Set in an idyllic garden landscape, Augustusburg Castle (the sumptuous residence of the prince-archbishops of Cologne) and the Falkenlust hunting lodge (a small rural folly) are among the earliest examples of Rococo architecture in 18th-century Germany.
Augustusburg and Falkenlust present the first important creations of the Rococo style in Germany. For more than a century, they served as models for most of the princely courts. Like the Residence of Würzburg, the castles and gardens are outstanding examples of the large princely residence of the 18th century.
Set in an idyllic garden landscape, Augustusburg Castle, the sumptuous residence of the prince-archbishops of Cologne, and the Falkenlust hunting lodge, a small rural folly, are among the earliest examples of Rococo architecture in 18th-century Germany.
A Rococo masterpiece, the castle of Augustusburg is directly linked to the great European architecture of the first half of the 18th century. In 1715, Josef-Clemens of Bavaria, Prince-Elector of Cologne, planned to construct a large residence at Brühl, on the foundations of a medieval castle. He consulted a French architect, Robert de Cotte, who sent the plans. However, this project was not immediately followed up and Prince-Elector Clemens-August, who was less francophile than his father, rejected de Cotte's proposals and in 1725 called on a Westphalian architect, Johann Conrad Schlaun, to build the castle that was to carry his name.
Schlaun's tenure lasted three years. Before his departure in 1728, he constructed, with less creative genius than economic sense, a building of three wings that incorporated the medieval ruins and the north tower of the earlier castle. Under the impulse of the architect who followed Schlaun, French influence manifested itself again. However, François de Cuvillies, who had been lent by the Elector of Bavaria to his relative, represented tendencies distinct from the classicism of de Cotte. An architect at the court of Munich since 1724, he above all valued a type of ornament which was based on a system of asymmetry and invention, in imitation of Meissonier.
His Baroque tendencies, brought to life by the Rococo style of the years of the Regency, found fertile ground in the German Empire, where Rococo reigned at Vienna as at Munich, integrating in the same workshop Austrian, Bavarian, Italian, and French artists. The castle of Augustusburg, a bold and successful revamping of the lacklustre construction of Schlaun, and the hunting lodge of Falkenlust, a dazzling creation, ex nihilo, are among the best examples of this international art of unprecedented richness.
At Augustusburg, around a piece of creative genius, the staircase of Balthasar Neumann, which is a rapturous structure that unites a lively movement of marble and stucco, jasper columns, and caryatids, culminating in the astonishing frescoed ceiling of Carlo Carlone, in the central block, the wings of the parade and the private apartments are organized in a hierarchy of effects of outstanding conception. The bon enfant decor of the new grand summer apartments with its faience tiles from the Low Countries is in striking opposition to the 'official' programme.
Falkenlust is a country house with symmetrical avant-corps. On the ground floor, an oval salon is conceived in the same language, full of improvization, charm, and liberty. In the chapel, the Bordelais Laporterie created an astonishing marine grotto by facing the walls with shells and concretions. The large gardens, laid out in a single campaign, both oppose and complement each other. At Augustusburg, Dominique Girard, a pupil of Le Nôtre, proved to be more sensitive to decorum, multiplying monumental ramps and symmetrical flower beds, like those of the gardens of Nymphenburg, Schleissheim, and the Belvedere of Vienna, of which he was also the designer. At Falkenlust the landscaping, although highly concerted, nonetheless endeavours to create the randomness of a natural site.