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Green Vault Theft: Dresden Stolen Jewels

Special Occasion And News

Green Vault Theft: Dresden Stolen Jewels

Earlier this week, on Tuesday November 25, burglars broke into the Green Vault museum, at the Royal Palace Dresden, Germany, and stole priceless jewels! This is possibly the most serious art theft since WWII because of the historical value of the 18th-century jewelry in question.

“This heinous thievery robs all humanity.”

Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation
Aigrette for the Hair in the Form of a Sun (The Diamond Jewelery and the Pearls of the Queens). August Gotthelf Globig, Dresden, 1782-1807, 127 Brilliants, Silver. © Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden .

The Audacious Theft

Germany Treasure Stolen
German police investigate at Dresden’s Green Vault museum.
Photograph from LA Times; associated press images.

The police believe that a nearby fire at a power outage, early in the morning, was a decoy, which disabled the alarm system and put out streetlights. In under two minutes the quickly smashed a window, broke into the display case, and fled with the priceless jewels. Fortunately, some jewels are safe, because they were either sewn into their display cases or are currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

map
Image from BBC report.

The fact that the Green Vault, and its collection, survived the bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, makes this theft even more shocking.

Price-less

The museum have not given a figure for the value of the jewels, as they are genuinely priceless. Their historical importance and impact as part of a collection are irreplaceable.

jewelry, green vault
Great bustle of Queen Amalie Auguste (Diamond Jewelry and Pearls of Queens). Christian August Globig, Dresden 1782, 51 large, 611 small brilliants, silver, gold, h. 12.5 cm, W 21.4 cm. © Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.

The Green Vault

Historic Green Vault, Jewel Room Display; cabinet with 3 sets: Diamond jewelry and pearls of queens (left), diamond trim (center), diamond rose decor (right); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, photo: Hans Christian Krass.

The Green Vault is part of the Royal Palace, and it now belongs to the German state of Saxony. Named after its wall colour, the museum is a series of eight rooms. They progress in theme from amber to ivory to silver and, finally, to the Hall of Treasures; the scene of the crime. The suite of eight rooms, which are architecturally stunning, were designed to reflect the abundance of the collection. They house thousands of items and so we can be grateful that only a small fraction of the collection is missing.

“The Dresden Museums have taken on an exemplary process of expansion, renewal and re-presentation of the State collections in the last years with an impressive Public relations in public and in general, in the rest of Germany and abroad, as well as the international scholarly community, are all affected by this grotesque robbery and the Green Vaults are a treasure on the National Gallery of London.”

Gabriele Finaldi, Director, The National Gallery, London

Jewels of Power

Sword (diamond rose) Christian August and August Gotthelf Globig, Dresden 1782-1789, Inv.-No. VIII 16. © Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Jürgen Karpinski.

The 18th century collection was that of August the Strong, 1694-1733, a Saxon ruler who later became King of Poland. He made his personal collection public between 1723 and 1729; making the Green Rooms, possibly, the world’s oldest museum (the Vatican lay a claim to this title too). It’s certainly the largest treasure collection in Europe!

jewelry, green vault
Breast Star of the Polish White Eagle Order (diamond trim) Jean Jacques Pallard. Geneva / Vienna between 1746 and 1749; Diamonds, rubies, gold, silver; Large central stone: 20.189 ct., Height: 15.5 cm;  Width 15.5 cm. © Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; Photo: Karpinski.

After the Holy Roman elector, Moritz of Saxony had ordered the wing to be added to Dresden Castle in 1547, it was used as a private depository throughout the 17th century. During his four-decade long reign August the Strong filled the vaults with a variety of pieces ranging in style from Baroque to Classicism.

Two domed shoe buckles from the diamond rose garment Workshop Christian August Globigs, Dresden 1782-1789, Inv.-No.  VIII 12 / a, b. © Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden;  Photo: Jürgen Karpinski.

The pieces establish positions of international power.

“We are devastated by the Green Vault, which are so deeply in the hearts of the people of Dresden, and so important to the cultural history of the world. The Met, and the entire museum community, is hoping for the immediate and safe return of these most important pieces.”

Max Hollein, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The collection of jewels is akin to any other country’s Crown Jewels, except there are more of them!

A Reward of 500,000 Euros

Saxony police are offering a hefty reward for either the capture of the perpetrators or the recovery of the treasures. They are also asking for witnesses.

Sadly, if they are not found soon, it is likely that the jewels will be taken apart, possibly re-cut, and lost forever!

There is some hope however, in 2018 the Swedish crown jewels were stolen but then re-found. The thieves left them in a bin because there was too much attention on the items!

The diamond rose set, image from Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Stolen objects include: Rapier (1782-1789), two curved Shoe Buckles (1782-1789), has Brim Ornament (1782-1789), badge (gem) of the polnish Order of the White Eagle (1782-1789), large Diamond Rose, Epaulette (1782-1789) (fragment remaining) and 10 Skirt Buttons (1753) (some remaining).
jewelry, green vault
Diamond Garniture set, image from Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. The brilliant set, marked in Green, is currently on loan at the MET; Stolen items: Epaulette with the Saxon White Diamond in brilliant cut (between 1782 and 1789), and Badge (breast star) of the Polish Order of the White Eagle (between 1746 and 1749).
jewelry, green vault
Queens’ Jewelry set, image from Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. The diamond jewelry and the pearls of the queens, marked in green, were on display in a different room and so not affected; stolen items: Large Bow-shaped Brooch of the Queen Amalie Auguste (1782), Aigrette for the Hair in the shape of a Sun (between 1782 and 1807), Fragment of a Muff Hook (1746 and 1749), and a Diamond Necklace of the Queen Amalie Auguste (1824) (Fragments remaining).

Isla is a Classicist and lover of learning about art. She recently moved to London, having spent a year in Japan after graduating from the University of Cambridge.

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