FRANZ VON LENBACH'S VILLA
Between 1887 and 1890, Franz Lenbach had a spacious villa erected in the immediate vicinity of Königsplatz square; the building was designed in collaboration with Gabriel von Seidl, then Munich’s most renowned architect. The first part of the ensemble to be built was the studio building, the southern wing of the complex as it stands today, which rose vis-à-vis the Propylaea, a symbolic city gate — outside the city laid out by Ludwig I, but directly on the ceremonial route leading from the royal residence to Nymphenburg Palace. The prominent location was also very close to the major state art collections; the Glyptothek and the royal exhibition building (now home to the State Collection of Antiquities) on Königsplatz are just a stone’s throw away, and the Alte and Neue Pinakothek are within easy walking distance. Count Schack, Lenbach’s greatest supporter, resided a short way down the road toward Nymphenburg, and Richard Wagner’s villa stood across the street. The choice of this site for his home underlined Lenbach’s representational aspirations. In keeping with the significance of the location, the studio wing was designed with columns adorning the street-side façade; pilasters were deemed sufficient for the garden façade. The studio, that is to say, addressed the public in a representative gesture.
After the studio wing was complete, Lenbach built the residential wing, whose design was inspired by Tuscan villas; the grand staircase leading up to the main entrance and the fountain basin quote Roman architectural motifs. The villa had to be inserted between two existing structures, the residence of the sculptor Anton Heinrich Hess and the home of the Schäfer family. It was initially connected to the studio wing only by false façades. Max Kolb designed the gardens and the fountains structuring their layout that framed the ensemble as a whole.
Drawing on a variety of architectural models and adding decorative set pieces, Lenbach thus created a suitable setting for a representative social life in the style of the prosperous late-nineteenth century Gründerzeit. With its grand staircase, columns, loggias, curved and arched forms, terracotta vessels on pedestals, and inset stucco reliefs, the entire complex forms a harmonious union of heterogeneous elements and attests to a painterly eye for effect. In the era of historicism, architecture and the art of designing lavish festivities renewed their former alliance one last time, now under the aegis of the bourgeoisie rather than the court. Lenbach was accordingly also one of Munich’s most sought-after creators of decorations for these festivities, which drew large public audiences.