With respect I inform you that everything I wrote until here was a vague, partially exact, introduction. The script completely changed when I reached the grounds of the Linderhof palace. My old dream was not to assert the existence of follies, which is the normal state of the world, it was to come nose to nose, eskimo style, with a BUILT one. I do not care about other follies; religious, politic or opinion drives are leaving me at best completely indifferent and at worst, derisive. The game is closed, things can go only worse:
“L’Humanité bavarde, ivre de son génie,
Et, folle maintenant comme elle était jadis”
However, like a great and immortal comedy a built up FOLLY is appealing and can be enthralling.
Even if Linderhof, the only one of the castles achieved, is a folly, and it is, it will not hurt anybody to assimilate some of its exquisite beauty and intense rationality. Folly and rationality together, what kind of dish is that? Let’s check! It was not the rationality of everybody, it was the mind and the will of a genius, maybe a mad genius, I doubt it, but a true one. Let’s approach the three parts of this ensemble one by one. The core of the endeavor is the palace, which is conceived like the sun in the sky, physically and symbolically. Around it gravitates the celestial bodies, kind of meteorites, stars, nebulas according to complexity. At first come small contraptions with of various forms and origins: the music pavilion, the Moroccan kiosk, the Gurnemanz retreat, the chapel, the ancient Royal Lodge, the Hunding Hut and the false Venus grotto. The Venus grotto*, which I haven’t seen, under repair of course, rich in both symbolic and amusing emphasis, will always be a main station of this enchanting journey. Secondly comes the sculptural wealth – gilded groups of Greeks divinities, individual Greek gods and French royalty left generally unpainted. The third set consists of an amazing sequence of water plays – a swans’ lake, a cascade, a rectangular basin, a 30 meters high mighty artesian fountain and a tiny Venus grotto’s inside pool. Palace and satellites are implanted in an enthralling setting consisting first of floral and arboreal arrangements, reminiscent of Renaissance and French gardens which quickly and clearly will turn into the most subtle and wonderful English landscape park one can imagine. Poise and symmetry, hidden and apparent, rule freely this amazing ensemble with one exception. A three hundred years old massive linden tree got out of the Linderhof holiest axis, the line that connects the music pavilion at one end with the Venus temple on the opposite hill top. The king decided to keep it, a gesture that deserves some compliments in our BIO time. In or out of axis does not matter, when the weather is kind the king takes under the linden tree an EVENING breakfast! A last rumor tells that was not under the branches he had his late brunch but on a platform (Baumhaus) built between the branches?!
At first view the king’s palace appears to be a fine example of rococo style, i.e. of a perfectly elegant abode where everything -interior and exterior form, interior and exterior ornamentation, materials, colors, furniture, art objects, is enormously precious, the result of an outstanding effort of craftsmanship, with obvious theatrical intentions and eclectic provenance. The whole, palace, satellites and park, means to express individuality and a different kind of reality. In a way it belongs to the realm of fairy tales and Ludwig II for some evident reasons carried the nickname of Märchenkonig (the fairytale king). That was shortly the hat the palace wore. Let’s see what is underneath in a wholesale manner. The style was already one hundred years defunct when the king achieved his dream. Palaces like this are coming out of a plan; this one grew from many plans and in many stages. It originated from a royal hunting residence the king desired to preserve and to integrate and start building around. When he finished the project he had to remove the hunting residence elsewhere in the park and came out with a stunningly symmetrical (not very rococo that) palace which is one of the most amazing Gesamtkunstwerk**(work of art total) ever seen. SEEN – is a rotten term here. Visitors cannot really see, to them things are SHOWN while they are shoveled at full speed through marked out passages like cattle through the narrow alleys of a corral. I do not know what the cattle feel but to be pronged at that rhythm through an Ali Baba cave is somehow frustrating. Some things I remember and some I read AFTER, so they got mixed in my mind like a touristic porridge. Does one want to be smart? Does one want to be nice to his girlfriend, eventually kids? He shouldn’t read! It takes time; better will be to see a commented movie and he will come out in glory…So here is my list of intakes widely opened to eventual enrichments. From the terrace that is behind the artesian fountain one had a panoramic view on the superb loins of two leaning bronze ladies (of the Mayol kind) alimenting the Naiad fountain, the rectangular basin, the gilded sculptural group of Flora and Puttos – pseudo neo-classic, the majestic staircase rolled-out like a carpet (a FAIRY will gallop on it…alas, not everybody fancies them HERE), the facade chiseled like a jewel which assures one, if need be, of the order of the world, and a remote figure, seemingly a male, judging by the loincloth wrapped around his waist, on the summit of the gable holding the globe. Atlas? Further, if one has good eyes and a little bit of imagination he will guess the cascade that is behind the palace and quite easily, on the top of the opposite hill, the round music pavilion. If the same stubborn visitor made a hundred and eighty degree turn he will admire the terrace garden, which ends into a wide pavilion housing a Marie-Antoinette statue. The pavilion under repair, of course. Nevertheless, the thought that Ludwig was thinking of that headless queen, who fancied the most unfitted hairstyle for an execution, some 70 years after her beheading in Place de Grève, didn’t fail to move me. Above the pavilion, a couple of meters up the hill, the, by now, spoiled visitor will see a delicious, I cannot find another qualification for this temple of Venus, which can be called also a tempietto without offending the memory of the great Italian architect, crowning the magic north-south axis which started, I remind you, with the music pavilion on the opposite hill. It is to say that the rigorous symmetry on Linderhof axis provides a sensorial delight which overmatches the pleasure offered by the most succulent shashlik made of the best morsels of tender lamb meat threaded on skewer in a structurally reminiscent arrangement? I should abstain of this kind of comparisons especially as I am not completely certain!
But let’s hurry up the without going into the Bavarian goose high parade step and move towards the palace itself. Let’s ignore that inner staircase which gives a nice access to anything, let’s forget the colored rooms where we got some plethoric representations of the last kings of France and their mistresses cum wives, Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Mme de Pompadour, Marie Antoinette etc with whom the poor Ludwig was deeply in love and identifying himself ad nauseam. He was continuously forgetting being a constitutional monarch. Palaces and opera were his hobby horse…The French gang consisted of absolute kings and terminal scions. Seventy four years separate the disappearance of the ferocious manic, L’Etat c’est moi, who was summoning the French nobles at morning time, the levee?!, to participate at his “necessities” from the steamroller of the French revolution. Well, poor Ludwig was dilapidating his own money, but he was not driving his country bankrupt and he was not a killer, at least until the last moment. He was an art lover, adoring music, opera above anything and Wagner beyond anything else. He was also enjoying literature, and was fond of architecture no less than of music. Sure, the plans were drawn by other people but ideas and decisions were his. He was trying his hand at aesthetic experiments which are evocative of contemporary art modes. Certainly he was out of time for the rococo, but the results were impressive. As for Wagner and for many contemporary artists his Gesamtkunstwerk approach won slowly but surely wide audience. He liked to integrate theatrical solutions in his visual endeavors, the Venus grotto on whose lake he was arriving on a gilded swan boat was inspired from Wagner Tannhäuser and from the famous Capri blue grotto. The Moroccan kiosk, who was made by a German cabinet maker for 1867 exhibition on whose peacocks’ throne the king liked to relax was – a typical objet trouvé.
The layout of the palace is extremely simple, it has six small passage “cabinets” differently colored and four wide rooms, two oval, in rococo tradition, specifically functional. The northern one is his sleeping room. He sleeps during the day. He is the Moon king, the Night King, as opposed to the Le Roi Soleil (Louis the XIV) his idol. The bed is enormous, it has the size of a helicopter landing field and is separated like an altar from the rest of the room. No mistresses of any gender were known to him.
At least by me! The opposite room, the southern one, looking towards the Venus “tempietto” is the mirror room. The king is there often during night time, day-dreaming while the chandeliers lights reflect for eternity into the glittering surfaces around. The third room, the western one, is the audience room where the king never received anybody. My badly intentioned dear friend A., who does not like him too much, pretends that ministers had to roll the documents to be signed under the door. The last room, another oval one is the dining room. The king dines alone. The table rises from the floor with four table sets. The dishes change every ten minutes. They are many dishes. At the moment of his death the king is still beautiful but fat. One table set is for him, the others three fully filled are for the ectoplasmic defunct members of French royalty with whom the king talks during the meal. That is what is said, I haven’t seen or heard him…The surroundings are lavish like in an oriental fairy tale. The ceilings are covered with frescoes, the walls with gilded stucco decorations, paintings mostly portraits are hanged on the walls in distinguished sequences which can be seen as a whole or as individual, tapestry pieces swing around the windows, painted canvas are mounted on the walls of the cabinets, small and cute medium size marble statues animate the space. The furniture is amazingly fluid, Florentine tables are capped with semiprecious stones and porcelain is abundant. The king is very fond of Meissen what proves, if need, that utility does not shun beauty. This is not our taste fashioned by Italian and Scandinavian design. It is the taste of a sultan, but it is still amazingly impressive. Before the hefty guide will push me outside I have the time to fall in rapture with an ivory chandelier of rare complexity and beauty displaying a little angel, of the chubby kind, half flying and half dangling at its lower end so that you cannot know if he supports it, by magic power or hangs from it for its dear life …Many elephants have paid a bitter price for this incertitude…I left dazzled and woozy, merry and befuddled coming out from the fairy land…It was for the first time in my life, eighty plus, that I have seen such as jewel for only ONE PERSON, for whose creation he was the driving force and the visionary… an ornate, precious womb for the CHOSEN ONE who let’s face it, was partially cracked …do the normal people who do not build castles in the air sound much better ? Isn’t the program of the new elected Mexican president who is going to smash the drug cartels (31.000 murders the last year) with good words, the Gospel, fine paid jobs, amnesty, the army back to the barracks, Thai massage, psychiatric support and free poppy grow equally insane and much less beautiful
*I want to mention again that the king was neither enslaved to the architectural style he chose nor to the materials he did use to build up his dreams. Any time that opportunity or necessity, to enhance some effects or solve some complex problems, occurred Ludwig was eager to employ, the newest and most powerful technological means. There were not less than 24 dynamos within the Venus’ grotto. They permitted to diversify the lighting, to change the colorful scenery and to set differing moods according to his desire. The poor man didn’t imagine that he would die in pitch dark waters, during a very stormy night, without having time to reflect on vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas.
** The Gesamtkunstwerk is an aesthetic concept generally associated with Richard Wagner, who exposed it for the first time in 1847 in his essay “Art and Revolution”. He advocates the necessity for the coalescence in an opera of various art forms at work such as instrumental music, drama play, vocal music, solo and choir, decor and lighting, theatrical effects and occasionally dance into an harmonious simultaneous whole instead of a combination of adjacent parts.