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Art in the Service of Power at the Imperial Court of China and at the Saxon-Polish Court

DRESDEN.- This is the first time that treasures from the Chinese Imperial Palace in Beijing will have been presented alongside works of art from the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden in a joint exhibition in Dresden´s Royal Palace. The imperial court of China and the Saxon-Polish court (which is exemplary for many a European court) will be compared as to their strategies for enhancing the prestige of the ruler and his entourage. The exhibition will focus on similarities and differences in their respective utilisation of the arts, ritual and ceremony, and their collecting policies. The presentation will cover the period of the late 17th and the 18th century, an age in which these two distant courts each developed a deep fascination for the other’s culture. Under August the Strong, in particular, there was a vogue for all things Chinese – his desire to possess the treasures and knowledge of the Far East was unmatched by any other European ruler. Simultaneously, at the Chinese imperial court, Western knowledge was introduced by the Jesuits, and the Manchurian ruler, for example, was fascinated by the musical boxes and automata they brought from Europe.

The exhibition will encompass around 400 top-quality objects from among the holdings of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and from the former Imperial Palace in Beijing. They will be displayed in the following thematic sections: Representational displays of power, Festivities, Representational publicity, Grand architecture, Courtly arts and sciences, Politics and diplomacy and Views of others. Within these themes key terms will be explained by way of example, with comparisons constantly being drawn between “China” and “Dresden”. The objects on show will range from the throne ensemble via hunting portraits to women’s shoes. An introductory section featuring selected objects and educational materials will describe the geographical and historical situation of the two countries during the period in question. Since their mutual influence was particularly felt in the arts in the 18th century, there will be a section devoted to the principles of Chinese art, European art and the new ‘hybrid’ forms arising from the encounter between the two cultures, illustrated by landscape paintings, porcelain and clocks.

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