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Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister

The Dresden Art Gallery of the Old Masters (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) is one of the most significant museums in the world of fine art. It is located in the Sempler’s Gallery building of the Zwinger Palace Ensemble in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, in eastern Germany. Currently, the gallery of old masters is part of the State Art Collections of Dresden.

Most of the paintings that today make up the collection of the Dresden Art Gallery were acquired within a short period of time – fifty years. The collection was based on paintings by German and Dutch artists, collected by the Saxon electors of the Vettin dynasty.

In the 17th century, the elector of Saxony and the Polish king Augustus the Strong (1670–1733), and, to an even greater extent, his son, Augustus III (1696–1763), began to expand the painting collection systematically. The Saxon court and its capital Dresden, at the request of the rulers, were to stand in one row not only with neighboring Berlin, but also with Paris or Vienna. Through their agents throughout Europe, electors actively bought canvases of the great masters of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

The art gallery has become available to the public since 1747. It was originally housed in the premises of the so-called Johanneum, the former royal stable. The Dresden Art Gallery moved into a modern building a hundred years later when, according to the design of Gottfried Semper, the palace of art was built. The Semper Gallery building in the neo-Renaissance style complemented the Zwinger Palace ensemble.

In 1855, the official opening of the New Royal Dresden Museum took place. The museum collection continued to replenish, and in 1931 it was decided to leave only paintings by old masters in the gallery building. Works of art of the XIX – XX centuries were transferred to the New Gallery.

More than 500 thousand people visit the Dresden Picture Gallery of Old Masters annually.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the gallery was closed. Most of the collection was evacuated to a quarry near Dresden, but the remaining paintings were completely burned during the bombing. What happened to another 450 canvases is unknown. At the end of World War II, paintings found in the mine were transported to Moscow and Kiev as trophies. In 1955, more than 1,200 paintings were again handed over to Dresden as part of the return of displaced property program. At the same time, work began on the reconstruction of the gallery building itself, which ended in 1960.

Artworks of the Dresden Art Gallery
The collection of the Dresden Art Gallery of the old masters includes more than 750 paintings, each of which is a masterpiece. Here are just a few examples.

The Sistine Madonna, Rafael Santi
The painting “Sistine Madonna”, the original name – “Madonna and Child with St. Sixtus and St. Barbara”, was made for the monastery of St. Sixtus in Piacenza in the XVI century. The relics of these Saints were kept in the monastery. After a long search, agents of the Elector Augustus III managed to acquire the work of a recognized master of the Renaissance. Today this large-scale canvas (its dimensions 265 × 196 cm.) Is the most significant exhibit of the gallery.

The Chocolate Girl, Jean-Etienne Lyotard
This work is considered one of the best pastels in the world. A surprisingly harmonious graceful image of a girl carrying a cup of hot chocolate is made with crayons on paper. In the Dresden Art Gallery there is another wonderful work of this Swiss artist – “Self-portrait in a Turkish costume”, written during the stay of Lyotard in Constantinople.

“Portrait of a Young Man”, Albrecht Durer
Albrecht Durer is considered one of the best representatives of the German Renaissance, an excellent master of portraits. His paintings reflect the deep inner world of the portrait. This portrait was painted in 1521 during Dürer’s journey to the Netherlands, commissioned by collector Bernhard von Reesen.

The Sleeping Venus, Giorgione
The canvas of the Venetian artist Giorgione “Sleeping Venus”, written in 1521, depicts the beautiful Roman goddess of love. This image became an ideal for many subsequent generations of artists – Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, Velazquez, Gauguin, Manet and others created their Venus under the influence of this picture. It is worth noting that the work of Giorgione remained unfinished – the artist died, and the landscape was painted by Titian, a student and friend of Giorgione.

“Girl reading a letter by the open window” Vermeer
The Dutch artist Jan Vermeer Delftsky in his short life managed to write a few works, each of which is a masterpiece. Vermeer is called the master of light, shadow and color.

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