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date: 23 October 2019

Klenze, (Franz) Leo(pold Karl) von

A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

James Stevens Curl,

Susan Wilson

Klenze, (Franz) Leo(pold Karl) von (1784–1864) German architect, 

he created some of the finest C19 buildings in Bavaria, notably in Munich, which he helped to transform into a beautiful Capital City. Trained in Berlin (1800–3—where he was influenced by architecture of the Gillys), he worked with Percier and Fontaine in Paris (where he also absorbed much of Durand’s approach), and then became Court Architect to Jérôme (1784–1860), Napoléon Bonaparte’s (1769–1821) brother, King of Westphalia (r.1807–13): for Jérôme he designed the Court Theatre, Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel (1812). Called to Munich (1816) at the behest of Crown Prince Ludwig (1786–1868—later King Ludwig I of Bavaria (r.1825–48)), Klenze created many of the city’s noblest buildings, starting with the Glyptothek (1816–31), built to house Antique sculptures, including parts of the Greek temple at Aegina, discovered (1811) by Haller von Hallerstein et al. Although Haller had produced a ravishing Graeco-Egyptian design, and Fischer a severe project with a Pantheon-dome, Klenze’s realized building is a synthesis of Greek, Roman, and Italian-Renaissance styles. Originally the vaulted interiors (destroyed in the 1939–45 war and unhappily not reinstated) had mural and ceiling decorations in the manner of Raphael’s grotesques, providing an explanatory iconography for the collection.

Klenze designed (1816) the Leuchtenberg Palace (the first scholarly Italianate building in C19 Germany) as well as several façades (many of which had Florentine allusions) on the wide, straight, new Ludwigstrasse running north from the Residenz. Then came the Neo-Renaissance Pinakothek (1822–36), to display the Royal Collection: the architecture drew on the Palazzo Cancellaria, Rome, and on the Belvedere cortile in the Vatican, but the clear, logical plan and top-lit galleries were influential. When Ludwig ascended the Throne, Klenze was commissioned to add various buildings to the Residenz: these were the Königsbau (1826–35), in which elements of the Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Rucellai, both in Florence, were mixed; the Allerheiligenhofkirche (1826–37), an important essay in the Rundbogenstil, with quotations from the Palatine Chapel, Palermo, San Marco, Venice, and Lombardic Romanesque; and the remodelling of the north front, the Festsaalbau (1832–42).

Klenze’s greatest buildings are his public monuments, which testify to his deep feeling for the architecture of Greek Antiquity. Walhalla, near Regensburg (1830–42), is a Greek-Revival temple, based on the Parthenon and set on a high stepped platform derived partly from the image of F.Gilly’s proposed monument (1797) to Friedrich II of Prussia (‘the Great’—r.1740–86), and partly from an earlier scheme for the site by Haller (1814–15). The rich polychrome interior, illuminated from above, is not unlike C.R.Cockerell’s sensitive and scholarly drawings of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, while the exposed decorated roof-trusses recall Hittorff’s contemporary work at St-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris. Then came the Propyläen, Königsplatz, Munich (1846–60), with Graeco-Egyptian pylon-towers flanking the Greek-Doric porticoes; the Ruhmeshalle, Munich (1843–54), a Greek-Doric stoa-like colonnade terminating at each end in projecting pedimented wings, essentially a shelter for portrait-busts of eminent Bavarians (it is particularly interesting in that its composition is similar to that of the Hellenistic Great Altar of Pergamon, which had not been discovered when Klenze designed the Ruhmeshalle, so he is revealed as an architect with a natural affinity for Ancient-Greek buildings); and the Befreiungshalle (originally designed by Gärtner), near Kelheim (1842–63), a drum surrounded by buttresses, with a Roman-Doric colonnade around the upper part. These four monuments are among the noblest works of C19 architecture in all Europe.

When Prince Otto of Bavaria (1815–67), second son of King Ludwig I, was chosen (1832) as King of Greece, Klenze prepared an ambitious plan for Athens, including a vast new museum and elaborate proposals for the protection of ancient monuments, but only the RC Cathedral of St Dionysus (1844–53), a Neo-Renaissance basilica, was built. Klenze was more fortunate in his dealings with the Russians, for whom he demonstrated his skills in the huge Neo-Classical addition he designed for the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (1839–51), one of the very finest buildings of the European Classical Revival. He was a master of synthesis of styles, and was equally at home with most of them. As a Neo-Classicist, however, he was in the first rank.


Hederer (1964); Honour (1979); Klenze (1830–50, 1833, 1843); Lieb & Hufnagel (eds) (1979); Ne (1980, 1987); Wa & M (1987)