2012 is an Anniversary Year: Frederick the Great’s 300th Birthday

“All of Europe talked about him, all of Europe called him a hero; but one heard the most diverse judgments about his character, his politics, his morals and his behavior as a human being ...”

Dieudonné Thiébault (1765)

Frederick the Great’s 300th birthday will occur on January 24, 2012. To mark this important anniversary, the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG) is concentrating its attention on the king himself and the New Palace in Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, at the center of a diverse program of events in 2012. The highlight, from April 28 – October 28, 2012, is a presentation at the New Palace and in Sanssouci Park as the central exhibition dedicated to Frederick’s anniversary year.

Frederick the Great was already considered one of the most multifaceted figures in politics by his contemporaries. Even today, his actions raise many riddles. The large presentation at the New Palace in Sanssouci Park, a building he planned in every detail, focuses on the king’s personage. It pursues Frederick as a human being in order to try to understand his actions.  The concept of the exhibition was essentially developed from the palace and gardens themselves, throughout 6,000 square meters in 70 lavishly restored halls, cabinets and interiors, partly accessible for the first time, as well as at select locations in the palace gardens – a most personal legacy of the king. Here, the coinage “Friederisiko” (Frederick’s

Risk) is the main theme, where taking a look at Frederick the Great, his life, his world of thought and his actions from the aspect of “risk” promises surprising and provoking insights.  At the same time, it also offers new perspectives on major European themes of the 18th century – on government, religion, culture and philosophy.

Frederick the Great

Born in 1712, the heir to the throne of Frederick William I, the “Soldier King,” made headlines at European courts for the first time at the age of 18. Through his attempt to escape in 1730,  which was meant to deliver him from his father’s power and the conventions of being heir, Frederick entered on the stage of world history in a way quite his own, which he would leave again as “The Great” in 1786. In between these dates was a rare, multifaceted, enigmatic, but nevertheless absolutely consistent life – one that continues to part opinions to this day.

Friederisiko (Frederick’s Risk)

Like no one else, Frederick repeatedly “put all his eggs in one basket” throughout his life. His nearly playful impulses towards risk, which he uncompromisingly pursued from the start, were his means and incentive on his path to glory. The game could certainly have ended differently.  From the beginning, however, he calculated the effects of his actions very precisely and thus became a charismatic and “notorious” figure, who could astonish even his most intimate enemies. A genius or driven? Gambler or strategist? A misanthrope or a sensitive spirit? The exhibition at the New Palace shows why and how Frederick became “the Great” and what makes him still appear “Great” to us today.


The New Palace

Unlike Sanssouci Palace, which represents a more programmatic utopia, the New Palace – built in only six years after the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 – is the personal bequest of the mature Frederick. Conceived less as official living quarters, but rather quite consciouslyfor his contemporaries and for posterity as a triumphal monument to his military prestige and personal greatness, the king repeatedly and intensively interfered in the plans submitted for its construction and interior decoration. The concept of the exhibition is developed from this structural legacy, which invites visitors to discover the man and his character in 70 interiors that have been reconstructed to a contemporary state and/or extensively arranged into a museum environment.

Strolling through the halls, visitors hear about the eating and sleeping habits of the king, his usual routine, his relations to friends and guests (of state), his attitude towards politics, religion or music that include his own productions as a philosopher and imperator. Nearly all areas of the palace, with its silk fabrics, damask and brocade wallpaper, unique parquet floors and furniture, can be experienced as a synthesis of the arts.   Furthermore, visitors will be granted insights into the restoration process currently still in progress in various interiors that serve as examples.

Contemporary art

In addition to exquisite original interiors and exhibits shown for the first time, a contemporary artist will bring a room in one of the suites to life with a spectacular installation.

Friends and Enemies

Even before entering the exhibition, leading figures from the era of Frederick the Great welcome visitors on their way to the entrances. His authoritarian father Frederick William I, Frederick’s wife Elisabeth Christine, who was never allowed to enter either Sanssouci or the New Palace, and three of his great European enemies, Maria Theresa of Austria, Czarina Elizabeth of Russia and Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of the French king. But also Frederick’s favorite sister Wilhelmine, and Voltaire, the philosopher admired by the king, his close confidant George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal, his dog Thisbe, his last horse Condé, and many others, make appearances at the New Palace that allow the personal world of the king to come to life.

FRIEDERISIKO at the New Palace, Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany / April 28 – October 28, 2012.  Please follow this link for further information online...