First Rondel at Sanssouci Park
Prussia’s King Frederick the Great personally planned the design of this park rondel in 1746. Busts of a Roman emperor, a philosopher, and four Africans dressed in ancient garb were arranged in the circle. At the time they were installed on the grounds, these four portraits of people of color presumably stood for a noble but naive African continent, which alledgedly had first been civilized by Europeans. The interplay of the figures makes allusions to the king’s self-image: He saw himself as following in the succession of ancient rulers, and as a rightful arbiter of human order.
The name “Mohrenrondell” (Moors’ Rondel) established itself in the 20th century. However, the labels “Moor / blackamoor” are generally considered to be offensive and disparaging terms. For this reason, in 2020, the site took back one of its former names, “Erstes Rondell” (First Rondel).
The arrangement also touches on current debates dealing with racism, enslavement, and a colonial past. The Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg (SPSG) is taking part in these discussions and critically examines the history of the palaces and gardens. Objects in the collection, their presentation, and historical names are also examined with regard to their colonial connections.