The Palace at the heart of the historic city centre is the original location and the focal point of Dresden’s art collections. From 1485 onwards it was the permanent residence of the rulers of Saxony and hence the power centre of the Saxon electors and kings. It is inextricably bound up with the history and the unique and diverse cultural legacy of Dresden. The architectural character of the building was determined mainly in the mid-16th century and then during the reign of August the Strong. Despite being altered and modernised in the late 19th century, it has retained its High Renaissance appearance. After the bombing of Dresden in February 1945, the city centre lay in ruins and the Palace was also severely damaged. During the decades after its destruction, it was successfully defended against plans to demolish it. Today, the reconstruction of the Palace – at least as far as the exterior is concerned – has been largely completed.
The "Royal seat of the Arts and Sciences" is growing from year to year. Since 2002 various collections of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden have already moved into the Palace, thus picking up the thread of its rich cultural past. These museums include the famous Historisches Grünes Gewölbe and the Neues Grünes Gewölbe, the Kupferstich-Kabinett, the Münzkabinett and the Rüstkammer. In addition, the Palace also has the Palace Chapel with its remarkable elaborate Late Gothic rib vaulting, the Art Library and various lecture theatres and study halls. In the next few years the space available for exhibitions in this unique museum complex will grow still further and Dresden Palace will become even more attractive to its numerous visitors from all over Germany and the world.
Following the reconstruction of the historical room and the coffered ceiling in the Long Corridor, a representative selection of 500 of the best quality and most magnificent firearms of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries formerly belonging to the Saxon electors will finally be returning to Dresden Palace in 2018. In the first section, guns and pistols along with their accessories (powder flasks, bullet forceps, spanners, cartridge containers and cartridges) from all over Europe will be displayed in large glass-panelled wooden cabinets – in accordance with historical tradition – in chronological and geographical sequence. In the rear part of the Long Corridor a reconstruction of the original arrangement of the Royal Bodyguard as it appeared in 1733 will be presented. In the three alcoves the guns will be exhibited upright and close together. Between the alcoves there will be a few life-size portraits of the first mythical princes of the House of Wettin. There will also be two tournament paintings depicting Elector August and a few antlers from the original holdings of the Gun Gallery.
The exhibitions on the second floor, which functioned in the past as the ‘piano nobile’, are devoted to the courtly festivities and ceremonies that served to enhance the prestige of the electors and kings. Dresden Palace was always the focal point and the venue for ceremonial events staged to promote the image of the ruler. The equipment used in hunts, parades and tournaments associated with festivities such as weddings, baptisms or visits by other princes conformed to the very highest requirements of courtly display. The collection of princely costumes, luxurious horse trappings and tournament and hunting weapons is therefore unique in Germany in terms of its richness, diversity and size. The exhibition tour begins in the east wing with the Giants’ Hall (Riesensaal), where tournament installations and parade armour for man and horse are on display. In the north wing equipment used by the rulers and courtiers demonstrate Dresden‘s former renown as a venue for festivities and masquerades as well as staged hunts. The tour culminates in the state apartments, with the audience chamber and state bedroom of August the Strong, the Electoral Wardrobe in the Retirade (‘withdrawal area’) as well as the royal statue displaying the Polish coronation regalia worn by August II and objects used in the coronation of August III as King of Poland in the picture cabinets.
The small ballroom is the centrepiece of the Georgenbau and extends over two floors. It is chronologically and architecturally “related” to the Dresden Semperoper, which burnt down in 1869. In 1865/66 the court architect Bernhard Krüger, a pupil of Gottfried Semper, designed the hall above the second and third floor. Until 1922 this prestigious hall was part of the private living quarters of the royal family. The preserved historical remains testify to the high quality of building at that time. The reconstruction is therefore being performed using old craft techniques. It is being reconstructed in accordance with its original appearance as a room illustrating the style of Historicism.
The royal state apartments on the second floor of the west wing were fitted out especially for the celebrations in connection with the marriage of the Electoral Prince, Friedrich August II, to the daughter of the Austrian emperor, Archduchess Maria Josepha, in Dresden in September 1719. In accordance with the French model, they included a dining room, two ante-chambers, the audience chamber containing the throne, and the state bedroom with a sumptuous imperial bed. Owing to the significance of this event in promoting the interests of the state, the Elector-King desired the rooms to be a spatial work of art of the very highest prestige value. Despite the rooms being destroyed on 13 February 1945, the movable fittings and furnishings were preserved, since they had been removed for safekeeping during the war. This surviving collection enabled the five Baroque rooms to be reconstructed. They are to be reopened in September 2019 to mark the 300th anniversary of the magnificent wedding.