The 'Schlossfreiheit' is seen across the River Spree from the Schlossbrücke at the end of the Unter den Linden, and in the distance is the Stadtschloss. The name 'Schlossfreiheit' (Castle Freedom) derives from the year 1678 when the magistrates of Friedrichswerder were denied supreme jurisdiction of the area. It led from the Stechbahn to the Schlossbrücke and was formed of a group of tall, elegant buildings, housing jewellery and other assorted shops. In 1896, however, Kaiser Wilhelm destroyed the block to make way for his monument, of which only the base now exists.
The Stadtschloss was one of the most important buildings of the city. Originally a Burg, it was reconstructed as a Renaissance castle in the 15th Century, additional buildings following in the 16th and 17th Centuries by R. von Lynar, P. Niuron and J. A. Nehring. When Prussia became a kingdom, Andreas Schlüter (1660-1714) began, in 1698, the great rebuilding, including the prestigious facade of the South Front. In 1706, he was dismissed, when the 'Münzturm' (Tower of Coins) collapsed. The Swedish architect, Johann Friedrich Eosander (1670-1729) constructed the Western part, of which the balustrade can be seen in our picture. In 1716, the construction was completed by M. Böhme and was considered the most important secular Baroque building, north of the Alps. The cupola was added by August Friedrich Stühler (1800-1865) from 1845-1852 and rested upon the Chapel on the western part of the Schloss, above the 'Eosanderportal'. During World War II, the Schloss was damaged, but was destroyed under the orders of Staatsratsvorsitzender, Walter Ulbricht in 1950 as a symbol of the old Prussian Empire.
The Schlossbrücke, on the left of the painting, was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841), the great architect and painter, and constructed in 1821. It replaced the Hundebrücke (Dogbridge), a wooden drawbridge, so-called as a meeting-place for riders and hounds before the Hunt in the Tiergarten. Schinkel planned it as a link between the 'Unter den Linden' and the 'Lustgarten' and to emphasise its importance, the balustrade was cast by the Royal Iron Foundry and sculptures were executed to commemorate the War of Liberation. Originally intended to be in bronze, they were sculpted after his death, and were placed on display between 1852 and 1857. Thus, when Gaertner painted this view in 1855, some plinths still had not received their sculpture. 'Nike supporting a wounded warrior', by Ludwig Wichmann (1788-1859), in the foreground, is the most prominent work in this picture. The red building on the far right of the painting is the Bauakademie and the distant spire is the Petrikirche.
A smaller version of our picture (op. cit. Wirth no. 89, illus.) (27 x 47cm.), was painted in the same year. Dr Wirth suggests that the man wearing the top hat in the foreground may have commissioned our work as he is not represented in the smaller version.
An exhibition, entitled 'Das Schloss?' will be presented by the 'Förderverein Berliner Stadtschloss' from June 30th in Berlin. It will discuss the importance of the Palace, its history and possible ways of rebuilding it. By contrast, it will also show alternative suggestions by national and international architects and a concensus of opinion from the Berlin public will decide upon the final design. Scaffolding supporting a canvas displaying the original design has been erected to coincide with the exhibition.