Exhibition | The Grand Cure, 1738–1740

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on April 17, 2018

From the exhibition flyer:

The Grand Cure, 1738–1740: A Disabled Saxon Prince and His Tour of Italy
Die Grande Kur, 1738–1740: Prinz Friedrich Christian Von Sachsen auf der Suche Nach Heilung und Kultur in Italien

Grünes Gewölbe / Green Vault, Residenzschloss, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 9 May — 19 August 2018

Curated by Maureen Cassidy-Geiger

Rosalba Carriera, Crown Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony, 1740, pastel on paper, 63.5 × 51.5 cm (Dresden, SKD, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister; photo by Hans Peter Klut/Elke Estel).

This is the first exhibition to be devoted to Elector Friedrich Christian of Saxony (1722—1763), who succeeded King August III in 1763 for just 74 days. Given his brief reign, few are aware of the prince’s profound physical disabilities, akin to cerebral palsy, which prevented him from standing or walking without assistance and made simple tasks like eating and dressing difficult. The marriage of his sister Maria Amalia to the King of Naples in May 1738 inspired their parents to send the fifteen-year-old heir to the throne on an impromptu journey to Italy, for life-saving medical treatments. This exceptional two-year adventure was amply documented, allowing us to precisely reconstruct the prince’s route and daily experiences as he travelled from Dresden to Naples, Rome, Florence, Milan, and Venice. Like the able-bodied Grand Tourists he met along the way, he also travelled incognito with an entourage, enjoyed celebrity status, and collected art, relics, books, and ephemera for shipment home. Some of the Italian gifts and souvenirs have been identified in museums, archives and libraries and are presented in the intimate setting of the Sponselraum.

August the Strong and August III both made Grand Tours as teenagers, with the court of Louis XIV and carnival in Venice as their primary targets. Friedrich Christian, by contrast, went to Italy as a medical tourist. Although he would never be cured, the mineral baths and holistic treatments administered abroad did soothe and strengthen the prince’s atrophied limbs, allowing him to regain the use of his left hand, bear his own bodyweight and walk short distances with two canes. Of necessity, however, he was mostly carried around Italy in a porte-chaise (sedan chair), even ascending the Leaning Tower of Pisa in this manner. Since there was no precedent for portraying a disabled heir to the throne, the Crown Prince was chronicled and painted conventionally, as able-bodied, and even thought of himself as such. A glimpse of his handicap is shown in the view of his arrival at Venice in 1739, but it was not until 1761, while in exile in Munich during the Seven Years’ War, that he was portrayed in a wheelchair. With his premature death from smallpox at the age of 41, however, the Elector’s great promise went unfulfilled.

Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, Die Grande Kur, 1738–1740: Prinz Friedrich Christian Von Sachsen auf der Suche Nach Heilung und Kultur in Italien / The Grand Cure, 1738–1740: A Disabled Saxon Prince and His Tour of Italy (Dresden: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2018), 52 pages, ISBN: 978-3000596810 (German and English text).

Note (added 26 June 2018) — The posting was updated to include details for the booklet accompanying the exhibition.

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