Bellotto: The Königstein Views Reunited, National Gallery, London: 22 July-31 October 2021

This is archived material. It is for reference purposes only.

In 2021 the National Gallery will reunite five views of the fortress of Königstein for the first time in 250 years. These were painted by Bernardo Bellotto (1722–1780) at the peak of his career, when he was court painter in Dresden.

Bellotto was the student and nephew of Canaletto and a skilled artist from a young age: by the time he was 16, he had already been accepted into the Fraglia dei Pittori (Venetian painters’ guild). After spending the next few years travelling and painting Italy, Bellotto was well equipped to become Court Painter to Augustus III, King of Poland.

Bellotto moved to Dresden in 1747 and was commissioned to paint five representations of the Königstein Fort in 1756, alongside other images of the city.

Interestingly, although Bellotto was paid and completed the commission, it's unlikely that Augustus III ever received them as a result of the Seven Years' War. 

This is the first time that all five views The Fortress of Königstein from the South, Fortress of Königstein from the North-West, The Fortress of Königstein: Courtyard with the Brunnenhaus and The Fortress of Königstein: Courtyard with the Magdalenenburg have all been seen together. Seen in this way it's almost like the viewer is walking around the fort, emphasised by the scale of Bellotto's paintings (2.5 metres wide).

The fortress of Königstein seems in juxtaposition with the pastoral scenes around it, a dense immovable object amidst the changing countryside. However, details such as figures on the ramparts of the fort or peeling paintwork add a sense of naturalism, as well as highlighting Bellotto's talent as an artist.  

The Fortress of Königstein from the North, Bernardo Bellotto, about 1756-8 © The National Gallery, London
The Fortress of Königstein from the North, Bernardo Bellotto, about 1756-8 © The National Gallery, London

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