Photo: Julia Schambeck

The Dolphin

Object type: Historical barge
Inventory number: STA-04999
Acquired: 1914
Material: Wood
Dimensions: 11.5m × 2.6m (37'9" × 8'6")
On display: Yes

Back in the 15th century, Lake Starnberg was a popular place among Bavarian princes. The ships they sailed on the lake can be traced back to 1498. Their magnificent royal barges made a major contribution to Starnberg’s increased status. For example, the Wittelsbach dynasty organized splendid festivities on the lake for distinguished guests. The wealthy Munich residents who travelled to the lake by horse and carriage also indulged in boating, duck shooting and fishing. However, some of the entertainment offered was particularly cruel. For example, deer were driven into the water and killed from ships. The most famous baroque royal barge was the Bucentaur. Commissioned by Elector Ferdinand Maria of Bavaria and built locally, it sailed the lake from 1663 to 1741. A detailed model made in 1909 can be seen in the museum.

The last surviving royal barge is the Delphin (The Dolphin) dating back to 1835. Created by sculptor Anselm Sickinger, it was named after the dolphin that King Ludwig I wanted as a figurehead on the prow. The barge has a length of 11½ meters, and has a glass cabin furnished with two red upholstered benches and a cherrywood table. Green silk curtains once hung in front of the windows. The barge required six rowers and a coxswain. King Max II was often taken to Rose Island on board the Delphin, which was even referred to as the royal yacht. The last recorded occasion on which the barge was used was in 1893. By that time, the barges on the lake had long since been supplanted by steamboats. The first steamboat sailed on Lake Starnberg in 1851, and in 1855, King Max II commissioned his own steamboat, the Maximilian. King Ludwig II used it, renaming it the Tristan.

The Delphin was one of the first exhibits in the museum. After being hidden away from the public gaze for many years in the depository, it was given a worthy place in the new building in 2008.