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The Canaletto View: Dresden’s most famous city view to be shown again

Bernardo Bellotto: The Canaletto View. The Restored Masterpiece.
A Cabinet Exhibtion by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, 26 August to 20 November, 2011 

Opening hours: daily 10 am to 6 pm, closed on Mondays
Location: deuter Pavillon (German Pavillion) in the Zwinger, entrance via Rüstkammer (Armoury)

The image of the city of Dresden has been recorded for centuries in paintings, prints, photos, as well as on coins and porcelain. It has numerously been reproduced on postcards, coffee pods, wall plates, and medals.

With Caspar David Friedrich, Carl Gustav Carus, Johan Christian Dahl, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka, or Ralf Kerbach, generations of artists perpetuated the different views of Dresden in their works.

Bernardo Bellotto: The Canaletto View

No other painting has shaped our “image” of Dresden until the present more than the veduta, which measures 1.33 x 2.37 m and which was created by the Venetian painter Bernardo Bellotto (1722-1780), called Canaletto. Today, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden are proud to have returned the painting Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe with the Augustus Bridge to the public after a eighteen months fundamental restoration.

“Although visitors had been able to see Canaletto’s masterpieces in exhibitions in the past, but the importance of their restorations becomes, surprisingly, even more evident in this exhibition. Moreover, the rooms behind the Armoury, which are used for this special exhibition, allow a completely new perception, because the visitor can now see the paintings and their narrative staffage up close. We are very glad to once again present one of our masterpieces in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister to visitors from all over the world. Foremost, I would like thank the people of Dresden who supported this endeavour with great enthusiasm,” said Prof. Dr. Bernhard Maaz, director of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and the Kuperstich-Kabinett.

Bernardo Bellotto created the painting in 1748. It was his second work in the capital. After he arrived in Dresden in 1747 on the invitation of August III, he was appointed court artist in 1748 by the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.

The view, which became famous as the so-called Canaletto View, depicts all buildings of the opposite river bank, seen from the “Neue Königsstadt” (New King’s Town) near the Japanese Palace. Several buildings, which can even be seen today, dominate the prominent city skyline: the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) was built by George Bähr between 1726-1743 and the Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Court Church) was begun and planed by the architect Gaetano Chiaveri. In the time of the first version of the painting, the bell tower had not been erected yet and Bellotto had to consult draft drawings for his painting. On the right side behind the main nave of the church, you can see the Hausmannsturm (Hausmann Tower), which is connected to the west wing of the Royal Palace. On the left side of the Hofkirche, the Georgenbau of the palace becomes visible, above which the Kreuzkirche (Church of the Cross) rises in the background. Next to the adjacent house, the Palace of the Duke Brühl follows on the Terrace Brühl. The high round arched windows belong to the “Canaletto Hall”, in which the prime minister collected the copies of the Bellotto paintings. The Augustus Bridge - some call it even “Saxon Ponte di Rialto” - was renewed by Matthäus Pöppelmann and spans the Elbe on a width of 400 meters, covering the fortifications in the painting, on which the terrace Brühl was built. It leads to the “Neue Königsstadt”, on whose shore Bellotto immersed the lively scene of landing ships and a family in a soft diffuse light.

The Restoration of the Painting

Starting in 1834, the masterpiece by Bellotto had almost continuously been exhibited in Dresden and elsewhere. Severe traces were consequently left that made a restoration of the painting necessary. An additional short-term employment of a painting restorer in the workshops of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and Galerie Neue Meister was required. The laboratory of archaeometry of theHochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (Academy of Fine Arts Dresden) could be won as a cooperation partner for the needed scientific examination.

“Stripping of the varnish and retouching were the two major steps in the painting’s restoration. Due to the damage and the painting’s size, it took months to complete these tasks. Reworking the area of the sky and mixing of the atmospheric blue, which is so impalpable, were major challenges,” summarizes Sabine Bendfeldt, who works as a restorer in the workshop of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.

Fund Raising Campaign – For Canaletto

To finance the works on the original painting, the Society of Friends of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden “MUSEIS SAXONICIS USUI” initiated the fund raising campaign “For Canaletto” in 2009.

Herbert Süß, head of MUSEIS SAXONICIS USUI takes stock: “Today, we are very proud of having reached our goal. With combined efforts, the support of many sponsors, many single events, and, most of all, together with the people of Dresden, we were able to collect 128.000 EUR from private donations alone and to preserve the painting for future generations.”

Within two years the Society compiled 128.000 EUR, from which 80.000 EUR were used to cover personnel costs. The rest was spent for research, exhibition, and scientific documentation. The ambitious aim to finance the painting’s restoration solely from donations could have been reached thanks to the large groups of supporters – from companies, such as Ketchum Pleon, to prominent spokesmen, such as the author Uwe Tellkamp, the Artist Georg Baselitz, or the pop group “Polarkreis 18”, as well as from civil dedication. The support of the public was manifold: Right in the beginning of the campaign, members of the Society distributed more than 400 donation boxes in shops and stores in Dresden to especially encourage the city’s inhabitants to donate. The chamber music ensemble Concerto Bellotto gave together with the contralto Britta Schwarz a benefit concert in the Georg Baselitz-exhibition “Dresdner Frauen”. Tenth graders of the Evangelische Kreuzgymnasium created their own Canaletto View – the best works were turned into postcards, which the pupils sold. Highlight of the campaign was a Silent Auction on the occasion of the re-opening of the Albertinum in June 2010. Renowned artists like Eberhard Havekost, Thomas Scheibitz, or Frank Nitsche had donated artworks for the auction.

The Exhibition – The Restored Masterpiece

After its return to the public, from 26 August, 2011 onwards, Dresden’s most famous city skyline will be on view in the renowned series “The Restored Masterpiece”. The exhibition will take place in the new halls (formerly the painting restoration workshop) in the Deutscher Pavillon (German Pavilion) in the Zwinger.

The exhibition presents the many different “painted views” of the capital produced by the court painter. Some of these vedute have been taken out of storage specifically for this exhibition. A selection of Bellotto’s etchings from the Kupferstich-Kabinett of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden further extends the panorama. Additional loans from the Plans Collection of the Landesamtes für Denkmalpflege Sachsen (Saxon State Office for the Protection of Historic Monuments) and from the Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek (Saxon State and University Library) document the historic architectural ensemble of the city, among which the artist sought his motifs. Furthermore, the exhibition documents the process of restoration, which can be followed step by step. The exhibition’s visitors can experience Bellotto’s work in its whole graphic and painterly quality.

With this exhibition, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Society of Friends “MUSEIS SAXONICIS USUI” would like to thank all donors who have made the restoration possible.

The show is accompanied by guided tours and lectures. A German exhibition catalogue is published by Sandstein Verlag in the series “Das restaurierte Meisterwerk” for 14,90 EUR.

Dr. Stephan Adam
Pressesprecher und Leiter Kommunikation
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Postfach 12 05 51
01006 Dresden

Tel. ++49-351-49 14 2643
Fax ++49-351-49 14 2366




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