Augustus II, Elector of Saxony

Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, better known as Augustus the Strong, had a taste for art as well as collecting paintings and porcelain treasures. In 1717 Augustus acquired a small palace on the right bank of the Elbe River in Dresden and planed to extend the building to create his very own ‘porcelain palace,’ which would include a new set of state apartments to showcase specially commissioned porcelain works from the Meissen manufactory. By 1719 Augustus had acquired more than twenty thousand pieces of Japanese and Chinese porcelain, which were displayed on the second floor of the palace. In addition, Augustus began a project of creating a gallery dedicated to including a variety of life size birds and animals to represent the domestic, exotic, and mythological species. While the project was never officially completed until after Augustus’ death, he still made many strides in the artistic community, including overseeing the process of manufacturing porcelain in western Europe under his patronage. In addition, he began forming a print collection and an antique sculpture museum; however, his most extravagant project was the Gemäldegalerie, one of the few royal collections not created by the spoils of war. The collection was expanded further by his son, Frederick Augustus II, and included works by Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, and Correggio. The collection soon required more space and was moved from Dresden Castle to the Electors Stables Building in 1747. Then on September 25, 1855 the collection was moved into a new gallery wing, which was designed by the architect Gottfried Semper, and later known as the Semper Gallery of the Zwinger (Palace) [built in 1719]. In 1938, during World War II, the museum was closed and the artworks stored safely away, even surviving the bombing of Dresden on February 13, 1945; however, most of the paintings were stolen by the Red Army and taken to Moscow and Kiev. The collection was mostly returned to Dresden in 1956 and the gallery re-opened in 1960 after the reconstruction of the building. While many of the works survived, there were still significant losses: records from 1963 state that approximately 206 paintings had been destroyed and 507 were missing. Today, approximately 450 works are still missing.

Tarabra, Daniela. European Art of the Eighteenth Century. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2008.