Opening times

Museum, boutique and bistro

Tu – We 10:00 - 17:00

Th 10:00 - 19:00

Fr – Su 10:00 - 17:00

Library

Tu – We, Fr 10:00 - 18:00

Th 10:00 - 19:00

Sa – Mo closed

Special opening times

Sa, 9/3/2022 18:00 - 23:59, Late Night at Zurich’s Museums

Su, 9/4/2022 00:00 - 02:00, Late Night at Zurich’s Museums

Mo, 9/12/2022 closed, Knabenschiessen

Su, 10/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Family Day

Mo, 12/19/2022 closed

Tu, 12/20/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/21/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/22/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/23/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/24/2022 10:00 - 14:00, Christmas Eve

Su, 12/25/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Christmas

Mo, 12/26/2022 10:00 - 17:00, St. Stephen´s Day

Tu, 12/27/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/28/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/29/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/31/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Su, 1/1/2023 10:00 - 17:00, New Year´s Day

Mo, 1/2/2023 10:00 - 17:00, Saint Berchtold

Show all

Opening times

Museum, boutique and bistro

Tu – We 10:00 - 17:00

Th 10:00 - 19:00

Fr – Su 10:00 - 17:00

Library

Tu – We, Fr 10:00 - 18:00

Th 10:00 - 19:00

Sa – Mo closed

Special opening times

Sa, 9/3/2022 18:00 - 23:59, Late Night at Zurich’s Museums

Su, 9/4/2022 00:00 - 02:00, Late Night at Zurich’s Museums

Mo, 9/12/2022 closed, Knabenschiessen

Su, 10/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Family Day

Mo, 12/19/2022 closed

Tu, 12/20/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/21/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/22/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/23/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/24/2022 10:00 - 14:00, Christmas Eve

Su, 12/25/2022 10:00 - 17:00, Christmas

Mo, 12/26/2022 10:00 - 17:00, St. Stephen´s Day

Tu, 12/27/2022 10:00 - 17:00

We, 12/28/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Th, 12/29/2022 10:00 - 19:00

Fr, 12/30/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Sa, 12/31/2022 10:00 - 17:00

Su, 1/1/2023 10:00 - 17:00, New Year´s Day

Mo, 1/2/2023 10:00 - 17:00, Saint Berchtold

Show all

Splendid Sleighs

National Museum Zurich | 22.7.2022 - 2.4.2023
published on 12.7.2022

In the 17th and 18th centuries, owning an ornate sleigh was de rigueur for any person of decent social standing. This was how you showcased your wealth to the public. However, these apparatus were nothing like the ones we use today for fun in the snow.

For centuries, people have used status symbols to emphasise their special position in society. Nowadays, it might be fast sports cars, huge luxury yachts or delectable caviar aperitifs. In the past, it was precious jewels, palatial country homes or magnificent sleighs. In the 17th and 18th centuries, these winter conveyances weren’t just for fun – their main purpose was image and prestige.

Sleighing had been an established feature of life at the royal courts of Europe since the 16th century. The precisely choreographed rides demonstrated quite plainly to the populace who ruled the roost. And the more elaborately decorated and fancifully shaped the sleigh, the greater the impact. The prosperous middle classes copied the habits of courtly life, and started having extravagant sleighs made for themselves. These conveyances were decorated with family emblems, scenic views or fabulous mythical beasts. Competition among sleigh-owners to have the most spectacular specimen was fierce. No effort or expense was spared. And that applied not only to the manufacture of the vehicles, but also to their care and maintenance, because in order to impress, the sleighs had to be regularly repaired and repainted.

Towards the end of the 18th century, sleighing shifted more and more from the princely court to the town square. In addition to affluent middle-class families, students also started organising sleigh rides. The conveyances were also popular for the wild parades that were held during Fasnacht, the Shrovetide or carnival season. These spectacles often ended in a drinking spree or a bit of surreptitious hanky-panky; as a result, sleighing was periodically banned.

The Swiss National Museum has an amazing collection of magnificent sleighs. This is the first time it has been possible to display these luxurious vehicles in large numbers. A special focus is on the one-of-a-kind sleighs in the shape of animals and mythical beasts and the fascinating stories behind them, revealing all about the carefully orchestrated sleigh rides, the families who owned them and the designs displayed on these fantastic conveyances. The exhibition even features a photo station, where visitors can take a picture of themselves on an ornate sleigh and forward the digital image.

Images

Dragon-like creature

Sleigh box in the shape of a dragon-like creature, around 1700.

© Swiss National Museum

Lion’s head

The lion’s head decorates the sleigh box, around 1750, probably Zurich, painted wood.

© Swiss National Museum

Sleigh with winter landscape

Amusing themselves on a frozen lake are ice skaters, elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen, and dogs and cats, while a horse can be seen pulling a magnificent sleigh, around 1750,probably Fischingen Abbey TG.

© Swiss National Museum

Dolphin with siren

Sleigh box in the shape of a dolphin flanked by a siren, early 18th century, probably Zurich.

© Swiss National Museum

Woman’s shoe

This unique sleigh was probably in use during the carnival season, early 18th century, Zurich.

© Swiss National Museum

The Raven and Saint Idda

The figure of the raven and paintings on the spray guard refer to the legend of Saint Idda, box from mid-18th century, frame with paintings from early 19th century, Fischingen TG.

© Swiss National Museum

Stag

The deer’s head is crowned by a real set of fallow deer antlers, early 18th century, Wädenswil ZH.

© Swiss National Museum

Man with turban

Figure of a carnival sleigh, 18th century, Ermatingen TG.

© Swiss National Museum

Leopard

Detail of a figural sleigh, 1st quarter of the 18th century,probably Zofingen AG.

© Swiss National Museum

Lion bearing a shield

Detail of the sleigh with seat in the form of a lion, around 1760,Tobler family from Trogen AR.

© Swiss National Museum

‘Clothes Make the Man’

In his novella, which appeared in 1874, Gottfried Keller (1819–1890) describes sleigh rides during carnival. Cover, Schweizer Jugendschriften No. 4, Bern, 1922.

© Swiss National Museum

The Hirzel family on a sleigh ride from Wülflingen to Winterthur

Copy by Ida Reinhart (1864–1917), 1908; after the original by Christoph Kuhn (1737–1792), 1759.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

© Swiss National Museum

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