Until 28 Oct 12
The upper Concert Room at the Neues Palais
potsdam. Of the many exhibitions in Berlin-Brandenburg celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Frederick the Great (The Art Newspaper, January, p68), this one will have the longest lasting after-life because its central exhibit is the Neues Palais itself.
For the first time, the Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten has opened some 70 of the palace’s 200 rooms to the public, including eight in the “Unteres Fürstenquartier” (ground-floor electors’ private suite) in the south wing, four of which have been completely restored to their original splendour.
The palace, the last baroque chateau to be built in Europe, was raised between 1763 and 1769 by Frederick the Great as what he called a “fanfaronnade” or boast, to celebrate his victory at the end of the Seven Years’ (or Third Silesian) War.
This triumph sealed once and for all his possession of Silesia, which he had grabbed from Austria in 1740, and more importantly, established Prussia, rather than Austria, as the primary international power among the German-speaking nations.
Begun in the French classicising baroque idiom, the building was completed by Carl von Gontard, who added the wings and the central and lateral domes.
When it became apparent that the pointing of the brickwork was prohibitively costly, the exterior walls were plastered and then painted to resemble brick.
More than 400 sandstone sculptures and relief figures were carved to decorate the balustrades and walls, most of them by the Räntz brothers who also made the interior marble sculptures.
The palace was built for state receptions in the summer months, rather than a residence (Frederick preferred as his pleasure dome, Sanssouci, further east in the park).
Frederick’s interests were mainly literary, scientific and musical; never having had a training in the visual arts or the experience of the Grand Tour, his taste in fine and decorative art was mostly confined to the French Rococo.
The interiors reflect his inclinations. Four state rooms—the Grotto Hall, the Marble Gallery, the Marble Hall and the theatre—are exercises in princely displays of costly grandeur, while the recently restored rooms show Frederick’s more typical taste: smallish rooms with mirrors and paintings with ornate gilded stucco frames, brilliant chandeliers, lacquer work, gleaming parquet floors.
The clearest evidence of his love of music are the Rehearsal and Concert Rooms on which the greatest expense was lavished.
The restoration was paid for (for an undisclosed sum) by the Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung (East German savings banks foundation) and the World Monuments Fund.
There are 500 objects on display in “Frederisiko” (Frederick’s Risk) including, from the Freien Universität Veterinärmedizinische Institut, Berlin, the skeleton of Condé, a piebald gelding that, from 1777, was Frederick’s favourite and highly pampered mount, never allowed on the battlefield, unlike the six horses shot from beneath him.
The title of the exhibition refers to Frederick’s seemingly reckless political and military stratagems and somewhat romanticises his modus operandi.
He was careful to keep his plans secret, even from his closest councillors, giving him the advantage of surprise.
His absolute power enabled him to act on his own: these attributes, not risk, made him great. Donald Lee
Categories: Thematic Decorative
Stiftung - Schlösser und Gärten Potsdam-Sanssouci
Generaldirektion, Potsdam D-14414, Germany
+49 (0)331 96940
Supplied by The Art Newspaper