Limburgs Museum, Venlo

The Forgotten Princesses of Thorn - exhibition design

‘I consider liberty a great advantage. When one is married, one is necessarily subjugated, having chosen a master. It is more pleasant to be master oneself.’

In the eighteenth century, Thorn, located in modern-day Limburg, was a tiny independent state in the Holy Roman Empire, where princesses and countesses ruled. As high nobility, these ladies were perpetually in the spotlight, living a life of luxury.

This unique exhibition follows the lives of several of these princesses and gives an extraordinary glimpse into European aristocratic life in the eighteenth century. A life of tremendous freedom for that day and age, filled with pomp and grandeur, yet also a life led in a gilded cage.

Guest curator Dr Joost Welten, writer of the elaborate book with the same title as that of the exhibition selected over 250 artworks and objects from more than fifty museums across Europe and the US. The objects vary from luxurious 18th century portraits, jewels, fashion, furniture, musical instruments to weapons, taxidermy and tableware.

Dr Welten and I worked closely and passionately together; discussing objects and subjects, and turning a 519-page book into a stunning and joyous visitors experience for a large audience.

We conceptualized the scenography around roughly 20 scenes. We literally staged these scenes on a catwalk, bathing in the spotlight, symbolizing the gilded cage in which our princesses lived On the one hand the storytelling is very personal and intimate while being historically historically extremely rich and accurate on the other.

Graphic design by Studio Berry Slok
Lighting design by Licht – Joost de Beij
Object mounting and installation by Marianne Inkelaar
Production by CAS exhibition partners and Riwicoll
Photography by Mike Bink