New Palace

Potsdam, Germany | C.1763

Photo Credit: @esmebuxtonphotography

Frederick the Great built the Neues Palais (New Palace) ostensibly as his main residence, but ended up utilizing it more so as his showroom and a place where he could receive and impress visiting dignitaries. This palatial retreat has two hundred rooms, decorated in extravagant rococo style, and was built to celebrate Prussia’s triumph at the end of the Seven Years’ War via an excess of marble, stone, and gilt.

The most eccentric, marvelous room is the Grottensaal (Grotto Hall), where, thanks to extensive restoration, more than 24,000 seashells, fossils, and gemstones continue to sparkle. The king acquired the minerals to highlight his newly acquired riches, and each Prussian ruler who followed did his part to ensure that the hall stayed agleam. Emperors William I and William II alone brought in more than 20,000 precious stones, shells, and ammonites.

Those less enthralled by encrusted walls need only turn their attention to the ground on which they’re standing: the Grotto Hall’s marble floor depicts an array of exotic marine animals and plants. Even the floors use various stones to form patterns that reveal treasures. Watching over the whole scene are Venus and Amor, the Three Graces, and a host of angels, painted on the ceiling in 1806.

Beyond the Grotto Hall and a sizable interior amphitheater, the New Palace’s design, while majestic, is fairly conventional…with a few exceptions that are a nod to King Frederick’s ego: protruding from the center of the building, painted black, is a shallow dome on a tall, windowless drum, topped by three nude female figures holding up a crown. The dome serves no functional purpose whatsoever, it only exists because the King deemed it necessary for his royal palace to feature such a trophy—one which is said to depict the enemies he defeated in the war, and which both he and the masses could admire.

📖 Featured on Page 125 of AWA, The Book 

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