Monday, June 15, 2015


The Dresden Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Picture Gallery of Old Masters) enjoys a special position within Europe’s museum scene. This arises both from its rich collection and from its legendary history dating back to the eighteenth century. In the space of half a century, Augustus the Strong and his son Augustus III skilfully amassed a unique collection that still defines the gallery to this day. From 11 June to 8 November 2015, the exhibition 

at the Winter Palace will showcase masterpieces by Rembrandt, Titian, Guido Reni, Antoine Watteau, and many other artists, illustrating the passionate collecting of the electors of Saxony and kings of Poland. In addition, much to the admiration of contemporaries, in 1745 one hundred works were acquired from the Duke of Modena, Francesco III d’Este. A selection of these also feature in the Vienna show, including paintings by Carracci, Guercino, and Velázquez. Furthermore, the exhibition showcases works by outstanding personalities from the Dresden court, including the vedute painter Bernardo Bellotto. 

The development of the Picture Gallery in the eighteenth century has been divided into seven chapters, tracing its evolution into an enlightened centre of education and exchange. The royal collection’s prestige is demonstrated by important history paintings, landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. In the economic and cultural heyday known as the Augustan Age, many building projects and the expansion of the royal collections served to demonstrate the new power of the Dresden court. Thus, the reigns of Augustus the Strong and his son marked a significant expansion of the collection. 

The gallery’s outstanding quality is largely thanks to the efforts of art experts and agents, who amassed a large and internationally acclaimed selection of works. In addition, important artists like Bernardo Bellotto or Conte Pietro Antonio Rotari, were summoned to the court of Saxony, transforming Dresden into one of the Holy Roman Empire’s centres of art. 

The exhibition sheds light on the foundation and evolution of the collection in the Baroque period and the Enlightenment. Groups of works relating to the Polish-Saxon court, a wellspring of art patronage, and to the Dresden Art Academy provide an insight into the historical context in which the collection flourished.  

“The exhibition focuses on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the magnificent Baroque period and the early Enlightenment. The Belvedere is showing the exhibition Rembrandt – Titian – Bellotto: Spirit and Splendour of the Dresden Picture Gallery at the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene who was amassing his art treasures from many different countries at the same time as Augustus II and Augustus III. The show will therefore transform the Winter Palace into an encounter between international art connoisseurs from the Baroque period,” said Agnes Husslein-Arco, Director of the Belvedere. 

The Dresden Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) 

Dresden’s Gallery of Old Masters is one of Europe’s outstanding museums. This stems from both the collection itself, which includes masterpieces like Raphael’s Sistine Madonna and Jan Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter, and from the long history of the gallery that was already in its prime during the Baroque era. In 2013 a renovation programme was launched in the gallery space designed by architect Gottfried Semper, thus opening the door for about one hundred treasures to go on tour and convey a compelling impression of this collection and its history. 

“I am delighted to think that these touring Old Masters, destined for Munich, Groningen, and Vienna, have been brought together, guided by the notion of exchange in Europe. The ninety- nine works convey an impression to visitors in southern Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria of the riches housed in the centuries-old Dresden Gemäldesammlung and the epochs, masters, and focuses this collection contains,” stated the curator of the Dresden Picture Gallery, Maike Hohn. 

Paintings belonging to the electors of Saxony can be traced back to the Renaissance, but it was under Augustus the Strong (1670–1733) and especially his son Augustus III (1696–1763) that the Picture Gallery truly flourished. They acquired paintings by masters from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries through middlemen based in different countries. In around 1745, for example, they were admired for their purchase of one hundred works from the Duke of Modena, Francesco III.

Of course they did not limit themselves to paintings but also collected Kunstkammer objects – think of the treasures in the famous Grünes Gewölbe – sculptures, and antiquities,” Belvedere curator Georg Lechner explained. “And there is an important link with Prince Eugene, whose former palace is where the exhibition is being held. Soon after the prince’s death in 1736, Augustus III acquired three classical statues – the famous Herculaneum Women – from his heir. This passionate art connoisseur evidently knew only too well where the best art treasures were to be found,” Georg Lechner continues. 

The exhibition examines different subjects in order to explore the Dresden Gallery from various angles. These include the Saxon court as a wellspring of art patronage, the importance of the Dresden Art Academy, and a focus on genres such as portrait, landscape, and still life. One important aspect is the scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s interest in the collection. During his Dresden years he would have witnessed its constant expansion and changing presentations. A selection of important works that Winckelmann could have seen on his many visits to the gallery will also be on show in Vienna. 
Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian, Portrait of a Lady in White, about 1555
Oil on canvas
102 x 86 cm


Anthonis van Dyck, Saint Hieronymus, about 1620
Oil on canvas
195 x 215 cm

These include Titian’s Portrait of a Lady in White (Girl with Fan) and Anthony van Dyck’s depiction of Saint Hieronymus as well as works by Guido Reni 


Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Ganymede in the Claws of the Eagle, 1635
Oil on canvas
177 x 129 cm

and Rembrandt’s Ganymede in the Talons of the Eagle

Links between Dresden and Vienna 

One of the objects in the exhibition is a Southern Landscape with Waterfall and this is of particular interest with regard to links between Dresden and Vienna. It is by the painter Joseph Roos (1726–1805), who was from a widely dispersed artist family. Born in Vienna, he moved to Dresden early in his career where he later became court painter and ultimately even academy professor. He had become a member of the academy in 1764 and this required him to present a reception piece – as was usual in Vienna as well. It was not until 1780, following many promptings, that he finally submitted a painting. By that time he was back in Vienna, where in 1772 he had been appointed Director of the Imperial Gallery and tasked with its transfer from the Stallburg to the Upper Belvedere. 


Portraiture became established as an independent genre during the Renaissance when representing the individual emerged as a growing priority. It promoted verisimilitude in portraying the sitter while at the same time demonstrating status or a certain ideal of beauty. Tronies (Dutch for head, face) were a special type of character portrait. These head or bust portrayals were not intended to be identifiable individuals. The main aim of tronies was to capture a specific human expression and not to represent a certain personality. Works by Jan Lievens and Jacob Adriaensz. Backer demonstrate the flourishing of this type of portrait in Holland during the first half of the seventeenth century. 

A further type of portrayal is revealed in the varie teste from the eighteenth century by the painter Conte Pietro Antonio Rotari. These heads have interesting facial features and a broad range of expressions in a repeated, set format. They are devised as a series and can be combined in a multitude of different ways. 

Splendour and Transience – Still Life 

Still lifes can be traced back to the murals of classical antiquity with their true-to-life paintings of food and vessels. Examples exist in details from the Middle Ages as well, such as deceptively real sacrament niches as part of the decoration of church buildings. It was not until the end of the sixteenth century, however, that still life became established as an independent genre whereupon it soon flourished. Although these paintings were extremely popular among collectors, the genre was not regarded very highly in theoretical art writings because the artistic invention required in history painting enjoyed greater esteem than painting from nature. 

Most still lifes in the Dresden Picture Gallery are by Dutch and Flemish artists. It is remarkable that the majority of these paintings were already part of the collection in the early eighteenth century.
The Dresden Kunstakademie (Art Academy) 

Since the late seventeenth century, various schools of drawing and painting had existed in Dresden before the academy was founded in 1764, then known as the “Haupt-Kunst- Akademie.” Although some very renowned artists were often at the helm of these earlier institutions, they did not exert much influence on the development of local talent. It was only with the foundation of the academy that an institution was established for training artists that still exists today, albeit by another name.
In the political situation after the Seven Years’ War, priorities at the academy shifted. Its aim was no longer to train court artists but to cultivate the arts in order to provide a boost for the economy. Under the new Director Christian Ludwig von Hagedorn, famous teachers were engaged for the various genres of history, portrait, and landscape painting, and also architecture. With their theoretical and practical input they provided new and important inspiration. 

The Dresden Art Academy was one of many new foundations in the German imperial cities that came about with the revival of the academic theories in the second half of the eighteenth century.
An exhibition of the Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden in collaboration with the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere. 

Bernardo Bellotto, Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe above the Augustus Bridge, 1747
Oil on canvas
132 x 236 cm
Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, The Grande Canal in Venice near Rialto Bridge to the North, 1725/26
Oil on canvas
148.5 x 195.9 cm
Annibale Carracci, The Genius of Fame, 1588/89
Oil on canvas
174 x 114 cm
Pietro Antonio Graf Rotari,  Man With Fur Hat, Lifting His Right Index Finger, undated
Oil on canvas
35 x 43.5 cm
Carlo Dolci Herodias‘ Daughter, undated
Oil on canvas
95.5 x 80.5 cm
Johann Alexander Thiele, View of Dresden with Augustus Bridge, 1746
Oil on canvas
104 x 153 cm
Claude Lorrain (Claude Gellée), Landscape showing the flight to Egypt, 1647
Oil on canvas
102 x 134 cm
Antoine Watteau, The Festival of Love, about 1718/19
Oil on canvas
61 x 75 cm
Cornelis de Heem, A Lobster, Fruit and Flowers, undated
Oil on canvas
40 x 52.5 cm
Diego Velázquez, Portrait of a Santiago Knight (Francisco de Andrade Leitão?), about or after 1635
Oil on canvas
67.3 x 56 cm
Agostino Carracci, Portrait of a Boy, about 1590
Oil on canvas
65 x 48.5 cm