"Robe Cuvilliés" Art Column -

Court dwarf François de Cuvilliés - A fateful encounter

   The designer was inspired by the hunting lodge Amalienburg in the baroque palace Nymphenburg Palace Park in Munich, Germany. The building and its interior decoration were designed by the court dwarf François de Cuvilliés.

  François de Cuvilliés, who has dwarfism, became a court dwarf at the age of 11. Court jesters and court dwarfs were hired by the royalty and nobility of medieval Europe for entertainment. Among them, people with dwarfism or black people, because of their different appearances so they were owned by the high society to amuse people as an entertainment. Therefore they were treated well in terms of food, clothing and shelter at that time. Court dwarfs can be seen in the 16th century Spanish court painter Velázquez's "Las Meninas", "Portrait of Francisco Lezcano", and in the contemporary TV series "Game of Thrones"`s celebrating scene in the court. In a sense, court jesters or Court dwarfs are the slaves of royalty.

  With such a status to enter the court, it was Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, who discovered Cuvier's talent. This encounter was the very beginning of a change in his destiny. Later, the Elector of Bavaria sent him to study mathematics and engineering, and later, in 1720, he was sent to France to study architecture. Four years later, Cuvilliés returned to Munich and began to work for the court, not as a court dwarf, but officially as an architect. Through this study abroad experience, he learned the Rococo style that was popular in France at the time, brought it back to Germany and created a fusion style of rococo, the Bavarian Rococo style.

 Bavarian Rococo style- Amalienburg

  Nymphenburg Palace Park`s first design was made by the Italian architect Joseph Effner, and the construction of the central part of the palace began in 1664. After that, the palace was gradually enlarged by successive monarchs such as Maximilian II, so the Baroque and Rococo styles architecture were gradually built. The hunting lodge Amalienburg which was designed by Cuvier, is one of the masterpieces of the Bavarian Rococo style.

  Amalienburg was built in 1734 by the order of the Holy Roman Emperor Karl VII, son of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria. The entire building was painted in white and pale pink, decorated with stuccoes by Johann Baptist Zimmermann, a late Rococo architect from southern Germany, and ornamental carvings by the woodcarver Johann Joachim Dietrich. Of note here is the stucco of Dianna, the Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon, located directly above the main entrance. The goddess carries a hunting arrow on her back, surrounded by angels and hounds. Below her is a symbol decorated with wild boar and deer. Therefore, from the elements they carved on stucco and the meaning it conveys, we can tell this decoration is perfect for the hunting lodge Amalienburg.

 Architects and decorators-productive

  Aside from Amalienburg, Cuvilliés also created other famous Rococo style buildings such as Holnstein Palace, Augustusburg Castle and Falkenlust Palaces in Brühl, which was listed as a World Heritage in 1984. In addition, Cuvier designed many decorations and ornaments patterns in the last 30 years of his life, which he made into pattern books, then spread his unique French-German Rococo style throughout Europe.

  From a court dwarf to architect, a miraculous encounter with Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, allowed Cuvilliés to fully demonstrate his talent and become a world-renowned architect, leaving us with many masterpieces today.