The Myth of the Orient. A Bernese Architect in Cairo

Oberhofen Castle at Lake Thun
June 13 to September 13, 2015

The exhibition coincides with the 160th anniversary of one of the most spectacular Swiss Orientalist interiors, the smoking room (Selamlik) of the Oberhofen Castle near Thun (Switzerland). Designed by the Bernese architect Theodor Zeerleder (1820-1868), this Orientalist fumoir was realized in 1855 for the Count Albert de Pourtalès (1812-1861) and takes inspiration from Zeerleders Islamic architectural studies carried on during his journeys to the Orient (1847-1848) and Cairo (1849-1850).

Like many of his contemporaries, the up to now relatively unknown Zeerleder might have fallen prey to the fever for Egyptian art and culture following Napoleons expedition to the Nile country (1798-1801). In his travel notes, letters, drafts and aquarelles Zeerleder left his impressions and travel experiences to posterity.

The focus of the exhibition lays on Zeerleders Oriental studies and travel descriptions preserved in the Burger Library of Bern. For the first time his works are shown to an international public. The Oberhofen Castle Foundation and the Art History Institute of the University of Zurich worked in close collaboration with Marie Therese Bätschmann and Mathias Bäbler to develop an exhibition that both examines the issues scientifically and communicates its findings to the public in an exciting way.


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