Antikensammlung Berlin

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The Antikensammlung Berlin is one of the world's most important collections of ancient art. It houses thousands of archaeological artifacts of ancient Greek , Roman , Etruscan and Cypriot origins. The main attraction of the collection is the Pergamon Altar as well as evidence of Greek and Roman architecture from Miletus , Priene , Magnesia , Baalbek and Falerii . In addition, the antique collection houses a large number of antique sculptures , vases, Terracottas , bronzes , sarcophagi , gems and precious metal work .

History of the collection

The foundation

The foundation of the collection was laid by the Brandenburg Elector Friedrich Wilhelm , who, among other things, acquired the Gerrit Reynst collection in 1671. In 1698 Friedrich III made this acquisition . with the acquisition of the important collection of the Roman archaeologist Giovanni Pietro Bellori . After a long break, during which Friedrich Wilhelm I exchanged, among other things, 36 valuable statues for two dragoon regiments from Augustus the Strong , Frederick II bought the collection of Cardinal Melchior de Polignac in 1742 , the most important of which was the well-known figure of the knuckle player Girl belonged. In 1747 he acquired the bronze statue of the so-called Praying Boy , which was already famous at the time and was erected on the terrace in front of the Sanssouci Palace until 1786 .

In 1758 the collection of antiquities could be expanded again by inheriting the collection of Margravine Wilhelmine von Bayreuth . Among the items in the collection was the important Nile mosaic from Präneste . In 1764 the Philipp von Stosch (1691–1757) gem collection was purchased . Most of the antiquities were distributed to the royal palaces or came to the temple of antiquities built in 1769 in Potsdam's Sanssouci Park, where they were accessible to visitors after registering with the castellan. It was not until around 1797 that the idea of ​​building a public museum in Berlin was born and, among other things, presenting important pieces from the royal collections there. The selection of the exhibits was to be made by a commission headed by Wilhelm von Humboldt . At the same time, with a view to the new museum, further important purchases were made, including the bronze and vase collection of Consul General Bartholdy in 1827 and the collection of General Franz Freiherr von Koller consisting of 1348 antique vases in 1828 .

The collection until 1939

Old museum

The Antikensammlung found its first home in 1830 in the Altes Museum built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the Lustgarten opposite the Berlin City Palace . The collection initially consisted primarily of ancient Greek and Roman, but also of medieval and modern sculptures. In the course of the 19th century, many other purchases were made, including the Dorow-Magnus collection of 442 vases from the possession of Wilhelm Dorow in 1831 . Through the mediation of the archaeologist Eduard Gerhard , the vase collection could be expanded significantly in the following years and developed into one of the world's best collections.

The central room of the Altes Museum was the rotunda , in which a commission headed by Wilhelm von Humboldt carried out an initial list of selected statues. The rotunda is considered one of the most successful examples of museum architecture. From the rotunda one came into two halls with ancient statues of gods and heroes. This was followed by two rooms with statues of Roman emperors and portraits , sarcophagi , ash boxes and reliefs. The cabaret was initially housed in the so-called Antiquarium in the basement of the museum.

The sculptor Christian Friedrich Tieck wrote a first guide through the exhibition . The first archaeologist at the museum was Eduard Gerhard from 1833 to 1855. Already in this phase - not least thanks to Gerhard - value was placed not only on the presentation of the works of art, but also particularly on scientific research and education, which was a novelty for a museum at this time. A sign of this scientific claim was the creation of a systematic catalog of drawings of ancient works of art from Italy and Greece. This large collection, which quickly grew to 2,500 sheets, is still of use today as a source for research. During the years of his responsibility, Gerhard did not limit himself to acquiring special works of art, but tried to expand the collection in terms of breadth and with a view to a special variety of the various genres.

In order to obtain a complete overview of the ancient history of art, Gerhard pushed through against resistance that cheaper plaster casts were purchased instead of expensive originals . In 1842, the cast collection of the Berlin Academy of the Arts , which had existed since 1796, was attached to the museum. In the decades that followed, the collection expanded to become one of the largest of its kind. The combination of originals and copies subsequently supported the museum's claim to serve education, research and teaching. Since the Old Museum quickly became too small, another building, the New Museum , was built by Friedrich August Stüler between 1843 and 1855 north of the museum .

Old and New Museum from Friedrichsbrücke, around 1850

In the Stüler building, the idea of ​​arranging the archaeological collections in a chronological and conceptual overview was started. The Egyptian collection , which had existed for several years but has not yet been made accessible to the public, was set up on the lower floor of the museum . The cast collection was set up on the upper floor according to a Stüler's concept. The room decor and the murals were specifically tailored to the respective topic or epoch. This concept did not last long, however, as the vase collection was transferred from the Antiquarium to the Neues Museum in 1879.

New museum, plan

Despite the removal of the vases, the collection of antiques had grown so much that the space available was no longer sufficient. Therefore, in 1883, the decision was made to transfer the post-antique sculptures that had previously been co-managed into a separate collection, which should then be exhibited in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum , which was already being planned . These works are now part of the sculpture collection . The purchase of the Saburoff collection in 1884 made the lack of space acute again.

To expand the collection, the museum began its own excavations in the Mediterranean world in 1875. The ruins of Olympia were chosen as the first excavation site . In 1878 Carl Humann and Alexander Conze began excavations in Pergamon , which not least contributed the showpiece of the collection, the Pergamon Altar , to the collection. Further excavations followed, for example in Priene , Magnesia , Milet and Baalbek . However, these excavations created new problems. Another museum building was needed to present this ancient architecture. The architect Fritz Wolff built the first Pergamon Museum between 1897 and 1899 . It was opened in 1901 and the Pergamon Altar and other architectural examples were exhibited in the atrium of the museum. But problems arose with the foundation, so that the museum had to be closed and demolished again very quickly. In 1907 Wilhelm von Bode planned a new building. Although the new building began in 1912, the construction came to a standstill several times due to the First World War , its consequences and the global economic crisis . The centennial of the antiquities collection of 1,930 of was Alfred Messel designed and Ludwig Hoffmann built museum building (Pergamon Museum is the building only since 1958) finally be passed to the public. The three central halls were reserved for ancient art.

Pergamon Museum

The left wing was occupied by the Deutsches Museum , which was supposed to relieve the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, which was suffering from a severe lack of space. The right wing was reserved for the Near Eastern Collection and the Museum of Islamic Art . Due to their large size, the three central halls were able to present ancient architecture in all its dimensions. In addition, there was the innovative use of the natural skylight. This presentation was not uncontroversial and the sometimes bitter dispute went down in history as the “Berlin Museum War” . Through connecting corridors between the three archaeological museums, visitors were able to take a tour through the early high cultures of ancient Egypt , the ancient Orient and the ancient world for the next nine years .

In the beginning of the 20th century, the collection was enriched by other important pieces in addition to items from our own excavations. In 1912 Friedrich Ludwig von Gans donated his collection of cabaret. In 1913 Maria vom Rath bought the glass collection , in 1916 the Goddess Enthroned , in 1925 the "Woman Statue with Pomegranate" ( Berlin Goddess ) and in 1929 a collection of mummy portraits from the Fayum .

In 1917 the collection was redesigned by Pierre Mavrogordato , who had advised the museum for many years.

In 1939 the museums were closed due to the war.

The war inferno

In 1941, sandbags and other measures began to secure the artifacts. Most of the moveable inventory was moved to the zoo and Friedrichshain flak towers and to the vaults of the Berlin Mint. Especially in the flak towers, the art treasures were only reluctantly stored due to the anticipated fighting. On March 10, 1945, it was therefore decided to move the collection to the mines west of Berlin. After about ten transports, the relocation was stopped again after the first week of April. She had become too dangerous. So a large part of the cabaret and the holdings of the magazines of the Antikensammlung ended up in the Grasleben and Kaiserroda mines in Thuringia. During the war, the old and new museums were destroyed and the new museum building and parts of the exhibits were damaged. Despite all fears, the art treasures in the flak towers were hardly damaged during the fighting. The events after the end of the fighting were all the more dramatic. The guards left to guard the art treasures left their posts and the depots were looted by both German and Russian seekers of loot. In two fires in the Friedrichshain flak tower in May 1945, most of the art treasures stored there were probably destroyed, including several antiques. Others were confiscated by the Red Army and taken to the Soviet Union , Moscow and Leningrad as looted art . Not all of it was returned later. The number of works of art retained is still unknown today. 25 antique vases, which can be proven to belong to the Berlin museums, were shown in the 2005 exhibition “Archeology of War” in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow . Other vases were discovered in the Moscow Historical Museum. Several vases that were loaned to the Provincial Museum in Poznan from 1903 (13 of 19 vases can still be identified), and several portrait busts that were loaned to the castle in Poznan from 1908 (20 of 27 can still be identified) are found In 1945 Poland incorporated them into the Muzeum Narodowe in Poznań, where they are still located today.

How high the losses were for the entire collection could only be researched and documented after the reunification of the collection. A first catalog of losses appeared in 2005. The losses mentioned there include five large bronze sculptures (including the “ Victoria of Calvatone ”), around 300 stone sculptures, more than 40 reliefs, more than 20 stone utensils, around 30 stone vessels, more than 1500 vases and fragments (including vessels painted by the painters Amasis painter , Berlin painter , Brygos painter , Edinburgh painter , Exekias , Geras painter and Pan painter ), around 200 objects made of ivory and bone, around 100 Pieces of gold jewelry and more than 150 gems.

The shared collection

The antique collection on Museum Island

In 1958 the USSR returned this looted art, at least in large part, to the GDR. However, since the old and new museums were still destroyed, there was an acute shortage of space on Museum Island. The architectural exhibits were exhibited again in the three central halls of the now so-called Pergamon Museum. The Pergamon Altar was again in the central room. The right-hand room housed the Roman architecture, the right-hand wing housed the Vorderasiatisches Museum in the basement, as was the case until 1939, and the Museum of Islamic Art on the upper floor. Greek architecture was exhibited in the left central hall. The ancient sculptures previously exhibited in the Altes Museum found their place in the adjoining left wing. A small permanent exhibition of ancient coins was also set up in the Münzkabinett . Roman portraits, Etruscan art and selected pieces of ancient cabaret found their place on the upper floor. At no time before the reconstruction of the Old Museum was Cypriot art found a place on Museum Island and had to remain in the magazines.

In 1982 a new entrance was designed, which now led directly into the central hall and thus to the Pergamon Altar. In 1983/84 the ancient sculptures were rearranged. They were arranged in a chronological order that could be viewed on a tour. It started with the archaic Greek art, followed by the originals from the classical period, then the Roman copies of the classical originals, Hellenistic sculptures and finally a hall with Roman art.

By cutting the cord from the international art market, the Museum Island was mainly restricted to the preservation and presentation of the existing holdings. Only in a few cases could the collection be enriched by real new additions. For example, it was possible to acquire an excellent Greek marble relief with two horsemen and seven precious vases from private ownership.

The antique collection in Charlottenburg

Also in 1958, the holdings of the Antikensammlung, which had been relocated to Thuringia during the war, returned to Berlin. After the end of the war, the British relocated them to the Kunstgutlager Schloss Celle in West Germany and have now been returned to West Berlin , since they were not being returned to Museum Island. Instead, all the works of art returned there were exhibited in their own houses. In 1961 the antiquities were placed under the administration of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation .

As early as 1960, they were shown publicly in the west of the barracks built by Friedrich August Stüler opposite Charlottenburg Palace . The core of the exhibited holdings were mainly small works of art (including the well-known bronze sculpture of the "Aries from Crete" ), the main part of the former vase collection, the collection of antique gold jewelry (including the Hildesheim silver find ), and parts of the glass collection, the main stock of mummy portraits, including one of the few preserved panel paintings of antiquity ( Septimius-Severus-Tondo ) was assigned, and the collection of antique helmets by Franz von Lipperheide .

In 1976 the collection of antiques was expanded with the establishment of the treasury in the basement of the Stüler building. In 1987, the area for Lower Italian vases was set up , also in the basement, which meant that the establishment of the antique collection was largely complete.

In contrast to its East Berlin counterpart, the collection had access to the international art market, so that the first post-war acquisition was made as early as 1958 with the “torso of a falling wounded man”. By the time it was reunified with the holdings on Museum Island, more than 600 new works of art could be acquired through purchases and donations. Among them were numerous antique vases (including vessels made by the Altamura painter , Berlin painter , Brygos painter , Chiusi painter , KY painter , Myson , Pan painter , Paseas , Pistoxenos painter , Smikros and the Triptolemos painter were painted), numerous marble busts (portrait bust of Cleopatra VII. ), sculptures ( female idol of the Cycladic culture ) and sarcophagi (including a large Roman general sarcophagus known since the 16th century). In addition to these individual acquisitions, the museum also acquired several larger complexes. 1976 the antique coins from the Heinrich Amersdorffer collection , 1980 the “Goldschmuck von Taranto” , 1984 a vase collection from a grave in Taranto , which contains works by the Armidale painter , the Darius painter , the painter from Copenhagen 4223 , the Loebbecke painter , the Lucera Painter , the Underworld Painter and the Varrese Painter found and 1986 the contents of a Cologne grave from the late imperial period.

The reunited collection

The Berlin Antikensammlung has been headed by Andreas Scholl since 2004, succeeding Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer . On the part of the National Museums in Berlin, it is also part of the Topoi Cluster of Excellence jointly conceived by the Free University and Humboldt University in Berlin . Involved in The Formation of Space and Knowledge in Ancient Civilizations .

Significant exhibits

Various exhibits are described in separate articles, including:

Support association

The Friends of Antiquity Association on Museum Island Berlin e. V. jointly supports the Antikensammlung and the Vorderasiatisches Museum der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.


Andreas Scholl has been the director of the Antikensammlung since 2003 , while Martin Maischberger is deputy director .


  • Belser Art Library, The masterpieces from the Antikenmuseum Berlin , Stuttgart / Zurich 1980
  • Gerhard and Ursula Stelzer, picture handbook of the art collections in the GDR , Leipzig 1984
  • Exhibition catalog, World Treasures of Art - Mankind Preserved , Berlin 1985
  • Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer (ed.): Antikenmuseum Berlin - The exhibited works , Berlin 1988
  • Rudolf Fellmann (Hrsg.): Ancient world in the Pergamon and Bodemuseum , von Zabern, Mainz 1990 (special issues on ancient world ) ISBN 3-8053-1186-9
  • Brigitte Knittlmayer and Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer (eds.): The antique collection. Altes Museum, Pergamonmuseum , von Zabern, 2nd edition, Mainz 1998 ISBN 3-8053-2449-9
  • Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (publisher), documentation of the losses - Antikensammlung vol. V. 1 , Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-88609-522-3
  • Andreas Scholl and Gertrud Platz-Horster (eds.): The antique collection. Old Museum | Pergamon Museum. State museums in Berlin . 3rd, completely revised and expanded edition, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2007, ISBN 978-3-8053-2449-6

Web links

Commons : Antikensammlung Berlin  - collection of images, videos and audio files


Coordinates: 52 ° 31 '10 "  N , 13 ° 23' 54"  E