Manchester Art Gallery

The Fortress of Konigstein: Courtyard with the Magdalenenburg

Object description

Königstein is an ancient fortress on a rocky hilltop near Dresden, Germany. Bellotto was commissioned to record it, in five different views of identical size, by Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony as a part of a record of his estates. This view from the south includes several buildings within the fortification: the southern end of the Brunnenhaus facing us to the left, the Georgenburg oblique behind it, and the Magdalenenburg in the foreground. Bellotto's superb architectural record is enlivened by people associated with the estate going about their daily lives, such as the two figures with a small dog and women drying washing on the lawn in the foreground. The paved areas to the left of the Magdalenenburg are scattered with small groups of people, enhancing the idea of the fortress as a thriving community. Bellotto was a nephew and pupil of the celebrated Venetian view painter Canaletto. He often signed his pictures 'Il Canaletto' to draw attention to his lineage, but the addition of more naturalistic details and cooler tones distinguishes his work from that of his uncle.

Display label

The Fortress of Königstein: Courtyard with the Magdalenenburg about 1756-8 Bernardo Bellotto 1720-80 Oil on canvas Bellotto was a nephew and pupil of the Venetian painter Canaletto. This painting, and the other view of Königstein, to your left, are among his finest works. Bellotto was commissioned to make five paintings of Königstein by Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony. Unfortunately war broke out when Frederick the Great of Prussia invaded Saxony just as Bellotto was making preliminary studies for the works. He and his patron fled, and how and when the paintings were finished remains a mystery. Two now belong to Manchester, one to the Earl of Derby and one to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, US. The National Gallery of London purchased the fifth painting in 2017. Königstein is an ancient fortress on a craggy hilltop near Dresden, Germany. The main building in this picture is the Magdalenenburg, which housed courtiers and supplies and, in Augustus’s time, a cellar of 60,000 gallon casks of wine. Purchased with the assistance of the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Art Collections Fund, the Corporate Patrons of Manchester City Galleries and The Friends of Manchester City Galleries 1983.806