25 Sep 2021

Sistine Madonna and Dresden Gallery


“Florence on the Elbe and Raphael’s Sistine Madonna

Dresden is widely known for its Baroque architecture and magnificent collections of paintings and other works of art. I will tell you about the Dresden Gallery and one of the most famous Renaissance masterpieces in the world.

The Dresden Gallery’s collection contains more than 750 paintings from the 15th to the 18th century, including major works of the Italian Renaissance as well as famous Dutch and Flemish paintings.

In 2020, after a $50 Million Renovation and seven-year renovation  and robbery of the Green Vault, estimated by the German media at 1 billion euros, the gallery is presented in a new guise.

“The Sistine Madonna” takes its name from the church of San Sisto in Piacenza, which Raphael painted on commission from Pope Julius II (a famous Renaissance patron) as an altarpiece for that church in 1513-1514.

The prototype for the Madonna was most probably Raphael’s beloved and model, whose real name is believed to have been Margherita Luti.

From that time until 1754 the painting remained almost unknown in its original location in Piacenza until it was purchased for the sum of about 120,000 francs by Augustus III, king of Poland and elector of Saxony of the Holy Roman Empire.

The painting depicts the Madonna, from the expanse of heaven, evidenced by the countless heads of angels painted sky-blue, she carries the Christ Child into the world. The Madonna seems to descend from heaven directly toward the viewer and look him in the eye. She is surrounded by Pope Sixtus II, showing her the way and St. Barbara. On either side are two angels, looking up from below at the descent of God. They have become some of the most famous angles in the history of art.

During the 1945 bombing, the Sistine Madonna, along with other works of art, was kept in a tunnel in Saxon Switzerland, after which the Red Army took it to the Pushkin Museum in Moscow until 1955, when it was brought back to Dresden.

The painting has influenced and inspired many people including Goethe, Wagner, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky and Dali among others. “Raphael’s Madonna Maximum Speed” was painted by Salvador Dali in 1954, who declared himself the “savior of modern art”, it is in the collection of the Reina Sofia Arts Center in Madrid.