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The Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG), in cooperation with the Geheimes Staatsarchiv zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz (GStA PK) and in collaboration with perspectivia.net of the Stiftung Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland (DGIA), has investigated the private accounts of Frederick the Great, which have been digitalized and published on the online publication platform www.perspectivia.net. Through this analysis it has become apparent that Frederick was not nearly as thrifty as has been assumed until now. In fact, the king willingly allowed himself some personal luxuries.
The private accounts reveal approximately 20,000 entries, known only to very few of the king's closest confidants. The king's expenditures varied within the 41 years documented. They ranged between somewhat less than 200,000 Reichstalers in 1750 to 30,840 Reichstalers in 1786. By comparison, the Prussian state had approximately 19 million Reichstalers in revenue at its disposal in 1781.
The first comprehensive assessment of the private accounts preserved in the Staatsarchiv (public record office) reveals how consistently the king cultivated his own preferences. Accordingly, he allowed himself expensive champagne and wines, fruit such as cherries and melons in winter, had "a dress for the little dog” tailored as protection against the cold for his whippet, and distributed fringe benefits to artists like the dancer Barberina in order to bind her to the court.
The documents consist of 41 bound folders containing 4 to 63 folios each. Since the beginning of the project in September 2009, a total of 910 folios, spanning from 1742 to 1786 (the year of Frederick the Great's death), could be recorded and included in a database on perspectivia.net as an online publication.
In order to facilitate research for users, the original invoices were initially scanned page by page and have been subsequently transcribed, as well as digitalized. Every data record contains the scanned original as well as its transcription. The database's user-friendly electronic controls allow for an easy and simple navigation between documents. Individual expenditures can be specifically filtered out using keywords with the help of the search function.
The SPSG is further enlarging its position as an international scholarly institution in this manner. Since the dismantling of professorships for Prussian history in Germany, it is the institution that has most intensively taken up the scholarly and public treatment of 17th and 18th century Prussian history and art history in a European context through conferences, exhibitions and research.
The online publication of Frederick's private accounts is a milestone within the preparations for the major presentation "Friederisiko. Frederick the Great” at the Neues Palais in Potsdam, honoring the 300th birthday of the king in 2012. Prior to the anniversary exhibition, the SPSG has promoted knowledge about the king and his times through regular conferences with young, international scholars.
The realization of this project was supported by the Stapp-Stiftung, as well as the foundation "pro Sanssouci.”
Friederisiko - Frederick the Great
Exhibition at the Neues Palais and Sanssouci Park, Potsdam
April 28 - October 28, 2012