissheim and Bamberg. One noteworthy point here is that on 16 December 1805, the day the Duchy of Berg was ceded, the entire collection with the exception of the two pictures on wood still in Düsseldorf [mentioned earlier; too heavy to transport] was already outside the duchy and in French territory, i.e., already in the territory of the ruler who alone could have claimed the gallery as a moveable element of property of his newly appropriated duchy.
Translation © 2018 Doug Stott