Address: originally Kleiner Markt, then destroyed.
How to get there by public transport: You can’t. It’s been destroyed.
Kleve is best known in English history in the name of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves (though in fact she was born in Düsseldorf and grew up in Solingen, both of them 100 km or so to the south). In German culture Kleve is known for its association with the Swan Knight, Lohengrin. (Dah dum-da-dum. Dah dum-da-dum!)
According to a nineteenth-century guide to art in the Kleve district, visitors to the inn “Zum Grossen Kurfürst” (The Great Elector, ie Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia from 1640 to 1688) could look up and see a large stucco ceiling by Jan Christiaan Hansche. Fortunately the innkeeper was sufficiently aware of the commercial potential that he produced postcards of the art. The first panel shows Venus feeding a horse and Cupid as a centaur:
We then have Zeus as a bull kidnapping Europa (a well-known classical subject); Europa’s struggling legs flail into our space, as does the bull’s front foot:
Seven bacchantes bearing flowers, with Mercury, god of trade, floating over them (not a brilliant photo):
The Fall of Phaethon (I love this one, he’s tumbling directly into our space, rather as he does in the Brouwershuis in Gent):
Diana kissing the sleeping Endymion (unusual to have her rump so prominent in this theme, and it’s not very sexy either):
And Mars and Venus caught in adultery, which Hansche actually signed (it looks like Apollo and the god behind him on the right were leaning into our space).
Most of these are classical themes, though I’m not familiar with the iconography of Mercury and the bacchantes, and apparently Diana was associated with the Endymion myth only in the Renaissance.
There was also a depiction of Samson in another room, but no image of that has survived.
William Verrees, “Stucplafonds in hoog-reliëf van Jan-Christiaen Hansche”, in De Brabantse Folklore. (1980). nr. 225, 5-29, names three other buildings in Kleve that had similar ceilings, all now destroyed, and also says that there were similar ceilings in Cologne and Emmerich. He also reports that the records in Kleve identify Hansche as a Dutchman from Amsterdam; but the documentary evidence uncovered more recently by Jan Caluwaerts is pretty decisive evidence that he was from Olfen, much closer to Kleve.
The inn Zum Grossen Kurfürsten is visible on the right of this postcard of the Kleiner Markt, showing also the Church of the Assumption.
Here’s a more recent picture of the Kleiner Markt, posted by Nikodem Niklewicz to Google Maps. As you can see, no trace of Zum Grossen Kurfürsten remains.
Kleve was heavily bombed on the night of 7 February 1945, a young Richard Dimbleby coming along to report breathlessly. It is claimed that it was the most bombed city of its size in Germany, with the level of destruction greater than in Dresden. (I don’t know how one could really measure this.)
Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks, who ordered the bombing, described it as “the most terrible decision I had ever taken in my life” … “I felt a murderer. And after the war I had an awful lot of nightmares, but always Cleves.” The rubble was so extensive that it actually slowed down the Allied ground troops when they arrived a couple of days later. Bombs from the war are still being found in Kleve (2014, 2015, 2019, 2021 and again in 2021).
Fans of sculpture in general will still find a visit to the Kleiner Markt in Kleve worthwhile, even though Zum Grossen Kurfürsten has gone. In the middle of the square you will find the Fountain of Fools, by Anette Mürdter, seven water-spouting faces at different heights, commemorating a local carnival tradition. And up beside the church you will find the “Dead Warrior” by Ewald Mataré.
This was originally commissioned as a memorial to Kleve’s fallen soldiers of the First World War. But the Nazi regime condemned it as “degenerate art”, removed it, smashed it and buried it. The fragments were discovered in the 1970s and it was restored by Mataré’s pupil Elmar Hillebrand. A monument to the tragedy of war fitted the Zeitgeist of the later twentieth century rather better than the 1930s.
(The one that might not be by Hansche in the Gent law library)
The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from most to least amazing:
Leuven – Park Abbey | Modave Castle | Gent – Brouwershuis | Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | Gent – Canfyn House (in storage) | Wesel, Germany (destroyed) | Kleve, Germany (destroyed) | Perk – Church of St Nicholas | Brussels – Church of the Sablon | Franc-Waret – Church of St Remigius | Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | Leuven – Priory of the Vale of St Martin (destroyed, little known)
The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from earliest to latest date of creation:
1653: Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | 1655: Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | 1659: Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | 1666-72: Modave Castle | 1668-70: Perk – Church of St Nicholas | 1669: Franc-Waret – Church of St Remigius | 1670s: Leuven – Priory of the Vale of St Martin (destroyed) | 1671: Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | 1672: Wesel, Germany (destroyed) | 1672/79: Leuven – Park Abbey | 1673: Gent – Canfyn House (in storage) | 1673: Gent – Brouwershuis | 1677: Kleve, Germany (destroyed) | 1684: Brussels – Church of the Sablon
The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from most to least accessible to tourists:
Not normally open to the public: Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | Gent – Brouwershuis
The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from west to east:
Gent – Canfyn House (in storage) | Gent – Brouwershuis | Brussels – Church of the Sablon | Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | Perk – Church of St Nicholas | Leuven – Priory of the Vale of St Martin (destroyed, little known) | Leuven – Park Abbey | Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | Franc-Waret – Church of St Remigius | Modave Castle | Kleve, Germany (destroyed) | Wesel, Germany (destroyed)