‘Salon de Mercure’
The Mercury Salon was one of the rooms at the former royal château of Saint-Cloud. The château was started in 1572, expanded at the end of the 17th century and enlarged again by Marie Antoinette in the 1780s. The Mercury Salon was redecorated in the early 19th century. Its ceiling, by the history painter Jean Alaux, depicted Mercury and Pandora. The walls were hung with Gobelins tapestries copied from Reubens’ History of Marie de’ Medici cycle. The tapestry shown in the stereograph is from The Birth of the Dauphin at Fontainebleau. The château was gutted by fire in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War and the roofless shell demolished in 1891. The tapestries were presumably destroyed in the fire as I can find no evidence that they still exist. Click on ‘Saint-Cloud’ in the tag cloud to the right for more on the lost château.
The White Room, or Weißen Saal, was redesigned three times. Used as a ballroom, its final appearance wasn’t attained until the end of the 19th century. White marble was installed on the walls and the ceiling was painted. The White Room was one of the interiors that survived World War Two intact but it was demolished along with the damaged parts of the palace in 1950. In 1921 a British diplomat claimed that the Berlin Stadtschoss had “the finest interior in Europe”, only a small part of which was recorded in stereographs.
‘Picture Gallery, Royal Palace, Berlin, Germany’
Keystone View Company
The picture gallery was built c.1713 by Schlüter’s successor as architect, Johann Friedrich Eosander. It was 60m long, had yet another richly-painted ceiling and was formerly hung with enormous canvases showing Prussian military victories. Unfortunately many of the paintings were destroyed during World War Two. Perhaps the gallery’s most spectacular feature was a sculptural group at one end (not shown in the stereoview) which depicted some of the figures losing their balance and tumbling out of the composition. The picture gallery was gutted by fire in 1945 and the remains were demolished in 1950.
‘Throne Room, Royal Palace, Berlin’
Keystone View Company
The two stereoviews show the Rittersaal or Knights’ Hall, completed by Andreas Schlüter for Frederick I of Prussia c.1705. It was probably the finest of the Berlin City Palace’s 700 rooms. (The famous Amber Room, designed by Schlüter in 1701, was also a strong contender for the title until it was given to Tsar Peter the Great by Friedrich Wilhem I in 1716). Above the doors Schlüter added sculptural groups depicting America, Africa, Europe and Asia. The corners were filled with allegorical figures representing the seasons and times of day. The Baroque ceiling was painted by Johann Friedrich Wentzel with mythological gods from which hung rock crystal chandeliers. A pre-war vistor described the Rittersaal as “one of the most sumptuous in the world…and, with the possible exception of the Salle de Fetes in the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, it was certainly the finest Throne room in Europe”. The Rittersaal was destroyed by incendiaries during an air-raid on Berlin in February 1945 and the gutted shell of the palace was demolished in 1950.
‘Staircase detail in second court of castle, Berlin’
Although parts of the Stadtschloss dated back to the 15th century much of it was the brain-child of the sculptor and architect Andreas Schlüter. Schlüter was commissioned by Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg (later King Frederick I of Prussia) in 1697 to transform the Renaissance castle into a Baroque palace. Schlüter designed a remarkable sequence of state apartments for the king, most of which remained intact until the 20th century. These apartments were accessed via the main staircase. Known as the Gigantentreppe because of its immense size it rose through three floors. Instead of steps the staircase had cobbled ramps to allow the king and his retinue to ride into the palace on horseback. The stereoview shows just a small part of the Gigantentreppe with one of Schlüter’s superb life-sized atlantes from c.1700. One of the most inventive and lavish Baroque spaces in Europe, the Gigantenreppe was largely destroyed during World War Two and its remains were demolished in 1950. The majority of the exterior of the Berlin City Palace is currently being reconstructed at its original location at a cost of around £500 million. Unfortunately there are no plans to reinstate any of the interiors, including the Gigantentreppe.
‘Salle de la Paix’
‘Salon de la Paix’
Although it was within the walls of Louis XIV’s Baroque palace, the Peace Hall was another First Empire creation of Percier and Fontaine for Napoleon at the start of the 19th century. It was a vast gallery decorated with pilasters supporting a richly-coffered ceiling. The room got its name from a silver statue of Peace by the sculptor Antoine-Denis Chaudet which stood at one end of the hall. The statue was cast in 1806-1807 on Napoleon’s orders to commemorate the Treaty of Amiens. The treaty of 1802 saw the end to hostilities between Britain and the French Republic. This exceptional statue was fortunately removed from the hall prior to 1871 and can be seen today in The Louvre. The Salle de la Paix was destroyed during the Paris Commune.
‘Salle des Maréchaux’
‘Salle des Maréchaux’
The Salle des Maréchaux, or Room of the Marshalls, occupied the Pavillon de l’Horloge, the great domed structure at the centre of the Tuileries. The Pavilon de l’Horloge, perhaps the most striking feature of the palace’s colossal 260m western facade, was part of Catherine de Medici’s 16th century palace but it was largely altered by le Vau for Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century. This was the entrance hall of the Baroque palace but it was extensively rebuilt internally by Percier and Fontaine for Napoleon at the start of the 19th century. The Salle des Maréchaux was constructed at this time. An enormous chamber which stood over the entrance vestibule, the Salle des Maréchaux extended up through two floors and was crowned with a golden dome. One feature of the room was a mezzanine floor that ran around the apartment supported on corbels. Another was the four caryatids modelled on those by the Renaissance sculptor Jean Goujon at the nearby Louvre (the caryatids are visible in the second of the two stereoviews). The room was a spectacular example of the remarkably influential First Empire style which was essentially born at the Tuileries and which went on to take Europe by storm. The room was adorned with portraits and statues of famous French marshals, generals and admirals, and so it acquired its name. It was originally used as the guardroom for Napoleon’s body of Swiss Guards but was later the scene of balls and functions. In May 1871 one of the Commune’s leaders, Jules Burgeret, ordered barrels of gunpowder to be stacked up inside the Salle des Maréchaux. The walls of the staterooms were smeared with tar and petroleum and the building was set on fire. When the conflagration reached the gunpowder there was an enormous explosion and the Salle des Maréchaux disappeared in a mass of flames. Burgeret wrote immediately afterwards that “the last relics of Royalty have just vanished”. It is almost miraculous that the fire didn’t spread to The Louvre and destroy some of the greatest artworks of Western culture.