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Carl Georg Anton Graeb (1816-84)

A distant view of Potsdam at sunset 1858

Pencil, watercolour and bodycolour | 31.6 x 43.6 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 920706

In an exhibition, Laing Art Gallery [Newcastle]

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  • A watercolour and bodycolour view of Potsdam from the Wilhelmsbank in the park at Babelsberg, with the newly built Flatowturm on the right. Signed lower right C. Grae[b]. On paper watermarked: J Whatman / 1856.

    Queen Victoria's eldest child, Victoria, the Princess Royal, married Prince Frederick William (nephew of King Frederick William IV of Prussia) in January 1858. She was only 17 years old at the time and, though the marriage had not been forced upon the young Princess, her departure was inevitably a wrench for both mother and daughter. Queen Victoria missed her greatly, and wrote letters to her every few days; the Queen's feeling of separation was compounded when she learned in May 1858 that the Princess was expecting her first child (the future Kaiser William II). A visit to Germany was quickly arranged, and in August Queen Victoria and Prince Albert set out by train from Antwerp to spend two weeks with their daughter.

    The watercolour was commissioned by the Prince Consort later in 1858 as a Christmas present for Queen Victoria. Potsdam, immediately to the south-west of Berlin, was the site of a number of the country residences of the Prussian royal family, notably Sanssouci. Here the town is seen looking westwards into the afternoon sun from the park at Babelsberg, where the royal couple stayed with the Princess; the newly built Flatowturm is on the right and the wide waters of the Havel catch the light in the distance. Carl Graeb had come to the notice of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert when the Prussian King had presented them with six views by Graeb of the King's Rhineland castle Schloß Stolzenfels after their visit in 1845. A number of other watercolours of Schloß Babelsberg, Sanssouci and around Berlin were ordered from the artist following the 1858 visit.

    This watercolour was originally mounted in View Album VIII. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert compiled nine View Albums during their marriage. These albums contained watercolours and drawings documenting their life together and were arranged in chronological order. The albums were dismantled in the early twentieth century and rebound in new volumes both in a different arrangement and with additional items, but a written record of their original contents and arrangement still exists.

    Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010
    Provenance

    Given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert, 24th December 1858. [Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010, pg 459]

    On 31 March 1859 Graeb was paid £13 12s for this ‘Distant View of Potsdam in water colors, by Graeb – for View Album’ The drawing was placed on f. 25 of the eighth View Album.

  • Medium and techniques

    Pencil, watercolour and bodycolour

    Measurements

    31.6 x 43.6 cm (sheet of paper)