Until Grand Duke Paul Friedrich Franz II shifted court to Schwerin 35km north, LUDWIGSLUST was the heart of the Mecklenburg-Schleswig court, realized as a spacious planned town laid at the feet of the Schloss – no doubt about priorities here. His predecessor, Grand Duke Friedrich I, commissioned the first court palace in the hunting grounds of his father Christian Ludwig, and was dogged by money problems almost as soon as the building began in 1772 – as the joke went, Ludwig’s Lust (pleasure) was Friedrich’s Arbeit (work). Behind the majestic late Baroque facade is the same humble brick used for the courtiers’ houses on approach road Schlossstrasse. Architect Johann Joachim Busch was even more creative within. In place of stucco and carved wood, he employed papier-mâché, euphemistically named Ludwigsluster Carton. The pinnacle of his achievement is the Goldene Saal, a Louis XVI-style galleried ballroom fit for a Cinderella ball whose gilded Rococo mouldings are all glorious fakes. Even the reliefs of putti above the door turn out to be trompe l’oeil. A carved grandfather clock and Venus de’Medici in later rooms also prove to be papier-mâché. Many of the oils, however, are genuine works by French court painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

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