The former “Princely Palace”, in the city centre on Palace Square, was built during the years 1729 to 1734 upon commission by Prince Günther I von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (1678–1740). The late Baroque three-wing building initially served as the dowager’s residence for his wife Elisabeth Albertine, née Princess von Anhalt-Bernburg (1693–1774). In charge of construction was the Anhalt state master builder Johann Heinrich Hoffmann (biographical details unknown).
The building, which has been a museum since 1919, is primarily associated with the name of the very unique doll collection from the first half of the 18th century: “Mon plaisir”. Thousands of visitors flock to the museum each year to experience exhibits that aspire to present a meticulous copy of a small Thuringian royal residence town from the first half of the 18th century.
The ensemble, to a large extent created at Augustenburg Palace near Arnstadt, features 82 scenes with a total of 391 figures and 2,670 individual objects from the era. It represents the life’s work of Princess Auguste Dorothea von Schwarzburg-Arnstadt (1666–1751).
Another highlight on view at the Arnstadt Palace Museum is an array of decorative objects from the first half of the 18th century. Prince Günther I von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen devoted special attention to the presentation of his porcelain collection, commissioning the Arnstadt sculptor Heinrich Christoph Meil (1701–1738) to create a mirrored porcelain display gallery in the south wing of the “Princely Palace”, completed in 1735.
The Far Eastern porcelain collection is remarkably comprehensive, and it remains in its original setting at the Arnstadt Palace Museum for visitors to admire. The trove consists of an extensive selection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain from a single collection period, namely the reign of Prince Günther I, as well as a small, exquisite collection of Böttger stoneware and early Meissen porcelain.
The collection of 16th-century Flemish tapestries was amassed by Count Günther XLI of Schwarzburg (1529–1583) and features a four-part series depicting the life of St. Paul (1559) and two pieces portraying human-like apes during and after the hunt (1559).
Johann Sebastian Bach was organist at the New Church in Arnstadt – now called the Bachkirche – from 1703 to 1707. A recently reconceived exhibition at the Palace Museum is dedicated to him and the entire Bach family. The highlight of the exhibit remains the organ console used by Johann Sebastian Bach himself, which was completed by the organ builder Johann Friedrich Wender from Mühlhausen in 1703 and installed in the New Church.