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Exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of the death of King Wilhelm I of Württemberg
Jacob van der Does, Hirtin mit Schafen (Detail), 1651. Der Bildausschnitt zeigt eindrucksvoll den Zustand des Bildes vor und nach der Restaurierung. Foto: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
STUTTGART.- The Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and the Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg (the Württemberg state heritage agency) mark the 150th anniversary of the death of King Wilhelm I of Württemberg with an exhibition that sheds light on the monarch’s remarkable support of the arts. Presenting more than a hundred works, the exhibition reunites important pieces from Wilhelm’s public and private collections.

Wilhelm’s personal taste, on the other hand, is particularly evident in the large number of works he bought for the Rosenstein and Wilhelma palaces. He supported contemporary artists and cultivated a passion for Orientalism. Built in emulation of Moorish architecture and dubbed the ‘Alhambra on the Neckar’, the Wilhelma was home to the kings wide-ranging collection of Orientalist art. The end of the monarchy in 1918 also spelled the end of Wilhelm’s private collection. More than 600 works were dispersed all over the world in a series of auctions. The exhibition at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart temporarily reunites key pieces of the former royal collection.

In 1843 Wilhelm I opened the Museum of Fine Art, the precursor of today’s Staatsgalerie. He enriched the holdings of new museum with choice acquisitions and gifts from his personal collection and routinely marked his birthday on 27 September with the gift of a painting. The exhibition brings together a selection of these royal gifts, allowing visitors for the first time in decades to catch a glimpse of Wilhelm’s activities as collector and patron.

The king also used his private means to acquire collections of Italian and Early Swabian paintings. In 1852, for example, he bought the Venetian Barbini-Breganze Collection which laid the foundation of the Staatsgalerie’s outstanding holdings of Italian Baroque paintings.

Stuttgart owes its reputation as a hub of the nineteenth-century art world to the multifarious initiatives of King Wilhelm I of Württemberg as a collector and patron. During his reign, which spanned nearly half a century (1816–1864), Wilhelm founded the Museum of Fine Art, which opened in 1843. Wilhelm supported ‘his’ museum with gifts of individual works of art and by privately funding the acquisition of entire collections.

Largely forgotten today is the fact that Wilhelm was also a very active pri-vate collector who filled the Rosenstein and Wilhelma palaces with an ex-tensive collection of contemporary art. Over the course of his near-48-year reign he acquired more than 650 works of art, most of which were auctioned off when the monarchy was abolished in 1918.

The Württemberg state heritage agency, the ‘Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten’ marks the 150th anniversary of the death of King Wilhelm I in 1864 with the first-ever exhibition devoted to the monarch’s public and private commitment to the fine arts.

In putting together this exhibition, curators drew not only on printed sources but also delved deep into the Stuttgart State Archive to probe the previously unevaluated records of the royal cabinet which document the history of many of the king’s acquisitions and made it possible to identify a substantial number of long-neglected works as part of the former royal collection.

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