The Japanisches Palais in Dresden is a building with a fascinating history, a cultural institution of the first order and the home of famous Dresden art treasures. Standing elegantly on the Neustadt bank of the Elbe, it is often outshone by the more famous Altstadt side of the river with its dozens of architectural gems in close proximity to one another. The modest appearance it has today, however, is not commensurate with its illustrious history; indeed, this palace played a major role in Dresden during the Baroque period. It was here that August the Strong (1670 – 1733) planned to realise his dream of creating a ‘porcelain palace’. The roofs, the interior décor, in fact practically everything was to be made of porcelain. After he had purchased the building in 1717 he commissioned the leading Dresden architects Pöppelmann, de Bodt, Longuelune and Knöffel with the conversion work. With its architectural sculptures in state-of-the-art ‘chinoiserie’ style and its Japanese curved roofs, the imposing four-wing complex was one of the masterpieces of the Dresden Baroque. However, the full-scale vision of the ‘porcelain palace’ was never completed.
From 1721 onwards it accommodated first the Royal Kunstkammer, later the Porzellansammlung and from 1785 the classical sculptures, the coin collection and the electoral library. The curious Moritzburg Feather Room was part of the original interior, as were also the tapestries after designs by Raphael that are now held in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Other famous art treasures also spent time here. From 1834 onwards, the ground floor was decorated with Pompeian mural paintings designed by Gottfried Semper.
From 1954 to 2012 the Japanisches Palais has been home to the Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte (State Museum for Pre-History) which is now situated in Chemnitz as Staatliches Museum für Archäologie. The museum restored the building to use after its complete destruction in the Second World War. Today the building houses the Senckenberg Naturhistorische Sammlungen Dresden and the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden. Since 2009 the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden have held major guest exhibitions in this extraordinary edifice.