Before the Maxim Hot 100 There Was the Ludwig Hot 36

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Feb. 12 2014 9:37 AM

The Bavarian Beauties of Nymph Castle

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Nanette Kaula and Amalie von Schintling

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Though married at 24, Bavarian King Ludwig I kept 36 beautiful young women in the south pavilion of his palace.

Whenever he became enamored of a female acquaintance's good looks, a portrait of her placid face would soon appear in his Gallery of Beauties, a room in Schloss Nymphenburg — literally, Nymph Castle.

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The women, milk-skinned and serene, came from royal, noble, and middle-class backgrounds — countesses; princesses; seamstresses; actresses. Though their circumstances varied, they had one thing in common: all of them were totally hot.

Most of the portraits, painted between 1827 and 1850, are the work of Joseph Stieler, the official painter for the Bavarian court. On more than one occasion, Ludwig I asked Stieler to re-do a portrait — either because he didn't think it did justice to the woman's looks, or because the lady in question had become more attractive since being painted.

Among the bevy of beauties, the standout work of the collection is the portrait of Helene Sedlmayr (below right), a doe-eyed, dark-haired shoemaker's daughter who gave toys to Ludwig's children when she was 15. Her beauty was particularly appreciated by the king's valet, Hermes Miller, with whom she went on to bear 10 children.

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Caroline von Holnstein and Helene Sedlmayr

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Anna Hillmayer and Katharina Botsaris

Other German palaces to explore:


View Nymphenburg Palace in a larger map

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