Most of the principal works on display were collected within only five decades. Systematically, the Saxon Elector and later King of Poland August the Strong (1670-1733), and especially his son August III (1696-1763) expanded the collection of German and Netherlandish Masters held by the Kunstkammer. Until the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, their agents acquired 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century works from all over Europe.
Starting in 1747, the collection was presented to the public at the so-called Johanneum, the former electoral stables. About a hundred years later, it received a suitable home that also accommodated its steady growth: Gottfried Semper, the architect of the royal opera, known today as the "Semperoper", erected a gallery building at the Zwinger, neighbouring the opera, which still houses the Old Masters today.