Schatzkammer der Residenz (Treasury of the Munich Residence). The collecting of Persian art in Munich goes back at least to the reign of Duke Albrecht V (r. 1516-75), who, according to a document dated 19 March 1565, acknowledged the possessions of the ruling House of the Wittelsbach in Bavaria. His acknowledgment marks the founding of the Kunstkammer of the Wittelsbach dynasty, which is known at present as the Residence Treasury (Thoma and Brunner; Brunner 1977, especially pp. 127-48; Seeling 1985, pp. 76-89; idem 1989, pp. 101-38). Artifacts of oriental origin were also collected as early as the mid-16th century. They were mainly registered as exotica. For example, between 1545 and 1550, Hans Mielich (1516-73), the court painter of Albrecht V, provided the duke with an illustrated inventory of the varied treasures in the court, among which is depicted an Ottoman vessel decorated with precious stones (Löcher; Seeling 1999, pp. 185-89).

Already by the second half of the 16th century, the Kunstkammer of Munich was considered as one of the great collections in Europe. In a letter sent from Milan in 1578 by Prospero Visconti, who had visited the Kunstkammer for two days, the Kunstkammer is described as “museum non solum rarum, sed unicum in tota Europa” (a museum not only rare, but unique in the whole of Europe) (Seeling 1985, p. 77). But perhaps the best evidence for the rich treasury of the House of Wittelsbach is the so-called Fickler inventory (Staatsbibliothek, Munich cgm 2133 and 2134), which was prepared by the jurist Johann Baptist Fickler in 1598. It includes about 6,000 objects. About 930 objects in this list, which were mainly classified as ethnographical objects, originated from East and South Asia, the Near East – especially the Ottoman Empire – as well as Russia and Lapland (Bujok, pp. 57-142). They were usually recorded under the rubric “Indian” or “Turkish.” It is likely that the oriental goods were either purchased, for instance by the wealthy Fugger merchants of Augsburg at their international trading outposts, or were given as diplomatic presents. For instance, Cosimo I de’ Medici (Duke of Florence 1537–74, first Grand Duke of Tuscany 1569–74) sent in 1572 part of the exotic cargo of a ship berthed at Livorno to Munich (Seeling 1985, p. 83). However, according to the Fickler inventory, Islamic textiles are recorded as being brought back from Tunisia by the merchant Ludwig Welser and Syrian and Persian metalwork are also mentioned in the inventory as being the products of Jewish metalworkers (Seeling 1985, p. 83). During the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), the collection was severely plundered by the Swedes and their Protestant allies in 1632. It is plausible that the major part of the booty was transferred to Stockholm, to the royal treasury of the Swedish king Gustavus II Adolphus (r. 1611–32). However, several other objects of the Kunstkammer reached other collections in Germany. These treasures were probably carried by the armed forces of the dukes Wilhelm and Bernhard of Weimar. Oriental artifacts, especially textiles, banners, arm and armor, as well as metal vessels reached the treasuries of Bavaria during the continuous wars with the Ottomans, especially from the end of the 16th century and in the 17th century. A part of these objects, which were mainly regarded as war trophies, is currently on display in the Bayerisches Armeemuseum at Ingolstadt. However, the second blow to the treasury took place between 1702 and 1704, during the unstable political situation at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), a major European conflict in which Bavaria was on the losing side. Numerous artifacts were sold in order to finance the war, others simply disappeared.

At the beginning of the 19th century, at the time of the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire under the impact of the Napoleonic onslaught, territories ruled by princes of the Church were dissolved and their property confiscated by secular states, such as Bavaria, which was then elevated to a kingdom. Subsequently, many precious objects which were kept in church treasuries and monasteries, reached the treasury of the Munich Residence. In this manner, pieces of art, such as the agate plate (inv. no. Res.Mü.Schk. 6WL), once mounted on the book cover of the Bamberg Apocalypse in the Staatsbibliothek in Bamberg (Msc.Bibl.140), reached the treasury in 1803. It is datable to the late Sasanian or early Islamic period (Shalem 2000, pp. 169-73; idem, 2002, pp. 201-06). During the 19th century, most of the treasures of the Kunstkammer landed in public collections. The Islamic artifacts mainly reached the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum and Völkerkundemuseum in Munich, as well as the Armeemuseum in Ingolstadt. Among the superb examples of Persian art in the Residence of Munich are an Indo-Persian wooden box (most probably from Gujerat) inlaid with mother of pearl and ivory and datable to the 16th century (inv. no. 1237) and two silk tapestry carpets (kilims), the so-called “Polish Carpets” (one with a Polish coat-of-arms of the Vasa kings of Poland, inv. no. WC3, and the other with hunting scenes, inv. no. Res. Mü.Schk. 1240, PLATE I). They are believed to have come to the Wittelsbach family as part of the dowry of the Polish princess Anna Catharina Constanza, who married the Elector and Count Palatinate Philipp Wilhelm, a Wittelsbach, in 1642. These silk tapestries were probably made in Persia (perhaps in Kashan) at the beginning of the 17th century (Erdmann, p. 53, fig. 30; King and Sylvester, cat. no. 73). Another fragment of a “Polish Carpet” associated with this dowry is kept at present in the Textile Museum in Washington D. C. (R33.28.4; Bier, cat. no. 49; see also CARPETS IX).

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library): The nucleus around which the oriental book collection of the Bavarian State Library has developed goes back to the Hofbibliothek of Munich. The latter was extremely enriched with Islamic manuscripts in 1558, the year in which the excellent library of the diplomat and orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter was acquired. The library of Widmanstetter – mostly known for his translation of the Qurʾan into Latin in 1543 – mainly consists of the many oriental manuscripts that he bought in Italy. Later, the collection grew, especially in the 18th (through items captured during the wars against the Ottomans) and 19th centuries, (by manuscripts from the dissolved monasteries of Bavaria in 1803, as well as continuing acquisitions). The most important acquisition, however, took place in 1858, when the fine and important collection of the French orientalist Étienne Quatremère, containing 1,250 manuscripts, was bought by King Maximilian II (r. 1848-64) of Bavaria. A considerable number of fine Islamic manuscripts was added to the collection between 1970 and 1990. Recently, in January 2004, the Bavarian State Library was enriched by the acquisition of the library of the late Richard Gramlich, an orientalist and expert on Islamic mysticism.

As far as oriental manuscripts are concerned, the Bavarian State Library holds about 4,050 manuscripts, among which about 503 manuscripts are in Persian, 22 in Pushto, 14 in Sindhi and 10 in Urdu. The printed collections consist of 130,000 volumes. Among these is the first Arabic printed book Ketab ṣalāt al-sawāʾi (Fano 1514), as well as substantial holdings of early Persian lithographed and printed books. Among the lavishly illustrated Persian manuscripts (Dachs, cat. nos. 114, 115, 118, 119, 122, 123) are three excellent and fine-illustrated Šāh-nāmas. The first and largest one (cod. Pers. 15) is from Shiraz, produced between 1550 and 1600. The second Šāh-nāma (cod. Pers. 10, Qazwin or Mashad, between ca. 1560 and 1750), which consists of 215 illustrations made by different hands at different times (several of them might be assigned to Ebrāhim Mirzā, Mashad, before 1565). The third one (cod. Pers. 8, probably Persia, 1479), the text of which was completed by Ḥamd-Allāh b. Qawām-al-Din b. Qawām-al-Din b. Neẓām-al-Din Labasāni in 1492. An early example of a Safavid illustrated manuscript from Shiraz is Maktabi of Shiraz’s version of Layli o Majnun (cod. Pers. 101, Shiraz, 1514), which was completed shortly after his death about 1510-11 and signed by the calligrapher Naṣr-Allāh Moḥammad Awḥadi Ḥosayni in January 1514. The collections contains also the Ḵamsa of Neẓāmi (cod. Pers. 21, Shiraz, 1550-1600, PLATE II) and an album from the Qajar period with calligraphies and miniatures (cod. Pers. 132, Iran, early 19th century, formerly in the Quatremère collection). However, decorated Korans, too, are kept in the library (Rebhan and Riesterer, cat. nos. 2, 3, 8, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 29, 32). For example, the earliest among them are cod. Arab. 2603, datable to the late 11th century, or the 11th-century “Golden Qurʾan,” written on gold-painted paper (cod. Arab. 1112), a Qurʾan from the Timurid period, datable 1395-1435 (cod. Arab. 2621), a Safavid Qurʾan from Shiraz, produced between 1525 and 1550 (cod. Arab. 12) and acquired in 1783 by the Abbot Magnus Pachinger from Benediktbeuren (near Munich), or the one from Herat, dated 1562 (cod. Arab. 8). Another Qurʾan (cod. Arab. 2674) was probably written by the calligrapher ʿAli b. Moḥammad b. Moqaddam in Herat in 1572, whereas the lavishly decorated Qurʾan from Shiraz (cod. Arab. 2640), which is recorded as having belonged to the private library of the Ottoman sultan Murad (Morād) III (r. 1574-95).

There are also a few Qurʾans from the late Safavid and Qajar periods, such as one from the beginning of the 18th century from Herat (cod. Arab. 118) with its original lacquer book cover, or the one from the Qajar period (cod. Arab. 2627), which was completed by the calligrapher Moḥammad Māzandarāni in December 1830.

Universitätsbibliothek (Munich University Library). Several Persian manuscripts are kept in the library of the University of Munich. They once belonged to the famous collection of Ferdinand Urban (1657-1732), a member of the Jesuit theological college in Ingolstadt and a father confessor to the Elector Maximilian II Emanuel (r. 1679-1726). In 1773, several decades after Urban’s death, his collections of books and coins were given to the library of the University of Ingolstadt. Unfortunately many of the manuscripts were subsequently lost. The collection was transferred later to the library of the University of Munich (Münsterberg, pp. 21-23; John 1956, p. 11, cat. nos. 23-26). Among the few manuscripts which have survived is Cod. Ms. 997, entitled Ḏekr-e Moḥammad Bābor Pādšāh Ḡāzi, a biography of Ẓahir-al-Din Moḥammad Bābor (r. 1526-30, see BĀBOR), the founder of Mughal Empire in India.Staatliche Museum für Völkerkunde (State Ethnographical Museum). The primary collection of the Völkerkundemuseum in Munich was mainly centered around the ethnographical collections of the dukes, prince electors, and kings of Bavaria. This collection was already open to the public in 1782. It was first displayed in the halls of the upper floor of the northern arcade of the Hofgarten in the Residence. In 1868, during the reign of King Louis II (r. 1864-86), the ethnographic collection was reorganized, namely “de-europeanized” (the European objects were removed). Nevertheless, the collection was classified and also researched. In 1910, several objects of this collection were shown to the public in an exhibition in Munich which was entitled “Masterpieces of Muhammedan Art” (Meisterwerke muhammedanischer Kunst) (Sarre and Martin). The collection received its actual name, i.e. Museum für Völkerkunde, in 1917, and in 1925-26 was housed in its present building (Zelz, pp. 182-83). Many of the oriental artifacts, which were till then kept in the National Museum of Bavaria, were transferred to this collection. The collection has been extended through numerous donations and acquisitions such as the private collection of Islamic miniatures of Emil Preetorius (1883-1973; von Bothmer). The collection of the oriental department consists of abount 13,000 objects, among which approximately 3,000 are Persian and Ottoman. Since April 2003, several masterpieces of Islamic art have been placed on permanent display in the Museum (Frembgen). Among these artifacts are several illuminated pages from the Safavid period which had once been part of the E. Preetorius Collection, such as the Qurʾan page with the Fāteḥa (the opening chapter) (inv. no. 77-11-457, Bothmer, cat. no. 10, Frembgen, fig. 34), or the delicate and finely painted angel (inv. no. 77-11-290, Bothmer, cat. no. 30, Frembgen, fig. 29, PLATE III). However, also a luster-painted tile with a depiction of a dragon from the Ilkhanid period (inv. no. 27-55-77, Frembgen, fig. 91), a prayer compass from Persia dated 1830, formerly in the G. Merzbacher Collection (inv. no. 26-35-146, Frembgen, fig. 65), or the large lacquer-painted panel from the Qajar period, once in the Th. Bischoff Collection (inv. no. 4897, Frembgen, fig. 26).

Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Bavarian National Museum): The initiative to establish a National Museum in Bavaria was taken by King Maximilian II in 1853, probably as a response to the founding of the Germanisches Museum in Nuremberg in 1852. The Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, which was opened in 1859, was initially designed to house the Wittelsbach treasures and other Bavarian arts and crafts (Lenz; Eikelmann). A substantial part of the Wittelbach treasures transferred to the museum were carpets, wall carpets and rugs. Unfortunately, very few Persian and Turkish carpets are kept at present in the collection of this museum. A fine example is the 17th-century silk carpet from Isfahan (inv. no. T 1608) which once belonged to the treasures of the Residence in Munich and which probably reached the collection in 1857 (PLATE IV). Other precious items are the 17th-century silk carpet from Isfahan (inv. no. T 1597), which was once kept in the Hofkirchenstiftung Hofkirchenstift Neuburg on the Danube (Spuhler, p. 185, cat. no. 61), and the Persian silk carpet (inv. no. T 1611), which previously had been at the Residence in Munich and which was made in Kashan, most probably in the second half of the 16th century (Borkopp-Restle, cat. no. 11).

Private Collections. Numerous Persian objects of art are kept in different private collections in Munich. These are in the first place carpets and textiles, but also glass, ceramics and metal works from Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan. Several pieces had been published in different exhibition catalogues (see mainly Morgenländische Pracht, and Islamische Kunst aus privaten Sammlungen in Deutschland, cat. nos. I.10, I.12, III.1, III.2 (PLATE V), III.12, IV.5,-12, 16-24, 42, VI.5-7).



Carol Bier (ed.), Woven from the Soul, Spun from the Heart. Textile Arts of Safavid and Qajar Iran, 16th-19th Centuries, Washington D. C., 1987.

Birgitt Borkopp-Restle, Textile Schätze aus Renaissance und Barock aus den Sammlungen des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums, Munich, 2002.

Hans-Caspar Graf von Bothmer, Die islamischen Miniaturen der Sammlung Preetorius, Munich, 1982.

Herbert Brunner, Die Kunstschätze der Münchner Residenz, Munich, 1977.

Elke Bujok, “Africana der Münchner Kunstkammer von 1598,” Münchner Beiträge zur Völkerkunde 8, 2003, pp. 57-142.

Karl Dachs, ed., Das Buch im Orient, Wiesbaden, 1982.

Renate Eikelmann, ed., Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. Handbuch der kunst- und kulturgeschichtlichen Sammlungen, Munich, 2000.

Kurt Erdmann, Europa und der Orientteppich, Mainz, 1962.

Jürgen Wasim Frembgen, Nahrung für die Seele. Welten des Islam, Munich, 2003.

Claus-Peter Haase, Jens Kröger and Ursula Lienert, eds., Morgenländische Pracht. Islamische Kunst aus deutschem Privatbesitz, Bremen, 1993.

Islamische Kunst aus privaten Sammlungen in Deutschland, exhibition catalogue, Bayerisches Armeemuseum Ingolstadt, Munich, 2000.

Wilhelm John, Alte Bücher der UB München als Zeugen ihrer Geschichte, exhibition catalogue, Munich, 1956.

Donald King and David Sylvester, The Eastern Carpets in the Western World, London, 1983.

Oskar Lenz, “Hundert Jahre Bayerisches Nationalmuseum,” in Kunst und Kunsthandwerk. Meisterwerke im Bayerischen Nationalmuseum München, Festschrift zum hundertjährigen Bestehen des Museums, Munich, 1955, pp. 7-33.

Kurt Löcher, Hans Mielich 1516-1573. Bildnismaler in München, Berlin, 2002.

Oskar Münsterberg, “Bayern und Asien im XVI., XVIII. Jahrhundert. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des ostasiatischen Kunstgewerbes in seinen Beziehungen zu Europa,” Zeitschrift des Münchener Alterthumsvereins, N.S. 6, 1894, pp. 12-37.

Helga Rebhan and Winfried Riesterer, Prachtkorane aus tausend Jahren, Munich, 1998.

Friedrich Sarre and F. R. Martin, Meisterwerke muhammedanischer Kunst in München, 1910, Munich, 1910-12.

Lorenz Seeling, “The Munich Kunstkammer 1565-1807, “ in Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor, eds., The Origins of Museums. The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe, Oxford, 1985.

Idem, “Die Münchner Kunstkammer. Geschichte, Anlage, Ausstattung,” Jahrbuch der bayerischen Denkmalpflege 40, 1986, pp. 101-38.

Idem, “Hans Mielichs Bildnis des Münchner Hofnarren Mertl Witz aus dem Jahr 1545,” Pantheon 57, 1999, pp. 185-89.

Avinoam Shalem, “Die Achatplatte vom ursprünlichen Einband,” in Gude Suckale-Redlefsen and Bernhard Schemmel, eds., Das Buch mit 7 Siegeln. Die Bamberger Apokalypse, Luzern, 2000, pp. 169-73.

Idem, “The Oval Agate Plate of the Book Cover of the Bamberg Apocalypse,” in Warwick Ball and Leonard Harrow, eds., Cairo to Kabul. Afghan and Islamic Studies presented to Ralph Pinder Wilson, London, 2002, pp. 201-206.

Friedrich Spuhler, “Seidene Repräsentationsteppiche der mittleren bis späten Safawidenzeit: Die sogenannten Polenteppiche,” Ph.D. diss., Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, 1968.

Hans Thoma and Herbert Brunner, Schatzkammer der Residenz München, Munich, 1964.

Caroline Zelz, “Das Staatliche Museum für Völkerkunde in München. Ein Museum für aussereuropäische Kultur und Kunst,” in Peter W. Schienerl, Diplomaten und Wesire. Krieg und Frieden im Spiegel türkischen Kunsthandwerks, Munich, 1988, pp. 182-83 (see also GERMANY VI: COLLECTIONS AND STUDY OF PERSIAN ART IN GERMANY)

(Avinoam Shalem)

Originally Published: July 20, 2005

Last Updated: July 20, 2005