A painting…

Several years ago Lady M. sent me a photograph of a picture.

There is no signature attached, no indication of the name of the place on the picture… Nothing. Just the suppositions.

The palace looks much like the palace of Finckenstein… Or the non existing anymore palace of Friedrichstein in Kreis Wehlau (now in Russia).

As far as I remember – Lady M. bought the painting in a little antique shop in former Leningrad few years after WW 2. The man who sold it to her, was supposedly a war veteran and he insisted that this was one of many palaces in East Prussia. So, knowing I am a Prussian, lady M. sent this to me, hoping I would be able to find out where the depicted palace could be found. One thing we both did not take into consideration – that there are very few palaces left after the Red Army marched through here on their way to Berlin in 1945.

So after the several years’ research I am still at the beginning of my story…

Hoping to find the palace – I went through quite a collection of paintings by Alexander Duncker. He painted Prussian palaces and castles. I finally found a picture (two in fact) od the palace of Friedrichstein.

One – as seen from the garden and the second – as seen from the front driveway.

But is it really this palace?  Was the depicted palace  – really in East Prussia? Will this mystery ever be solved?

*     /     *

Both the palaces (Finckenstein and Friedrichstein) are a bit similar, as they were designed by the same architect – John von Collas. They were built to bear the status of the royal palaces for the Prussian royalty en route. And therefore could not be modest in any way.

The Friedrichstein palace belonged to the Doenhoff family. If looked up in the Wikipedia – it can be read that the family had a Polish and the German branch. Both very interesting – and very inspiring to read about. To start – would be good to find Ernst Magnus Doenhoff and one of his brothers: Kasper Doenhoff.  And then go to the times of the Polish-Swedish wars…

The last known Doenhoff was Marion – who had luck enough to have fled on horseback before the Red Army entered Quitainen (where she lived till 1945). She wrote several books on East Prussia, and even though they are of poor quality as literature – they are a good source of information about the life then and there.

The other palace  mentined before – Finckenstein – had once belonged to the Finck von Finckenstein family, and then (through marriage) to the Zu Dohna-Schlobitten family. It was among the most beautiful Prussian palaces.

It was here – that Napolen Bonaparte had his famous romance with a Polish countess, Maria Walewska. And from here he ruled his empire in 1807 (between April 1st and June 6th). Here the Treaty of Finckenstein was signed between France and Persia…

When the movie “Conquest” was made, featuring Greta Garbo as mme Maria Walewska – it was made in the palace of Finckenstein. And as it was made in 1937 – the palace was still beautiful… During WW 2 Hitler visited the palace, and there is a story being told in the village, that one of his dogs was burried in the palace park. Another story is being rather whispered – about the famous Amber Room being sunk in the palace park pond…

Today, the palace is a sad ruin, awaiting its end in rubble. Only the echoes of the great past history can sometimes be heard’ or maybe those are the ghosts of the past trying to find their way in ruins…


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