According to Dr. W. Baer, this service was delivered in either 1767 or 1768. A similar plate from this service, formerly in the Dr. K.H. Wadsack Collection was sold in these Rooms on 1 May 2002, lot 15. Also see Erich Köllmann, op. cit. (Brunswick, 1966), Vol. II, 27a for another plate from this service.
The design for this plate was modelled by Friedrich Elias Meyer and corresponds to the design for the First Potsdam Service produced a little earlier in 1765. Both services were used in the banqueting halls in the Neue Palais and their design was complimentary, differing only in the colour of the borders. With some of Frederick The Great's services there are strong similarities between the design of the services and the interiors of the palaces that they were used in, and this service is no exception. The similarity of ornament, or gesamtkunstwerk, was all-inclusive, applying to both the fabric of an interior and its moveable objects.
Frederick the Great commissioned the Neue Palais, or New Palace, in 1755, before the Seven Years' War broke out, but construction didn't begin until the end of the war in 1763. During this time his enemies had risen in number to include Austria, France, Russia and Sweden, and in 1761, when Berlin and Brandenburg were briefly taken, he appears to have seriously considered suicide. Although the palace was built against the backdrop of his astonishing victory, at a time when funds were limited it still cost a fortune to build at almost 3,000,000 Thalers. Triumphant in size, Frederick remarked that the palace was an exercise in 'blowing one's own trumpet'.
Four architects were responsible for the project, but not simultaneously; Johann Gottfried Büring, Karl von Gontard (1731-1791), Jean Laurent Legeay (1710-1786) and Heinrich Ludwig Manger (1728-1790), and it was completed in 1769. The original concept of the Neue Palais extended back to Frederick's time as Crown Prince; shortly before he succeeded to the throne he had discussed plans for a Forum Fridericianum with his then intimate friend, the architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. The plan was to build the Forum in the centre of Berlin on Unter den Linden; incorporating an Academy of Science and Letters, an Opera House and a new palace built round a vast square based on the Place Vendôme in Paris. Although Knobelsdorff did construct the Opera House for Frederick in the 1740's, and other buildings not originally part of the scheme were built1, the plan was never fully realised and it subsequently evolved. Instead of being built in the centre of Berlin, the new palace was built in the park to the west of Schloss Sanssouci at right-angles to the principal axis through the park which led directly up to Sanssouci itself.
Büring adapted Sir John Vanbrugh's designs for Castle Howard in Yorkshire for the design of the Neue Palais. Vanbrugh's elevations were illustrated in Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britannnicus in Volume I (1715) and Volume III (1725). Frederick owned these volumes along with Lord Burlington's Fabbriche Antiche disegnate da Andrea Palladio Vicentino (1730). As Frederick was a lover of both English Palladianism and the rococo, the Neue Palais is a confusing blend of styles. In 1763, the French architect Legeay designed the 'Communs', the extraordinarily theatrical service wing directly opposite the palace, in the Palladian style. After Legeay left Berlin in the same year, Gontard, who had been working for Frederick's brother-in-law the Margrave of Bayreuth, arrived in Berlin and executed Legeay's design. Büring's elevations for the exterior of the palace were essentially baroque, and Gontard's 1764 designs for the interiors (including the apartments for Frederick's friends and visitors who were not perceived as being important enough to stay at Sanssouci) were rococo. Oddly, Frederick ordered that the private Royal apartments were to be located in one of the wings of the building, and not in the centre as was customary for Royal apartments. Four banqueting halls were built, two on the ground floor and two on the second.
1. A Royal library was built by Gontard on the west side of the Forum Fridericianum in 1774-80. Essentially a baroque building derived from the Hofburg in Vienna, stylistically it sat very uncomfortably opposite the Palladian simplicity of Knobbelsdorf's Opera House.
Opposite page, J.F. Schleuen's engraving of the court side of the Neue Palais, circa 1770.