The present lot is an autograph replica of the picture, signed and dated 1772, 145 x 196 cm, in the Staatliches Museum, Schwerin (E. Steinmann & H. Witte, Georg David Matthieu - Ein deutscher Maler des Rokoko (1737-1778), 1911, p.46, n042, plate XXII). For information on the artist, see the note to lot 19.
The sitter, son of Christian Ludwig II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1683-1756) and Gustave Karoline, Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1694-1748), married Luise Friederike, Duchess of Württemberg (1722-1791) on 2 March 1746. To emphasize the power of his rule and of the Mecklenburg family, he moved the ducal residence from Schwerin to Ludwigslust. He was the architect of the Castle Ludwigslust and it's gardens (see illustration opposite page), named after his father, to which the architectural drawing in his hands and the cascade in the background refer. Built by Johann Joachim Busch, who began with the construction of the church in 1765 (finished 1670) and with the palace in 1772 (finished 1776), Ludwigslust was to become a small city during the next few years. Friedrich succeeded his father to the throne in 1756 and maintained a strict policy, based on religious rules. He promoted trade and improved the school system. In 1760 the university of Bützow was founded as a counterbalance to the liberal university of Rostock. But Friedrich der Fromme was unwilling to spend any money on buildings and books, so that Fridericiana, as the university was called, only survived until 1789, when Friedrich Franz I decided to close it down. As related by E. and J. Borchardt in Mecklenburgs Herzöge - Ahnengalerie Schloss Schwerin, 1991, p.104, Friedrich der Fromme's piety, to which he owned his sobriquet, inspired his politics of obligatory bible classes, the prohibition of stage-plays and the introduction of câche-sexes on paintings of nudes in the ducal collection. Thus, although he is known to have been a lover of the pictorial arts (he appointed Georg David Matthieu in 1764 as a court painter) and of music, his reign brought a slight retardation in the artistic development in Schwerin, that had been strongly encouraged by his father Christian Ludwig II (see lot 2).
See colour illustration