The Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG) is responsible for around 5,000 pieces of furniture primarily commissioned between the late 17th and early 20th centuries by the Hohenzollern courts in Berlin and Potsdam. From the era of the Great Elector, Frederick William, only a few carved and decorated Baroque sculptural pieces survive, such as the tables and guéridons decorated with lush acanthus leaves in Charlottenburg Palace. At one time, there were also more simple, unfinished pieces of furniture, such as a table made of jet-black ebony with heart-shaped ivory inlays, originally housed at the Berlin Palace and currently on display in Caputh Palace. A costly set of ivory seating furniture made around 1639–40 in Brazil can be seen in Oranienburg, although they were initially acquired by the Great Elector for the Berlin Palace.
Under Elector Frederick III (from 1701 King in Prussia), furniture with chinoiserie lacquer work became highly fashionable. In Berlin, the lacquer artist and Kunstkammermeister (Master of the Art Chamber) Gérard Dagly had established a royal workshop, producing richly painted furniture that can still be admired today in Charlottenburg. From the era of the Soldier King, Frederick William I, a canapé once owned by Sophia Dorothea that represents a rare example of seating furniture with drawers has been preserved. Originally exhibited at the Hohenzollern-Museum, it is currently on display at Königs Wusterhausen Palace.
The accession of King Frederick the Great to the throne in 1740 marked the most illustrious period of Prussian craftsmanship. The most impressive examples of Frederician furniture are displayed in Sanssouci Palace and the New Palace, including seating furniture carved by the sculptors Johann August Nahl and Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt. Johann Melchior Kambly was one of very few cabinetmakers skilled enough to apply tortoiseshell, and a number of his inlaid tables and commodes are on display. At the king’s behest, Johann Friedrich and Heinrich Wilhelm Spindler moved from Bayreuth to Potsdam, where they first worked on the New Palace and subsequently the New Chambers, Frederick the Great’s guest palace. They had a significant influence on Frederician Rococo.
King Frederick William II, Frederick the Great’s successor, commissioned the first interiors decorated purely in the Neoclassical style. In the Marble Palace, the Palace on Peacock Island and Charlottenburg Palace, visitors can view furniture made of mahogany, yew and other woods, commissioned by the king from David Hacker, one of David Roentgen’s students, and Johann Ephraim Eben, among others.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed furniture for members of the Prussian court, including Crown Prince Frederick William, who resided at Charlottenhof Palace. Upon his accession in 1840, Frederick William IV took up residence in the guest quarters of Sanssouci Palace. Some objects of furniture in the early neo-Rococo style specifically built for this purpose are on display in Sanssouci’s Ladies’ Wing.
Further historicist pieces are exhibited at Babelsberg Palace and the Orangery Palace in Sanssouci Park. Cecilienhof, the last palace to be built by the Hohenzollern family before the end of the monarchy, holds the most recent examples of Prussian furniture design. Among them are a display case and a commode with lavish marquetry, created around 1914–17 in the Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk in Munich and based on designs by the architect Paul Ludwig Troost.
While many pieces of furniture were moved, in some palaces numerous objects have remained in their original settings as can be seen at the Peacock Island, Charlottenhof and Orangery Palaces. A number of significant pieces of furniture survive to this day from the two Prussian city palaces in Berlin and Potsdam (destroyed during World War II). They are exhibited at Charlottenburg, the New Palace and in both wings of the Marble Palace.
Dr. Henriette Graf
Collection catalogue of the Furniture Collection
Möbel des Spätbiedermeier und des Historismus. Die Regierungszeiten der preußischen Könige Friedrich Wilhelm IV. (1840-1861) und Wilhelm I. (1861-1888)
Bestandskataloge der Kunstsammlungen: Angewandte Kunst; Möbel.
Herausgegeben von der Generaldirektion der Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin 2008
Other literature in preparation:
Bestandskatalog Möbel des Neuen Palais 1763–1918
Möbelkunst von Friedrich dem Großen bis zu den deutschen Kaisern