This is likely one of the world’s most famous stage designs, and at the same time one of the most stunning visual creations of the 19th century: Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s ‘Queen of the Night’s Hall of Stars’, which provided the backdrop to the second scene of the first act of The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (music) and Emanuel Schikaneder (libretto). The work has a bewitching quality, which derives from its clear symmetry, the contrast between the warm hues framing the picture and the prevailing coolness of its palette, the way the visual space builds up a sense high drama reminiscent of Baroque art, and its audacious reinterpretation of two famous subjects from Christian iconography: the Regina Coeli as a ‘Madonna of the Crescent Moon’, the mistress of heaven who overcomes evil, and her pre-figuration, the Woman of the Apocalypse, wearing a crown of stars (as described in Revelation 12). In his thematization of the duality of nature and architecture, a recurrent feature in the artist’s work, he here achieves a degree of abstraction rarely seen in his other works. On the one hand, the scene can be understood as a section of the night sky, against the backdrop of which we see (in the lower third of the picture and in the upper pendatives) clear gradations of naturally lit, dark cloud formations. Or alternatively it could be said that Schinkel has created a longitudinal cross-section of a domed hall, its ribbed vaults made up of chains of stars which, three abreast, meet up and fade into a circular zenith.