Art & Culture

The Dream of a King: Dresden's Green Vault Opens in Doha

An array of glittering masterpieces made of bronze, precious stones, and ivory - frozen in time, revealing the sublime beauty characteristic of Renaissance and Baroque art.  This is what you will experience at “The Dream of a King – Dresden’s Green Vault”, a temporary exhibition currently on display at Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art (MIA).  The showcase, which is visiting from Dresden, Germany, was arranged as an outcome of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Qatar Museums Authority and Dresden State Art Collections last year.  It was opened recently by HE Sheikha Mayassa Bint Hamad al-Thani, chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority.  Among the many notable attendees were Prince Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe, whose family, over generations, collected all the items in the collection, and Professor Jorg Schoner, who photographed and enlarged many of the pieces on display. 
While talking to Today’s Outlook, Prince Alexander expressed his excitement to show the Qatari people the achievement of his family over nine hundred years of rule.  Instead of focusing on warfare, he explained how his family invested their wealth in beauty: in art, music, and jewelry – the most impressive and important items which form the Dream of a King collection.  The showcase not only reveals this distinguished family’s appreciation for the arts, but also its resilience and perseverance.  Prince Alexander expressed his pride at the strength of his family and his people who rebuilt their city after it was almost completely destroyed during World War II.   Today, Prince Alexander is both proud and pleased to extend European culture and heritage to the Qatari people through this exhibition. “Personally, I’m very happy that a Kingdom can receive our royal collection and I hope that the Qatari people will be overjoyed to visit our exhibition, inshallah” said the Prince.
Bringing the essence of the Green Vault to Doha
The Green Vault is world renowned, and dates back to the 18th century, when Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland commissioned a chamber to house his collection of precious art and artifacts.  It was intended to stand as a symbol of his extensive wealth and power.  It is filled with over 3,000 treasures dating from the 16th to 18th century, including the famous ‘Dresden Green Diamond’.  Among the bronze and silver statuettes, gemstone vessels, and precious jewelry made of ivory and amber, is Elector Augustus’ magnificent gold brocade suit, which features among the 68 objects specifically chosen to showcase at the Museum of Islamic Art.  
Capturing the spirit of art
Given the scale of some of the original items at the Green Vault in Dresden, transporting them to Doha was not possible.  Despite this, in an effort to offer Qataris the chance to experience all the very best items from the collection, and to receive a complete perspective of the breadth of the display, many such pieces were photographed and enlarged by Professor Jorg Schoner.  These enlarged photographs are a core component of the showcase at the MIA.  Speaking to Today’s Outlook, Professor Schoner told us of the six-month-long project to complete all the photography on display as part of the exhibition.  While Schoner has been a professional photographer since he was a young man, he also harbors a passion for computer sciences, which he attributes to his success in ‘The Dream of a King’.  He explained that it was only through the use of technology associated with digital photography that he was able to capture the true essence of the original pieces and transport every fine detail of the objects for the viewing pleasure of the Qatari people. 
Extending his gratitude to the local collaborators for providing all the technical needs required for the exhibition, the professor expressed his delight at the warm and friendly welcome he experienced in Qatar, and his satisfaction with the success of the showcase. 
An impressive compilation
With an original collection of over 3,000 masterpieces, choosing only 68 to display at the MIA was sure to be a difficult task.  This was the responsibility of the Director of the MIA Aisha al-Khater, who traveled to Dresden three times to individually select each item to be featured as part of the showcase.  According to Schoner, al-Khater made delicate choices while keeping the Qatari audience in mind.  In an effort to maintain cultural sensitivity, no nudes were chosen to be included in the final selection.  The positive response already received for the showcase by both notable international and local guests, as well as the Qatari public, confirms that al-Khater’s compilation of items is impressive. 
The Dream of a King Experience
Adding to the overall experience of the exhibition is the set-up of the displays, which were designed by a team from Germany to represent the charm of the Green Vault in Dresden.  ‘The Dream of a King’ tours begin in the Ivory Room, and continue on through a serious of chambers, each uniquely characterized by a specific theme.  Great care has been taken by the German team to replicate the lavish décor present in the famous permanent location of the collection.
An appreciation of cultures
A visit to the Museum of Islamic Art at this time is sure to be inspiring.  The excitement over the presence of this collection from one of Europe’s oldest museums in Doha is palpable.  Prince Alexander hopes that this collection will encourage people of Qatar and the Gulf to delve deeper into the study and appreciation of European and German history and culture.  “I hope that the Qatari people are very historically-minded; there are many links between the King of France (Saxony) and the then Kings of Poland and Ukraine, so this is a trans-European exhibition”.  In addition to hoping that the local population enjoy viewing the exhibition and are inspired to learn more about the historical and cultural contexts, the Prince is optimistic that the collection will also encourage people of the region to visit the originals in Europe.  “Our idea is to perhaps, through this exhibition, bring more tourists to Germany to see what we can do with art, music, and collections – and this is very important to us”.
The Dream of a King – Dresden’s Green Vault will be on display at the Museum of Islamic Art until January 26th, 2012.  It is open daily, except Tuesdays.
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