Bavaria is rife with Baroque architecture and influences--clearly evidenced in its ornate, exuberant and dripping ornamental forms, but also in its fascination with an opposite world--that of two dimensional illusion, as seen in its traditions of trompe l'oeil painting, two dimensional illusions, and quadratura. In this context, the Munich Residenz--the largest urban palace in Germany, and once the royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs--is particularly interesting in the way it seems to play with the Baroque drive for visual delirium.
I'd like to propose that the Baroque--though known for its intensely exuberant form and dimensionality, actually begins to eliminate distinctions between two and three dimensionality. Three dimensional form and ornament is driven to such an extreme and prolific point that it begins to resemble a pattern camouflage of sorts--so bedazzling and confusing to the eyes that it can have the effect of a graphic pattern. Meanwhile, the two dimensional is pushed to produce the illusion of space. Perhaps this is not altogether an unexpected outcome in a time when debates on which of the arts reigned supreme were intense and widespread and as each art tried to prove itself, it perhaps attempted to claim more and more territory within its scope, until a blurring in expected affects began to result.
The Residenz, however, seems to play with some of these expectations and carries the experimentation beyond the usual Baroque delirium into a sort of Graphic Baroque. The 17th century West Wing is covered in what historians describe as trompe l'oeil painting. However, the facade of the Residenz is clearly not meant to provide the illusion of architectural form--thick, graphic lines outline columns, pediments, and arches without any of the realism of quadratura or Baroque painting. Futhermore, this layer of graphic lines overlays a base colorblocking which resembles stacked masonry, but the two make no effort to align and provide any illusion of real stone--instead, each operates independently, turning the ultimate effect of this trompe l'oeil to the opposite end: a playful explication of the techniques and graphics of trampe l'oeil, resulting in complete two- rather than three- dimensionality.
Surrounded by the graphics of the facade, the moments of sculptural ornament in contrast are conspicuously applied and the artifice of each is heightened, and this facade sets the stage for the rest of the experience of the palace interior, characterized by a patchwork of fantastic themed rooms, styles, and eras. Contrast this effect with the nearby Asamkirche (1733-1746), a Baroque chapel confection of illusionistic frescoes and frenzied ornament. Here, painting and sculpture combine to form a complete sensory overload in which surface and mass become indistinguishable. Painted space, color and texture compete and are mixed with dimensional space and real materials, producing a hallucinogenic blend of realities and affects. In this context, the Residenz almost seems postmodern--semantically playing with the rules of the Baroque game and subverting through wit and clever reveals. In a way, the spirit of the Residenz seems closer to Sitrling's Neue Staatsgalerie in neighborhing Stuttgart than its actual Baroque relatives.