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History of the Collection

The illustrious holdings of the Dresden Skulpturensammlung range in date from classical antiquity via the art of the Renaissance, Baroque and Expressionism down to the 21st century, from Polycletus to Giambologna and Permoser, and from Rodin and Lehmbruck to Glöckner and Cimiotti. This diversity reflects the long history of the collection. “The King of Poland has sent somebody here who has bought up all the antique statues that belonged to the House of Chigi and a large portion of the collection assembled by Cardinal Alessandro Albani”, wrote an academic from Rome to France in 1728. The origins of the museum go back to the Kunstkammer founded in 1560. However, it was really August the Strong (1670 – 1733) who established the “Collection of Antique and Modern Sculptures” and turned Dresden into a centre of Baroque architecture and sculpture.

After the arrival of the antiquities from Rome at the end of 1729, the collection was displayed in the palace in the Großer Garten, surrounded by masterpieces of contemporary sculpture. In 1786 the collection was rearranged and exhibited in the Japanisches Palais. The collection flourished in particular after the archaeologist Georg Treu (1843-1921) took over as director of the museum in 1882. Over the three decades of his tenure, Treu built up specialist areas by means of a systematic acquisitions policy. The Renaissance Zeughaus (arsenal) on the Brühlsche Terrasse was converted for use as a museum, and in 1889 the Antiquities Collection was able to move into the building, which was thereafter called the “Albertinum”. Treu continued the tradition of displaying antiquities alongside contemporary works. The Dresden collection was the first German museum to acquire numerous works by Auguste Rodin and Constantin Meunier.

Although the Albertinum was partially destroyed in February 1945, the holdings survived the Second World War almost without loss, except for some large plaster casts. Almost all the originals were taken to the Soviet Union and only returned to Dresden in 1958. Following the restoration and refurbishment of the Albertinum, the Skulpturensammlung and the Galerie Neue Meister have taken on the character of a museum of art from the Romantic period up to the present day. The antiquities will be on view in display storerooms until in a few years’ time they are able to move back into their old home, the Osthalle (eastern wing) of the Semper Building, this exhibition hall having been designed in the mid-19th century by Gottfried Semper specifically for the antique sculptures.