Exhibition | Augustus the Strong’s Festival of the Planets

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on April 13, 2014


Johann Friedrich Wentzel, Elector Friedrich Augustus (II) of Saxony
and Archduchess Maria Josepha of Habsburg, 1719.

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From the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden:

Constellation Felix: Augustus the Strong’s Festival of the Planets and
Thomas Ruff’s Stellar Constellations

Neues Grünes Gewölbe and Residenzschloss, Dresden, 13 March — 9 June 2014

‘Constellation Felix’—a fortunate stellar constellation—is the motto of one of the most significant celebrations of the Baroque era: the 1719 Festivals of the Planets held by Augustus the Strong in Dresden. The king staged the event to mark the marriage of his son Frederick Augustus (II) to Archduchess Maria Josepha of Habsburg, a link on which he pinned the lofty hope of securing the Imperial crown for his royal house. For a whole month in the late summer, every day brought new attractions at various sites in the royal capital and its surroundings. One set of increasingly extravagant highlights were the festivals dedicated to the planets: fireworks for Apollo / Sol; jousting and foot tourneys for Mars, the god of war; Four Elements tilting games for Jupiter; a waterfowl hunt for Luna / Diana, the goddess of hunting; a Banquet of the Nations and fair for Mercury; jousting for ladies’ favours to honour Venus, the goddess of love; and finally a mine festival for Saturn.

Johann August Corvinus nach Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann (?), Feuerwerk auf der Elbe hinter dem Holländischen Palais, Radierung und Kupferstich

Johann August Corvinus after Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann (?), Fireworks on the Elbe at the Dutch Palace, 1719.

Since ancient times, all life on Earth had been seen as an integral part of a higher cosmic order, leading artists and creative minds to explore the topic of the planets. Our fascination with the stars and yearning for the endless depths of space has not left us today, as Thomas Ruff’s commanding large-format photographic works make tangibly clear. Like no other artist, he explores the limits of visual conceivability, or—to put it another way—the invisibility of the celestial bodies, a topic probed in his series Sterne, Cassini, and m.a.r.s.

In comparing the universal Baroque imagery and contemporary photography of celestial bodies, the exhibition reveals an anthropological constant: our
lingering excitement and awe at the secrets of space,
despite the Enlightenment and modern sciences

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