While the Augustan Age enriched Dresden with unique buildings and precious collections, the intellectual atmosphere attracted scholars and artists from all over the world. These values remained, as Saxony's political and economic strength declined in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and the Saxon-Polish Union dissolved.
Library administrators showed great vision in such times of austerity by buying the collections of two noblemen in 1764 and 1768, the libraries of Count Bünau and Count Brühl. Totaling 100,000 volumes, these acquisitions made the Kurfürstliche Bibliothek (or the Electoral Library, as it was then known) one of the largest libraries in Germany.
In 1786 the Library was relocated to the Japanese Palace, opening to the public in 1788. Such intellectual giants as Goethe, Schiller, Herder, and Kleist used its collections for their scholarly and literary research. The visitor's log, beginning in 1753, is highlighted with entries by Napoleon, Emperor Leopold II, and Lord Nelson with Lady Hamilton.
View of Dresden from the Southwest, early nineteenth century
The Dresden painter Christian Gottlieb Hammer (1779-1864) depicted the city from the confluence of the Weisseritz and Elbe rivers, which allowed him an attractive view of both parts of the city. To the left, the Japanese Palace (home of the Königliche Bibliothek from 1786 to 1945), the Neustadt (New Town), the Elbe River bridge (above it the Brühlian terrace), and below, the bell tower of the Frauenkirche; to the right, the steeple and nave of the Catholic Hofkirche, the castle tower (the tallest city edifice), and the steeple of the Kreuzkirche in the background.
Christian Gottlieb Hammer Dresden. View of the City from the Southwest Early nineteenth century Colored engraving (143)
Johann Winckelmann's pioneering essay, Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) was one of the founders of modern scienctifc archeology and art history. He became famous overnight with the publication of his first work Gedanken (Thoughts), shown here, a forty-page brochure of which only fifty copies were printed. His major work, the Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums (History of Ancient Art), was published in 1764 in Dresden, where he studied archeological literature and ancient sculpture in the Dresden Art Museum, during his seven- year residence in Dresden and his tenure as librarian to Count Heinrich von Bünau.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann Gedanken über die Nachahmung der griechischen Werke (Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works) Friedrichstadt near Dresden, 1755, title page Paper (144)
Portrait of Johann Winckelmann, ca. 1760, one of the founders of modern scientific archaeology and art history
This engraving is based on a painting by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779), considered one of the most important German painters of the eighteenth century. He was active in Dresden, Madrid, and Rome, where he settled in 1755 and became friends with Winckelmann, the classical archaeologist and art critic, under whose influence he established the ascendancy of the Neoclassical school of painting.
After Anton Raphael Mengs Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1789) Ca. 1760 Engraving (145)
Letter of June 9, 1831, from Goethe to Johann Gottlob von Quandt, regarding paintings coming to Dresden from Weimar
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) stayed several times in Dresden. As a student at Leipzig, he visited the city in March 1768, recalling in his autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth), the deep impression the Gemäldegalerie (Art Gallery) had made on him. He visited the Kurfürstliche Bibliothek (Electoral Library) on July 30, 1790, according to his entry in the guest book, and visited Dresden again in 1794, 1810, and 1813. Goethe also maintained a host of written contacts, with the court and the intellectual elite of Dresden, as his letter to the renowned art scholar and collector, Johann Gottlob von Quandt (1787-1859), indicates.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Johann Gottlob von Quandt June 9, 1831 Holograph letter (147)
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