Pottery was here a major art, for in this period the Germans showed Europe how to make porcelain. Augustus the Strong hired Johann Friedrich Böttger to transmute base metals into gold; Böttger failed; but with Spinoza’s old friend Walter von Tschirnhaus he established a faïence factory in Dresden, and made experiments that at last succeeded in producing the first European hard-paste porcelain. In 1710 he moved the manufacture to Meissen, fourteen miles from Dresden, and there he continued to refine his methods and products till his death (1719). Meissen porcelain was painted in rich colors on a white background with delicate designs of flowers, birds, genre, landscapes, marine views, and exotic snatches from Oriental dress and life. Under Johann Joachim Kändler the process was further improved; sculpture in porcelain was added to painting under glaze; fantastic figurines preserved the persons of German folklore and comedy; and imaginative masterpieces like the “Swan Service” of Kändler and Eberlein showed that art could rival in brightness and smoothness the varied armory of woman. Soon all aristocratic Europe, even in France, was adorning its rooms with humorously satirical figures in Meissen porcelain. The town retained its leadership in the art till 1758, when it was sacked by the Prussian army in the Seven Years’ War.
From Augsburg, Nuremberg, Bayreuth, and other centers the German potters poured into German homes a baroque profusion of ceramic products, from the loveliest faïence and porcelain to jolly jugs that made even beer drinking an aesthetic experience. Through most of the eighteenth century Germany led Europe not only in porcelain but in glass.25 Nor were the German ironworkers anywhere surpassed in this age; at Augsburg, Ebrach, and elsewhere they made wrought-iron gates rivaling those that Jean Lamour was raising at Nancy. The German goldsmiths were excelled only by the very best in Paris. German engravers (Knobelsdorff, Glume, Rugendas, Ridinger, Georg Kilian, Georg Schmidt) cut or burned exquisite designs into copper plates.26
German painters in this period did not win the international renown still awarded to Watteau, Boucher, La Tour, and Chardin. It is part of our unavoidable parochialism that non-Germans are not acquainted with the paintings of Cosmas Asam, Balthasar Denner, Johann Fiedler, Johann Thiele, Johann Ziesenis, Georg de Marées; let us at least recite their names. Better known to us than these is a French artist domiciled in Germany, Antoine Pesne, who became court painter to Frederick William I and Frederick the Great. His masterpiece pictures Frederick as a still innocent child of three, with his six-year-old sister Wilhelmine;27 if this had been painted in Paris all the world would have heard of it.
One family garnered fame in three fields—painting, sculpture, and architecture. Cosmas Damian Asam, in the Church of St. Emmeram in Regensburg, pictured the assumption of St. Benedict into Paradise, giving him the help of a lofty launching pad. Cosmas joined his brother Egid in designing the interior of the Church of St. Nepomuk in Munich—architecture overlaid with sculpture in wildest baroque. Egid carved in stucco The Assumption of Mary for an abbey church at Rohr in Bavaria. A fine Italian hand showed in the imposing Neptune Fountain set up in Dresden by Lorenzo Mattielli; this was a famous feature in the splendor of the Saxon capital. Balthasar Permoser spoiled his sculptured Apotheosis of Prince Eugene28 with a confusion of symbolical figures; he decorated with a like extravagance the pavilion of the Dresden Zwinger; he achieved an almost Michelangelic dignity and force in the Apostles grouped around the pulpit of the Hofkirche in Dresden; and his linden-wood St. Ambrose in that church ranks near the top of European sculpture in the first half of the eighteenth century. Georg Ebenhecht imagined a slim German beauty in the lovely Bacchus and Ariadne that he carved for the park at Sanssouci. German parks and gardens abounded in sculpture; a connoisseur of baroque estimated that “there is a bigger proportion of good garden statues in Germany than in the whole of the rest of Europe put together.”29
But it was only in architecture that German artists caught the eye of European artists in this age. Johann Balthasar Neumann left his mark in a dozen places. His masterpiece was the Residenz of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg; others collaborated in the design and execution (1719–44), but his was the guiding hand. The Venetian Room and the Mirror Room, resplendent in their decoration, were shattered in the Second World War, but four rooms remain to attest the splendor of the interior; and the lordly staircase, known to all the art world for its ceiling frescoes by Tiepolo, was one of several such structures that helped to give Neumann his preeminence among the architects of his time. Quite different, but almost as fine, was the staircase he built for the episcopal palace in Bruchsal—another casualty of the national suicide. Perhaps more beautiful than either was the double staircase made by him for the Augustusburg at Brühl, near Cologne. Staircases were his passion; he lavished his art on still another in a monastery at Ebrach. Interrupting his ascents and descents, he built the Wallfahrtskirche (pilgrimage church) of Vierzehnheiligen on the Main; he decorated in ornate baroque the Paulinuskirche in Trier and the Kreuzbergkirche near Bonn; and to the cathedral at Würzburg he added a chapel whose exterior is as nearly perfect as baroque can be.
Ecclesiastical architecture now specialized in massive monasteries. The Kloster Ettal, a Benedictine cloister which Emperor Louis of Bavaria founded in 1330 in a picturesque valley near Oberammergau, was restored in 1718 by Enrico Zuccalli, and was crowned with a graceful dome. The abbey church was destroyed by fire in 1744; it was rebuilt in 1752 by Josef Schmuzer; the interior was elaborately adorned in gold-and-white rococo style, with frescoes by Johann Zeiller and Martin Knoller; sumptuous side altars were added in 1757, and an organ celebrated for its handsome case. The most impressive of these prayerful monuments is the incredibly rich Klosterkirche, or cloister church, of the Benedictine monastery at Ottobeuren, southeast of Memmingen. Here Johann Michael Fischer organized the ensemble, Johann Christian contributed the gilt carvings, and Martin Hörmann provided the choir stalls—the pride of German wood carving in this century. Fischer worked intermittently on this enterprise from 1737 till his death in 1766.
The ruling classes were as loath as the monks to wait for a heaven beyond the grave. Some stately town halls were erected, as at Lüneburg and Bamberg; but the major efforts of secular architecture were devoted to castles and palaces. Karlsruhe had, asResidenzof the Margrave of Baden-Durlach, a unique Schloss in the shape of a fan—the ribs radiating out from a garden handle into the city streets. This palace, like much of the city, was laid in ruins by the Second World War; the great Schloss Berlin, built by Andreas Schlüter and his successors (1699–1720), fell in the same tragedy; still another victim was the Schloss Monbijou, near the Spandau Gate of Berlin; the castle at Brühl, designed for the Archbishop of Cologne, was partly destroyed; the Schloss Bruchsal was a total loss. At Munich Josef Effner raised the Preysing Palace, and at Trier Johann Seitz housed the ruling Archbishop in the Kurfürstliches Palais (Electoral Palace)—a model of modest beauty. For the Bishop-Elector of Mainz Maximilian von Welsch and Johann Dientzenhofer put up near Pommersfelden another great castle, the Schloss Weissenstein, in which Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt installed a famous double staircase where dignitaries could go up and down without collision.
Frederick the Great capped the secular architecture of Germany in the eighteenth century by commissioning Georg von Knobelsdorff and others to build at Potsdam (sixteen miles out of Berlin), on a design laid out by the King himself, three palaces that in their ensemble almost rivaled Versailles: the Stadtschloss, or State House (1745–51), the Neues Palais (1755), and Frederick’s summer residence, which he spelled “Schloss Sanssouci.” From the River Havel a broad avenue of gently rising steps led in five stages through a terraced park to this “Castle without Care,” whose mullioned windows and central dome took some hints from Dresden’s Zwinger Palace. One wing contained an extensive art gallery; under the dome ran a circle of handsome Corinthian columns; and aBibliothekadorned with rococo scrollwork and gleaming with glass-enclosed books offered a retreat from politics and generals. It was chiefly in Sanssouci that Voltaire met his match in the philosopher-king who could govern a state, defy the church, design a building, sketch a portrait, write passable poetry and excellent history, win a war against half of Europe, compose music, conduct an orchestra, and play the flute.