Erbach Palace is a walk-in cabinet of curiosities. It is a place where visitors enter into the happy and exciting circumstance of barely being able to grasp the abundance. To name just the top treasures: Ancient marble sculptures and vases, armour in a specially built knight’s hall, weapons, antlers, outstanding Dutch and Flemish paintings, a colourful late Gothic altar, coins, and – united in one wing of the palace as the “German Ivory Museum” – carved beauties made of “white gold”.
In the museum palace, not only each individual object in the respective collection is of great cultural-historical value. The entire ensemble, which has hardly changed over the course of time, can also be regarded as a work of art in its own right, as there are few comparable. The fact that so much has come together under one roof is due not only, but to a large extent, to a special representative of the Erbach dynasty of counts: Francis I (1754-1823). Before he assumed a benevolent regency in 1775 in the era of the Enlightenment, he had educated himself as a young man abroad with studies and six years of travel. He had a great affinity for antiquities and cultivated them in contact with the greats of his time. As a result, Francis I zu Erbach-Erbach collected an unbelievable number of objects - and for this he visited Italy, the land of longing, for a second time. Afterwards, with the sense of a researching pioneer, the count approached the conscientious preservation of these antiquities.
He meticulously sifted, recorded, drew, determined, compared and classified. With this driving force, he was also to take care of the remains of Roman military architecture on the Odenwald Limes. Anyone taking a tour of the palace, which has grown over 800 years, wanders through three authentically preserved rooms. He called them “my living rooms” and housed there the largest private collection of antiquities that has survived to this day on this side of the Alps: It passes busts and statues of Roman rulers and inside lies an “Etruscan Cabinet” offering a cross-section of ancient vase ceramics known at the time. Francis I also left descriptions of these precious objects in illuminated catalogues of splendour, from which his world of ideas clearly emerges. The count’s pleasure was not only selfish, however, but was in harmony with public promotion of art and the economy.
Through his love of ivory turning, he even endowed a flourishing branch of the craft and ensured that the Odenwald became networked with Europe. In honour of his memory, the German Ivory Museum, which was reopened in 2016 in Erbach Palace, displays works from three centuries in modern display cases. The museum workshop is attached to the museum. In accordance with the protection of species, only alternative materials such as tagua nut, bone (cattle bone) and fossil mammoth ivory are processed into unique jewellery and works of art today.