Small death, Dracula & the Beauty and the Beast

Tödlein Innsbruck Schloss Ambras

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Castle Ambras

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Here’s a little reminder… of death!

It’s hard to stand out among the countless artistic treasures on display at the art chamber of Innsbruck’s Ambras Castle. Over 1.000 different items are on display at what many consider to be the world’s first museum! However, even among stunning paintings, real Samurai armors and Italian sculptures, this wooden figurine catches the eye of every visitor.

Small Death

This remarkable piece is “Tödlein” (“Small Death”) and is a so-called “Memento Mori”, a reminder of our own mortality. German artist Hans Leinberger carved the little death guy out of a single piece of pearwood, probably at the request of Emperor Maximilian I. It is thought to be over half a millennium old, with an estimated creation date before the year 1519!

Mr. Tödlein proves that you don’t have to be tall to impress: Standing at merely 23cm (9 inches), he is the star of the show… Literally, since this figurine has been the centerpiece of multiple exhibitions, including the “Schaurig Schön 2.0” exhibition inside Ambras Castle, where everything creepy yet beautiful got its chance to shine. Tödlein showcases an incredible sense of movement, almost looking like it’s trying to ask you for a dance. Do YOU dare dance with the little death guy?

Actually, if you are curious to tango with death himself, there might be one of these figurines near you! Multiple Tödleins are known to exist, one especially beautiful example is on display at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland. The people of Innsbruck are apparently not the only ones who need a reminder of their own mortality!

The "treasure chest" of Castle Ambras

In the south of Innsbruck, as you approach the more mountainous areas of Tyrol, you will be greeted by one of the state’s most important historic sights: Ambras Castle! This impressive looking piece of architecture was built in the 15th century, replacing another castle from the 10th century. Located at an impressive 632m (2073ft) above sea level, this castle represents not only austrian history, 🇦🇹 it is also a display of art, created by some of the most respected artists of the 16th and 17th century.

The worlds first ...

In fact, Ambras Castle might have been one of the world’s first museums! Hundreds of paintings and sculptures are located there, waiting to be admired. Most of these works are kept in the castle’s Chamber of Armor, Chamber of Curiosities and Hall of Antiquities. In case you are looking for the #chamberofsecrets, however, you will have to take a small detour to Hogwarts instead!

If that’s not enough, there is also the famous Spanish Hall: A gigantic room which is one of the finest representations of the renaissance that you can find today!

How did all these treasures end up there?

Archduke Ferdinand II. called Ambras Castle his home in the 16th century. A few hundred years too early to give us the greatest episode of #MTVcribs that the world has ever seen.

He not only supported arts and science inside his domain, but was also an avid art collector himself. So, after accumulating many amazing works, he needed a place to show them off! That’s when he decided to use the basement as a sort of private museum, not knowing that art lovers from all over the world will come to admire his collection to this day.

Have a look at our experience in Ambras Castle discovering its amazing history and stories. Unveil the many treasures including Dracula's portrait and the origin of the story "The Beauty and the Beast".

You can find our walking tours of Innsbruck here. Please feel free to contact us for customized walking tours for you and your family, even barrierfree.

Author: Martin Baumgartner

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