There's something about la notte

Written by  Jadranka Bentini

The Dresden sale : one of the most important events in the history of modern art collectionsThe Zwinger’s courtyard, in Dresden, where the collection of the dukes of Este in now kept.

The Dresden sale is one of the most notorious episodes in the long history of the dispersal of the Italian artistic heritage. It is a prime example of how works of art were bartered for money as it involved the bankrupt Duchy of Modena prior to unification and the Imperial Prince-Elector of Saxony and the King of Poland, a European prince who couldn't get his hands on enough masterpieces.

On the one hand, Francesco III of Este, ruined by the disastrous wars of Spanish succession and faced with draining resources,Dosso Dossi, Dispute on    the Immaculate Conception with saints Anselmo, Agostino, Girolamo and    Ambrogio. The painting has was destroied in the bombing of Dresden of    1945. and on the other hand, one of the richest, most powerful men of the time, who had seen the collection housing an enormous number of masterpieces at the Modena Ducal Palace during a journey he made around the country in 1712. The Elector had long wished to acquire the famous Notte [Nativity] by Correggio, one of the most famous paintings in the entire history of renaissance and modern art, and which could be seen at the Ducal Gallery only upon request by an accredited visitor, as it was kept under a protective curtain. Since the Duke was in difficulty after the invasion of the duchy by the Hapsburg forces, and had to escape to Venice, he had to have the art gallery and Court furniture sent away from Modena to places such as Ferrara. This made the plan easier for both the principals and those court ministers who wished to sell the painting collection, which, in the meantime, had been carefully catalogued and described by the abbey curator, Ercole Gherardi. It was the Duke's councillors and ministers who sketched out the plot, going as far as falsifying signatures toBenvenuto Tisi, aka “il     Garofalo”, The evening, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. facilitate the transport of all the main gallery masterpieces, including the Notte. They arranged for the transfer of 100 pictures, a number that immediately took on legendary tones. If the principal was a Prince, his agents included Bonaventura Rossi, a painter from Bologna at the court of Dresden, Pietro Guarienti, a scholar from Crespi, and Anton Maria Zanetti, a famous historian and academic. They were all involved in building up the royal collections for the Elector as quickly as possible. Therefore, if on the one hand, Zanetti in particular, bears witness to that evil mesh of contacts and the art market, albeit inDosso and Battista    Dossi, Saint George, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. keeping with the times, on the other hand he and the others prepared the ground for the construction of modern buildings in the Saxon capital, set up to house the precious collections that the sovereigns were hoarding, however no longer just as their own property, but with the idea of making them available to the wider public. While the Italian peninsula dragged behind, a new chapter in the history of the modern museum was starting in Europe. These museums needed to be filled with works from the countries known as the producing countries, and especially Italy to an even greater extent than Holland. By now Italy was ready to be conquered, it had exceptional marketplaces, such as Venice, and the assets of the aristocracy were up for sale. The transaction was agreed for the price of 100,000 zecchini, and was drawn out to the Spring of 1746, with the deal hatched out in Ferrara, and concluded in Venice. The precious cargo finally left for Dresden on 6 July, but which pictures did the five wagons contain - these wagons that had to face many trials and tribulations as they madeBernaldo Bellotto , The new market in Dresden, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. their way from Italy up to Saxony? They contained the creme de la creme of the Ducal Gallery and described in 1658 by Scanelli in his Microcosmo della pittura [microcosm of painting] dedicated to Francesco I of Este who had organised the creation of the picture collection at the Ducal Palace of Modena. The idea behind this collection was to accompany the museum of drawings and medals, another aspect of court collections and including ancient items such as Wunderkammer [cabinets of curiosities] items. The account written by Charles de Brosses, a French minister and connoisseur, during a trip toGirolamo da Carpi,    Ganimede kidnapped, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. Italy (1739) gives an idea of how the Gallery was at its peak, the result of a focused collection policy. This was just a few years before its sale. "The Duke definitely possesses the most impressive gallery in Italy, it doesn't have the most paintings, but they are the bestkept, the most orderly, and arranged with the best taste. It is not just an accumulation of one picture after another, not an unplanned mess, without frames or spaces in between that may amaze the viewer, but certainly doesn't satisfy him.......Everything is exquisite here, there are just a few paintings in each room, admirably well-hung on damask material,Francvesco del Cossa,    Annonciation, Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. which sets them off beautifully....They are arranged in accordance with their beauty, each room's paintings are more beautiful than the ones preceding....": The description ends by applauding Correggio's Notte, Raphael's favourite picture, an enthusiastic opinion that has reverberated throughout history, a further factor that served to whet the appetites of famous admirers such as the Great Elector of Saxony. If you go to the Dresden Gemaldegalerie, walk through the Italian painting hall and admire the paintings of Dossi, Gerolamo da Carpi, and Garofano. It is a sort of tour a rebour through the rooms where Alphonsos and Ercole I stayed a number of centuries ago. The original collection of one hundred paintings sold encompassed the most unified and substantial core of the new German museum, and influenced Johann Joachim Winckelmann in his Francesco Stringa (attr.), Still life with a the bust of Francesco I of Este by Bernini, Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of of the classical art concept. Eighty-seven paintings remain of the original hundred today, having survived the disastrous second world war bombing. The game played between 1744 and 1746 in Modena was one of the most significant in the history of modern collections, giving rise to the great European museums: from the dismantling of an impressive Italian collection, a fate suffered by other families at other times, to the establishment of another collection, all the richer for its more international flavour, which can now be enjoyed in the updated Dresden Gemaldegalerie tour.