Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Zwinger plus some - Dresden

Rather than spend 5 days in Berlin and see all the things I still need to see, I decided to escape south for a few day and visit Dresden. Mum had spent a similar time here this time last year and raved about it. Also the Zwinger had been one of those must-see monuments that still managed to jump out at me from the pages of my many historical buildings books.

What with leaving bright and early, I got to Dresden before lunch and having dumped my luggage I headed into the old town to check out the Zwinger. It wasn’t closed today, like the Residenz (which had to be left until tomorrow and with the sun intermittently peeping through the clouds, looked like a rather scenic place.

Wandering through the art gallery contained in one of the wings, I was amazed by just how many of the paintings I already recognised.

One of my favourites, aside from the city scapes of Dresden by Canaletto, was the Chocolate Girl.

It’s one of those pictures that is frequently reproduced in Fashion history books as it shows the clothes of the lower classes without looking stylised. And yet although I knew the painting it still drew my attention. In person it’s absolutely stunning, done in pastels that soften and brighten the image whilst juxtaposing with the firmness of the pose and simplicity of the girl’s costume. Even in a room of pastel portraits, this one stood in a league of its own. It is just a pity that the postcards do not quite replicate the colours perfectly instead dulling the colours, thereby removing part of its appeal.

Many of the other paintings were a little too religious for my liking and or just uninteresting being Rubens-esque ladies reclining in what look like very uncomfortable positions.

Heading up to the roof gallery I stood in the sun enjoying the play of the strange golden light on the building and listening to the occasional speil of the glockens in the aptly named Glockenspeil tower.

I also visited the porcelain gallery at the Zwinger. I am growing to like some of the Meissen stuff, particularly as I keep seeing shiny fruits and delicate flowers decorating the walls, mantelpieces and chandeliers of the various palaces I visit.

However it is the delicacy and life-like qualities that I appreciate. As a result, the gallery of life-size porcelain animals was delightful (much like the gallery of marble animals in the Vatican), many of the animals having been given appropriate characteristics and inquisitive gazes.

There was an entire wall covered with inquisitive coloured birds but it was the white ‘parrot’ in the centre of one stand that I was dying to paint (not that I can paint). It was silently screeching with its bum in the air and tail feathers sticking straight up. As a Red tailed black cocky it would have looked very striking indeed.

I am not a fan of displays of crockery though and so wandered aimlessly through the rest of that gallery. I’ll admit I didn’t see every single piece in every gallery, but by then I had reached my quota.

Upstairs there was an exhibition on this one famous porcelain painter from Meissen who illegally left his job and wandered around Germany influencing other painters. It was somewhat interesting but it wasn’t educational in the slightest. If he heavily influenced the styles at almost all other porcelain factories and yet didn’t sign his name, how can we now be sure which pieces are his, which are from his teachers and which his apprentices? For him to be worthy of an exhibition in his own right there has to have been something. Something that enables art historians to identify his pieces, with some certainty. The exhibition, written in German and English did not convey this.

Leaving the Zwinger, I headed to the altmarkt to the giant Christmas market that stands there. This was one that was a little difficult to miss as it came complete with several swirly things, a giant candelabra bridge, a ferris wheel and Christmas tree.

Tegan had told me about this form of Gluhwein then make where they suspend a huge cone of sugar over the punch bowl and drench it in alcohol which they then set alight. Soon there are small blue flames dancing all around the sugar cone which slowly melts into the punch bowl.

Managed to get a few pictures before getting a glass.

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