The New Palace (Neues Palais) is a palace situated on the western side of the Sanssouci royal park. It is considered to be the last great Prussian baroque palace.
The building was begun in 1763, after the end of the Seven Years' War, under Frederick the Great and was completed in 1769. It was purposed to celebrate Prussia’s success. In an architectural form, Frederick the Great sought to demonstrate the power and glories of Prussia attributing it as fanfaronade, an excess of splendor in marble, stone and gilt.
For the King, the New Palace was not a principal residence, but a display for the reception of important royals and dignitaries. Of the over 200 rooms, four principal gathering rooms and a theater were available for royal functions, balls and state occasions. During his occasional stays at the palace, Frederick occupied a suite of rooms at the southern end of the building, composed of two antechambers, a study, a concert room, a dining salon and a bedroom, among others.
After the death of Frederick the Great in 1786, the New Palace fell into disuse and was rarely occupied as a residence or entertainment venue. However, starting in 1859 it became the summer residence of the German Crown Prince, Frederick William, later German Emperor Frederick III. The palace was the preferred residence of Frederick and his empress, Victoria, throughout the 99 Days’ Reign. During the short reign of Frederick III, the palace was renamed Friedrichskron Palace (Schloß Friedrichskron) and a moat was dug around the palace. The ascension of William II saw renovation and restoration within the palace being carried out with the installation of steam heating, bathrooms in state apartments and electrification of the chandeliers which Frederick the Great had collected from across Europe. Until 1918, it remained the preferred residence of William II and the Empress Augusta.
After the November Revolution and the abdication of William II, the New Palace became a museum and remained such until the Second World War. Much of its furniture had been removed and taken to the residence of the exiled William II at Huis Doorn in the Netherlands. Some of the palace’s treasures were looted by Soviet Army at the end of the Second World War. The majority of the furnishings were discovered by the Dutch in the 1970s, still in their original packing crates, and returned to Potsdam. Because of this, and because it escaped bombing in the Second World War, the palace today looks much as it did in 1918.
While Frederician Rococo was established at Sanssouci, Frederick the Great had the New Palace built in varying forms of baroque architecture and decoration, with some deviations. The King preferred rococo and baroque to the classicism that was already taking hold of Europe at the time as the preference of many monarchs. Architect Johann Gottfried Büring, with the aid of Heinrich Ludwig Manger, was assigned with the task of planning the New Palace and had already demonstrated success with the completion of the Chinese Teahouse and the Picture Gallery in the Sanssouci royal park.
After disagreements over the design of the palace, in 1764 the design of the palace was totally vested in the architect Carl von Gontard. The three-story façade had already begun to rise around unfinished interiors, as construction had steadily been underway. With 220 metre east and west façades, the centre portion of the palace was crowned with an enormous dome, at the top of which were placed the Three Graces supporting the Prussian royal crown. The dome is not only architectural, it provides an attic area under the supporting timbers which carry it. Additionally, the north and south auxiliary wings are crowned with domes surmounted by gilded eagles. Between the pilasters, what appears to be brick is actually a painted effect, leaving only the King’s south wing with exposed brick. Repointing the mortar of the joints proved to be an arduous and expensive task, therefore Frederick had the brick covered in stucco and painted in such a way that even tourists today are fooled by the deceptive finish. Over 400 sandstone statues and figures adorn the palace and auxiliary buildings, created by many notable sculptors, namely Johann Peter Benckert, Johann Matthias Gottlieb Heymüller, the brothers Johann David and Johann Lorenz Räntz and more.
Occupying two levels above the ground floor, the Theatre dates to the Frederick the Great’s reign in the eighteenth century and is still in use today. Rococo in style, the theatre makes heavy use of red and white with gilded accents. It can be seen as peculiar given its location within a palace, for the theatre lacks a royal box in which a king may view a performance. Instead, Frederick would sit among his guests in the third row of seating from the stage. The seat rows, which are curved, are reminiscent of an amphitheatre in antiquity. The Theatre is fitted with modern stage equipment which is discreetly placed to preserve the rococo décor.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.