View of Dresden at Full Moon

Dahl, Johan C. ((1788-1857)) | Painter


What a magnificent view! Dresden is renowned the world over for this impressive baroque panorama. On the far side of the River Elbe, a series of towers and spires in the old city soar upwards: to the left behind the Augustus Bridge, the stone dome of the Frauenkirche, the Church of our Lady; then on the right, the slender spires of the Kreuzkirche – the Church of the Holy Cross. Finally, there is the Hofkirche – formerly the Court Church, now Dresden Cathedral, dominated by the Royal Palace tower – the Hausmannsturm.

When Norwegian artist Johan Christian Dahl composed this work, he was not the first to show Dresden from just this perspective. This was also the standpoint favoured by his famous predecessor in the eighteenth century – Venetian artist, Bernardo Bellotto. Thanks to Bellotto’s paintings of Dresden from the right-hand bank of the River Elbe, this vista became known as the ‘Bellotto view’.

Yet in one point, Dahl’s composition differs decisively. Bellotto set his city in daylight – while Dahl shows Dresden at night. He lends his night sky set with clouds in the light of the full moon a sublime grandeur – rendered in a surprisingly rich play of colours, from transparent yellow to blue and violet tones. As curator Holger Birkholz explains, the moon is not the only source of light in the painting:

“We have two determining temperatures of light, as you might say – one is the cold moonlight, dominated by blue tones, and the other is the warmer tones of the fires. For instance, along the riverbank in the foreground, you can see two fires lit close to the sailing boats. On the city side, there’s also something which almost looks like lights in the windows in the area known as the ‘Italian village’.”

With atmospheric views such as this, Dahl advanced to become the leading representative of Dresden Romanticism – together with Caspar David Friedrich. These two artist were not only close friends, but also even lived in the same house.

Material & Technique
Oil on Canvas
Galerie Neue Meister
Inventory number
Gal.-Nr. 2206 D