The World of “Old Fritz”

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Enlightened monarch, a lover of culture and a warring general: Frederick the Great (1712-1786) had a multifaceted personality and was one of the most outstanding yet controversial figures in German history. The influence of the Prussian King on the fate of 18th century Europe was matched by only a few of his contemporaries. He waged wars with France, Austria and Russia. He wrote poetry, composed and played music, philosophized – and is seen by historians as a representative of a new type of state: enlightened absolutism.

To mark the 300th anniversary in 2012 of Frederick II’s birth, the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG) is highlighting the many faces of Frederick the Great with an extensive jubilee exhibition in Potsdam from April 28 to October 28. The chosen venue for the show is the largest and most magnificent of Frederick’s palaces: the New Palace in Sanssouci Park. The Prussian King commissioned the palace with more than 900 rooms following the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) as a symbol of power, and it was built in record time.

The “Friederisiko” exhibition is on show in more than 70 rooms of the New Palace and in Sanssouci Park. Many of these rooms have been lavishly restored and are open to the public for the first time. The exhibition takes visitors on a historical tour that enables them to rediscover the contradictory character and the worldview of the venturesome monarch, who was popularly called “Old Fritz” towards the end of his life. “Friederisiko” is unprecedented in size: it is the largest exhibition ever staged by the SPSG, covering 6,000 square metres and including some 500 exhibits. The twelve thematic sections provide insights into the everyday life of Frederick the Great and illustrate his attitudes towards politics, religion, music and philosophy, as well as his strange love of animals: the skeleton of Frederick’s last horse, the gelding “Condé”, is also on show.

Under the title “Frederick the Great – respected, revered, reviled” the German Historical Museum (DHM) in Berlin is showing a major exhibition that throws light onto Frederick’s legacy in art, politics and society. This exhibition is running until July 29, 2012.


Photo © Michael Lüder/SPSG

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