The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania celebrate 100 years of modern independence in Lithuania with a special exhibition in Vilnius

12 June 2018

[Translate to English:] Kurfürsten von Sachsen – Großfürsten von Litauen. Hofkultur und Hofkunst unter August II. und August III.

At the occasion of the 100th anniversary of modern Lithuanian independence (1918–2018), the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) in co-operation with the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania are dedicating a special exhibition in Vilnius to Lithuanian-Saxon cultural heritage. The exhibition “The Saxon Electors – the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Courtly Culture and Art under the Reign of Augustus II and Augustus III” will be held from 6 July to 14 October at the Palace of the Grand Dukes under the joint auspices of the President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė and the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. It is sponsored by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Lithuania and the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Germany. An opening reception will take place on 6 July in the presence of the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Saulius Skvernelis; the German government will be represented by the Minister of State for Culture, Monika Grütters. The event will be broadcast live by the Lithuanian national television channel LRT.

Lithuania celebrated its 100 years of modern independence on 16 February. The Baltic state has seized the opportunity to cast a glance in 2018 at the history it shares with Saxony. Located at the heart of the city of Vilnius, the Palace of the Grand Dukes has been open to the public since 2013 following a comprehensive reconstruction. This signals an important step in strengthening the country’s historical memory. The SKD will be present there with approximately 150 exhibits from a total of eight of their museums, helping to map out the history and cultural heritage of Lithuania as well as the historically grown link to Saxony.

The exhibition extends over a space of approximately 500 m². Arranged in five themed sections, the show unfolds chronologically from the origins of Saxon-Lithuanian relations in the eleventh century all the way to the first years of the twentieth century. The focus is on courtly representation, courtly culture as well as treasures of art coming predominantly from the time of the rule of August II and August III, between 1697 and 1763. As electors of Saxony, kings of Poland and grand dukes of Lithuania, they united these states over two generations under one crown. On show will be portraits of the monarchs and their wives, parade garments and weapons from the armoury as well as exclusive items from the diamond set held at the Grünes Gewölbe. Furthermore, coronation insignia can be viewed which sealed the connection between Poland, Lithuania and Saxony.

In the time of their regency, Vilnius became a late baroque centre of art and culture. Visitors will be able to see the splendour that unfurled here, and so a further thematic focus is the life of the Lithuanian aristocracy, illustrated through selected paintings and precious objects such as porcelain, medals and coins. In the concluding section, the connection is made to the declaration of independence in 1918. Here, a presentation on several important historical figures shines a light on the links between Saxony, Poland and Lithuania that existed in the nineteenth century all the way to the early twentieth century.

The Director of the National Museum - Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Vydas Dolinskas, states: “The special exhibition from the world-renowned Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden will be the most important museum event of the year in Lithuania and is a great gift given by Saxony and Germany for the 100th anniversary of the modern Lithuanian state. Using a selection of works – magnificent masterpieces in both an historical and artistic sense, many of which feature the Lithuanian coat of arms, the rider – the fascinating but also complex shared history of Saxony, Lithuania and Poland will be presented in a larger European context and related to the present-day situation. The National Museum - Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania warmly thanks the Directorate General of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and all colleagues from Dresden for their longstanding and enriching co-operation and for their support and consultation during the reconstruction of the Palace of the Grand Dukes in Vilnius. Now our common rulers from the Wettin Dynasty may return there for some time in the form of an exhibition.”

The Director General of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Marion Ackermann, states: “The political, dynastic, cultural as well as artistic relations between Lithuania and Saxony form an important part of the history of these regions. They represent a shared European tradition. It is an explicit goal of the exhibition to strengthen this awareness, as it is something that is highly topical in today’s political situation. Strengthening European solidarity, shining a light on commonalities, is one of our most pressing tasks. It is a very special sign of friendship that we are able to bring this great exhibition to fruition with our colleagues from the National Museum - Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and to open it on Lithuania’s national holiday.”

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