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Bellotto: The Königstein Views Reunited at the National Gallery review

  • Art
Bernardo Bellotto 'The Fortress of Königstein from the North-West' 1756–8
Image: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, WashingtonBernardo Bellotto 'The Fortress of Königstein from the North-West' 1756–8

Time Out says

You’re dwarfed by these paintings as you walk in. Bernardo Bellotto’s five views of Königstein are big, towering, heavy works. They loom over you with their pillars of grey stone and stark, sharp angles.

Even when the Venetian painter (1721-1780) doesn't plonk the viewer at the foot of the hill looking up at the royal fortress of Frederick Augustus II - and instead chucks you inside the structure’s towering walls - you’re still just a little mite cowering before the architecture.

He was commissioned to do these views as a court painter, and like any court painter his job was to make his boss look big and impressive. And it worked. Bellotto uses every weapon of perspective in his arsenal to create vistas that are intensely dramatic, that tell a story of fearsome power and impenetrable defenses. 

There’s a lot of life here too: shepherds shepherding, gardeners gardening, courtiers courtiering. But it’s the fortress and the hill it’s on that stick with you. This was an artist reaching his peak and flexing his muscles in the process. Frederick Augustus II made a very smart hire.

Written by
Eddy Frankel


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