GARDENS IN MIDDLE GERMANY (3)
The children of Queen Sophie Dorothea were all great garden lovers. One of the sisters of the King of Prussia, Louisa Ulrica, we shall meet again in connection with her work in Sweden. The favourite sister, the Margravine of Bayreuth, most like her brother in many ways, says herself that she has so beautified her hermitage that it is now “ one of the loveliest places in Germany.” Wilhelmine married into a family which loved building. From the beginning of the eighteenth century her husband’s forbears had built one pleasure- castle after another round the Residence at Bayreuth. At the attractive place called St. Georgen (Fig. 514) there was a little lake with a round island in it, gay with garden-beds and fountains.
Here there was a mock-fortification afloat, much the same as at Moritzburg. The margrave could watch water-fights and competitions from his pleasant castle. At first this was in separate buildings, each divided into three parts, and with parterres on both sides; later, when a larger castle was built, a small town was added at the back of the Residence, and was laid out in regular lines. The founder of St. Georgen, the Margrave George William, also had a hermitage set up. This was certainly not intended to imitate Many; but from outside the unhewn stone was to create the impression that the rooms were really cells; and if they did not succeed in looking so, at any rate the margrave, his wife, and the court, lived there dressed as hermits, and had a little bell that summoned them to prayer.
Wilhelmine altered the castle when she had it as a personal gift from her husband, but without quite taking away its original character. In her graphic description of her "Tusculum," she says:
The house has no architectural adornment outside, and it might be taken for a ruin among rocks. But in the front there is a parterre with flowers, and there is a cascade in the background, which seems to start from a fissure in the rock; it falls towards the hill, and empties into a great basin. Every path through the wood leads to some hermitage, and they are all quite apart. The view from mine is the ruin of a temple, made on the model of those that have remained from old Roman times. I have dedicated it to the Muses; and inside there are portraits of all the famous learned men of the century: Descartes, Leibnitz, Locke, Newton, Voltaire, Maupertuis, etc. There is a round hall at the side; there are also two smaller rooms, and a little kitchen which I have had decorated with old Raphael porcelain. Going out of the small rooms you come to a little garden, at whose entrance stands a ruined portico. . . . Higher up you meet with a surprise in the way of novelties. You come upon a theatre of freestone, with arches at intervals, where operas can be performed in the open air.
Below this truly sentimental place the same princess had a new castle built, the so-called orangery, which was to be an imitation (of a kind) of the Great Trianon, and gives a surprisingly good and full picture of the great style of the seventeenth century, by its striking arrangement of arcades (Fig. 515) and wonderful water-works, all within a severely regular garden parterre.
The Hermitage in Bayreuth offers us a good example of the inquiring, ever-restless eclecticism of those days. There are ideas and to spare everywhere, and old and new are alike seized upon, and sometimes subjected to the former criterion of style. The inner part of the orangery includes a curious room, which no doubt came into existence after Wilhelmine’s time. On the walls is depicted a garden, with a fountain in the middle and a low grating, with climbing plants reaching up to tall trees; in the foliage there appear ripe oranges and exotic birds. All this is carved and painted in many colours, and mounts up to the ceiling, which is like a blue sky with white clouds (Fig. 516).
A long chain of ancestors unites this fantastic place with ancient garden-rooms, but still the chain seems to have reached its end in the clumsy naturalistic hermitage at Bayreuth. What most attracts us there is the atmosphere of the lively sister of Frederick the Great.
The hermitage, however, was no exception at that time. If we read the descriptions of gardens in travellers’ books about the middle of the century, we shall understand that the pleasure-castles, with the precious collections, and the gardens, were the main stages or goals for travellers of the period. And this was not so in Germany alone, for we meet the same thing in countries which were now first open to the research of eager travellers, such as the Scandinavian peninsula and Russia.