On June 30, 2022, Lord Mayor Dirk Hilbert, together with the Director of the Dresden Museums, Dr. Gisbert Porstmann, the Director of the Dresden City Museum, Dr. Thomas Steller, the retired Director of the Dresden City Museum, Dr. Erika Eschebach, and the museologist Wolfgang Gahn, as well as metal restorer Martin Fiedler, were able to present a part of the Dresden Council Treasure: the Schützenschild.

Mayor Dirk Hilbert is very pleased: “For the third time in my term of office, I can be present when a part of the council treasure returns to our city. A very special privilege. I would like to thank all those involved for their extraordinary commitment and am delighted for the people of Dresden that this treasure will already be on display in the Dresden City Museum from Saturday, July 2.”

Timothy Rub, Director Emeritus of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who stewarded the return of this work to Dresden, said: “It is deeply satisfying to know that our thoughtful scholarship led us to this important moment when this work is returning home. Although it had been purchased in the 1950s in good faith and later donated to the museum, this object rightfully belongs to Dresden, as it has become compellingly clear that it had been part of the city‘s silver treasure and went missing in 1945. Our thanks to our former curator Dirk Breiding, whose close study identified the issue, and to our wonderful colleagues in Dresden with whom it has been a pleasure to collaborate and to bring this to its proper resolution.“

Thanks to the generous support of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Dresden City Museum was once again able to fill a World War II–related gap in its collections. An archer’s trophy donated in 1619—part of the former Dresden City Council silver treasure— returned to Dresden after the successful return of two other wartime losses, in 2017 (Ship’s Cup) and 2019 (Council Cup). Its history documents the tortuous paths of pieces of the City Council silver treasure lost at the end of the war.

The trophy refers to the centuries-old tradition of the Dresden bird-shooting competition. As early as 1440, a shooting match was held in Dresden at Whitsun, from which the folk festival with bird shooting organized by the city council developed in the second half of the 16th century. One year after the crossbow shooting contest of 1618, at which he was the winner, Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony donated the trophy made of engraved and gilded silver that honored his achievement. It bears next to the coat of arms of the Elector the inscription, which reads (in translation): “For God’s honor and Christian hearth I battle as long as my life lasts. By God’s grace Johann Georg, Duke of Saxony, Jülich, Cleve, and Berg, Arch Marshall of the Holy Roman Empire, and after the death of Emperor Matthias, in his most laudable memory, Imperial Vicarius for the second time; Landgrave in Thuringia, Markgrave of Meissen, Burggrave of Magdeburg, Count of the Mark and Ravensberg, Lord of Ravenstein, has shot down the Pentecost bird this 27th of May in the 1618th year; yet this shield was made in the 1619th year.”

The archer’s trophy (Schützenschild) became part of the City Council’s silver treasure and in 1888 entered the custody of the city’s collections along with the Council treasury. The Dresden City Museum, which opened shortly thereafter, presented the Council treasure in its permanent exhibition from then on most recently in the New City Hall — until it had to be stored in the basement of the City Hall during World War II. Since the end of the war in 1945, the Council treasure including the trophy was considered a war loss. But in 1956, the trophy turned up in the Swiss art trade, reached the Lucerne auction house Galerie Fischer via a Basel art dealer, and was auctioned off there. After two decades in private hands, the owner, a resident of New York, bequeathed the trophy to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1977. In the course of collection research in 2016, the museum in Philadelphia became aware of a search notice in an online registry of missing cultural objects, the German Lost Art Database, which the Stadtmuseum Dresden had published four years earlier with the German Center for the Loss of Cultural Property. It contacted the Stadtmuseum Dresden to recognize it as the rightful owner, and published its findings in Arms and Armor: Highlights from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in 2019. In 2020, after the restitution had already been prepared and the transport date agreed upon, the coronavirus pandemic prevented the return of the trophy to Dresden. In the spring of 2022, the Philadelphia Museum of Art came forward again. Thanks to its extraordinary commitment, the trophy was brought to Dresden in early June, where it can once again be presented to the public.