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A Dresden Drinking Game

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Those Delta Upsilons playing Quarters have nothing on the Electors of Saxony. More than just a flashy tchotchke, this silver-gilt and iron automaton of Saint George slaying the dragon (circa 1620) must have been a fabulous conversation piece at their courtly events. On a typical evening, the horse’s head would be removed to reveal a hidden compartment that could be filled with wine or brandy; a windup mechanism in the base would then send George wheeling around the table until he came to rest in front of a lucky guest, who would be obliged to drain the flagon—probably the only drinking game ever to require the presence of a military saint. The automaton, part of the “Dresden Court” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is one of 250 princely treasures on a rare holiday from the “Green Vault” of the Electoral palace in Dresden (a series of rooms accessible by a secret staircase, with walls ten feet thick, damaged by bombing during World War II and now undergoing repair); once the restoration project is complete, the wandering George will never again be allowed to travel. (On view through January 30.)


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