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The kabbalistic-alchemical altarpiece in Bad Teinach

Bad Teinach is a town in the district of Calw, situated in the Black Forest area of southwest Germany.  The town is famous for the large alchemical-kabbalistic triptych that is mounted in a large baroque case near the altar of a small church in the town. I believe this triptych to be a major work of esoteric symbolism; it may even be considered by some people to be an example of “Objective Art” as defined by G. I. Gurdjieff or as “Symbolique Art” as defined by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz.

This is a large work; with the panels closed, it measures approximately six meters high and five meters wide; it dominates the area to the right of the altar of the church. It seems to have been prepared as a “teaching painting” (“Lehrtafel” in German) for the use of Princess Antonia (1613-1679) of the Duchy of Württemberg. She was the daughter of Frederick I, Duke of Württemberg (1557-1608). Frederick had been an alchemist and occultist, who, in 1603, was invested into the Order of the Garter by King James I of England. The Lehrtafel was designed in the 1650s by several friends and academic advisors of Princess Antonia; it was completed in 1663 by the artist, Johann Friedrich Gruber (1620-1681), the court painter at Stuttgart, and was presented to the Princess on her fiftieth birthday. For 10 years (1663-73) the triptych remained in Stuttgart, in the bedroom of the princess as a devotional image. But in 1673, on the sixtieth birthday of Princess Antonia, the triptych was installed at the church in Bad Teinach, the town where the ducal family used to take their summer holidays. Antonia’s brother, Duke Eberhard III (1614-1674), had established the church as a private family chapel.