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Sunday, December 1, 2019

heist at Dresden museum .. some history of Saxon Augustus II the Strong

Augustus II the Strong (1670 – 1733), also known in Saxony as Frederick Augustus I, was Elector of Saxony,  Imperial Vicar and elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.   Augustus' great physical strength earned him the nicknames "the Strong", "the Saxon Hercules" and "Iron-Hand". He liked to show that he lived up to his name by breaking horseshoes with his bare hands and engaging in fox tossing by holding the end of his sling with just one finger while two of the strongest men in his court held the other end.  He is also notable for fathering a very large number of children. Augustus also amassed an impressive art collection and built lavish baroque palaces in Dresden and Warsaw.  His reigns brought Poland some troubled times. He led the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Great Northern War, which allowed the Russian Empire to strengthen its influence in Europe, especially within Poland.

Dresden is the capital city of the German state of Saxony and is the state's second-most populous city after Leipzig.  Dresden is contiguous with Freital, Pirna, Radebeul, Meissen and Coswig,  the largest in Saxony. Most of Dresden's population lives in the Elbe Valley.  The name of the city as well as the names of most of its boroughs and rivers are of Slavic origin.

The Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) in Dresden is a unique a historic museum that contains the largest collection of treasures in Europe. Founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723, it features a rich variety of exhibits from the Baroque to Classicism. After the devastation of World War II, the Grünes Gewölbe was completely restored. Today, its treasures are shown in two exhibitions: The Historic Green Vault (Historisches Grünes Gewölbe) is famous for its splendors of the historic treasure chamber as it existed in 1733, while the New Green Vault (Neues Grünes Gewölbe) focuses the attention on each individual object in neutral rooms.

The Grünes Gewölbe is located on the first and second floors of the western section of the Dresdner Residenzschloss. It is now part of the Dresden State Art Collections. The history of the "Green Vault" goes back to the year 1547 when elector Moritz of Saxony initiated the building of an additional west wing to the palace. Four of the new rooms on the first floor were given elaborate, molded plaster ceilings. The column bases and their capitals were painted with a characteristic bluish-green paint. Due to this color, the rooms were soon known as the "Green Vault", and the name has endured. The official name of the suite of rooms, which was protected against fire and robbery by thick walls, iron shutters, and doors, was "Privy Repository" ~ it is now in news for wrong reasons.

                       Thieves broke into Dresden's Grünes Gewölbe early morning of 25.11.19  and stole priceless treasures, police said. The eastern German museum houses one of Europe's largest collection of treasures.  Gold, rock crystal and diamonds sparkle in this treasure trove of Augustus the Strong. Today, the Green Vault combines old and new: while the Historic Green Vault on the ground floor of the Residenzschloss allows visitors to immerse themselves in the authentically restored rooms of the Schatzkammer, the Neue Grüne Gewölbe, one floor up, displays the very special individual pieces - impressively illuminated behind glass.  Two thieves were seen on camera entering through a window and later escaping in a vehicle. Police said there may be more people involved. Police said the thieves targeted the historic section of the museum. The thieves stole at least three priceless 18th-century jewelry sets, according to General Director of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden Marion Ackermann. She said the material value was low, but the worth from its historic and cultural value was impossible to gauge. "We are shocked by the brutality of the burglary," Ackermann said.

                           The museum's power supply was possibly sabotaged by a fire before the break-in. The responsible energy supplier confirmed the incident and said it was investigating if the two events were linked. Police said power failure plunged the entire area into darkness, making video analysis difficult. Ackermann told German broadcaster ZDF later Monday that multiple alarms were triggered by the burglary itself and through motion detectors in the room. Police were notified with the first alarm. She also said the perpetrators "couldn't take everything with them because all the objects were also individually secured and were sewn with stitches into the ground."

The high-profile heist comes after a 100 kilogram (220 pounds), 24-carat giant gold coin was stolen from Berlin's Bode Museum in 2017. Volker Lange, the head of Dresden police, said the thieves smashed a window and cut through a fence before approaching and breaking open a display cabinet in the Grünes Gewölbe’s Jewel Room in “a targetted manner”. Officers were at the scene within minutes of being alerted to the robbery shortly before 5am local time, but the suspects had escaped. A burning car found in Dresden early on Monday may have been the getaway vehicle, police said. They have set up roadblocks on motorway approach roads around the city in an attempt to prevent the suspects from leaving. But the close proximity of the gallery to the autobahn is likely to have helped the thieves’ speedy escape, police said.

One of the oldest museums in Europe, the Grünes Gewölbe holds treasures including a 63.8cm figure of a Moor studded with emeralds and a 547.71-carat sapphire gifted by Tsar Peter I of Russia. Entrance to the historic vault must be reserved in advance, and there is a strict limit on the number of daily visitors.  The Grünes Gewölbe alone consists of 10 rooms teeming with about 3,000 items of jewellery and other masterpieces. The building was heavily damaged during the second world war but has been successfully restored, reopening to great international fanfare in 2006. It has been a tourist magnet since 1724 when it first opened to the public.

Saxony’s interior minister, Roland Wöller, said: “This is a bitter day for the cultural heritage of Saxony. The thieves stole cultural treasures of immeasurable worth – that is not only the material worth but also the intangible worth to the state of Saxony, which is impossible to estimate.” Wöller said police had already set up a special team of investigators to pursue the case. “We will do everything in our power not only to bring the cultural treasures back but to capture the perpetrators,” he said.  Investigators in Germany has offered a €500,000 (£426,000) (Rs. 3.95 crores) reward for information about Dresden heist. Police said the reward was being offered to anyone providing information “which could lead … to the capture of the perpetrators or the recovery of the stolen items”.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th Nov. 2019.

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