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Dresden Today:
Art and Architecture

Report of the lecture
given by Eveline Eaton
on January 22nd 2014

Until yesterday the name Dresden had conjured up to me pictures of bombsites and grey misery.  Pictures, it soon turned out, that were sorely outdated because the Dresden that Eveline Eaton revealed to us is brimming over with life and colour and beauty.  Aided by a really wonderful visual presentation, she took us on a tour of the city which in 2006 celebrated its 800th birthday.

Before the firestorm Dresden had been able to boast proudly of its bridges, castles, opera house, squares and palaces, but by 15th February 1944 virtually everything had been reduced to vast mounds of rubble by the Allied bombing.

Happily for us in the twenty-first century, the city has risen from its ashes like the proverbial phoenix.  Once again it can boast proudly of its bridges, castles, opera house, squares and palaces – now restored in large part thanks to the work of a certain C18th Italian urban landscape painter named Bernardo Bellotto, whose views of Dresden were used to guide the reconstruction.  However, more modern-day movers have also played a large part in the process, not least The Dresden Trust, of which Eveline Eaton is the recently-elected Chairman.  Although the Communists had already reconstructed some buildings they were not in the least set on bringing back to life the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, which had not actually been bombed but had collapsed in the firestorm.  The Trust’s work can now be witnessed in the newly-restored church, with a beautiful orb and cross sitting atop the dome.  These have a particularly poignant significance as they were made by an English goldsmith called Alan Smith, whose father had been one of the bomber pilots.

From architecture to art .....  Did you know that the original of Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna” calls Dresden her home?  Or that Titian’s Venus is sleeping there?  And then there is the porcelain.  Hard paste porcelain had existed for so long in China before it ever reached the West, but when it arrived it came to Meissen as the secret ingredient, kaolin, had been discovered close by.  Go to see such porcelain in Dresden and you will find it displayed out in the open, with only the tiniest examples being behind glass.  And then what about The Green Vaults?  A green diamond weighing 41 carats, a diamond brooch weighing half a kilo, eighty-five faces carved on a cherry stone in 1590, an automaton bug made in 1600 .....

And back to architecture .....  The dairy and the tobacco processing factory may have gone but the Museum of Military History dating from 1897 remains, but now with its heart pierced by a wedge added in 2011, which points down to the spot where the firestorm started.

Thank you, Eveline.  Even if it means flying with Ryanair, I intend to visit Dresden soon!

Alison Morton

If you would like to donate to The Dresden Trust, cheques can be sent to Frank Woodgate, The Dresden Trust Treasurer, c/o BGA, 34 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QG. (Please indicate whether or not you wish Gift Aid to be claimed).

Link to The Dresden Trust website

Chairman of The Dresden Trust and engaging lecturer, Eveline Eaton