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The Sistine Madonna. Raphael’s iconic painting turns 500

Invitation to the Press Conference in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters’ Picture Gallery) on Friday, 25 May 2012, at 11:30 a.m.


Dr. Hartwig Fischer, Director General of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Maaz, Director of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and the Kupferstich-Kabinett (Old Masters’ Picture Gallery and Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs)

Dr. Andreas Henning, Conservator of Italian Painting at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Curator of the Exhibition

Dr. Heike Kramer, Director, Head of the Department of Civic Engagement and Event Management, Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband (German Savings Bank Association)

The Sistine Madonna. Raphael’s iconic painting turns 500
An exhibition by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
26 May to 26 August 2012
Exhibition site: Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Opening hours: daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Giorgio Vasari, art history’s father, characterized the Sistine Madonna as a “highly exceptional and unique work”. Julius Hübner called her the “Queen of heaven and of all women”. If Raphael had only painted this one picture, Goethe wrote, he would have been immortalized.
In the summer of 1512, no other than Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael, who had not yet been 30 years old, to paint the Sistine Madonna for the monastery church San Sisto in Piacenza.

There, the painting stayed relatively unknown for more than two centuries. After two years of intensive negotiations when August III was able to bring the painting to Dresden in 1754, the Sistina gradually became known in public. Already in the mid-19th century it became an icon of art history. Next to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” it belongs to the most remarkable art works of the Renaissance in the world.
Between 26 May and 26 August 2012, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden celebrate the 500th anniversary year of the commission and the creation of the painting with a major special exhibition.

The Exhibition
For the first time, the history of the Sistine Madonna will be presented chronologically in an exhibition: from its creation in Roman Renaissance to its life as a global myth of the present time.
The exhibition’s core is a top-class ensemble of works by Raphael and those of his time around the Sistine Madonna. Among the loans from the most important European museums are the “Donna Velata” (around 1512/13) from the Galleria Palatina at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the “Garvagh Madonna” (around 1510) from the National Gallery in London and a design for a fresco from the “Expulsion of Heliodor” (around 1512) lent from the Pinacoteca Vaticana.
Further sections of the exhibition invite the visitor to learn more about the spectacular acquisition of the painting for the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, to follow its way to becoming a myth, and to take a closer look at the two angels, who sprawl at the lower image border and appeared for the first time around 1800 as an independent image motif and herewith started their own solo “career”.

A new Frame for the Sistine Madonna as a Birthday Present

For the first time, the Sistine Madonna will be on view in the exhibition in a new frame. This “birthday present” by the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden for the Sistine Madonna replaces the former Neo-Renaissance frame, which had surrounded the painting since 1956. Because the original frame is not known, the company Werner Murrer Rahmen (Munich) recreated an upper Italian tabernacle frame in an extremely challenging technical process. The new frame reflects on the sacral origin of Raphael’s painting and supports the aesthetic impact of this exceptional artwork. Herewith, encountering the Sistine Madonna in a new light is made possible.

Katharina Gaenssler sees the Sistine Madonna in a contemporary View

What happens with the blank space that is left behind by an absent painting? The photographer Katharina Gaenssler tries to answer this question in one of her artworks. Only for the anniversary exhibition, the Sistine Madonna will leave her traditional place on the first floor of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister where she has stayed for more than 20 years. This spot will be taken by Katharina Gaenssler’s contemporary work. Over the course of several days, the artist took thousands of close-up shots of the Sistine Madonna seen through the visual axis of the main halls. Then, the photographer assembled them anew in an outsized digital collage. This work constitutes the model for a wall-filling goblin that makes the absence of the original its subject and allows a new view onto art history’s masterpiece.

We would kindly invite you to attend the press conference in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister on Friday, 25 May 2012, at 11:30 a.m. Please notify the press office if you intend to come
For more information on the exhibition, please check

Read the press release as pdf.

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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