Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1764-1844) started the ducal collections at the Veste Coburg in 1837. These initially included the collection of weapons from the Veste’s arsenal, to which the contents of the town’s arsenal were later added.
The history of the collections as a museum dates back to 1839 with the opening of the first exhibition rooms. In 1840, integration of the intarsia hunting room (“Hornstube”) from Ehrenburg Palace was completed. The duke also made an inventory of the mediaeval religious art treasures in the region, as a result of which some unusual sculptures arrived at the Veste.
A short time later, the large collection of prints and drawings belonging to Duke Franz Friedrich Anton of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750-1806) came to the Veste; this had been formerly kept in the Coburg town arsenal together with his coin collection.
Ernst II (1818-1893) continued to expand the art collection. In 1860, he bought the “Türkenbeute” – the “Turkish spoils of war” – of the imperial field marshal, Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, as well as the weapon collection of Baron von Rohmann.
Greatly assisted by his brother Albert, the consort of the British monarch, Queen Victoria, he built up an autograph collection, and collections of arts and crafts from various ducal castles, including furniture, carriages and sleighs, glass, porcelain and curiosities, all came together at the Veste.
In 1901, a valuable addition to the glass collection came to the Veste from the estate of Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha.
With the end of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large part of the ducal art collections was transferred to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a public foundation set up in 1919, to be conserved for the public “for the promotion of popular education and welfare”.
Today, the Veste Coburg art collections consist of a combination of period rooms and modern exhibition rooms. Its small collection of paintings, consisting mainly of works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, was enriched in 2003 by a select collection of Renaissance paintings belonging to Georg Schäfer of Schweinfurt.
The Coburger Landesstiftung is funded by the Bavarian State Ministry of Sciences, Research and the Arts. The buildings are maintained by the Bavarian Authority for State-owned Castles, Gardens and Lakes.