Royal armchair

from the Prussian king Frederic II

Lime wood, carved and gilded
Design:  Johann August Nahl the Elder (Berlin 1710-1785 Kassel)

Potsdam ca. 1740/45
Height: 102 cm, width: 91 cm, depth: 58 cm

 

The large and representative armchair rises above four short cabriole legs which merge into the lateral frames without any visible constructive transition. The elegant line of the arms blends equally imperceptibly into the round-shaped frame of the back. The carved and gilded seat construction is composed of rococo style elements: Blossoms, foliage and the indispensable shell-work decorate this courtly piece of furniture.
The design for the Potsdam fauteuil goes back to the sculptor Johann August Nahl. He first trained at his father’s and then gained more experience through his travels to France and Italy and during a stay in Straßburg (1735) where he was employed in furnishing the Rohan Palace. On his return to Berlin and Potsdam in 1741 he was appointed Directeur des Ornements. In his time he was considered the leading artistic head for interior decorating and furniture design.
Most likely the easy-chair first was in the Potsdam town palace now destroyed. From 1740 the Prussian king Frederic II resided in this town close to Berlin. His fervent passion for architecture, right at the beginning of his regency, led to the planning, together with his architect von Knobelsdorff, of numerous new buildings and alterations to his new residence which he intended to adorn magnificently. These building projects are amongst the peak-achievements of 18th century German art and at the same time mark the close of absolutist courtly art. The decorating and furniture style known as Frederician rococo was decisively formed by Frederic the Great himself thus leaving relatively little room to the respective artist for implementing his own ideas. Apart from von Knobelsdorff, it was Nahl and the Hoppenhaupt brothers who drew up the designs for the interior decorations and movable stock of the palaces.
An armchair has survived, now standing in the New Palace in the Sanssouci park and also stemming from the royal bedroom in the Potsdam town palace, which is of a design that can also be retraced to Johann August Nahl. This only slightly narrower easy-chair has characteristics clearly corresponding with the easy-chair of Galerie Neuse. The short cabriole legs and the shape of the arms are of a likeness that points to one and the same design. However, the execution of the carved decoration is more restrained, the outlines are quieter and the form controls the ornament.
Galerie Neuse’s Potsdam armchair rates highly also as a document of the age of mercantilism. Here the Prussian king combined personal display of splendour and artistic assertion with the aspect of economic promotion. This indirect patronage is the final climax in the display of royal splendour. The high scarcity value and good condition of this piece of furniture are further characteristic features of an important record of Frederician style interior design.



References

  • Heinrich Kreisel, Die Kunst des deutschen Möbels, vol. II, Spätbarock und Rokoko, Munich 1970, pp. 233-242.
  • Cat. Friedrich der Große, Sammler und Mäzen, art gallery of the Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich 1993, pp. 330-336.

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