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History of the Collection

The room dissolves into reflections, light glimmers, gold and precious stones sparkle. The Historisches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault) almost makes you dizzy. This was exactly the effect that August the Strong (1670-1733) intended when, between 1723 and 1730, he realised his vision of a baroque Gesamtkunstwerk as an expression of wealth and power. Nobody was to leave his treasure chamber without being absolutely convinced that its owner, too, was an extraordinarily rich and powerful ruler. He commissioned no less a figure than the architect of the Zwinger, Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, to turn the rooms of the “Geheime Verwahrung” (‘Secret Repository’), which had already served as the Saxon state treasury for more than 150 years, into one of Europe's most famous treasure chambers.

By setting up his Jewel Cabinet, August the Strong had already begun a few years earlier to make his treasures accessible to a select circle of visitors. Now, in a series of rooms which successively increased in dramatic intensity, he presented objects that he had selected from the Kunstkammer, which had been founded in 1560, and from the Schatzkammer (treasury chamber), complementing them with an abundance of newly purchased objects. By the time they reached the Pretiosensaal, the first highlight of the tour, and certainly no later than in the Juwelenzimmer, the visitors were sure to be enthralled by the magnificent display. On 13 February 1945 the Residenzschloss was almost completely destroyed, and three of the eight sumptuous rooms fell victim to the bombing raid on Dresden. The movable works of art had been evacuated for safekeeping. Immediately after the end of the war they were taken to the Soviet Union by the Red Army Trophy Commission. On the basis of a decision made by the Soviet government, they were returned to Dresden in 1958, and in 1959 parts of the collection were put on display in the Albertinum. After more than half a century and many years of preparatory work, the restoration and reconstruction of the historic rooms in the Residenzschloss was at last able to commence in 2001. Nowadays the impressive theatricality of the presentation can be experienced once again.