Rococo en Minature

Text read by Mary Peters

Joerg visits a curious exhibition in Germany.

Joerg, and his wife, drove from Mannheim to the town of Rudolstadt in the German state of Thuringia last week whilst on holidays. There, they discovered a unique exhibition which you can find in the Thuringian State Museum. (All Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in Thuringia, meaning that life had returned to normal.)

What you can see there is the fantasy world of “The Praised Island”, created over a period of 50 years by Gerhard Bätz and Manfred Kiedorf. The island has two empires called Pelaria and Dyonia. What makes this exhibition so breathtaking are the miniature model buildings and activities all set in the Rococo period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The two friends met in 1952 in the town of Sonnenberg in the communist German Democratic Republic. They both shared a passion for battle games. What started under school desks mushroomed to living room battles, with ornately crafted figures. Buildings were made of cardboard that could be painted and folded.

Travelling was largely restricted during the times of the GDR, and certainly forbidden to the West, so the two friends travelled by using their imagination. Over time, they read specialist literature and studied historical models and visited the castles they could in their area. What emerged was a very authentic world, not modelled on any real castles. The castles were inhabited by hundreds of individuals with names, family trees and other curious details.

The Praised Island was divided into two Kingdoms. Dyonia is in the east, also called Jondent and the Kingdom of Pelarien is in the west, called Pezident. On the Praised Island, the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. The Praised Island is on the planet Centus, which is believed to be behind the moon and therefore invisible from Earth.

The imaginary world also had its own language called “Pezanisch” which was the language used by the two creators in the 2500 letters and documents they wrote to each other. Reading these letters provides the deeper key to understanding this magical world. Because the two friends lived in different towns after 1957, they kept their shared passion alive through their correspondence. You can read about everyday experiences and learn how they improved their work by using new materials and technology.

Humour was an important expression for Bätz and Kiedorf.  They gave the characters in their fantasy world funny names and wrote silly rhymes about them. The result was relentless laughter by observers. Even the architecture, which initially astonishes you with its monumental splendour, the details are extremely witty. Looking closely, you can see surprising sceneries inside or strange sculptural jewellery in dubious spaces.

You can visit this permanent exhibition at the Thuringian State Museum Heidecksburg
in 07407 Rudolstadt, Germany.

Opening times are 10 am – 6 pm, April to October and 10 am to 5 pm, November to March. Closed Mondays.

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