The foundation of the Count’s Collections was laid by Count Francis I zu Erbach-Erbach (1754-1823) with medieval armour, a hunting and natural history collection and valuable antiquities. The collections were continued by his grandson Count Eberhard XV (1818-1884), who also placed new emphasis on furniture and sacred art (see Saint Hubert’s Chapel with the Schöllenbach Altarpiece).
Born with a “great fondness for antiquities”, Count Francis decided to establish a collection of antiquities in the palace in his early youth. On a trip to Italy in 1791, he succeeded in purchasing most of the antiquities still preserved in Erbach today. After his return, his court artist Johann Wilhelm Wendt designed three rooms of the first floor according to antique models: a study and audience chamber with imposing marble portraits of Roman statesmen as well as a small bed chamber, the so-called Etruscan Cabinet, filled with the most important antique vases of his collection.
Francis did not limit his interest to antiquity alone. At the same time, he expanded his ancestors’ collection of weapons, collected armour, stained glass and colossal and abnormal antlers. Even today, his extensive collections of weapons and armour can be seen in an impressive neo-Gothic knights’ hall and a rifle chamber.
The natural history collection of antlers already welcomes visitors to the palace in the vestibule, lines the staircase and unfolds its splendour with particularly impressive specimens in the large stag gallery. The underlying principle of all the collection areas, which Count Francis recorded in the catalogues that have survived to this day, can be described as encyclopaedic. In all parts of the collection, he pursued the goal of preserving history and thus making it tangible for the future.
The palace’s former living rooms conceal another impressive collection: from the 16th century onwards, representative ancestral portraits were created, culminating in thirteen Baroque portraits of members of the House of Orange-Nassau, which was related to the Erbach family. The famous Dutch relatives were painted by painters such as Anthonis van Dyck, Gerard van Honthorst, Wybrand de Geest, Michiel Mierevelt and Jan van Ravesteyn and their workshops.
The collection rooms of the late 18th and early 19th century still exist today in an almost unchanged condition. In them, as hardly anywhere else, the concept of a collection of the Age of Enlightenment becomes tangible and is still relevant today in its understanding of history.