Dresden’s Green Vault

Behind-the-scenes look at the Museum of Islamic Art’s latest exhibit

Dresden’s Green Vault
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We get a behind-the-scenes look at the Museum of Islamic Art’s latest exhibit, The Dream of a King: Dresden’s Green Vault from the person who knows it best: Curator Claudia Brink.

What exactly is the Green Vault?
The precious objects in the exhibition belong to the Green Vault in Dresden, Germany, one of the oldest museums in Europe and one of the most rich endowed treasure chambers in existence. It was realised between 1723 and 1730 by August the Strong who was Elector of Saxony from 1694 and King of Poland from 1697. By means of his collection, August the Strong realised his dream of a Baroque synthesis of the arts as an expression of wealth and power.

So, what can we expect to see on show?
The exhibition shows a selection of outstanding examples of European treasury art dating from the 16th to the 18th century: masterpieces of the jeweler’s and the goldsmith’s art, precious objects made of ivory, pearls and coral, as well as gemstone vessels and beautiful bronze statuettes. The objects are surrounded by needle-sharp reproductions of the ornately decorated rooms of the Historic Green Vault in Dresden, giving visitors an authentic impression of the original arrangement of the works of art.

Wow, how has it survived all this time?
It seems to be a miracle that the fragile and valuable objects dating from the 16th to the 18th century have survived until today. The collection of the Green Vault has been preserved almost completely, even in times of war and destruction. This alone is a reason to take care of the pieces of art which can tell a lot about history.

We’re happy to have you here, but why bring this exhibit all the way to Qatar?
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the outstanding museums of the last decade. It shows an extraordinary collection of Islamic Art which has several parallels to the Dresden State Art Collections. We hope that the fruitful co-operation between the two museums will continue.

Do you have a favourite piece?
My favourite piece is a table decoration in the form of a ship on wheels. It is made of a nautilus-shell with decorations of gold and silver. This object was chosen for the exhibition because of its special connection to the Gulf area. Shells, as well as pearls and coral, can be found here: highly esteemed material which was frequently used by artists of the Baroque time.

What sort of reaction do you usually get from visitors?
Visitors are impressed by the high quality of the objects and the superb craftsmanship. They are fascinated by the rare and exotic, such as carvings from rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory or elaborate cups formed from ostrich eggs and tiny figures made of pearls. Visitors feel like they are actually inside the Green Vault itself. The large format reproductions of the original display combine with the exhibited works to create a fascinating ensemble.

Right, we’re sold but in a sentence, could you tell us why people should see this exhibit?
The objects from the Green Vault are unique: there are only a few places in the world where pieces of art like these can be seen.
The Dream of a King: Dresden’s Green Vault is on display at the Museum of Islamic Art until January 26. Open Sunday, Monday and Wednesday from 10.30am-5.30pm, Thursday and Saturday noon-8pm, and Friday 2pm-8pm. Call 4422 4444.

Just the facts

Dresden’s Green Vault, or Grünes Gewölbe, is one of the biggest collections of artistic treasures in Europe. Named for the original green-painted columns in the room the treasures were housed in, the exhibit in Doha recreates the original setting as well as displaying the artworks. Completely reconstructed after the Second World War, it’s usually housed in the Dresden Castle, as part of the State Art Collections. Considered one of Europe’s best collections, around 3000 masterpieces make up the collection, including Saxon treasury art and objects from the Baroque period, known for its exaggeration.

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