For the first time in more than 50 years the Kulturstiftung Dessau Wörlitz is opening Oranienbaum Palace to the public, a building erected by Henriette Catharina of Anhalt-Dessau (1637-1708), a princess of Orange. To mark the occasion, a special exhibition will be held there from 14 June to 24 August 2003 (extended to 7 September 2003). The show includes 80 paintings by such artists as Anthonie van Dyck, Gerrit van Honthorst and Jan Mytens as well as 90 portrait prints. National and international museums and collections like the Anhaltische Gemaeldegalerie, Dessau (main lender), the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna), the Koninklijk Huisarchief (Den Haag), the Mauritshuis (Den Haag), Paleis Het Loo National Museum (Apeldoorn), the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), the Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten (Potsdam), the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik (Weimar) and others will lend works for Oranienbaum.
The most important paintings from the Orange legacy in Dessau-Wörlitz will be shown in the exhibition, such as the portrait of Prince Willem of Orange by van Dyck from the garden hall in Mosigkau Palace. This palace, constructed by the Dutch master builder Cornelis Ryckwaert from 1681/83 to 1685 and enlarged in the years 1698-1702, was at first the “maison de plaisance” and later the widow palace of Henriette Catharina of Anhalt-Dessau (1637-1708). The lady of the castle, a daughter of Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange (1584-1647) and Amalia of Solms (1602-1675), was married to Johann Georg II of Anhalt-Dessau (1627-1693). She inherited a precious collection of art, which formed the interiors of the ‘Stadtschloss’ in Dessau and later of her mansion Oranienbaum. She introduced Dutch architecture to the principality of Anhalt-Dessau and brought new agricultural insights to the realm. She gave the former village Nischwitz the name ‘Oranienbaum’ in honor of her family.
The original layout and decoration of the interior will be evoked not only with paintings but also furniture and ceramics that were among the historical furnishings. The main exhibit is the mansion itself, which could not be visited for the past 57 years, during which is served as an archive.
Visitors will observe that much of the interior is still original. The stucco on the ceilings is of the 17th and the 18th century, while some doors and paintings on wall panels are preserved. The building is not yet restored, but it fulfils all conservation demands for the objects.
The exhibition marks the start of the restoration of the building. For the next years the restoration of Schloss Oranienbaum will fall under the high patronage of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Johannes Rau, the German Federal President (Bundespräsident).
Ambassade van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden and Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Wien
Wolfgang Savelsberg and Reinhard Alex, Oranienbaum – Huis van Oranje: Wiederentdeckung eines anhaltischen Fürstenschlosses, oranische Bildnisse aus fünf Jahrhunderten, München (Deutscher Kunstverlag) 2003. 395 pages.