VISIONARY PALACES: DESIGNS BY KARL FRIEDRICH SCHINKEL is a new exhibition running from 27 February to 12 June in the Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, Print Room and features a small but interesting collection of chromo lithograph designs by Schinkel for two lavish palaces – one in Greece and the other in the Crimea. This is the first time that these prints have been on public display in nearly 20 years
Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) was a multi talented artist, stage set designer and architect who, by the time these extravagant palatial designs were executed for King Otto von Wittelsbach of Greece and Russian Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, already had an impressive career behind him as an architect of public spaces in Prussia and Berlin and also of Royal houses. These lavish designs are right at the end of his career and life...the portfolios were actually published in the 1840s.
One palace for the King of Greece with its lavish palace and administration buildings atop the hill beside the Acropolis complete with huge statue of Athena was never actually built due to costs, but the prints on display are wonderful works of detailed art and technical draftmanship in their own right. A few of the interior designs actually give us some small insight into the opulence and potential cost of these palaces. Schinkel never actually visited this site, so this really was his flight of fantasy to leave as his parting career statement.
The other palace with equally impressive exterior and interior designs at Orianda in the Crimea was built, but on the smaller and simpler scale (if such a thing is really possible on a Russian imperial palace) as per the original client’s design brief.
Even though neither design was actually built, it does give us an insight into not only the actual designs themselves but the sheer technical issues of getting materials and men to these locations and, once built, actually getting things like water and drainage services to the buildings. Also of course a small insight into the vast wealth resources that these Royal clients had at their disposal. Even though neither palace was eventually built due to cost and practicality considerations, the fact that the designs were even commissioned give us an insight into European Royal extravagances of the time while the general population were leading in many case lives not even meeting the most basic of income requirements.
Visionary Palaces is a small but interesting exhibition and due to their delicate nature, these prints are only on view for a short time
Review by Tom King