The Jenisch House19th century art and cultural history
The long table has been set for a banquet, and you can almost believe that the Senator and his guests will come through the door at any moment. This neoclassical country house built by Hamburg Senator Martin Johan Jenisch 1831 – 34, stands in its own extensive park next to the Elbe and, with much of its original interior intact, it gives us a vivid impression of the grand lives led by well-to-do Hanseatic merchants in the middle of the 19th century.
This three-storey house is a white cube with a Doric portico facing out over the river Elbe. Jenisch commissioned the architect Franz Gustav Forsmann to design the house, but had the plans reworked by Carl Friedrich Schinkel. The prestigious reception rooms with their opulent plasterwork, parquet flooring, furniture, paintings and sculptures from Empire and Biedermeier times are to be found on the ground floor. The first floor is where the owner’s family resided, and the low-ceilinged second floor was for the staff.
The upper floors are now used for special exhibitions, mostly covering art or architecture from the early 19th century or about the relationship between landscape design and architecture. Every year in September, the special exhibitions in this branch of the Altonaer Museum are accompanied by a summer festival offering an attractive programme of events for children and families. It also hosts a series of chamber music concerts held in the White Hall of the Jenisch House, continuing the tradition of the music salon started during the lifetime of Senator Jenisch.
The White Hall
The large hall to the left of the entrance hall originally served as a grand dining room. Its walls and ceilings are decorated with ornamental plasterwork. Three full-length windows open up to the east with a view of the park. The parquet flooring is part of the original fittings as well. The chandelier was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and comes from a stately home in East Holstein. The simple stove standing in the corner of the room is also part of the original fittings.
The Jenisch Room
This room, probably originally designed as a tea parlour or reading room, is now furnished with articles associated with Caspar Voght and Martin Johan Jenisch. It has two full length windows, one looking south towards the Elbe and the other eastwards to the park. The parquet floor was laid according to a design by the architect Franz Gustav Forsmann (1795 – 1878). Square panels of oak parquet frame the central area which is also square in shape. The inlaid circular motif with palms, wreaths and ribbons is partly formed by coloured pieces of wood and decorative nails.
The Lower Elbe Room
The three almost room-height windows in this room open out into the portico on the south side of the house. This allows people to step out onto the terrace or even down the stone steps to the park, so it is also described as the Garden Room. The fittings in the room are mainly from the time of the French Empire (around 1800) The group of seats with black lacquered and gilded wood in the middle of the room was originally in the house belonging to Georg Friedrich Baur on Palmaille in Altona. The chairs with the sphinx figures on the arm rests and curved back are based on a design by Percier & Founaine, important architects and interior designers of the Empire style in Paris.
The Music Room
This room is furnished with musical instruments appropriate for its original purpose. Taking pride of place is the unique Erard fortepiano from the year 1838 which was kept in excellent, playable condition by Prof. Andreas Beurmann. A music stand with an adjustable tray for sheet music is placed right next to it. Above a square piano there hangs a photograph of Candida Höfer (born 1944), mirroring the view out of the window to the Elbe. On the other wall there is a portrait of Alice Boué (nee Parish) (1766 - 1837) by Jean-Laurent Mosnier (1743 – 1808).
Exhibition about Caspar Voght (1752 - 1839)
The west wing of the first floor is dedicated to a permanent exhibition about the life and work of Caspar Voght. This Hamburg merchant, together with his friend and business partner Georg Sieveking (1751-1799) controlled one of the largest trading companies in Hamburg in the second half of the 18th century. Voght was also a key figure as society developed in the Hansa town around 1800.
The Upper Elbe Room
The room above the Lower Elbe Room was the former study or smoking room of Marin Johan Jenisch the Younger. This is where he withdrew when he wanted to escape from his visitors. The fittings are not actually original. The large group of furniture in the middle consists of an extendable table with sturdy lion’s feet, ten chairs and two armchairs. The table, which came from a Schleswig-Holstein stately home, dates from 1830 to 1840 and can be extended from its original 128 cm circumference to a length of approx. 470 cm by adding its eight leaves. The leaves – like the chairs and armchairs – are made of mahogany with light decorative marquetry work.
The Altonaer Room
Auch dieses Zimmer war ursprünglich ein Privatzimmer der Jenischs. Es führt mit einem Fenster zu Südseite des Parks. Das Zimmer ist heute vollständig mit sogenannten Altonaer Möbeln ausgestattet. Sie zeichnen sich durch ihren auf den Rück- oder Unterseiten angebrachten Zollbefreiungsstempel aus Siegellack aus (Altonaer Fabrik Waren Stempel). Er bewirkte zwischen 1766 und 1839 unter den dänischen Königen Christian VII. und Friedrich VI. den zollfreien Export in die Herzogtümer Holstein und Schleswig sowie nach Dänemark.
The Biedermeier Room
Originally used as a guest room for the Jenisch family’s visitors, this room has two windows to the north and the east. Today it is furnished as a late Biedermeier drawing room with furniture of the time, which were almost all manufactured in Altona using mahogany veneer, a typical material in this coastal region at the time.