Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Zwinger - Rüstkammer

On 13 July 1715, a substantial present from King Louis XIV of France arrived at the Dresden court. The gift, which was preceded by the sealing of a Treaty of Friendship, was made up of six Spanish horses complete with caparisons and harnesses. In the halter of the valuable ceremonial saddles there were six pairs of pistols. These remarkable weapons stood out through their exquisite workmanship: blued barrels, rich gold inlays, very fine iron engraving work and shafts with silver-wire inlays and engraved sheet silver. Presents such as these, but also personal weapons, mementoes and collector’s items make up the magnificent weapons that have become a part of the Dresden Armoury. Some items were built to order for the rulers, some were bought and others taken as loot in military actions. The result is one of the most important ceremonial weapons and clothing collections in Europe.
The history of this collection goes back to the 15th century when Albrecht der Beherzte (Albert the Bold, 1443-1500) founded the ducal armour chamber in the residential palace. This chamber was initially used to store personal weapons, tournament weapons and ceremonial weapons. The Electoral collection of weapons was given a museum type of structure under Kurfürst August (1553-1586). Already back then, the items in the collection were presented on carved wooden horses. Armourers, gunsmiths, goldsmiths, cutlers, stock-makers and lorimers worked for the court of the Elector, creating numerous treasures. From 1588 until 1722 the objects in the armour chamber were exhibited in the Neuen Stall (New Stable) right beside the tournament grounds in the stable courtyard. In 1832 the collection, which had been further augmented by August dem Starken (August the Strong, 1670 – 1733), was moved to the Zwinger and renamed the “Königliches Historisches Museum” (Royal Historic Museum). In 1877 it was moved again to the Neuen Stall which was now called “Johanneum”. Between 1939 and 1944 the collection was relocated to prevent losses through the ravages of war. In 1945 the trophy commission of the Soviet Army confiscated the masterpieces and took them to Leningrad. In 1958 they were returned to Dresden. Since 1959 the armoury has been located in the east wing of the Semperbau. The reconstruction of the residential palace also means that the armoury will return to the palace. The unique Türckische Cammer, part of the extensive and magnificent collection of the armoury, has been installed in the residential palace and opened to the public in 2010.

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