Panoramic view of DresdenSaxony, a fertile upland, lies at the very heart of the European continent; its main river, the Elbe, is eastern Europe's most direct trade route to the Atlantic Ocean. During the Middle Ages, rich deposits of silver, tin, copper, iron, and semi-precious gems were discovered in Saxony's mountainous south; with these mineral resources, Saxony developed into an early center of craftsmanship and light industry. The Saxon monarchs took great pride in their title of "elector," as only seven Germanic rulers held the privilege of electing the Holy Roman Emperor.

Dresden came to prominence relatively late in Saxon history—not until 1485 did the electors make this city their principal residence. Dresden's most glorious period, both in art collecting and in architectural innovation, occurred from 1697 to 1763, when two electors of Saxony also served as kings of Poland, controlling one of Europe's largest empires. The last monarch abdicated in 1918, and Saxony joined the modern German nation. Although the city suffered heavily from the bombardment of February 13, 1945, the art treasures, having been safely concealed, survive to establish the importance of Dresden as a cultural center.

* Extracted from The Splendor of Dresden exhibition guidebook. National Gallery of Art, 1978