Ever heard of the “Green Vault” in Germany?
The story of the Green Vault – two exhibitions of baroque artworks in the Dresden Royal Palace — begins with a womanizing duke who bent horseshoes with his bare hands. Augustus the Strong towered over his contemporaries at a whopping five feet, seven inches (tall for the 18th century!). Such a big, strong guy wasn’t content with being an Elector of Saxony, especially after he saw the splendor of the absolute monarchs of France. He wanted to start a heritable monarchy of his very own, and turned his sights on the vacant throne next door in Poland. As luck would have it, Polish kings had to be elected, so Augustus cheated and bribed his way to the crown, converting to Catholicism in the process. He wasn’t popular, especially with his Protestant subjects in Saxony. But like many a monarch before him, he devised a way to secure his legacy despite what people thought of his politics — he patronized the arts. And so the Green Vault was born, its gem-studded statues, gilded pottery and collection of jewelry worthy of a king. That was the idea. Even if Augustus wasn’t an absolute monarch, he could at least spend money like one.
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