This retrospective celebrates the Venetian artist Bernardo Bellotto (17221780) three hundred years after the artists birth. Bellotto, who, like his uncle and teacher Antonio Canal, went by the name Canaletto, is considered one of the eighteenth centurys most important painters of the town scenes known as vedute. To this day, his paintings offer us a unique insight into the architecture and everyday life of the baroque period.
The roughly 140 exhibits on show in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
paint Bellottos life and works in a fresh light, focusing on the milestones of his career as an artist.
Following his early days in Venice, Bellotto moved to Dresden in 1747, where he painted large-scale vedute for the Saxon Prince Electors, for Frederick Augustus III King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania and for the latters prime minister Heinrich, count von Brühl. After spending time in Vienna and Munich, then a second period of five years in Dresden, which had been left in ruins by the Seven Years War, the artist moved to Warsaw in 1766. Alongside some rarely exhibited paintings and numerous drawings, the exhibition also presents eleven vedute of the city of Warsaw, painted at that time for the Polish King Stanislaus II Augustus Poniatowski.
A royal sedan chair decorated with allegorical images marks Bellottos arrival at the Dresden court and segues to the paintings from his first creative phase in Saxony. The vedute he created here paint an impressive picture of the royal seat and its buildings, the many details shedding light on the manifold facets of human life and relationships.
One of the paintings on show will be Dresden From the Right Bank of the Elbe Below the Augustus Bridge, best known as the Canaletto-Blick or Canaletto view. Dating to 1748, it still shapes how Dresden is seen by the outside world.
The exhibition goes on another excursus into what are known as capricci paintings combining various architectural elements to make atmospheric compositions. Bellotto painted fantastical caprices of this kind during both his early days in Italy and his second phase in Dresden, when he taught perspective as a Reader at the Academy of Fine Arts.
The presentation continues on the second floor of the Gemäldegalerie, where several rooms are dedicated to the fortresses of Königstein and Sonnenstein, and numerous views of the town of Pirna. Alongside them, instruments from the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon shed light on how important land surveys were at the time to the Saxon rulers seeking to depict their dominions in such images.
Items from the Dresden inventory are supplemented by valuable loans. Both paintings and drawings from Warsaw and Darmstadt are on show, as well as numerous etchings by Bellotto himself from the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett, which holds an exceptionally complete collection of the artists works on paper. Exhibited alongside the paintings, they reveal the entire spectrum of Bellottos innovation. An entire room is dedicated to the inventory of lost works from his Dresden home, with paintings, handicrafts, porcelains and his large library.
The exhibition conveys a vivid impression of what was always (and still is) the focus of Bellottos paintings: the city, its surroundings and its people.
At the same time, this comprehensive retrospective in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister is the culmination of a long-term restoration project, and presents the gallerys 36 paintings by Bellotto the worlds largest collection including some vedute that have so far rarely been on display.
Among other places, some important international loans come from the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the National Gallery in London.
The Sandstein Verlag publishing house will be bringing out a catalogue for the exhibition: Enchantingly Real: Bernardo Bellotto at the Court of Saxony, by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 256 pages, 48.00, ISBN 978-3-95498-677-4.
The exhibition is based on a joint initiative with the museum at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, where a modified version will subsequently be on show.