Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden (Five Favorites Series)

The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) is part of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections). It was founded in the early 18th century by Augustus the Strong (1670 -1733), Elector of Saxony, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Lithuania. Today the Gemäldegalerie contains more than 750 European paintings of the 15th to 18th centuries. Details on the official site.

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Raphael’s Madonna and Child paintings are famous not just for their charm (such civilized people!) but as examples of Raphael’s innovations in the art of painting. More on that in Innovators in Painting: if you’re impatient to read it, give me a nudge on my Patreon page.

Raphael painted the Sistine Madonna as the altarpiece for the church of San Sisto in Piacenza in 1513-1514, just a few years after he completed the School of Athens frescoes.  The images on Google Art and the Gemaldegalerie’s site look quite dingy. The colors in the image below are closer to the ones Raphael used in other paintings – for example, this one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Raphael, Sistine Madonna, 1512-1513. 106 x 79 inches. Dresden, Alte Gemaldegalerie

Since the 19th century, the adorable angels at the foot of the painting have had a career of their own: details here.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Duke Henry the Pious

In 1514, Cranach painted these portraits of Henry II the Pious (son of Henry I the Bearded [!]) and his wife, Katharina Von Mecklenburg (daughter of  Magnus II of Mecklenburg and Sophie of Pomerania-Stettin [!!]). Their outfits leave me breathless. Even more startling is how modern their faces look. Each of the paintings is about six feet high. The Gemäldegalerie’s site has more information.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Duke Henry the Pious, 1514. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden. Photo: Wikipedia

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Katharina Von Mecklenburg, wife of Duke Henry the Pious, 1514. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden. Photo: Wikipedia

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window

Although I’m not very fond of the Gemäldegalerie’s other Vermeer, The Procuress, I would happily hang this one on my wall. Painted ca. 1659, it shows Vermeer’s amazing attention to the fall of light and to textures. Look at the change in the color of the wall from the section just right of the girl up toward the ceiling. Years ago I wrote an essay on the Geographer, one of my favorite Vermeers (in Frankfurt), which discusses light, texture, and composition in that painting in more detail.

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, ca. 1659. 32.68 x 25.39 inches. Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Photo: Wikipedia

Titian, The Tribute Money

This painting represents the famous scene from Matthew 22:21 where a Pharisee, trying to trap Christ, asks whether it’s lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Christ asks to see a coin: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Titian painted this version around 1516. More here (in German).

Titian, The Tribute Money, ca. 1516. 29.53 x 22.05 inches. Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Photo: Wikipedia

The National Gallery in London has the same subject, painted by Titian some fifty years later (ca. 1560-8). For me, the National Gallery’s work has less impact. In this one, Christ seems to be trying to suss out what the Pharisee is up to – or perhaps that’s an “I know what you’re up to” look. In the later painting, it looks like  Christ is reading the Pharisee a lecture. Have a look and see what you think! — Incidentally, I can’t include an image of that Tribute Money here because Great Britain still asserts that one can have a copyright on a photo of a two-dimensional work such as a painting, no matter how old the painting is. Hence the works at London’s National Gallery and elsewhere are not free for use on the web.

Jean-Etienne Liotard, The Chocolate Girl

Circa 1744-1745: perfect posture, remarkable attention to detail, and … chocolate. The only other work I know that’s so directly related to chocolate is Maxfield Parrish’s splendid illustration from Dream Days (1900-1901).  Liotard is one of my favorite 18th-c. painters: see more of his works on Google Art.

Jean-Etienne Liotard, The Chocolate Girl, ca. 1744-45. 32.48 x 20.67 inches. Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Photo: Wikipedia

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About Dianne L. Durante

I’m an independent scholar and freelance writer /lecturer on art and art history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are *Innovators in Sculpture¸* a survey of 5,000 years of art in two hours, and *Monuments of Manhattan,* a videoguide app by Guides Who Know that’s based on my book *Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide.*

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