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Among Gods and Men: Classical Sculptures From the Albertinum on View at The Prado
The Westmacott Ephebe, Head. Roman replica. Polycletus School 5th Century BC 39.5 x 17 x 19 cm. Dresden, Skulpturensammlung Staatliche Kunstsammlungen


MADRID.- The key works from one of the finest historical collections of classical sculpture in Europe, the Skulpturensammlung Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Sculpture Collection of the State Dresden Art Collections) will be seen for the first time outside of Germany at the Museo del Prado. An exceptional agreement between the Prado and the Albertinum- where the sculptures are normally housed but which is currently temporarily closed for building work - means that these works will travel to Madrid, sponsored by the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado and with the collaboration of SEACEX, the State Society for Cultural Activities Abroad.

Entitled Among Gods and Men. Classical Sculptures from the Albertinum in Dresden and the Museo del Prado, the exhibition will offer the visiting public a unique chance to see major works of classical sculpture that have never previously been exhibited in Spain and which have not been on public view for some years. They include works of the importance of the Dresden Boy by the School of Polyclitus, the Dresden Zeus and the Lemnia Athena, both by Phidias, and the Dresden Maenad, together with a group of works from the Prado’s own sculpture collection. Given the importance of this collaborative project between Dresden and Madrid, the exhibition will be presented next year at the Japanisches Palais in Dresden.

Due to the temporary closure of the Albertinum, the Museo Nacional del Prado will be presenting the exhibition Among Gods and Men. Classical Sculptures from the Albertinum in Dresden for a period of six months. The exhibition which will be shown in ten rooms in the Villanueva Building, offers an unprecedented opportunity to see 46 of the finest works from Dresden’s classical sculpture collection, alongside 20 important sculptures from the Prado’s collection. Both collections are the result of Baroque and Neo-classical collecting interests and both include magnificent Roman versions of classical Greek and Hellenistic works, as well as numerous Greek originals with original colouring. In addition, the exhibition includes an exceptional group of portrait sculptures.

The direction of the Skulpturensammlung, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden has generously loaned this exceptional group of works to the Prado, including the Dresden Zeus and the Dresden Boy, as well as Roman replicas of the Lemnia Athena by Phidias, the Satyr pouring Wine by Praxiteles, the Dresden Maenad and the three Goddesses of Herculaneum. The exhibition will include Greek sculptures including three Attic tomb reliefs, three polychrome terracotta Tanagra figures, a series of Hellenistic sculptures from Alexandria and other artistic centres and various Roman portraits of high quality.

The exhibition is divided into three principal sections, each covering a different period of Greco-Roman art as well as a particular theme.

History of the collection
The history of the Dresden collection has much in common with that of the Museo del Prado. During the reign of Augustus the Strong (1670-1733) various important collections arrived in Dresden from Rome. These included in 1726 the collection of antique busts from Giovanni Bellori’s collection, given by Frederick William I of Prussia to Augustus, while two years later the sizeable collection of Prince Agostino Chigi and the exquisite collection of Cardinal Albani were added to Augustus’ holdings. Finally, in 1736, the three Goddesses of Herculaneum were acquired from the estate of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Another interesting group is formed by the original Greek and Hellenistic sculptures acquired by the Albertinum in the 19th and 20th centuries. Until the mid-19th century the Albertinum had the most prestigious collection of classical sculptures in Germany. Due to the bombing of the city and the subsequent removal of the sculptures to the Soviet Union (1946-1958) this collection, which is still not adequately published, fell into relative oblivion.

I. The classical gods, beauty and felicity
The first section includes Roman replicas of some of the most famed creations in classical Greek art, including 5th century BC works by Phidias, Myron and Polyclitus, 4th century works by Praxiteles and finally three Greek originals of this period. The sculptures express the Greek cult of beauty and the remarkable creative powers of these artists. While in the 5th century BC the gods were presented in a solemn, hieratic manner, in the 4th century these depictions are characterised by a high degree of naturalness and grace in the movements and gestures, expressing the felicity and glory of divine beings that lived completely apart from mankind in a blissful and eternal life. At the opposite extreme were mortal men who admired the gods precisely for this reason but who suffered the brevity and sadness of their earthly existence. The exhibition thus includes three tomb reliefs whose images of mourning - in themselves of great beauty – contrast with the happiness of the gods. Only the winning athletes in the major Greek competitions occupied an intermediary position between common man and the gods. These athletes were considered almost divine in the manner of heroes and were venerated with monuments and statues as beautiful as those of the
deities. Examples in the present exhibition include some of the Albertinum and the Prado’s most celebrated sculptures.

II. Emotion, sensuality and celebration in Hellenistic-Roman art
The Hellenistic period (3rd to 1st centuries BC) saw the production of more complex sculptural groups as well as the application of notably realistic formulas in the treatment of the sculpture’s surface. The result was a new vivacity in the movement, an expressive immediacy and freshness and a sensual glow, all aimed at arousing the viewer’s emotions and sentiments. Many of the sculptures exhibited in this section are originals and some have retained their original polychromy. A favourite theme in art at this time was that of celebrations in honour of Dionysus with dances and sacrifices.

Most of the works, for example, the famous Dresden Maenad, were now produced on a smaller, more intimate scale appropriate for adorning the mansions and gardens of private individuals during the Late Hellenistic and Roman periods or to function as ex-votos. The depiction of the beauty of goddesses and of women was another popular theme during this period. Artists never tired of depicting the naked Aphrodite or richly dressed female figures. The most refined sculptures originated in the rich cities of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Alexandria. Theatre and poetry flourished in that city and in other artistic centres, resulting in the production of numerous sculptures of the Muses, although we only have a few depictions of actors with individual features such as the figure on a relief from Dresden.

III. Images of Power. Late Imperial Roman portraits
The display of portraits in public and private spaces was typical in the Roman world from the earliest days of the Republic. These images not only depicted men, as was habitual in almost all cultures, but also women and children. The works selected here, including statues, statuettes, busts and marble and silver reliefs, date from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD. They are divided in the exhibition into one group that includes female portraits - depicted with elaborate hairstyles that indicate the public prestige of women in Roman society - and children, who are represented with great affection. The second group comprises male portraits, of which most are military, expressing masculine virtues such as courage or strength of will.

The exhibition concludes with work from late Antiquity (4th century AD), a period of largely harmonious co-existence between the old Greco-Roman world with its myths and ideas and the Christian one with its new creed, which was legalised by Constantine. Along with hieratic portraits of the Emperors Constantine and Maxentius with their penetrating, almost Byzantine gazes, this section includes four sculptures on pagan themes from the period of the Emperor Theodosius. It also includes what is possibly the most important and beautiful work created during his reign, namely the great silver Missorium loaned by the Real Academia de Historia in Madrid. This silver relief of Theodosius and his court surrounded by pagan divinities is the most important example of the co-existence of the two worlds.

(*) The Albertinum is a museum in the German city of Dresden, located on the site of the city’s old armoury. It has been closed since January 2006 for remodelling and expansion. Prior to its recent closing, the Albertinum housed the city’s modern art gallery (Galerie Neue Meister) and the collection of sculptures of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. The Albertinum is named after Albert I of Saxony, who had the building constructed.





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