Since 1754, one of Raphael’s most enigmatic paintings, The Sistine Madonna, has resided at the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden (besides a short stint during which the painting headed to Russia, following the German’s loss in World War II). This weekend, the Madonna and her two iconic little angels are on view within a new constellation of paintings and sculptures, following the institution’s seven-year-long renovation and rehang of its historic collection.
Already, the Old Masters Picture Gallery’s new look (which bore a price tag of over $50 million) has received extensive praise from the German press. The museum has rehung a display of 700 paintings, with 420 antique and post-antique sculptures now standing side-by-side these canvases for the first time. This means that masterpieces by Rembrandt, Raphael, and Titian are in direct conversation with the museum’s impressive sculpture collection, which ranges from classical times up to 1800.
A newly christened sculpture hall, which previously held armory and weapons, now means that light basks over the marble figures on clear days. Not far away are 64 works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, some 39 pieces from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, and 24 paintings by Anthony van Dyck. Bright walls add a colorful backdrop to paintings like Giorgione’s Slumbering Venus, Rembrandt’s Ganymede, and Titian’s Zinsgroschen.
The original Old Masters Picture Gallery was largely devastated, and most of the collection was removed by the Russian army to Moscow and Kiev. Some 450 works are still missing or lost. The sheer quantity of artworks in the revamped museum is sure to draw even more tourism to Dresden. Some 75 percent of visitors come from abroad; half of them are Russian.