Another sights in Germany

The Largest Ceramic Frieze in the World

The Fürstenzug in Dresden is a larger than life mural depicting a procession of knights, made of approx. 25,000 porcelain tiles, designed to look as if the parade has been woven into a long tapestry and hung on the wall. It is the largest tile mural in the world. It presents the eight hundred year long history of the royal Wettiner dynasty – the rulers of Saxony from the 12th to 19th centuries.The three hundred and thirty-five foot long and ten thousand square foot large mural is on the side of the alley called the Lange Gang facing the Standehaus. Today it is one of the most visited tourist sites in Dresden.

The mural was designed as a backdrop to the celebrations marking the 800th anniversary of the Wettin dynasty’s reign to be held in 1889. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the time was ripe to take a stance on the national and Saxon stage with such a project. The threat of the Dresden May Revolution of 1849 had been put down with Prussian bayonets. The conservative reactionary government since in place, known in Saxon history as the Beust Era (Beust Ära), firmly held the reins of power. But all was not well with Saxony. The Battle of Königgrätz had brought to a climax the long struggle for supremacy between the two hegemonies of the German speaking world, with Austria giving way to Prussia. And Saxony had once again found itself on the losing side, with the Austrian Hapsburg Empire, and had been occupied by Prussian forces. Prussia grew to exert ever more control over its neighbors. It threatened the very existence of the Kingdom of Saxony, which already had little say in matters. Finally King Johann had to give way to the “new relationship” and join the North German Confederation (Norddeutsche Bund) – in which Prussia – Saxony’s enemy had the upper hand. The Saxon army was integrated into the federal army and Saxony had to pay Prussia ten million talers in war reparations.

It was high time for Saxons to remind themselves of their own achievements and the successes enjoyed by one of the oldest royal lineages in Germany. Besides, an important event was coming up, the 800th anniversary of the Royal House of Wettin in 1889. Wilhelm Walther’s designs, which he submitted on January 20, 1865, made this clear in a simple but impressive manner. He showed the Wettin rulers, the margraves, dukes, electors and kings as they rode through the history of Saxony, which at the same time was the history of Germany. And he modestly included some simple folk in the procession too. Walther’s most important competition in the design contest was the royal architect Krüger, who submitted a design in February that was an allegorical interpretation of Saxon history. There was no doubt, Krüger was more well known and enjoyed a better reputation. Walther was a nobody, with no big projects under his belt, and five hungry children to feed – he wouldn’t have a chance. Wrong. The academic committee in charge chose the unknown artist – Walther.

The contract with the artist, Wilhelm Walter, was signed on November 1, 1870 – the year in which war broke out with France. Walther’s work was accompanied by the distant thunder of cannon. Germany was fighting their arch enemy France. The country reeled and shook between the Rhine and Memel rivers. And when Saxony’s victorious hero, Prince Albert, returned from the battlefields, Dresden seemed to drown in a sea of bunting and flags celebrating the victory. As Wilhelm Walther worked on his great project, a surge of enthusiasm supported him. To be sure, Saxony was being absorbed into the new German Empire, but it was doing so at the highpoint of its history. With the knights high upon their horses, Wilhelm Walther’s work was weaving a myth whose impact would last until today. No other German land had such a great procession of rulers in their history to point back towards, no other city had such an impressive celebration of that past to offer contemporary visitors. Walther reaped honors and praise. Prince Georg personally bestowed the Knight’s Cross First Class of the Order of Albrecht on Walther.

Walther created the mural using the sgraffito method of the renaissance artists. The work lasted from 1872 until 1876 and cost 62,288 marks, paid for from the state art funds. This chalk rendering lasted for nearly forty years until starting in 1904 it was, over the course of three years, transferred to about twenty-five thousand tiles made by the Meissen porcelain factory. Thirty-five margraves, dukes, electors and kings and fifty-eight more contemporary, painters, architects and sculptors (not to mention a self-portrait of the artist, Wilhelm Walther himself) are included in the triumphant procession. Beneath the kings are their names. At the start of the procession is written: “A dynasty of imperial electors, whose march of heroes reaches unto this very day, arose ages ago in the legends of our people”. And at the tail end it says “May your royal lineage constantly renew the ranks of noble dukes, as your people pledge to you their eternal loyalty”. Surprisingly the mural survived the allied bombing of 1945 relatively unscathed. The ceramic tiles did not even fall from the wall even in the fire storm. A comprehensive restoration of the mural was undertaken in 1978-79.

People in the Procession:

Conrad – Margrave of Meissen (Konrad der Grosse) (1127–1156)
Otto the Rich (Otto der Reiche) (1156–1190)
Albrecht der Stolze (1190–1195)
Dietrich der Bedrängte (1195–1221)
Heinrich der Erlauchte (1221–1288)
Albrecht der Entartete (1288–1307)
Friedrich der Gebissene (1307–1324)
Friedrich der Ernsthafte (1324–1349)
Friedrich der Strenge (1349–1381)
Friedrich der Streitbare (1381–1428)
Ernst (1464–1486)
Friedrich der Sanftmütige (1428–1464)
Albrecht der Beherzte (1486–1500)
Friedrich der Weise (1486–1525)
Johann der Beständige (1525–1532)
Johann Friedrich der Grossmütige (1532–1547)
Georg der Bärtige (1500–1539)
Heinrich der Fromme (1539–1541)
Moritz (1547–1553)
August (1553–1586)
Christian I. (1586–1591)
Christian II. (1591–1611)
Johann Georg I. (1611–1656)
Johann Georg II. (1656–1680)
Johann Georg III. (1680–1691)
Johann Georg IV. (1691–1694)
August II. (1694–1733) (August der Starke)
August III. (1733–1763)
Friedrich Christian (1763)
Friedrich August der Gerechte (1763–1827)
Anton der Gütige (1827–1836)
Friedrich August II. (1836–1854)
Johann (1854–1873)
Albert (1873–1902)
Georg (1902–1904)

Contemporary Figures Shown at the End:

Wilhelm Walther´s son – a student at the Kreuz Gymnasium School
Student from a fraternity at the University of Leipzig (Herr von Erdmannsdorff)
Student of the Technischen Hochschule in Dresden
Architect Nikolai
Painter K. Peschel and Painter Julius Hübner (both are looking at a plan of mural)
Sculptor Johannes Schilling
Sculptor Ernst Julius Hähnel
Painter Ludwig Richter
Group of children, taken from a Ludwig Richter illustration, the girl in the middle of the group is the only female in the entire procession
Germanist Ernst Förstemann (Director of the Royal Library)
Privy councilor Wiesner, (who supported the project)
Art historian and archaelogist Freiherr von Weißenbach, the coat of arms of the family with the ox head on the collar
Co-worker of Walther, Maurer Kern
A Saxon miner
A Saxon Farmer
Co-worker of Walther, Maurer Pietsch
Self-Portrait, Wilhelm Walther

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