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

Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe, above the Augustusbrücke

Oil on canvas, 132 x 236 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

This painting is considered to be Bellotto's first view of Dresden. Sitting at the centre before the city backdrop is a draughtsman who can only be Bellotto himself. An older man in a green coat points out the painting's subject to Bellotto, while a second man with a round, reddened head stands behind him to the left. No historical sources exist to help us identify these and the figures further to the right, but tradition has it that the more corpulent figure is the court painter Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, who was simultaneously inspector of the Königliche Gemäldegalerie, and that the older man is Johann Alexander Thiele, Bellotto's predecessor as vedutista at the court of Dresden. The gentlemen further to the right have been identified as the royal physician Filippo di Violante, the corpulent countertenor Niccolò Pozzi (known as Niccolini), one of the court Turks, and — standing slightly apart — the court-jester Fröhlich. Only the last can be definitively identified, for he is known from contemporary illustrations that show him wearing the costume of the Salzkammergut region of Austria.

The painting has a pendant, assuredly the most famous view of Dresden, which is taken from the same side of the Elbe but from a point further downstream, below the Augustusbrücke. That composition, dating from 1748, more or less mirrors the work on view here so that the diagonal course of the river in the two pictures is symmetrically arranged.