Wednesday 16 November 2011

Look Above!

No matter where I am, in a private home or a stately one, in a concert hall or a shopping mall, at the hairdresser's or in an office, I look at the ceiling.

My interest in ceilings stems from a time when I was so bored (today people would say I was "underchallenged") at school that I invented a game that helped me through seemingly endless lessons, and it soon developed into something I still do today, not only to keep my mind occupied when there is not much else I can do, but also because it is fun:
In any room, in any building, imagine the room was upside down and the ceiling was the floor, complete with all its arches, stukko ornaments, beams, fire alarms, sound and light systems and so on. Where would you sit? Which part of the room would you explore first? How would you get from one corner to the other? Would you have to jump or climb your way across?

Last Sunday I had the chance to visit parts of Ludwigsburg's castle/stately home I had never been to before (see my previous post for more info), and of course I looked at the ceilings.

Here is some of what I found - not all pictures show the colours as bright as they really are, since lighting was not always ideal for taking pictures.

Let me start with some typical baroque detail; these are, of course, no real jewels; they are made of plaster. What IS real, though, is the gold. All throughout Ludwigsburg castle, the gold ornaments you see on ceilings and walls are covered in 22 1/2 carat cold leaf.

I guess you can easily spot where the detail in the first picture is taken from here on the bigger picture. Good job my camera can zoom in!

All around the room, there are portraits of, I believe, allegories for the arts and crafts, or maybe they are supposed to be muses.

 Some of the portraits deserve a closer llook, such as this beautiful lady.

Or look at him! That haughty look on his face is excellent, isn't it! I like to think the artist portrayed people known to him in real life.

 Another typical baroque ceiling.

 Don't you wish you could join the lady on the balustrade?

One of many doors that are usually closed to the public. I am 5' 8'' and I reach about half way up that door.

 Whoever painted this did not forget to give the owl its dinner!

Detail from the door picture. Now, I usually do have a thing for fauns (I just wish they weren't so hairy), but the wide mouth and big moustache and beard on this one are a bit too much.
 Tucked away in a corner of a staircase normally not open to the public, I found this dog.

 The condition in which they found some of the doors before starting to restore them.

One last look at some roof detail. See Father Time sat beneath the clock? A good reminder right now that it is time for me to get a shower and get dressed and start working!


  1. Hello:
    What an absolutely fascinating place containing so many wonderful things of which, doubtless, the ceilings are by no means the least. However, with those shown here to apply your game, which we think is such marvellous fun and which, almost certainly we shall find ourselves adopting, would present a number of challenges such as avoiding plaster jewels and ensuring that one did not tread on someone's face.

  2. How very interesting - and beautiful. Hardly possible to believe that some of these rooms are hidden away from public view. What a waste! I always look above shops, if you by pass the modern shopfronts and turn your eyes upwards you can often see fantastic decorations on old shops.

  3. Librarian,
    Had you grown up in Georgia , you would have had to invent another game... not much detail in the ceilings here! :-)
    In England, I am always fascinated by the detail of the buildings. While I am walking, I must be careful since often I am looking up a bit too much!
    Thanks for showing us close-up some of the inside of the castle.

  4. What a cool game! I had a game during lunch in grammar school. The walls were full of perforated holes and I would imagine things coming out of them that would fit. Like worms, pens, etc. Luckily, the worms didn't put me off my food!

  5. Jane and Lance, let me know when you have tried the game and how you liked it. It can even be played on a train or plane - anywhere with a ceiling will do.

    Jenny, oh yes, shop fronts and other buildings above the average person's eye level are also fascinating. I love the detail found along roofs and balustrades, as I hope I have shown with some of the outdoors detail pictures on here.

    Kay, for utterly bland buildings with featureless ceilings I have a different game: imagine the room filled with water so that you could swim anywhere (you'd be able to breathe water in that game, of course). The utterly ugly concrete block building where I went to school was very well suited for my diving/swimming game.

    Sonia, that is quite a twist to the game - worms!! I guess nothing ever really came out of those holes... or did it? :-)

  6. Funny, as a kid I used to imagine the roomturned upside down, and how it would be to walk on the ceiling, and have to get accross door mantels to get through the doors...
    Ludwig's ceilings would be much more fun to walk on...

  7. I enjoyed reading about your game! It reminded me of a similar game I used to play in church as a child. I would imagine myself suddenly transported to one of the chandeliers and then have to imagine how I could get myself down. Swinging to somewhere. How I could hold on. Where I could jump to from there........

    I love looking at ceilings if they are interesting, but have never played your game and will have to try it sometime. In one of the early Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace the little girls play that the ceiling is the floor. I think it involves a mirror that they are seeing it in. I'll have to go back and try to find this and reread it. It is a room in the house of Tib, the German-American girl of the trio.

  8. Macy, exactly! I guess quite a few people played the same game as we did. Why did they stop? Not enough "boredom" in their daily lives anymore?

    Kristi, never heard of the author or the Betsy Tacy books, are they good? Your variation on the game sounds fun, too!

  9. They are so beautiful. I can imagine that if one lived there and had one's tutor come in for lessons one could easily switch off from what they were saying and get lost in the pictures.

  10. Some ceilings are nice to look at

  11. I guess I need to look up more! These ceiling are beautiful - what attention to detail. I have to say the US is really behind when it comes to ceiling murals (at least where I am) - thanks for sharing these.


    p.s. Sorry to hear of your loss.

  12. Scriptor, that - getting lost in whatever else I found more interesting than the lesson itself - was my downfall at school and lead to me never going to university.

    Mohamed, they are indeed, aren't they!

    Elizabeth, such ceiling murals are mainly found in buildings from baroque times - a period when, I believe, people in the US had other things on their minds, not building pompous palaces for their monarchs :-) That may explain why you do not get to see many of them in your area.

  13. The Betsy Tacy books are wonderful. If you google Maud Hart Lovelace you will probably find a lot about the. Or Betsy Tacy. They are a series of 10 books (with 3 other books in the same world but concentrating on other characters, very biographical from the 5th birthday of Betsy until the first year of her marriage. She was born in 1892 in Mankato, Minnesota. The books have all, again, been republished by Harper Collins. The begin, as do the Little House on the Prarie books (though Maud did not read those books which were coming out at the same time until after she finished her series so that she would not copy them) with the early books written in a much simpler style. Betsy and the Great World has Maud's tour of a number of European places just before WWI, including a long time in Munich. They are heart-warming but not sappy, and fascinating. Anna Quindlen calls Betsy "a feminist icon". Bette Middler said she loves the books and they influenced her a lot as a young girl. I think you should read them! Google Betsy Tacy Society.

  14. Kristi, thank you, I will first of all check the online catalogue of my local library to see if they have any Betsy Tracy / Maud Hart Lovelace. Reg. the "Little House on the Prairie" books - I absolutely loved those when I was a child, although I often felt a rebellious spirit rise in me when Laura was asked by her parents to "not be so selfish", and I thought, she's not an angel or a saint, just a kid! So let her be a kid, please! But I guess that was the way parents thought it best to raise their kids (and sometimes a little less selfishness wouldn't harm, would it).

  15. Absolutely fascinating. I have just been sitting here for ages mesmerised by your game and the details of your pictures and the 'haughty' face which I am convinced I have seen in a painting somewhere. I never had the imagination to invent or play any games to distract myself in lessons (or anywhere else).

  16. GB, that probably means you were a much more attentive student than I ever was, and have achieved a lot more in terms of education than I!
    Oh, it would be fascinating to find another painting with Mr. Haughty in it, wouldn't it! As far as I know, the (mostly Italian) artists who painted the ceilings and walls in Ludwigsburg did not paint on canvas, but who knows?

  17. These are wonderful! I especially like the dog, under the stairs - I wonder if, tucked away like that, it was a portrait of a real dog, who "belonged" there? I like to look up, too - when I'm travelling through central London on the bus, I like to look above the level of the shops, there's such a mix of Georgian, Victorian and Art Deco, interspersed with horrible 60s modern stuff.

  18. GeraniumCat, you know, I thought about the dog, too. It is well possible that it really existed there at court; in one of the more secluded areas of the vast palace grounds, there is a life-sized statue of a little dog that is known to have been the king's favourite pet dog, so if he had a statue for his dog, one of his predecessors could have very well had incorporated one of their dogs into the murals - or even one of the people who worked on those murals could have done it as a memento to their own dog.