Art Gallery

“… a fairytale hall apparently built solely of glass … writers and musicians, striking personalities by way of great thinkers and artists, statesmen and inventors from all countries and all epochs through to current times … how wonderful ... that he could erect such as memorial to them in his magnificent castle”:
(Elise Polko. In: A Short Note about the Schloss Drachenburg on the Rhine, undated, c. 1900)

Although the name of the room may suggest the idea of an aristocratic picture gallery, the Art Gallery here was never intended to be a place for the viewing of paintings. Its distinctiveness lay more in the presentation of glass art for which the serially arranged high windows provided more than enough surface area.

As such, the iconographic programme embodied by the windows offers an array of famous personalities from all aspects of world history, art and science – discoverers, composers, painters, writers, politicians, sculptors, architects, kings, queens, emperors, empresses, and inventors.

The person responsible for the overall design of the glass paintings in the Art Gallery was Wilhelm Hoffmann, one of the Schloss Drachenburg architects and formerly an apprentice at Cologne Cathedral where he worked on ornamental windows. Responsible for the production of the costly glass panes was the Royal Court Stained Glass Manufactory of Franz Xavier Zettler, based in Munich, which was taken over in 1930 by the Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt, an institute for the promotion of arts and crafts.

As you might expect of a picture gallery in a palatial building, the “Glass Art Gallery” at Schloss Drachenburg acted to demonstrate the culture, good taste and affluence of its haute-bourgeois owner: Stephan von Sarter. This impressive cupola hall would confirm the social significance and cosmological worldview of the host to visitors and to guests attending a festive occasion or prestigious reception.

From 1931 to 1938, the Art Gallery served the Christian School Brothers as a chapel. During the Second World War, the cupola was destroyed and all the glass windows either smashed or “disappeared”. After the war, the college accommodated in the castle by the German Railways Board used the large hall, now rebuilt on a makeshift basis, to stage a signal box. The Art Gallery was to regain some of its representative, if modified, character in the 1970s when the now castle owner Paul Spinat had a sumptuous Gründerzeit staircase installed there.

However, the most recent renovation work carried out on the Art Gallery and completed in 2004 went back to the original appearance of the 19th century. Today, the design, the use of colour and the opulent stencilling – all modelled on the original – go to underline the splendid impression the room makes.