The Fortress of Königstein from the North

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.

Key facts

Artist dates
1722 - 1780
Full title
The Fortress of Königstein from the North
Date made
about 1756-8
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
132.1 × 236.2 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought with the support of the American Friends of the National Gallery, the National Gallery Trust, the Estate of Mrs Madeline Swallow, the Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation), Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, Mrs Mollie W. Vickers, The Manny and Brigitta Davidson Charitable Foundation and The Sackler Trust, with additional support from Mrs Charles Wrightsman, Jean-Luc Baroni, The Linbury Trust, The Monument Trust, Mr Fabrizio Moretti, Sir Hugh and Lady Stevenson, The John S. Cohen Foundation, Mr Jonathan Green, Christoph and Katrin Henkel, Ernst Nissl, Mr Peter Scott CBE QC, Mr and Mrs Ugo Pierucci, Sir Michael and Lady Heller, Mr Adrian Sassoon, Mr Mark Storey, Mr Neil Westreich, Nicholas and Judith Goodison, John and Flavia Ormond and other donors including those who wish to remain anonymous, 2017
Inventory number
Location in Gallery