Her image is printed on cups, t-shirts, books and post cards, and even in LPC I had a Christmas-calendar of her picture hanging above my bed. The „Sistine Madonna“ by Raffael is considered one of the most beautiful and most famous paintings in the world and I am very proud to announce, that her beauty belongs to my home city Dresden in my home state Saxony in East-Germany. This year we celebrate the 500th birthday of the Sistine Madonna – a quite important anniversary, which one cannot celebrate very often. In her honour, the „Saxon Arts Collection“ built up a whole new exhibition, in which the spectator is supposed to explore the fascination of the „Sistine Madonna“, her origin and of course the development of her creator, Raffael, himself. I myself had the honour to visit the exhibition opening.
My mother and me entered the „Albertinum“, which is normally an exhibition for antique sculptures right when the church struck seven. We snuck in and stood behind the 1200 filled seats next to the bar, and waited for the speeches to start. As the elderly women beside us did not stop chatting, we stepped aside, closer to the seats in front of us – a very good decision. Not much later, a woman in black, with a cable hanging from behind her ear, addressed us and asked, if we would like to sit. „If that is possible…“, we responded and, obviously happy to have found us, the woman replied that she „would like to guide us to our seats“. Quite surprised we followed her down the middle aisle, while the general director of the Saxon Arts Collection“ began his speech and all the men and ladies sitting around in frocks and suits watched us. It was indeed a bit awkward feeling, but a small price for the opportunity we gained: the woman in black led us to two seats in the front row, among the politicians of our state! I must admit, that I couldn‘t stop grinning an the faces of these middle-aged men and women, when me, a sixteen-year-old girl in a simple black dress, high-heels and open hair got to sit amongst them, in their wrinkled faces full of make-up. I must have been at least 20 years below the average age of the participants. However, I was not here to realise that, and concentrated on the speeches.
The first speech was given from the new general director, Dr. Fischer, as I said previously. He talked a lot about the general meaning of the image of „Madonna and her child“ and explained, how the child is „brought out from the safety of heaven towards his fate“. He told us, how the „Sistine Madonna“ had been nearly hidden in a monastery for 240 years, till she was opened for the public in 1754 in Dresden. He also thanked many people, who had made the exhibition possible and who had helped with its realisation.
The second speech was by Mr Maaz, the director of the Old Masters Gallery, where the Sistine Madonna is presented, who gave a detailed introduction into the structure of the special exhibition. „Many people will say: why do we need to give the Sistine Madonna a new exhibition, we know everything about her! Well, ladies and gentlemen, even Faust can be shown in theatres over and over again and there are always new details to explore.“ To give the spectator exactly this opportunity to „explore the details“, the Madonna had been presented in a completely new way: the glass in front of the image had been changed and now revealed the colours of the painting in a clearer, more true and more colourful way. Also, the dark-red, elegant background had been changed to a neutral grey tone, which aloud the spectator to concentrate fully in the fascinating effect of the Sistine Madonna. Last, but not least, the frame, originally a simple, golden frame, had been changed and now the picture was, similar to its original place, presented in an altar-like frame, slightly above the spectator, revealing its mighty beauty in an even more extraordinary way than before. Mr Maaz called this new presentation a “revival of the aesthetics“ of the Sistine Madonna.
After this, our minister president, Mr Tillich, gave a speech about the relationship and similarities between the Sistine Madonna and the state of Saxony. „240 years the Madonna was hidden from the public, till she was bought by August III,“ he said and went on: „The state of Saxony had been hidden 40 years behind the wall of Germany, and after its fall, it had to fight its way back into the consciousness of the public.“ Tillich also explained, that the Sistine Madonna had originally been supposed to be August III‘s second choice of a painting – till scientists found out, that the opposite had been the case and the Sistine Madonna had influenced the decision of August III with her emotional and fascinating charisma – similar to Saxony, who‘s „importance is often only recognised at second glance“. Eventually, Tillich claimed, that of both Saxony and the Sistine Madonna the details are more famous, than the whole: while of Saxony mostly the language, the Saxon Switzerland (a group of sandstone mountains), the Dresden Frauenkirche (engl: Church of our Lady) and the Quarkkäulchen (delicious quark pancakes) are known, the most famous detail of the Sistine Madonna are not Madonna holding her child, but the two angels sitting on the lower part of the picture. Tillich concluded his speech with the point, that the „fascination of picture and state can only be recognised in the original“.
Many other speeches followed, each one analysing the „fascination“, „charisma“, „gift“ and „beauty“ of the Sistine Madonna. Italian and German music, 500 years old, played in between. Eventually, we quickly joined the mass of people and walked to the rooms of the Arts Collection, where the Sistine Madonna was presented in exactly the way as presented in the previous speech and her new frame, the new painted wall and even the new glass did indeed reveal a completely new side of her. However, I got quickly annoyed by the many people blocking the way to the pictures, talking wisely about art and culture and repeating each other, everyone with a glass of the new edition of sparkling wine, „Dresden‘s Angel“ in their hand. So we left the exhibition rather early – who should be near Dresden this summer can still admire the Sistine Madonna in her new environment till the end of August.