DRESDEN.- Beginning in the autumn of 2014, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Dresden (Old Masters Picture Gallery) will present a touring exhibition of selected masterpieces. On the basis of 100 works of art, the history and development of the collection during the Baroque and Enlightenment era is examined.
The exhibition focuses on the reign of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670–1733), also known as the Strong, and his son Augustus III (1696–1763). During the “Augustan Age”, an era of economic and cultural flourishing, the manifold building projects, vibrant cultural life and the enhancement of the royal collections all embodied the electoral court’s new claim to power. The construction of the Cathedral and the Frauenkirche during this era gave Dresden its world famous silhouette. Moreover, prestigious painters like the Italian Bernardo Bellotto (1721–1780) or Louis de Silvestre (1675–1760) were drawn to Dresden, where they were engaged as court artists. This dynamic, prosperous era forms the backdrop behind the painted masterpieces and their stories.
The development of the Dresden Picture Gallery, its presentation, focus and appeal throughout the 18th century is expounded in seven chapters. The exhibition examines the inception of the painting collection under Augustus the Strong, which may be interpreted as the expression of his heightened need to demonstrate his status on being crowned king of Poland in 1697. Significant works from various genres like history painting, landscape, still life and portraiture highlight the profile of the royal collection, which continued to grow throughout the 18th century.
A frequent visitor to the Dresden Picture Gallery was the famous art historian and archeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), who wrote an account of his experiences, thereby contributing to immortalise the collection’s legendary reputation. The exhibition presents numerous works that he encountered while roaming the royal gallery and which found his appreciation.
Over the course of the 18th century, the collection evolved into a place of learning and exchange of ideas, luring numerous artists to draw inspiration from the Old Masters. The exhibition concludes with the reopening of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts under the direction of Christian Ludwig von Hagedorn (1712–1780); he succeeded in engaging prestigious painters as teachers, who gave the development of art in Dresden fresh momentum, thereby foreshadowing the modern trends of the 19th century.
Rembrandt, Ganymede in the clutches of an eagle, 1635, oil on canvas, 177 x 129 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister © State Art Collections in Dresden.
Titian, Portrait of a Lady in White, oil on canvas, 102 x 86 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister © State Art Collections in Dresden.
Palma il Vecchio, Resting Venus, To 1518/20, oil on canvas, 112 x 186 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister © State Art Collections in Dresden.
Antoine Watteau, The Love Festival, oil on canvas, 61 x 75 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister © State Art Collections in Dresden.
Bernardo Bellotto, Dresden from the right bank of the Elbe above the Augustus Bridge, 1747, oil on canvas, 132 x 236 cm, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister © State Art Collections in Dresden.