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

The Moat of the Zwinger in Dresden

1749-53
Oil on canvas, 133 x 235 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Bernardo Bellotto's views of Dresden demonstrate astonishing precision both in their topographical detailing and their mastery of perspective. Such precision has frequently been attributed to the use of a camera obscura. Bellotto's paintings allow the viewer to walk around the city; the various locations of his vedute complement each other and forever provide new angles on already familiar sights.

This painting is part of an exceptional series of views of Dresden commissioned by the Elector of Saxony. A number of things are of interest: the large size of the paintings; the unfailingly splendid light; the clarity of the views; and finally the variety of different angles from which Bellotto framed the city. They supply fascinating views of a great Baroque city in its prime. The subject and composition seem particularly unusual in this view. The Zwinger, one of the masterpieces of Baroque architecture, has been placed to one side where it is obscured by trees; indeed, buildings only occupy a small amount of the picture's centre, for the focus of the composition is the moat.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 28 minutes):
George Frideric Handel: Water Music, Suite No. 1