Drills, hatchets, planes, garden hoes, spades and pruning shears - it is almost impossible to imagine that the tools in today's building supplies stores might one day make it into a museum. In the exhibition "Concept and Encounter: The World around 1600", what lends the tools and garden utensils from the late Renaissance their suitability for museum display is not only their materials and sophisticated construction but also their erstwhile owners. Princes, after all, had leisure time, too, and Elector August of Saxony (1526-1586) gathered new strength for his work as ruler by gardening and practicing arts and crafts. And whatever he did, he met with success: Under him, Saxony developed into one of the most powerful and rich principalities within the empire. Some of the exhibits that bear witness to this are ivory pieces he turned himself on the lathe, writing and drawing instruments as well as several portraits, all of which bring the ruler closer to us as a person.
Wooden floors, alternating shades of green on the walls and daylight that comes in through the windows create an almost private atmosphere in the seven exhibition halls in the Georgenbau of the Dresden Residenzschloss (Royal Palace), where the Saxon electors and kings once lived. Alongside what is presumably the largest collection of tools and gardening equipment of the Renaissance in the world, certain items of daily use may surprise the visitor: A table cabinet designed for Electress Anna holds six Venetian soap balls, a sewing kit and one of the earliest-preserved telescopes.
The wide world already had an unmistakable allure at the time: Turtle shells along with ivory vessels, snail shells and corals attest to the longing for the exotic that was felt in those days. Another collection item was the tooth of a whale, which, around 1600, was still thought of as the horn of the legendary unicorn. Ground to a powder, it was used as a cure-all against epilepsy, the plague, rabies and worm infestations. The Saxon electors' support of the Lutheran Reformation is demonstrated in a room where original pieces from the palace chapel are displayed: the oak door, parts of the portal and the font. "Concept and Encounter: The World around 1600" shines a light on the curiosity, the thirst for knowledge, the enjoyment of ownership and the enthusiasm for beautiful and curious things, all of which furthered the development of the Kunstkammer around 1600.
Today, the museums of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden owe part of their collections to this development.