Overdoor by Johann Fidelis Wetz titled “Sacrificing Isaac”, Meersburg New Palace

Rediscovered paintings above the doorsOverdoors

Scholarship and finder's luck enabled the return of Andreas Brugger's precious overdoors to Meersburg. As of 2012, the newly restored overdoors by Sigmaringen painter Johann Fidelis Wetz are also once again in their original spot.

Third floor enfilade with overdoors, Meersburg New Palace

Attractive vistas.

Old grandeur in the New Palace

When the reign of the prince-bishops of Constance ended in 1802, the royal residence in Meersburg was cleared out and its valuable artworks were scattered. Labels and notes on the picture frames indicate that the overdoors were temporarily located in Karlsruhe and on Mainau Island. After an endowment to the state, they again grace the royal rooms on the third floor. Interesting note: The paintings were called “overdoors” because they were predominantly hung on the wall space “over the doors.”

Detail from the overdoor “Solomon welcomes the Queen of Sheba”, by Johann Fidelis Wetz, Meersburg New Palace

The Queen of Sheba.

Johann Fidelis Wetz's overdoors

Johann Fidelis Wetz (1741–1820) was an established painter in the Lake Constance region. He came from Sigmaringen, a region belonging to the House of Hohenzollern. Four of the rediscovered paintings can be attributed to him. Similar to those by Andreas Brugger, they depict biblical stories from the Old Testament. Wetz’s designs for two of the paintings were found in Sigmaringen’s town collections. On the back of the painting “Solomon welcomes the Queen of Sheba”, Meersburg is listed as the place of destination.

Overdoor by Johann Fidelis Wetz titled “A prince's dream”, Meersburg New Palace

A prince's dream.

Condition and restoration of the works of art

All of the overdoors are approximately 90 cm tall and 190 cm wide. The oil-on-canvas paintings are in relatively good condition. The most recent restoration removed damage caused by older reworking and earlier restorations. This included removing a resin-wax coating on the back of the canvas, allowing tears to be re-glued and imperfections in the paint layer to be sealed and matched to the original paint color.

The overdoors returned

Over the course of the refurbishing of the New Palace in 2012, it was possible to identify twelve paintings as Meersburg overdoors, based on old room inventories. Until then, the true origins of the paintings had been unresolved. Thus it was, that careful academic research and a little finder's luck helped bring these artworks back to their original home in Meersburg.

Overdoor by Johann Fidelis Wetz titled “Hezekiah and the ambassadors from Babylon”, Meersburg New Palace
Overdoor by Johann Fidelis Wetz titled “Abraham and Melchizedek”, Meersburg New Palace

Biblical stories from the Old Testament: Envoys from Babylon and welcoming the victorious Abraham.

More information can be found in “Meersburg New Palace 1712 to 2012. The residence's turbulent history, from prince-bishops to the modern era,” published by Schnell & Steiner. It is available at all bookstores and at Meersburg New Palace.

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