AN-SICHTEN. Baroque ivories in a dialogue of the arts (Part 1)

04 October 2017

[Translate to English:] AN-SICHTEN. Barocke Elfenbeinkunst im Dialog der Künste (Part 1)

Baroque ivory art in the dialogue of the arts

The Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden has one of the most significant collections of baroque ivories in the world. This intimate exhibition in the Sponsel Room of the Neues Grünes Gewölbe will present an exclusive selection from its diverse spectrum. 

  • DATES 12/10/2017—21/01/2018

[Translate to English:] Text

Initially, in the period from 12 October 2017 to 21 January 2018, famous ivories by Georg Petel, Johann Georg Kern, Francis van Bossuit, David Heschler, Gérard van Opstal and Paul Heermann will be “visiting” Dresden. Precious works of art will be arriving on loan from Paris, Versailles, Munich, Augsburg, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Schwerin, as well as from various museums run by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Particular highlights include a painting by Georg Hinz from the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the portrait of the ivory artist van Opstal from the collections of the Palace of Versailles. Works of art of different genres come together on display in the exhibition for the first time and in a fascinating way. Ivories from the 17th and 18th centuries will be entering into incredible, pacemaking dialogues both with one another and with works of painting, graphic art and sculpture, with small bronzes, medals, drawings and precious items of treasury art. The 40 works of art in all – coming together on different levels of meaning to create what are sometimes unexpected AN-SICHTEN (points of view) – show how fluid the boundaries are between inspiration, adaptation and iconographic and stylistic parallels.

The best ivory artists of the baroque period stood out for their gifts in different fields of art: they were not only able to cut into ivory with subtle precision but also drew, sculpted stone or created small bronzes.

The famous baroque sculptor Georg Petel, for example, who sets the scene for the exhibition with a representative group of works, began his career as an ivory artist. His short, yet extremely intensive productive period is typical of the lives of many of his fellow artists. From 1620 on, Petel enjoyed a close relationship with Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp, who himself owned three ivories sculpted by his friend. A rough study in wax by Georg Petel and the vessel featuring bacchanalia which he carved in ivory based on that model, highlight the complicated process through which a work is created. In terms of iconography, sources of inspiration from printing, painting and images on medals were of comparable significance, but the main source was drafts on paper, such as the pen-and-ink drawing by Hans Friedrich Schorer which served as a template for an ivory tankard featuring Drunken Silenus preserved in Vienna’s Kunstkammer. Petel’s sanguine sketch of Saint Sebastian was a preliminary study for his larger-than-life wooden statue in St. Georg’s church (Aislingen). The drawing illustrates the artist’s obsessive preoccupation with the subject, which he masterfully translated into a miniature format in his signed ivory statuette of Saint Sebastian from 1630/31. In around 1645, David Heschler of Ulm, who left a lasting mark on European ivory art, signed a dynamically staged battle scene between Hercules and Cacus which, in this exhibition, comes face to face with a marble version by Francesco Baratta. In the painting by Lucas Franchoys (II), the Brussels-born Gérard van Opstal, who worked in Paris as of 1642, poses proudly with a work of ivory art which became part of his estate and was listed in the inventory of the royal collections in Paris in 1690. The outer shell of the vessel depicted in the painting has been preserved and is today in the possession of the Louvre. It is now displayed in the exhibition, bringing the subject of the portrait and his work of art together for the first time in Dresden.

A selection of pieces from the Grünes Gewölbe almost “bring to life” the painting Kunstkammer shelves, signed by Georg Hinz. On his imaginary shelves, exotic natural history exhibits jostle with exclusive pieces of treasury art, with ivory vessels always taking centre stage.

In 1958/59, the Dresden artist Ernst Hassebrauk drew many works from the museums of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden after their return from the Soviet Union, where they had been kept until the end of the Second World War. Some of the pieces were still in their transport boxes or were standing around in groups. He was particularly drawn to the small bronzes and the figural ivories in the Grünes Gewölbe, documenting them by creating expressive drawings of them. The exhibition can only show a selection of three drawings, which are of great documentary value.

In the spring of 2018, the second part of the exhibition, entitled AUGEN-BLICKE, will also be held in the Sponsel Room.

To accompany the exhibition, the catalogue “AN—SICHTEN. Baroque ivories in a dialogue of the arts” is to be published by Sandstein Verlag Dresden, edited by Jutta Kappel, 111 pages, €19.90; ISBN 978-3-95498-344-5.

In the context of its involvement as the main sponsor of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Sparkasse financial group will be supporting the two-part exhibition project.

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