This statue by the Dutch sculptor Bartholomeus Eggers depicts Prince-Elector Frederick III. standing in the Alabaster Hall of the Berlin Palace, it testified to the ruler’s elevated status as elector of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. However, Frederick was no longer satisfied with this honour.
In 1688, the year of his accession to power, Frederick III of Brandenburg commissioned the Dutch sculptor Bartholomeus Eggers to produce this statue of him as both elector and general, wearing armour and a sword belt. The work completed a series of all of the Brandenburg electors from the House of Hohenzollern which his father Elector Frederick William had initially commissioned. The statues were put on display in the Berlin Palace’s Alabaster Hall along with four statues of Roman or Holy Roman emperors. Thanks to its set of figures, this splendid main hall served as the dynasty’s “hall of fame”, demonstrating not only the rank and dignity but also the long tradition and continuity of the Hohenzollern as rulers of Brandenburg and electors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
Frederick III went one step further. He wanted to operate as an equal partner among the European monarchs – but in order to do this he needed a royal crown. However, this could only be achieved outside the empire itself. The elector ruled over a suitable territory far to the east, namely the Duchy of Prussia. Thus it was in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) in 1701 that he crowned himself King of Prussia, taking the name Frederick I. He also pursued his ambitious project with a programme of construction. In 1698 he began enlarging and converting the palace of his forefathers into a European royal palace. Although the Prussian capital city was more closely associated with the new honour, the king’s royal residence would be in Berlin. With its reconstructed Baroque facades, the Humboldt Forum has largely reproduced Frederick’s royal palace.
Thirteen years after the completion of the statue, the elector had become a king and the Alabaster Hall had lost its importance in the wake of the Baroque enlargement and conversion. However, the statues’ significance was still acknowledged by subsequent generations. In 1728 King Frederick William I had them placed in the White Hall, the new grand main hall of the Berlin Palace. Here they would attest to the rank and dignity of the Hohenzollern electors until 1894. It was not until the reign of Kaiser William II that they were removed from the hall and housed individually in the Berlin Palace. From 1953 onwards the majority of the statues could be seen in the Marble Hall at the Neues Palais in Potsdam.
In future, Frederick and his ancestors will be on display on the third floor of the Humboldt Forum as a loan from the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg. The statue is one of around forty so-called “Traces”, which highlight the various aspects of the site’s history at surprising locations throughout the building.
In future it will be presented on loan from the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg in an exhibition about the history of the site on the third floor of the Humboldt Forum.
International experts, eye witnesses and representatives from the Humboldt Forum will be adressing questions in various conversations. They will weave exciting stories and histories from different cultures and epochs, current research results and personal experiences to create surprising and sometimes astounding narratives.
Commission – Art – Freedom
March 21, 2019, 7.30pm
ESMT, Auditorium Maximum
The first 15 of these Humboldt Forum Highlights will be presented between October 2018 and May 2019 in two formats: in an exhibition as well as during conversations that will be held at various locations in Berlin.