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'The Fortress of Königstein from the South', Bernardo Bellotto, 1756-58

Oil on canvas

This is one of a set of five views of the fortress of Königstein, near Dresden in eastern Germany. It was commissioned by Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, from his court painter, the Venetian artist Bellotto. Also known as Il Canalettino, Bellotto was nephew and pupil of the more famous artist Canaletto.

Bellotto's composition emphasises the monumentality of the castle, which sits several hundred feet above the valley of the river Elbe. The grandeur of the castle, set off by an expansive sky, is heightened by the herdsmen making their way up the hill, silhouetted against shafts of morning sunlight.

The tranquil, pastoral scene belies the castle's dramatic, war-torn history. In October 1756, soon after Bellotto had finished sketching the castle, Königstein was captured by Prussian troops. The King fled to Warsaw and when Dresden later fell to Prussia Bellotto moved to Vienna probably taking his paintings, unseen by the King who had commissioned them.

On loan to the Walker Art Gallery from the Earl of Derby.