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Old Masters Picture Gallery
The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister or Old Masters Picture Gallery features major works of art.
Its works originate from the 15th to the 18th century. Among the primary focuses of its holdings are Italian painting of the Renaissance and Baroque as well as Dutch and Flemish painting originated mainly from the 17th century. The gallery has art works of famous German, French and Spanish painters.
You can watch my 6 min 24 sec Video Dresden Old Masters Pictures Gallery out of my Youtube channel.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Mondays
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
incl. Rüstkammer, Porzellansammlung and special exhibitions in the Semperbau and Zwinger
normal: 10,00 Euro
reduced: 7,50 Euro
children until 16 years: free
groups (10 persons and more) per person: 9,00 Euro
- Museum Visits
Glockenspielpavillon (Carillon Pavilion) is famous with its gilded clock ant its mesmerizing melody originating from 40 bells made of Meissen Porcelain.
They are hanging either side of the clock and chime every 15 minutes as well as play a classical tune thrice daily: 10:15, 14.15 and 18.15 (unfortunately I didn’t hear it…). Its carillon of Meissen porcelain was only completed in 1936.
- Historical Travel
In the Semperbau Armoury the visitor can take a trip through time, following the footsteps of those who went to court festivities, knightly tournaments and court hunts.
Beautiful weapons, impressive racing and jousting equipment, paintings of tournaments and princes of the 16th to 18th century, all told more than 1,300 items from all corners of Europe and the Orient which reflect the royal court culture of the Early Modern Period and provide witness to the glamorous court fests in Dresden.
You can watch my 44 sec Video Dresden Armory out of my Youtube channel.
Rüstkammer, Semperbau, Zwinger 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Mondays
normal: 3,00 Euro
reduced: 2,00 Euro
children until 16 years free: free
groups (10 persons and more) per person: 2,50 Euro
- Museum Visits
Originally the Zwinger had only three wings, the courtyard opened up towards the Elbe river.After the completion of the Semper Opera House in 1841 Gottfried Semper closed the courtyard by adding a gallery in Renaissance style. Construction of this new wing, now known as the Semperbau, started in 1847.
The wing is also referred to as the Picture Gallery as it is home to the Gemäldegalerie Alter Meister (Old Masters Gallery), a museum with top-class works from famous artists such as van Dijck, Vermeer, Rubens, Titian and Raphael (the Sistine Madonna).
The wing also houses another museum, the Rüstkammer (armory), also known as the Historical Museum, with a large collection of weaponry from the 15th to the 18th century, including many weapons and harnesses used by the Saxon rulers.
- Historical Travel
The Crown Gate (Kronentor) with its golden dome has become a famous Dresden landmark. The best known feature of the Zwinger is the Kronentor or Crown Gate, a baroque gate topped by a large crown. The statues in the gate's niches represent the four seasons.
Near the Rampart pavilion is the Nymphenbad, a small enclosed courtyard with a baroque fountain featuring numerous statues of nymphs and tritons.
It is adorned by a large crown carried by four Polish eagles symbolizing the dual role of Augustus as Prince Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.
- Historical Travel
The Wallpavilion (Rampant Pavilion) serves as a staircase to the upper arcades. It is a fine symbiosis of architecture and sculpture and more art than construction.
The numerous statues are from Greek mythology and include Herkulus Saxonicus carrying the globe and the weight of the world on his shoulders.
- Historical Travel
Zwingerhof and Ballustrade
The Zwinger includes six pavilions connected by large galleries.
The name derives from the German word Zwinger (outer ward of a concentric castle). It was for the cannons that were placed between the outer wall and the major wall. The Zwinger was not enclosed until the neoclassical building called the Semper wing was built.
You will get the most magnificent vies at the Zwingerhof and all six pavilions from the balustrade.
You will also enjoy Nymphenbad, Zwingergraben and Zwinger Wasserspiele from there.
- Historical Travel
Museums - Armory, Old Master's Gallery
The Armory is housed in one wing of the Semper wing of the Zwinger and houses one of the world's largest collections of weapons, costumes, and body armor. Many pieces actually belonged to the Saxon electors and the rest were either gifts or acquired especially by August the Strong. Swords, knives, pistols, rifles, shields, horse armor - used for war, tournaments, or simply decorative - this museum has it all set in a magnificent room with high Gothic ceilings, subdued decor in rust and offwhite, and modern glass enclosures. Some of the elaborate pieces are decorated with gold design by Europe's finest goldsmiths of the 17 and 18th Centuries. The total collection exceeds 10000 pieces with over 1300 on display.
One highlight is the armor for children and their appropriately small horses set at the far end of the room.
Old Master's Gallery - the second occupant of the Semper wing is the renowned art gallery. Relatively small for a world class gallery with a library of only 750 paintings, it was begun as the collection of August the Strong and features an all-star lineup in a three level presentation. German, Italian, Low Country, French, and Spanish painters of renown are represented including Murillo, Watteau, Rubens, Giorgione (Sleeping Venus ), Durer, Holbein, the list goes on and on. But this museum lives and breathes for one holding, Raphael's Sistine Madonna (image 4) with it famous disinterested -- ?bored? - cherubs. ( I read somewhere that theirs is the single most frequently used image for t-shirts in the world ).
Raphael Santi (1483-1520) painted the Sistine Madonna on the altar of Chuiso San Sisto in Piacenza Italy, hence the name Sistine. Intended for Pope Julius II, it features both St. Barbara and St. Sixto, the patron saint of the Pope's Family. It arrived in Dresden thanks to a huge donation by August III, son of the Strong, a devotee of Italian art, to the monks of Piacenza. Except for a short visit to Russia after WWII, it has remained the centerpiece of the Old Master's Gallery.
Museums - Porcelain Collection
August the Strong was larger than life in all his activities and passions by all counts. His love of fine porcelain was fanatical -- he called it his "Porcelain Madness". He amassed a huge collection of Japanese and Chinese porcelain figures, vases, and decorated pieces for his reconstruction of the large building known even today as the Japanese Palace. At one point, he traded 600 of his soldiers for 150 Chinese vases, in the end amassing the largest collection in Europe but also nearing bankruptcy.
His solution was the imprisonment of a failed alchemist named Johann Bottger who failed to create gold but is credited with developing the first European production of white porcelain (although he probably stole the idea from an older colleague on his deathbed). By 1710, porcelain was being produced commercially in Meissen. By 1720, a technique had been developed to paint the porcelain with enamel and thousands of pieces were added to the Japanese Palace collection. These ranged from dining services to full-size reproductions of animals considered exotic in Europe. Kept secure during WWII thankfully, today over 20000 porcelain figures and decorative items are kept by this museum with a permanent display of over 2000 in the porcelain museum wing housed next to the Glockenspiel, including several of the famed Dragoon vases.
This is truly a must-see museum in the Zwinger - largely Eastern on the ground level and Meissen on the first floor - each piece is masterful. A ban on photography is strictly enforced, but different monitors are in each of the many rooms so some images can be exposed - expect to get no more than one in each room. The truly magnificent pieces could not be imaged very sadly but pictures could not do them justice anyway. And the rooms of the museum are themselves worthy of note - regal, with marble columns and arches - from the original 1735 plans of Zacharias Longuelune originally intended for the Japanese Palace.
History and Overview
The Zwinger Complex is the centerpiece of Dresden's Old City, no doubt bringing joy to the heart of August the Strong ( which reposes nearby - more below ). The name derives from the original location between two defensive walls of medieval Dresden. The original plan was for 6 pavillions connected by galleries open to the Elbe River. After construction of the Semper Opera, the open end was closed by additional galleries designed by Semper himself creating a closed rectangular palace with a large central area of lawns, wide promenade-like pathways, and fountains. Originally used for court functions and celebrations as well as exhibitions, the Zwinger today houses several remarkable museums as well as being a classic Baroque architectural structure.
August the Strong's visit to France in 1688 coincided with the opening of Louis XIV's magnificent Versailles palace. Having just married into the royal Polish family and becoming king of Poland as well as elector of Saxony, August would have nothing less for himself. The Zwinger was designed by Matthaus Poppelman, the court architect, in the early 18th Century and constructed in stages between 1711 and 1728 with sculptures by Permoser. Poppelman was Westphalian but had studied architecture in Prague and Vienna at August's behest, prior to creating this palace. It has never served as a residence and was open to the public from the beginning. The first formal event in 1719 was the wedding of August's son to a Hapsburg princess. The Renaissance style gallery known as the Semperbau closing the rectangle was added beginning in 1847.
The Zwinger was basically destroyed in April 1945 by allied bombing but the art and other treasures had previously been removed to safety. The Communist rulers wanted to bulldoze the whole area but the people of Dresden voted to restore these buildings to their original glory - they deserve undying gratitude.
The pages to follow will detail the famed pavillions and the several museums of the Zwinger.
The Zwinger is a major landmark of German baroque architecture and the most magnificent Baroque buildings in Germany.
The location was formerly part of the Dresden fortress of which the outer wall is conserved.
The strange-sounding name “Zwinger” is a term used in military architecture and is a reference to the building’s original position in front of the defensive wall around the city. However, even in August the Strong’s time the Zwinger did not have the function of a fortification.
The complex was built between 1710 and 1732 after a design by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann in collaboration with sculptor Balthasar Permoser.
It is includes pavilions and art galleries including Old Masters Picture Gallery, Zoological Museum, Porcelain Collection, and many more.
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- Castles and Palaces
Gates and Pavilions
The most famous gate and probably the most photographed structure in Dresden is the Kronentor or Crown Gate. Atop the famed green dome, August the Strong's Polish crown is supported by the four Lions of Poland. The statuary is the work of Balthasar Permoser (1651-1732), over 60 years old at the time of construction. Besides the coat of arms, Greek gods and a host of nymphs and satyrs embellish this gate and much of the remainder of the Zwinger. August likened himself to the gods and was a man of strong sexual appetites - the statues reflect the man who commissioned them. Four internal niches (image 3) contain female representations of the seasons.
The Glockenspiel Pavilion - the former City Gate, opening to the palaces of Dresden, was renamed in the 1930's after the first of several additions of fine Meissen porcelain bells. The bells were removed to safety during WWII and re-installed with additions some years later. Today, musical performances several times an hour draw from an extensive programmed library. Do not miss the large number of statues of women in varying degrees of undress -- August kept a fair stable of concubines hidden away in the Zwinger and was renowned for having a larger-than-real-life sexual appetite. And of course the requisite Greek Gods. Above the clock note the crossed swords of Saxony.
Rampart Pavilion - the oldest pavilion features Hercules at the top supporting the world. Unsurprisingly, the model was none other than August himself. Impressive stairways lead to the upper level offering the best views of the entire Zwinger complex. The usual statuary of Greek gods and undressed women profuselly adorn the Rampart.
Architectural Bling Bling at the Zwinger
There is so much to potentially write about the Zwinger that it's hard to know where to begin and even harder to decide when to stop. For this reason I'm not going to regurgitate hundreds of guide book facts and will just describe what impressed me most about it. For starters, this Orangery, designed with a nod to Versailles is absolutely huge. An in-depth exploration could probably take several hours and if you include the Old Master's Gallery and other museums, you would need at least a day.
We entered the complex via a small slope behind the Opera House and this brought us to the Balustrades which we strolled along and used as a vantage point for examining the principle features. I would reccomend this, as looking down from above seemed infinitely preferable to trawling through the courtyard below and straining your neck by continually looking up. In truth, the courtyard doesn't look its best in winter because the fountains are all turned off and though the formal grass patterns are striking the walkways in betwen were more than a little muddy.
This is a major monument to Baroque and I've seldom seen a building where design and sculpture blend so harmoniously together. The two pavillions facing each other at opposite ends, the Ramparts Pavillion and the Glockenspiel Pavillion are absolutely stunning, with so much sculptural and decorative detail that it's impossible to take it all in. Really striking as well is the awesome Kronentor ( Crown Gate ) which looks decidedly oriental and stands out a mile with its black and gold dome. Most of all I loved the statues which line the balustrades and these I have described seperately in the General Tips section.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
The Zwinger is a sort of Baroque palace, built for celebrations and now housing some of the finest museums. Its four wings form a beautiful and quiet yard. Three of the wings were built by the famous architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann 1709 - 28. The incredible sculptures are masterpieces of Balthasar Permoser. The fourth wing (Picture Gallery building) was added by Gottfried Semper (1847- 54). The Zwinger has always been used as place for festivities and art collections.
Crown Gate and Wall Pavillion are the highlights, a stunning, harmonic combination of architecture and sculpture.
Don't miss the "Nymphenbad" (Bath of the nymphs), a quiet and romantic little yard with fantastic sculptures and an artificial small cascade. Just recently it was restored and reopened in September 2008, more beautiful than ever before.
Also, don't miss a walk along the roof, access is at the Wall pavillion and the chimes pavillion. Very beautiful is also the adjacent quiet garden with a pond, a fountain, several small monuments/sculptures and some nice benches to rest.
The Zwinger houses great museums. The famous picture gallery "Alte Meister" (Old Masters) shows works of Raffael, Tizian, Giorgione, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Cranach, Rosalba Carriera, Poussin and many others. A definite must see. The armour collection is also worth a visit. The porcelain collection shows splendid works of Meissen, but also Japanese and Chinese porcelain. The Mathematical-Physical salon, a collection of scientific instruments and watches/clocks, is undergoing reconstruction and re-organisation and closed until probably 2012.
I have rarely seen the Zwinger without scaffolding here or there. As long as the reconstruction works at the Mathematical-Physical Salon are going on the most beautiful view (IMO), the Wall pavillion with adjoining galleries, is affected.
- Museum Visits
- Castles and Palaces
Plan of Zwinger
Here is a small plan of where to go in Zwinger: the entrance is from Julian-Grimau Alley through Kronentor ("Crown Gate").
You will see Sempergalerie right in front of you.
It occupies the left part of the Semper Building. The Historic Museum is in its right part.
To your left is the Wallpavillion and to your right is Meissner China Pavillion.
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