Supplementary Appendix: The Dresden Art Gallery

The Royal Saxon Art Gallery in Dresden

After its founding in 1560, the paintings in the royal “art chamber” (Kunstkammer) were of secondary significance alongside collections from other scientific and scholarly disciplines. It was not until between 1694 and 1763, under the subsequent prince electors August the Strong and his son, Friedrich August II (1696–1763), that any systematic acquisitions were undertaken. The purchase especially of the most significant pieces from the collection of Duke Francesco III of Modena in 1746 prompted the collection to be transferred to a new location, namely, into a new gallery in a renovated stable (Stallgebäude) (Führer durch Ganz Dresden mit Umgebungen und die Sächsisch-Böhmische Schweiz, 15th ed. [Dresden 1864], 78):


The crown of the collection during the period was the acquisition of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna (1513–14) in 1754 (a piece of considerable importance to the Jena Romantics). The Seven Years War essentially put an end to any expansion for at least several years, In the meantime, however, the collection had already attained considerable European renown.

Concerning its history and disposition, see the introduction by Karl Woermann, Catalogue of the Pictures in the Royal Gallery at Dresden, 7th ed. (Dresden 1908), 1–8 (covering the period up to the nineteenth century):

Historical Introduction

The Royal Saxon Picture Gallery in Dresden is essentially the creation of two princes distinguished for their love of art and of splendour, who as Electors of Saxony are known as Friedrich August I and Friedrich August II, but as Kings of Poland were entitled Augustus II. (the Strong) and Augustus III. It is consequently obvious that the collectors’ taste of the 18th century, which beyond the artists of that time, only acknowledged the mature masters of the 16th and 17th centuries, holding in but little esteem the earlier schools, should still show itself in the majority of the pictures in our collection. However the Royal House of Saxony before the beginning of the 18th century possessed in their Kunstkammer and palaces, a groundwork of pictures, among which the older masters were also represented, and the exertions of the 19th century have succeeded not only in establishing a department in which contemporary artists are represented, but also in filling up the gaps in the earlier schools.

The history of the Dresden Gallery can in the light of the present be divided into three distinct periods, the first of which is, properly speaking, only introductory, and embracing the 16th and 17th centuries; the second the 18th century, and the third the 19th century.

We may fix the commencement of the first of these periods in the year 1560, when the Elector Augustus instituted a Kunstkammer above his suite of apartments in the palace at Dresden, which contained an extensive collection of all kinds of curiosities, such as at that time was always to be found at every princely court, and this first period of the history of our collection is consequently only a part of the history of the Kunstkammer, which did not cease to exist as such, although in 1722 the greater number of the best pictures belonging to it were removed to the Gallery. According to the Inventory of 1587, besides the then newly acquired “6 schön gemalten Taflein” (“16 exquisitely painted little panels”) by Hans Bol, of which nine (Nos. 822–830 of the present catalogue) have lately been returned to the Gallery, the only important works by a well known master possessed by the Kunstkammer in that year were Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder (Nos. 1911 and 1912); and according to the Inventory of 1640, with the exception of some pictures by unknown old German masters, the only additions were a few other important works by the same Cranach. That in the second half of the 17th century and in the first ten years of the 18th century, the art treasures of the Kunstkammer were greatly increased, is proved by the notice of “from the Kunstkammer” affixed to 284 pictures of the first Gallery-Inventory of 1722. Among these were however strikingly few works of note, least of all by Italian artists, and most from among the Dutch painters, some of whom, at any rate artists such as David Teniers the Younger (No. 1073), Gerard Dou (No. 1714) and Philips Wouwerman (Nos. 1429, 1430 and 1432) were already represented.

The second period of the history of the Dresden Gallery, during which it was first established as such, begins with the accession of Augustus the Strong (1694) under whose auspices the best of the last named pictures of the Kunstkammer were obtained. In Dresden the Court Painter Samuel Bottschild (1642–1707) made the purchases, later they and General-Field-Marshall von Flemming, but principally by the “Chief Architect to the Electoral Court of Saxony” Baron Raimond le Plat. Abroad, Antwerp was at that time the principal resort of the Saxon agents for the purchase of pictures, for example in 1708 and 1709 the king bought a large number of excellent Flemish pictures through his “Chief Commissioner” Raschke, while the Italian pictures which he obtained came through the hands of a certain Kindermann. In this way, up to the year 1722, a choice collection of pictures had already been obtained.

The artists at that time represented in the Royal Collection were, among the chief Flemish masters, Rubens (No. 962 A), Jordaens (No. 1009), Teniers (Nos. 1066, 1072, 1076, 1082, 1085, 1085 A), Van Dyck (Nos. 1022 and 1023), among the Dutch, Dou (Nos. 1704–1706, 1711–1717), Metsu (No. 1736), Terborch (No. 1830), Bol (No. 1606), and especially Wouwerman, by whom were several pictures (Nos. 1413, 1415, 1419, 1427, 1428, 1433, 1451, 1452, 1459 and 1460) and J. D. de Heem (Nos. 1261, 1262 and 1267); among the Italians were Giorgione (No. 185, finished by Titian), Cima da Conegliano (No. 62), Francesco Albano (No. 340) and many of the most modern artists of those days, and lastly of the French school N. Poussin (No. 719).

Augustus the Strong now resolved to make an inventory of all his pictures, and to place the best of them together, with a view to the formation of an especial Picture Gallery. Under the direction of the before-mentioned “Chief Architect” Le Plat, in 1722, he caused the 1938 pictures which were designed to form the Gallery, to be hung in rooms specially prepared for the purpose in the second floor of the Stallgebäude, in the Juden-Hof; and Le Plat and the Chamberlain Steinhäuser were also the first “Inspectors” of the Gallery. The latter was responsible for the inventory, and the result of his work is still to be seen in his excellent inventories. Le Plat was still the prime mover in the purchase of Gallery pictures, and he managed to collect such masterpieces from all quarters, that the Gallery at the time of the death of Augustus the Strong in 1733 ranked with the finest collections of that date.

By this time were to be found among the pictures Rembrandt’s Samson (No. 1560), and his Portrait of himself with a sketchbook (No. 1569), Van Dyck’s Silenus intoxicated (No. 1017), J. Jordaens O1d and Young (No. 1014), Palma Vecchio’s Holy Family (No. 191) and Venus reposing (No. 190), Guido Reni’s Venus and Cupid (No. 324), and Varotari’s Judith with the head of Holofernes (No. 525).

However, the most brilliant epoch of the rise of the Gallery was in the time of Augustus III, the successor of Augustus the Strong, who during his thirty years government (1733 to 1763) managed to gather together in his capital the greatest number of those masterpieces which have made the Dresden Gallery famous.

The King’s all-powerful Minister Graf von Brühl now took the farther purchases of pictures into his capable hands. The real judge of art at the Saxon Court, and Brühl’s right eye, was his private secretary Carl Heinrich von Heinecken, the renowned author of Nachrichten von Künstlern und Kunstsachen [Leipzig, Vienna 1768–69] and the Dictionnaire des artistes [Leipzig 1788], the manuscript of which has been preserved in the Engraving Gallery. Under the direction of this man, there were Saxon agents for the purchase of pictures in all the art centres of Europe; in the capitals they were generally ambassadors, or their secretaries, to less important places artists or learned connoisseurs were sent.

In the first place, Italy was the principal scene of the activity displayed by the King’s agents. In Venice they were superintended by the Saxon Ambassador Graf Villio. One of the most energetic of these agents was Ventura Rossi who in 1738 sent to Dresden 44 pictures, among them being Ribera’s St. Francis on a bed of thorns (No. 685); in 1741 he sent 70 pictures, including Paolo Farinati’s Presentation in the Temple (No. 223), and in 1744 he sent 65, two of these being Madonnas by Sassoferrato (Nos. 430 and 431). He was rivalled by the talented author Graf Algarotti who in 1743 travelled to Italy solely for the purpose of obtaining fewer in number than those of Rossi, they were far more valuable, for among them were pictures such as Holbein’s Madonna (No. 1892), which even if it can no longer rank as an original, will nevertheless always be considered one of the ornaments of the Dresden Gallery, and the Three Sisters of Palma Vecchio (No. 189).

All preceding and succeeding acquisitions were however thrown into the shade by Graf Villio, who through Ventura Rossi and the noted art-critic Ant. Maria Zanetti in Venice, purchased one hundred of the most important pictures from the world-renowned collection of Francis III, Duke of Modena in the year 1745. Through him, the Saxon Court, for a sum of 100,000 Zecchins, to which sum, certainly there were considerable additional charges, all at once came into possession of so choice a collection of the finest pictures by the greatest Italian masters, as up to that time, had not been seen north of the Alps.

Among these art-treasures were all the Correggios of our collection, nearly all the pictures of Dosso Dossi and Garofalo, the principal works of A. Carracci, Guido Reni and Guercino, Titian’s Tribute Money (No. 159) and the finest portraits by this master, Paolo Veronese’s four large pictures from the Cuccina family (Nos. 225–228), Andrea del Sarto’s Sacrifice of Abraham (No. 77) and Giulio Romano’s Madonna della Catina (No. 103), as well as some celebrated works not by Italian masters, for example, Holbein’s Portrait of Morette (No. 1890), the fine Portrait of a man by Velazquez (No. 697) and Rubens’ St. Jerome (No. 955).

In the year 1746 these Modena pictures arrived in Dresden: but Augustus III and Graf Brühl were far from considering that their purchases in Italy were now completed; in 1747 Zanetti purchased in Venice, among other pictures Titian’s large Santa Conversazione (No. 168) for Dresden; in 1748 Bernardo Benzoni sent Gessi’s Magdalene (No. 355); in 1749 Pietro Guarienti, who was at that time Inspector of the Gallery, travelled himself into Upper Italy, and brought pictures back with him such as Palma Vecchio’s Holy Family with St. Catharine (No. 188); in 1750 the painter Siegm. Striebel in Rome, purchased the Holy Family by Garofalo (No. 134), in 1752 the Canonicus Luigi Crespi sent Guido Reni’s Ninus and Semiramis (No. 325) from Bologna. The most successful of all these trusted agents was the Bolognese painter Carlo Cesare Giovannini, through whose exertions the Dresden Gallery in the year 1753, for the sum of 20,000 Ducats, obtained its most celebrated picture, the Madonna of San Sisto [Sistine Madonna] by Raphael (No. 93),


which until this time had adorned the high altar in the monastic church of San Sisto at Piacenza.

On this side the Alps there was a field of discovery in the immediate neighbourhood of Saxony, namely Bohemia. Firstly in 1741 Graf Waldstein’s collection at Dux (268 pictures for 22,000 Gulden) was purchased; in this collection were the masterpiece of the Delft painter Jan Vermeer (No. 1335) and the two excellent little portraits by Frans Hals (Nos. 1358 and 1359); these were followed in 1742 by 84 pictures from Prague, among them Fr. Snyders great picture of Still life with the swan (No. 1192); but the most important acquisitions from Prague were in the year 1749; when 69 pictures of the Imperial Gallery there, among them Rubens’ noble Boar hunt (No. 962) were purchased for Dresden for 50,000 Thalers.

The Secretary of Legation de Brais, and his manager Le Leu, who had the advantage of being advised by the noted painter H. Rigaud, after 1742 made Paris the centre of their operations for the purchase of pictures. To begin with, in April of that year a number of valuable pictures from the personal estate of Prince Carignan were purchased for the sum of 86,346 Livres, among them being our two principal pictures by Carlo Dolci (Nos. 509 and 510), Poussin’s Adoration of the Magi (No. 717), Rembrandt’s female portrait with a red flower (No. 1562) and Rubens’ Lion hunt (No. 972). When de Brais died in that same year 1742, Le Leu continued the purchases in Paris alone. He sent for example, after 1749, pictures such as Rembrandt’s portrait of himself with his wife on his knee (No. 1559), Dou’s Violin player (No.1707), and a number of Wouwerman’s later works (Nos.1417, 1424, 1444, 1446, 1448, 1463, 1464) to Dresden.

Naturally this extensive purchase of pictures required able managers under the chief direction of Brühl and Heinecken. To fill the vacancy caused by the death of Le Plat in 1742, the Bohemian master Johann Gottfried Riedel, who had been called to Dresden in 1739 as Court Painter, was appointed Inspector of the Royal Picture Gallery conjointly with old Steinhäuser, and Riedel had to begin his work with the superintendence of an enlargement of the building, as the rooms which had hitherto been used were quite inadequate to receive the influx of pictures collected during the past forty years. The alterations were made in the years 1744 to 1746, during which time the pictures were placed in the Japanese Palace. The upper part of the Stallgebäude (now called Museum Johanneum) was arranged as the Picture Gallery, and there the pictures remained until after the middle of the 19th century.

[Ed. note: here in a rendering from between 1749 and 1751 by Bernardo Bellotto (Canaletto) showing the building’s setting on the New Market Square, the new upper story, where the art collection was exhibited, and the accompanying double English staircase leading directly up to that level; it was here that the Jena Romantics visited the collections (illustration from M. B. Lindau, Geschichte der königlichen Haupt- und Residenzstadt Dresden von der ältesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart, 2nd ed. [Dresden 1885], plate following p. 576):


Woermann continues:]

Old Steinhäuser had the pleasure of receiving the art treasures from Modena which arrived just at the time the new rooms were opened. He then retired into private life, and in his place, the Venetian artist and connoisseur Pietro Guarienti was chosen on September 10th 1746, to act as inspector with Joh. Gottfried Riedel. Guarienti however died on the 17th of May 1753, leaving the new inventory in the Italian language unfinished, and in his place, in consequence of the ever increasing press of business, two subinspectors were appointed to assist old Riedel, his son Joh. Ant. Riedel and Matthias Oesterreich, who already held an official position in the Engraving Gallery, and was the compiler of the Inventory of 1754. Old Riedel died on the 12th of December 1755; and Oesterreich was appointed Director of the Gallery at Sanssouci in 1757. From this year to the beginning of the present century, Joh. Anton Riedel took the management of the Gallery, a post which did not tax the strength of one man too heavily, as in consequence of the outbreak of the Seven Tears War, the purchase of pictures naturally closed. But he had enough to do to take care of the pictures during the war; in 1759 by Riedel’s direction they were packed in cases and sent to Königstein, and they were not brought back to Dresden till 1763, immediately after the peace of Hubertusburg.

The King and his counsellor Graf Brühl now made immediate preparations for the further acquisition of pictures, but in October of the same year 1763, both died, and with this ended the Saxon purchase of pictures for the rest of the century.

The long reign of Frederick Augustus the Just carries the history of the Dresden Gallery well into the 19th century. Immediately after the death of his patron, Heinecken was compelled to resign. His successor was C. L. Hagedorn of Hamburg, who held the office of General Director of Art and the Academy of Arts from 1763–1780 and at the same time that of Gallery and Cabinet Director. After his death the post of General Director was held by the Cabinet Minister Graf Marcolini (died 1814). The actual director of the Gallery during the whole of this period was Johann Anton Riedel, who died in 1816.

The third period of the Royal Saxon Picture Gallery belongs entirely to the 19th century. . . .

Here a rendering of the gallery interior in 1830 (anonymous, the inner gallery [Stallhof] in 1830; the Sistine Madonna is at the rear bottom left; Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden; photo: Herbert Boswank)::


And in 1881, long after Caroline visited but with a similar layout ((Karl Louis Preusser, In der Dresdner Galerie [1881]):


Related page: Concerning the Dresden antiquities collection at this time, see the supplementary appendix Dresden Antiquities Collection.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott