Raphael and Stalin in Dresden: Art, Display, and Ideology

Research Seminar

  • Event on-site and online
  • Date: Mar 2, 2022
  • Time: 05:15 PM - 06:45 PM
  • Speaker: Tristan Weddigen
  • Location: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Roma & Zoom
Raphael and Stalin in Dresden: Art, Display, and Ideology
On Stalin’s instructions, 2000 works of art to be seized in Germany as trophies were listed and to be installed in a World Museum of Art. The most sought-after piece was Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. Trophy Brigades were sent to the front lines. In May 1945, they found Dresden destroyed, but discovered the hidden art depots. 200 000 objects were sent to the USSR, especially to the Pushkin Museum.

This museum within the museum remained secret and the spoliations denied. After signing the Hague Convention in 1954 and during Khrushchev’s De-Stalinisation, the USSR started returning the estimated 2.5 million booty objects. The repatriation of the Dresden Picture Gallery in 1956, rewarding the GDR’s political loyalty, was accompanied by massive propaganda which created the legend of the rescue of the Dresden collections by the Trophy Brigades and Soviet art restorers from Nazi and Allied barbarism. The paper investigates how the Stalinist aesthetic legacy still defines Dresden’s cultural identity. The analysis of propagandistic publications of the 1950ies, to which Cocteau’s and Aragon’s Conversations must be added, shows that the Gallery’s present iconic focussing onto the Sistine Madonna results from Soviet classicism. In 2006, the Pushkin Museum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Soviet restitutions and planned to exhibit the Sistine Madonna, which failed albeit Putin’s efforts. This proves that, in the face of Russian neo-imperialism, a critical observation of the political uses and abuses of art is an urgent need. The Research Seminar wishes to foster the discussion about politics and art history in the face of Russia's war on Ukraine.

Tristan Weddigen is director at the BHMPI: Curriculum Vitae.


This event will take place on-site (without registration). It is possible to join also on Zoom.
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Scientific organization: Tristan Weddigen


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