Kadriorg: the Spirit of Baroque and the Will of Genius. A Palace on the Edge of the Third Rome*


  • Juhan Maiste




Juhan Maiste: Kadriorg: the Spirit of Baroque and the Will
of Genius. A Palace on the Edge of the Third Rome
Keywords: Baroque, genius, cogito di scourse, Cosmopolitan
Influence of Rome, Baltic genius loci

The article examines the Kadriorg Palace near Tallinn, Estonia, planned by Rome-born architect Niccoló Michetti. Instead of the factual art history the emphasis is put on the history of ideas. The ideas explored are appropriated from René Descartes and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, thinkers who embody the philosophical thought of the Baroque era. In this fashion the intellectual substance of art is combined with philosophical ideas driven by their metaphysical causes. The objective of the article is not to add new narratives to the existing histories but to attempt instead an escape from the enchanting state of magic of the parergon towards a genesis of one’s own cosmos, geometry and architecture. The closest connection to the Kadriorg architectural ensemble is found in the distinctive attributes of the Italian architecture that at the turn of the eighteenth century replaced earlier cathartic and dramatic approaches, instead emphasising finer arrangements that favoured classical harmony, and as a result new possibilities of diversions and quests for alternatives were created. In place of the authoritarian rule of power, an independent and creative will – a fundamentally new idea of its
time – emerged through progressive architecture, using fantastic and visionary approach to prepare for changes in the architectural composition as well as in its plastics and décor. Kadriorg, like everything else Michetti designed, belongs to a period of transition, a time when tiredness of the earlier  rhetorical expressivity has not yet completely waned but survives in the dynamics of the décor as well as in the exacting principles of French formal gardens. In Kadriorg we see a multitude of ideas instead of a single concept, an interaction and symbiosis between various fields of influence, accepting in addition to the ceremonially official the presence of wilderness – in this way calling attention to the otium and the genius loci.

Juhan Maiste is professor and Head of Department of Art History at the University of Tartu. As a prolific writer he has authored a large number of of monographs and articles on architecture, classicism, cultural heritage, the philosophy and poetics of art history. Also among his scholarly interests have been Estonian and Livonian manour architecture, the phenomenon of park landscapes as well as the work of Johann Wilhelm Krause. In addition to teaching and research, professor Maiste curates the publication of the Baltic Journal of Art History.


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