BELLOTTO, Bernardo
(b. 1720, Venezia, d. 1780, Warszawa)

View of Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe with the Augustus Bridge

Oil on canvas, 133 x 237 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Bellotto painted his first large view of Dresden in 1747, and complemented it a year later with a pendant. Replicas of the two pictures, painted in a smaller format but from his own hand, came also to the Gemäldegalerie in 1778.

The panorama of the city, shown in this picture, was to become the classic view of Dresden, seen approximately from the level of the Japanische Palais: the right-hand side of the painting is dominated by the Catholic Hofkirche, shining in its light shades and intensified by its reflection in the river. Although the tower had not yet been finished, Bellotto faked it after inspecting the architect's plans. Behind the Hofkirche we see parts of the royal residence, including the lofty Hausmannsturm, which seems to rest on the roof of the Hofkirche. The Augustusbrücke as designed by Matthias Daniel Poppelmann sweeps across the Elbe, and acts as it were as the plinth for the buildings that form the Brühlsche Terrasse behind: the palace of Anton Egon von Fiirstenberg, who ruled Dresden whenever Augustus the Strong was away in Poland, followed by the Palais Brühl with its tall windows in the form of semicircular arches, and then the Brühlsche Bibliothek and the Gemäldegalerie of Count Brühl, Prime Minister to Augustus III. Rising up directly behind them is the majestic dome of the Protestant Frauenkirche, designed by George Bahr, newly built but already an integral part of Dresden's skyline.

The precision of Bellotto's vedute makes it easy to forget their carefully calculated compositions. The way the river forms a diagonal, or the bank in the foreground a wedge shape, or the building on the far left acts as a link between picture and frame: all accord with specific rules and conventions that developed from landscape painting. Bellotto adds a number of incidental figures, most strikingly an impoverished family at the front left who have settled outside a simple wooden hut.