Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister

The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (English: Old Masters Picture Gallery) in Dresden (Germany) features major works of art. It is part of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (English: Dresden State Art Collections) beside ten further museums (e.g. Grünes Gewölbe, Kupferstich-Kabinett and Rüstkammer), owned by the State of Saxony.

Art collection

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.

panels and canvases of the early Renaissance are shown – for example the recently restored Saint Sebastian of Antonello da Messina.

Italian artwork is exhibited in rooms with deep red colored walls in comparison to Dutch and Flemish paintings which are shown in green surroundings.

In 2008 around 536,000 people visited the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.

History of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
History of the collection

When the “Kunstkammer” of the Electors of Saxony in Dresden was founded in the 16th century, paintings were subordinate to collector’s pieces from science, other art works and curiosities. First Frederick Augustus I, Elector of Saxony, and his son Frederick Augustus II started to collect paintings in a systematical way.

Some of the paintings were illegally appropriated in Poland in the 1720s by Frederick Augustus I, like two paintings by Rembrandt - Portrait of a Bearded Man in Black Beret (1657 also known as the Portrait of a Rabbi) and Portrait of a Man in the Hat Decorated with Pearls (1667), both originally in the collection at Royal Castle in Warsaw.

The fast growing painting collection required more space for storing and presentation. Therefore new representative rooms had to be found.

In 1745 the stock has been enriched by the Duke of Modena’s (Francesco III) 100 best pieces of his collection. During the same year it began the reorganization of the “Stallhof” (Electors’ stable building) nearby the Frauenkirche, where the artworks were exhibited since 1747.

In the meantime the collection had achieved European fame. Paintings from all over Europe, for instance from Italy, Paris, Amsterdam and Prague, came to Dresden. The purchase activities of the Electors have been crowned by the acquisition of Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna” in the year 1754.

On 25 September 1855 the “Neues Königliches Museum” (New Royal Museum) opened in the Semper building where the gallery is located today.

In World War II the paintings had to be removed. Thus the artworks were mostly safe in comparison to the gallery building itself which was heavily damaged on 13 February 1945.

At the end of World War II, in the time of the Soviet occupation, many of the pictures were taken to Moscow and Kiev. They were returned to the GDR by the Soviet Union in 1955/56. There are a large number of pictures still missing or destroyed.

Building history

In the Semper Gallery the old masters’ pictures are presented to the public. The long-stretched building in neoclassical style is situated in the center of Dresden nearby the river Elbe.

The gallery building adjoins the Zwinger buildings. It faces the Zwinger courtyard in the south and in the north it borders the Theaterplatz (Opera Place) with the famous Semperoper (Semper Opera House), as well as the Schinkelwache, the Residenzschloss (Dresden Castle) and the Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Court Church).

In 1844 the groundwork for the Gottfried Semper designed gallery building was laid. Its style is a reminiscence of the Italian Palazzi of the Renaissance.

The sculptors Ernst Rietschel and Ernst Julius Hähnel from Dresden did the front decoration.

In comparison to the antique themes at the northern facade, the southern front shows Christian religious themes.

The visitor enters the gallery through a heavy wooden door with a stone bas-relief depicting Cupid and Psyche in the rounded arch above it.

Second life

In May 2007 the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Dresden became the first virtual museum in Second Life, which is modeled on the original. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections) cooperated with the Berlin-based company Second Interest AG – Virtual Business Solutions to launch the virtual museum project. The visitor can get information on every painting just by clicking on it. Like in the real museum there is an audio guide. The visitor's book can be signed and something can be bought in the shop of the museum.

Daily about 100 or 150 web visits are registered, and a community of friends of Dresden Gallery already has been established.

Assortment of famous paintings
  • Giorgione: Sleeping Venus, 1508/10

  • Raphael: Sistine Madonna, 1512/13

  • Titian: The Tribute Money, c. 1516

  • Pinturicchio: Portrait of a Boy, c. 1500

  • Bernardo Bellotto (Canaletto): Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe above the Augustus Bridge, 1748

  • Rembrandt van Rijn: The Prodigal Son in the Tavern, 1635

  • Peter Paul Rubens: Hercules Drunk, Being Led Away By a Nymph and a Satyr, c. 1613/14

  • Anthony van Dyck: Portrait of a Commander in Armour, with a Red Scarf, c. 1625/27

  • Rembrandt van Rijn: Rape of the Ganymed, 1635

  • Jacob Jordaens: Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man, c. 1642

  • Johannes Vermeer: Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window, c. 1659

  • Lucas Cranach the Elder: Eve, 1531

  • Hans Holbein the Younger: Charles de Solier, Sieur de Morette (1480/81-1564), 1534/35

  • Francisco Zurbaran: St. Bonaventure at Pray, 1628/29

  • Nicolas Poussin: Pan and Syrinx, 1637

  • Jean-Étienne Liotard: The Chocolate Girl, 1744/45

  • Jusepe de Ribera: The Deliverance of St. Peter from Prison, 1642

Building Activity

  • removed a media
    about 6 years ago via