Sharp and angular, the ancient Saxon fortress of Königstein is dramatically silhouetted against a pale sky. It sits magisterially atop a rocky outcrop 25 miles southeast of Dresden, in present-day Germany, overlooking the Elbe valley. This monumental view of the fortress is one of five large-scale views of Königstein commissioned from Bellotto by his most important and prestigious patron, Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony.
Bellotto has relished the challenge of painting such an imposing site. He treats the crumbling stone walls with miniaturist precision: each window and scaffolding pole receives its own highlight, and tiny soldiers standing guard on the ramparts are created with just a few dots of paint. The lush foreground landscape is evoked with much looser brushstrokes. The peasants and livestock Bellotto depicts here soften the military presence of the fortress, creating an idyllic pastoral atmosphere.
With its low vantage point, panoramic composition, strongly contrasted light and shadow and complex recession of space, 'The Fortress of Königstein from the North' is an outstanding example of Bellotto’s work, painted at the height of his achievement.