The Altes Museum (German for Old Museum) is one of several internationally renowned museums on Museum Island in Berlin, Germany. Since restoration work in 1966, it houses the Antikensammlung (antique collection) of the Berlin State Museums.
The museum was built between 1823 and 1830 by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the neoclassical style to house the Prussian royal family's art collection. The historic, protected building counts among the most distinguished in neoclassicism and is a high point of Schinkel's career.
Until 1845, it was called the Königliches Museum (Royal Museum). Along with the other museums and historic buildings on Museum Island, the Altes Museum was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. In the early nineteenth century, Germany's bourgeoisie had become increasingly self-aware and self-confident. This growing class began to embrace new ideas regarding the relationship between itself and art, and the concepts that art should be open to the public and that citizens should be able to have access to a comprehensive cultural education began to pervade society. King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia was a strong proponent of this humboldtian ideal for education and charged Karl Friedrich Schinkel with planning a public museum for the royal art collection. Schinkel's plans for the Königliches Museum, as it was then known, were also influenced by drafts of the crown prince, later King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who desired a building that was heavily influenced by antiquity. The crown prince even sent Schinkel a pencil sketch of a large hall adorned with a classical portico.
Schinkel's plans incorporated the Königliches Museum into an ensemble of buildings, which surround the Berliner Lustgarten (pleasure garden). The Stadtschloss in the south was a symbol of worldly power, the Zeughaus in the west represented military might, and the Berliner Dom in the east was the embodiment of divine authority. The museum to the north of the garden, which was to provide for the education of the people, stood as a symbol for science and art—and not least for their torchbearer: the self-aware bourgeoisie.
Schinkel had developed plans for the Königliches Museum as early as 1822/23, but construction did not begin until 1825. Construction was completed in 1828 and the museum was inaugurated on 3 August 1830. In 1841, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV announced in a royal decree, that the entire northern part of the Spree Island (known as Museum Island) "be transformed into a sanctuary for art and science." In 1845, the Königliches Museum was renamed the Altes Museum, the name it holds to this day.
The Altes Museum takes the Greek Stoa in Athens as a model, borrowing heavily from Greek antiquity and classical architecture. The museum employs the Ionic order to articulate the 87 m (285 ft.) face of the building, which is the only part of the exterior with any visual sign of the Orders; the other three remaining facades are of brick and stone banding. Atop the eighteen Ionic columns, which support the portico, sit eighteen sandstone eagles. The dedication inscription, upon which the eagles are perched, reads: FRIDERICVS GVILHELMVS III. STVDIO ANTIQVITATIS OMNIGENAE ET ARTIVM LIBERALIVM MVSEVM CONSTITVIT MDCCCXXVIII — Friedrich Wilhelm III founded this museum for the study of all forms of antiquities and of the liberal arts in 1828.
Schinkel's most important work as a painter was a cycle of frescoes for the lobby of the museum. This monumental series of paintings, which was included in the first plans for the building and executed from 1841 to ca. 1870, covered the entire length of the portico and the upper stairwell. The murals were destroyed in the Second World War; only two original drafts in Schinkel's hand remain (on display in the Kupferstichkabinett Berlin ). This nearly forgotten mural cycle counts among the most important frescoes of the 19th century. The images were of great symbolic importance for the museum, provideding a detailed representation of Schinkel's ideas regarding the function and purpose of the museum.
During National Socialism, the Altes Museum was used as the backdrop for propaganda, both in the museum itself and upon the parade grounds of the redesigned Lustgarten. Just before the end of Second World War, the museum was badly damaged when a tank truck exploded in front of the museum, and the frescoes designed by Schinkel and Peter Cornelius, which adorned the vestibule and the back wall of the portico, were largely lost. Under General Director Ludwig Justi, the building was the first museum of Museum Island to undergo reconstruction and restoration, which was carried out from 1951 to 1966 by Hans Erich Bogatzky and Theodor Voissen. Following Schinkel's designs, the murals of the rotunda were restored in 1982. However, neither the ornate ceilings of the ground floor exhibition rooms nor the pairs of columns under the girders were reconstructed. The former connection to the Neues Museum has also not been rebuilt; instead, an underground passageway connecting all of the museums of Museum Island is planned as part of the Museumsinsel 2015 renovations.
The Altes Museum was originally constructed to house all of the city's collections of fine arts. However, since 1904, the museum has housed the Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities). Since 1998 the Collection of Classical Antiquities has displayed its Greek collection, including the treasury, on the ground floor of the Altes Museum. Special exhibitions are displayed on the second floor of the museum.
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|Price||normal : 8.00 child : 4.00 (age <7) youth : 4.00 (age 7-18) student : 4.00 (age 18-26) retired : 4.00 (age 65<)|
|Geographical coordinates||52.5194440, 13.3983330|
|Address||Berlin, Am Lustgarten|
|Construction dates||1823 - 1830|
|More information||official website|