The reconstructed “Adler Pharmacy” symbolises the varied history
of the house on Hühnermarkt.
After acquiring the grounds in 1662, the apothecary Adam Coebergh with the help of the council founded the Adler Pharmacy
in the „Coeberghisches Stockhaus“. The pharmacy remained in the
family for more than four generations. Martin Jakob Coebergh consigned the pharmacy to his associate, Andreas Monheim, who
had come from Cologne to Aachen in 1781. In 1783, Monheim acquired the Coebergh House and, maintaining the old construction, had it renovated by Jakob Couven in 1786. The son
of the famous architect and town planner Johann Joseph Couven,
created a town house with a five-fold axial facade in the typical combination of bluestone and brick here at the medieval location of the city scales.
The “Adler Pharmacy” remained in the Monheim family until the
end of the 19th century. From 1857 the pharmacy not only
produced drugs and medicines, but also chocolate; an Italian
chocolatier produced up to 400 bars of chocolate a day. Among the furnishing and fittings of the pharmacy were not only mortars, pestles, scales and pharmaceutical vessels (for example, Italian majolicas – albarelli – from the 17th and 18th
centuries) but also an astronomical clock with the signature “Joh. Schmits, Horloger A Aix la Chapelle”.
The Delft tiled fresco has the central theme of the VOC (United East Indian Company) which, founded in 1602, existed until 1795 and transported coffee, tea and chocolate – amongst many other goods – to Europe.
The magnificent fireplace was created by the Italian stucco master craftsman, Pietro Nicolo Gagini, in 1778 for the country house “Drimborn” just outside of Aachen, which had been destroyed in the war. In keeping with the late 18th – century style, an opulently formed flower basket is wreathed with garlands and bows.
The Aachen bureau is from around 1780. The lower part is a chest of drawers with double drawers and ornamented with cornucopias and leaves. A roll-fronted, quarter-cylinder closure with elaborate ornamental carving connects the chest of drawers to the top cupboard section. The carvings on the doors of the closed top section are illustrious: musical instruments – a hunting horn and viola, trumpet and clarinet – are framed in garlands of roses. The crowning to this extraordinary “functional piece of furniture” is a cambered cornice, characteristic of Aachen Rococo (also known as the “Aachen nose”).
A wonderful French pendulum clock from the first half of the 18th century is ornamented with gold-plated Rocaille appliqués. Above the glass and below the clockwork – with the signature “Tallon, à Paris” – there is a plastic relief with what would seem to be an illustration of Neptune. The elaborate pendulum is crowned by a female figure on an eagle.
Room looking onto the courtyard
The “Courtyard Room” takes its name from the windows opening out onto the small inner courtyard. The large golden Empire mirror has been part of the furnishings of the house since Andreas Monheim’s time. The glass cabinet, which was donated to the museums of the city of Aachen in the 1960s, is one of the masterpieces of Aachen cabinet-making of the 18th century. A filigree glass cabinet section sits on a massive lower body with fine Rocaille carvings. Behind what looks like small bay windows with curved latticework there is a fine selection of the porcelain collection of the Couven Museum.
At the beginning of the 18th century a dramatic cultural change took place in Europe. Along with this came new luxury foodstuffs and consumer goods, such as coffee, tea and chocolate as well as tobacco and exotic spices, which led to a sophistication in table manners and traditions. This, in turn, had an impact on the interior decoration of the bourgeois residences. Elaborate glass cabinets, above all those produced in the Aachen-Liège region in the 18th century, were the presentation centres for the pride of the bourgeois society – porcelain. This “white gold” was the epitome of courtly luxury. Until the beginning of the 18th century porcelain was an exclusive import from East Asia (China, Japan). Around 1709/1710 Johann Friedrich Böttger (*1682 †1719) made the first successful experiments to manufacture porcelain in Europe. These endeavours, which were always supported by August the Strong of Saxony, led eventually to the founding of the Meissen Porcelain Company, which still manufactures absolute top-quality porcelain today.
Opposite the glass cabinet is a richly carved fireplace and mantelpiece from the Mennicken House in Eupen. The typical Rocaille carvings frame a portrait of a lady of the Clermont family in Vaals, presumably Maria Elisabeth Sophia Clermont, née Emminghaus (*1733 †1783), in an elegant lace robe with a fur-trimmed red cloak.
In the small inner courtyard the three buildings of the Couven- Museum meet: “Haus Monheim”, the “Haus zum Lindenbaum” and the rear courtyard house. Unlike in the previous building on Seilgraben (“Haus Fey”), which was completed in 1765-67 by Jakob Couven in the manner of a French hôtel with a “Cour d’honneur”, Couven did without such a court of honour in the reconstruction of the “Coeberghisches Stockhaus” in 1786.
In the inner courtyard, plastered with the regionally typical blue flagstones there is a fountain, also of stone, with an 18th century Italian marble incrustation lined with two cast-iron relief vases between the rustic window settings.
Among the most beautiful Dutch Fayence pieces of the late 17th century are the two “Cache pots”. Putti making music adorn the centre frieze amidst a colourful flower ornamentation in orange, green and cobalt blue. The handles are rolled into elegant volutes and decorated with mascarons and sculptured heads. A terra-cotta garden statue originally from “Haus Fey” on Seilgraben and a stone stairway with a curved cast-iron banister round off the romantic ambience of the inner courtyard.
The conserved exhibits can only hint at the iconographical significance of garden architecture. The careful lay-out of gardens had been an important component in courtly architecture since the 15th century. After the Italian Renaissance gardens, the trend developed towards Baroque gardens à la fran¸caise, mostly with an allegorical sculpture programme. In the Rococo period the focus of garden design changed: instead of the central axis as the backdrop for bombastic displays of power, the “Cabinet” now took over as the stage for courtly games.
The kitchen offers us an insight into the everyday life of the 18th and 19th century. The cast iron cooker from the Eifel served both as a hearth for cooking and a source of heat. Copper and brass pots, pans, sieves and ladles surround the cooker in the Dutch tiled chimney hood. Other cooking utensils and crockery made of tin, brass, copper and ceramics complete the kitchen fittings.
In the sturdy oak glass cabinet there is earthenware in the well known “Indian Blue” decor, an abstract form of the early Meissen porcelain decor, and a magnificent coffee mill from the Aachen- Liège region in the early 18th century. The cast iron coffee roaster, the coffee mill and the crockery with large, bulbous jugs, small cups and tea bowls refer to the fact that the initially courtly luxurious drink coffee, as with tea and chocolate, had spread across all of 18th-century Europe and was now part of bourgeois and rural life. The integration of such courtly lifestyles into the bourgeois ambience can be seen again and again in the Couven Museum.
However, one should not be misled by the gleaming golden kitchen utensils, mostly engraved or with exaggerated ornamentation. Housework was at that time extremely hard. The pump at the bluestone basin, the coal-fired oven and also the heavy ironing utensils made of iron and brass, illustrate that housekeeping in the 18th and 19th century was a case of heavy physical work.
The “Directoire Room” reflects the furnishing style of the period after the French Revolution. In the Napoleonic era art was characterised by quotations from the ancient world and an aesthetic austerity in form. The mighty cast iron “cannon oven”, framed in an Aachen Empire door surrounded with pilasters crowned with figurines and two stylised dragons, dominates the room. Both the brass fire guard and the two console tables are decorated with sculptured profiles – some with laurel wreaths – which go back to images on ancient coins. The austere oak chairs and the bronze candelabra with supporting female figures, – caryatids – are also typical of this period.
The ambience of the “Directoire Room” is essentially characterised by the large canvas paintings from the late 18th century. The five landscape paintings optically open up the room with an idealised view of “outside”. All paintings deal with life and work in river and coastal landscapes – fishermen gathering their nets on boats and on the banks, others angling with rods and scoop nets, a woman holding a basket to collect the catch.
One painting shows how an Asian lady and an Oriental gentleman meet on the banks. Despite the exotic clothing – the Asian woman, with her hair elaborately pinned up, wearing a blue, kimono-type robe and carrying a far-eastern sunshade, and the Oriental gentleman with a turban, a green cloak and a dagger in his belt– the European facial features of the figures reveal the artificial situation: the exotic ambience as the stage of the European Rococo society, the confrontation of cultures as role-playing and dressing up. In the paintings on the opposite wall in what would appear to be an Italian river landscape one can recognise the Christian motif “Flight from Egypt” with the family fleeing from the rising storm in the foreground and “Christ as the good shepherd” with a shepherd figure and his herd, an almost obligatory image for these Rococo paintings.
Tiled Room upstairs
With the renovation of the old “Haus zum Lindenbaum“ in the 1960s, a worthy place of exhibition was found for the valuable collection of Dutch ceramics tiles, which were donated by the Aachen art collectors, Peter and Irene Ludwig. The collection is divided into two rooms. The room upstairs houses magnificent ceramic pictures. The room downstairs shows a large selection of various tile decorations – almost like a pattern-book.
In the room upstairs, which can be reached via a wooden staircase from an old house on Peterstraße, there are precious tile pictures mostly with manganese ornamental painting. The “Four Seasons” tiles were created in the Rotterdam manufacturer Aalmis. Following the Rococo paintings of Antoine Watteau and François Boucher, the allegory Spring depicts a young squire with bagpipes and a dog courting the favour of a shepherdess, who, like a flower goddess, is leaning on a basket swollen with spring flowers. Summer is symbolised by the ripe sheaf of corn, added to the second picture of the shepherd and shepherdess. In the autumn picture the shepherdess, this time as the goddess Ceres, pours grapes from the hat of her companion, who embraces her with his right arm, while his left hand reaches for the fruit. A vine with grapes and leaves border the lower edge of the picture. The seasonal cycle closes with a barren winter landscape where two putti warm themselves at a fire, a third approaching with a bundle of firewood.
The pleasurable allegories of the seasons of the year are set in a garlanded architectural frame on the lower side of which there is the signature of the Rotterdam fayence painter, Johannes Aalmis the Younger (*1714). Aalmis was a member of the board of directors of the St. Lucas Guild from 1740 to 1753; from 1755 to 1790 he managed the family business which above all became famous for its large frescos in manganese violet.
Tiled Room downstairs
In the room downstairs there are tiles from the 16th-19th centuries arranged in groups of four as in a pattern-book or rapport. The oldest are from the Asian-Islamic region (lustre tiles, Persia, 16th century). Tiles as wall panelling were introduced in the Netherlands in the 16th century by the Spanish, who were influenced by the Islamic culture. In the late 17th and early 18th century the Dutch manufacturers, especially in Rotterdam and Delft, reached their artistic pinnacle.
Apart from the cobalt blue decor on a white background, which was modelled on East Asian porcelain, manganese violet decor prevailed greatly in the 18th century. Original drawings, such as playful putti or balancing acrobats doing headstands are represented, as are the typified landscapes with windmills, ships and farm houses, biblical scenes and allegories. Ornaments were set together on four tiles to form a textile rapport, which could be continued indefinitely. Using paper stencils into which the contours of the drawings were perforated (“Sponsen”), the drawing was copied with coal dust onto the tin-glazed tiles and painted over using thin brushes.
The brown tiles painted in beige, here with the Flemish lion, are typical for the Tongeren region. Moorish tiles, on the other hand, show an exotic animal kingdom, for example a camel. In the biblical themes a crucifixion image and the Wedding at Cana, documented with the bible reference IOAN:2:4, are illustrated. A representation of King David is titled EST:5:7.
The entrance to the small salon is through the carved folding door from the “Wespienhaus”. What we call the “Kölner Decke“ is from the late 17th century, i.e. during the period of origin of the “Coeberghisches Stockhaus”. The ceiling construction refers to medieval architecture in which the room dimensions depended on the carrying beams. In the large banqueting hall, on the other hand, one can recognise the advanced ceiling construction of the 18th century, which could do without the binding beam and therefore could provide generous room dimensions.
The Régence wooden panelling are spolia from the Baroque interior of the Town Hall. Together with the two carved consoles with mirrors and the Trumeau pictures from the “Kerstenscher Pavillon”, these individually preserved pieces give an impression of the magnificent design of the Aachen Rococo buildings, which were destroyed during the war.
The room is characterised by the Louis XVI glass cabinet. At the end of the 18th century the ornamentation changed from the Rocaille of the Rococo to the garland of Louis XVI. The fine carving work covers the wings of the door and corner elements in a web of twines, bows and ribbons. The upper part of the cabinet is also decorated with elaborate bows and twines. The curved cornice is crowned with a fragile wreath.
The Aachen chest of drawers with clock is of outstanding significance in the art of furniture making in the 18th century. Above the lower construction with four drawers decorated with Rocaille carving, a writing element rises with very particular corner volutes. This piece of furniture seems almost to grow into the clock tower. It is indeed a long case clock that has been integrated into the chest, whose pendulum and weights hang in the cut-out areas behind the drawers.
The large Banqueting Hall of the Couven-Museum reflects the bourgeois self-conception towards the end of the 18th century. As in the courtly castle architecture, the bourgeoisie built representative rooms – banqueting halls and salons – in which chamber music concerts and receptions were given. The entrance to the hall is via generous winged doors with supraports from the former “Kerstenscher Pavillon”. Like the panelling modelled on designs by Johann Joseph Couven, they too show the typical Aachen Rococo carvings.
While the five windows look out onto the Hühnermarkt with a panorama of medieval Aachen with the Granus Tower, the large 18th-century canvas paintings bring a view of idealised landscapes. Idyllic scenes, quite in accordance with the spirit of “Folies-Bergère“, in which the members of the Rococo society with relish abandon themselves to the staging of simple life, dominate the paintings. Influenced by the playful and pretty paintings of Watteau or Boucher, painting studios in France and the Netherlands created innumerable examples of such landscape paintings. During the restoration work on the Couven-Museum from 1999 to 2002 the painting was elaborately restored by the Cologne “Group for Conservation and Restoration”. The mounting, specially developed for the Couven-Museum, ensures there is ventilation behind the painting, but also allows for a presentation of this wall-hanging-type decoration very close to the wall.
The Liège glass cabinet, already exhibited in the hall of the Ludwigs-Fey family in the first Couven-Museum, is, unlike the homogeneous Aachen furniture, clearly made up of two separate parts: a massive lower construction and a set-back glass cabinet.
The “Chinese Cabinet” is decorated to represent the Chinese vogue of the 18th century. Ever since Marco Polo’s expeditions in the 13th century, European society had been enthusiastic about Asian culture. The costly import of Asian cultural assets, above all porcelain, the “white gold”, which was only the privilege of the high nobility, set far-reaching imitation processes in motion. The white porcelain in Europe at the beginning of the 18th century developed with a pronounced China fashion. “Chinoiseria” was a popular ornament in the art of furniture making, applied arts, and also in fashion.
Apart from exotic furnishing accessories, such as the lamp in the shape of a Chinese pagoda, Japanese tsubas (engraved blades) are also on exhibition. These exhibits of an almost unknown collection of East Asian art in the museums of the City of Aachen document an important chapter in the history of collecting and also refer to the cultural affinity between Europe and Asia since the 18th century. At the beginning of 20th century there was an entire department dedicated to East Asian art in the then Art Museum in the Komphausbadstrasse. After severe losses of the old inventory during the war the Aachen museums received a donation of the Max Kirdorf Collection (*1878 †1923) from his wife, Adela Luise Kirdorf, née Strouben-Suermondt (*1882 †1958). This included numerous graphics, and also the extensive Tsuba-Collection, a selection of which is presented in the Chinese Cabinet.
Since the 18th century the ornately engraved blades enjoyed great popularity with European merchants and travellers who came into contact with Asian culture. Like East Asian porcelain and the Chinese roll-up paper pictures, these were considered precious gifts and “souvenirs” of the Rococo era.
The small hall is decorated with large 18th-century canvas paintings. Of the landscape pictures on the left-hand wall near the narrow side door, one supposes a Dutch landscape. In the left side of the picture ramblers with dogs are walking on a narrow path towards the forest situated in the background of the picture. On the right-hand side there are fishermen at a lake and a woman with a child on her back. There is a village in the background.
The conservatory measures carried out in 2000-2001 established that when paintings from Belgium and the Netherlands came to the Couven-Museum in the 1950s, they had been extensively painted over to fit in with the room situation. As with the paintings in the Banqueting Hall, a special mounting technique was also developed for the Glass Hall by the Cologne restorers. Again this allows the paintings to be mounted close to the wall, while ensuring ventilation behind the paintings. The paintings on the right-hand side of the room, which frame the glass cabinet, show various animals on the banks. To the left of the cabinet is a swan, a partridge and a blue bird, on the right-hand painting a small white dog startles the swan sitting on the bank and the ducks in the water. The depiction of the animals is very natural and of high artistic quality. They clearly emanate from a different studio than the other landscape paintings of the Couven Museum.
Cut glasses from the 16th-18th century are exhibited in the centrally situated glass cabinet. The glasses and goblets are mainly decorated with hunting motifs, sometimes with coats of arms or aphorisms. For instance the image of a deer hunt with dogs and horsemen is circumscribed with “La peine suit les plaisirs“ ; the motif of a man riding on a cockerel is inscribed “Der Weiber untreu macht solche reitterey“.
Entrance and Waiting Room
The narrow antechamber to the “Green Hall” opens via a single winged door with a supraport from the “Kerstenscher Pavillon”. Amidst the rich carving of the frame there is a buxom beauty with bare breasts, a pearl tiara in her blonde hair and an arrow in her left hand.
The antechamber is decorated with pleasing Rococo paintings. In dainty ornamental cartouches with garlands of flowers we see a woman in a pastoral costume with a basket in front of a tower and a village in the background; a shepherd with his animals; a woman riding on an ox and another shepherd with two sheep and a goat in front of a tower of uncertain architecture. The flamboyant garlands and the uniform colouring certify that the production was carried out in one studio which, however, because of the typified design of the beloved Rococo theme, cannot be further determined. As with the other canvas paintings in the Couven Museum, this type of painting served as a wall-hanging decoration. Such large formats that fill the room with pleasing themes not only gave the illusion of an optical enlargement of the room, but also a stately interior as with the tapestries in baronial houses.
The glass cabinet is from the Aachen region and can be dated to the late 18th century; compared to the older pieces of the furniture collection, the language of form is clearly more stylised. The expressive Rocaille carving, so typical of the Aachen art of furniture around 1750/60, is later lost to flat, symmetrical and reduced ornaments.
In the Green Salon there is another Aachen glass cabinet from the late 18th century. The doors of the lower cabinet are decorated with carved cartouches, the gable is completed off with an abstract sculptured coat of arms.
Above the marble fireplace is a painting with a richly carved Rococo frame of oak, crowned with a mascaron and a basket of flowers. The canvas painting shows Zeus with a boy looking up to him. Zeus, dressed in a drape revealing his right shoulder and with Ganymede and a box of arrows at his feet, rests his chin contemplatively on his right hand, which gives the picture a melancholy character.
An elaborate Rococo mirror, whose room-filling floral carving is in colour and gold-plated, hangs between the windows.
The most flamboyant object in the Green Salon is the large, Chinese paper picture (around 1770/80). The depiction refers again to the European-Asian cultural exchange in the 18th century. The Chinese artist competently illustrates his familiar landscape in the traditional water-colour technique. However, he is unsure in the illustration of European influence architecture and the figures here – probably European merchants or diplomats. Jumps in perspective and an almost comic-type, reduced depiction of the European physiognomy show the difficulty of portraying the unknown, the exotic. Just as the European porcelain painters of the 18th century were only able to reproduce the Asian form language in a modified form, because they did not understand the iconography, the Chinese artist fails in his illustration of Europeans and their architecture in the Asian landscape
(formerly AACHEN CABINET)
The small cabinet room is furnished with an Aachen bureau and a cabinet. The linen cupboard on curved feet with rich Rocaille carving work is from the Nelleßen Collection. The coats of arms on the door wings refer to the Schleicher-Lynen family from Stolberg, so one can assume that the manufacture was in the old copper town, Stolberg at the end of the 18th century. The foundation of the first copper works in Stolberg was registered in 1571 by Leonard Schleicher. The alliance between the two influential families, Schleicher and Lynen, dominated the local copper industry from then on.
In its ornamentation – the curving props, the flat Rococo carving work and cambered cornice – the cabinet is modelled on Aachen pieces. However, it does not attain the precision and elegance of the Aachen art of furniture.
The historical dolls and accessories that were presented in the cabinet until the end of the 1990s, and which gave the room its name, the “Doll’s Cabinet Room”, are now in storage awaiting restoration in the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum. When the room is reorganised in the future, a presentation of old toys and other cabinet pieces from the 18th and 19th century is planned.
Curiosity Cabinet Room
The room takes its name from the raree showcases on the window ledges. The delicate copperplate engravings from the 18th century which, thanks to mirror effects, produce a perspective illusion and can be seen in their special showcases. These “raree showcases” were popular up to the 19th century and can today only be found in a few museums, for instance Nuremberg, Munich, Berlin, Kassel and Aachen.
Apart from two biblical themes – the birth of Jesus and the adoration of the Magi – most of the raree showcases deal with stage themes of the Rococo society. Titles such as “Comedy in the Summer Pavilion” or “Stroll by a Fountain” depict aristocratic ladies and gentlemen in costumes of that time going about their business – doing sweet nothing – in the architecture of the 18th century. Other scenes such as the “Stag Hunt”, showing a hunt with horses and dogs, or the “Feast of Tabernacles” which depicts a masquerade with Pierrot in a theatre architecture, show various types of aristocratic pastimes of the Rococo era. Under the title of “The Freemasons’ Lodge” a raree showcase scenario gives insight into this mystical secret society which, after the foundation of the Grand Lodge of London in 1717, soon spread to other countries. In 1737 the “Loge d’Hambourg“, later known as “Absalom“, was founded and then sponsored by Friedrich, Crown Prince of Prussia. In the raree showcase one can see gentlemen in fine attire and three-cornered hats, busy with scientific apparatus; in the foreground a freemason can be seen with astronomical instruments, an armillary sphere, behind him two persons are measuring a globe with compasses.
Through the choice of motif all the stage settings provide a perspective effect: as in the garden landscapes that have depth or the architectural alignments placed at various levels giving the illusion of insight into a perspective room, the “Freemason´s Lodge”.
In the large room-cabinet a selection of the silver from the 18th-century Matthéy Collection is presented. Teo Matthéy (*1901 †1989), born in Wuppertal, was a textile wholesale merchant in Aachen, who bequeathed both his villa on Theaterstraße 67 and his formidable art collection to the City of Aachen. After a special exhibition in 1989 in the Suermondt-Ludwig- Museum, pieces from the Matthéy Collection are on exhibition again for the first time on a larger scale in the Couven Museum.
Precious silver coffee and chocolate pots, tea caddies and sugar bowls are arranged with two large candlesticks on a table. A particulary elaborate piece is the English tea-set by the London silversmith, Samuel Taylor (1749). This tea-set has two tea caddies for Indian and Chinese tea and a lid sugar bowl in a leather-bound wooden case with scrollwork. There are also wooden-handled chocolatières in the typical bulbous Rococo form with the extravagant Rocaille ornamentation from France or Piedmont (Giovanni Fino, around 1780) and a large Empire coffee pot, from Brest, after 1780. The elegant pot sits on three tapering canalised feet with extravagant garlands and oval reliefs with images of ancient imperial profiles. The spout is ornamented with a sculptured mascaron, the black ebony handle with carved garlands. A Meissen porcelain jug from around 1720 with silver mounting shows the alliance between the two precious materials in artistic perfection.
The refined silver refers both to the tradition of the baronial silver cabinet in the early modern times, where wealth was an indication of power, and to the high estimation of the new warm drinks, coffee, tea and chocolate, which were given credit to in costly pots, caddies and cups.
The exhibition rooms in the second story document the change in fashion at the beginning of the 19th century. As in classical architecture, the styling of the furniture and interior decoration also changed. Austere, symmetrical forms quoting ornamentation from the ancient world and precious materials replaced the curving forms of the Rococo. The large bureau with a built-in musical box is representative of the Empire style which breaks up the straight, unostentatious form of the furniture. In the interior of the desk drawer are inlays of various woods, which give an illusion of space. Above the suite – sofa, table and chairs – hangs a family portrait from the 19th century which depicts the members of the von Coels von der Brügghen family in typical contemporary costumes. Further portraits show the spa doctor, Dr. Gerhard von Reumont (*1765 †1828) and his wife.
In the table cabinet various fans and pearl-embroidered handbags are exhibited. Such accessories were part of a lady’s fine wardrobe around 1820, as were the elaborately ornamented hairpins, which were worn with dresses made of heavy velvet with lace collars and bows and finished off with silk gloves. These accessories as well as the artistic braided hairstyles are depicted in the paintings of the Jacques Louis David student, Johann Baptist Bastiné (*1783 †1811), and other artists of the 19th century portraiture.
The pack of cards with a portrayal of French soldiers bears witness to the Napoleonic occupation which had a lasting influence on the Rhineland culture. Not only is the French influence on fashion shown in the portrait paintings and illustrations at the beginning of the 19th century, but also relics from the French official language of those times can still be heard in the Rhineland vocabulary today.
The landscape room takes its name from the canvas painting from the 18th century that encircles the entire room. As with the other large paintings, the landscapes were acquired for the Couven- Museum from the Netherlands and Belgium and fitted into the rooms. Albeit that the situation today does not fulfil the original conditions, the observer is still presented with an impressive panorama view of a typical Dutch landscape.
On the left side the depiction of rural life begins with a girl and a dog at a bridge, where a curricle is approaching; meanwhile on the bank, cows are grazing in front of a farm with a hay wagon and horses. In the next scene a wagon loaded with goods comes into sight accompanied by someone carrying panniers. In the background a woman carrying a basket on her head takes the path leading into the forest. The next story tells of incidents at the river. One can recognise various ships, a sailing boat, a ferry transporting a coach over the river. The following scene reminds us of the motif the “Flight out of Egypt”: a man and his female companion riding on a donkey cross over the small bridge above a waterfall. On the other bank we can recognise a shepherd with his sheep and a dog. In the next picture two elegant gentlemen are looking at a signpost at the river, in the background two riders reach a guesthouse higher up on the bank. The last painting shows ramblers resting at the wayside where a girl with a basket passes by. In the background a dog picks up the scent at the coach-tracks on the way that leads to the village. While at the river the fishermen spread out their trawling nets on the bank between their boat and a boy, we can recognise a group having a picnic in the background.
The term “Biedermeier” refers to the style that was very popular, above all, in Germany and Austria, between the Vienna Congress in 1815 and the March Revolution in 1848. Caused by the lack of material since the Napoleonic wars and the difficulty in acquiring materials due to the Continental Blockade, a sober austerity and functional styling developed, which accompanied the return to the petit-bourgeois comfort. Simplicity and functionality determined the interior decorations at the beginning of the 19th century. The penchant for symmetry is revealed above all in the furniture, the obligatory glass cabinet with glasses and porcelain and the suite, consisting of a sofa, table and chairs.
The family portrait above the sofa depicts the bourgeois self-conception in the Biedermeier era. As a demonstration of a sense of family, the parents are portrayed amidst their children in front of portraits, which show an ancestor, probably the grandmother, the head of the house, in the prime of her life and two small children praying. What stands out in the portraits, apart from the contemporary attire, is, above all, the jewellery of these illustrated. The mother wears rings on both hands, earrings and a brooch, her daughters also wear earrings and brooches, the father a ring on his right index finger and the older son, in profile at the right of the picture, has not only a shirt-pin, but also three rings which seem to be friendship rings (posey rings). The father’s cap and sash indicate that he is a member of a university fraternity.
The family portrait confirms the bourgeois ideal of the Biedermeier which the man of letters from Karlsruhe, Victor von Scheffel (*1826 †1886), caricatured in 1848 with his description of the two types of Philistine, Biedermann and Bummelmeier.