Art of The Berlin Galleries – The Kaiser Friedrich Museum – History Of The Collection

THE collection of paintings of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum had its beginning only a few years before the London National gallery was started when the Angerstein Collection was bought by the British nation in 1824.. In 1820 King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia decided to have a selection made of the principal Old Masters that had been collected by his ancestors as far back as the Great Elector, and which were kept in the palaces and castles at Berlin, Potsdam, and Charlottenburg.

Gustav Friedrich Waagen, the early German art student, who had been commissioned with the selection, chose three hundred and seventy-eight paintings, to which were added seventy-three from the Giustiniani Collection of one hundred and fifty-seven paintings which had been bought in Paris in 1815 for 540,000 francs.

The next year, 1821, the Prussian Government purchased for 700,000 Thalern ($420,000) the collection of the Englishman Solly, who had for years resided in Berlin, where he had been engaged in a lucrative trade with England in ships-timber. Solly, through his agents, had been able in a time when, following the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, all property was depreciated, to acquire three thousand pictures at very low prices. Of course many of these were of little value, but six hundred and seventy-seven were set aside by Waagen as worthy of exhibition.

The Royal castles had contributed especially Flemish and Dutch cabinet-pieces of the seventeenth century, as well as some fine Italians of the Cinquecento, including a Correggio, and a few French and German paintings. The Giustiniani pictures belonged practically to the Italian Seicento, while the Solly selection gave a concise review of the historical development of the Italian schools. The Primitives were especially strong, and to-day these are nowhere so comprehensively shown, out-side of Italy. The greatest treasure of the Solly collection, however, was the set of six wings of the famous Ghent Altarpiece of Hubert and Jan van Eyck, which Solly only a few years before had bought for one hundred thousand francs.

After the collection had been arranged and had been opened for public exhibition in the Old Museum in 1831, Director Waagen, who remained in charge until his death in 1868, patiently, but assiduously laboured to give the Berlin Museum the character which it has to this day retained, and in which it excels any museum in existence, except perhaps the National Gallery — that of a complete presentation of the historical development of the art of painting from its earliest beginning until the end of the eighteenth century. To this end he constantly endeavoured to fill up the gaps, and he even succeeded in adding several master-pieces to the collection. With the meagre means which the government provided for the purpose, and against the strong competition of the London National Gallery whose purse was better filled, he still secured works as the ” Madonna Enthroned,” by Andrea del Sarto, for 45,000 francs at the Lafitte sale in Paris, in 1836; the ” St. Anthony,” by Murillo; Titian’s “Lavinia” ; Raphael’s ” Madonna Terranuova,” which he bought in Naples in 1854; and the beautiful altarpiece by Moretto.

More liberal support came to the Gallery after the Franco-Prussian war, when all the Museums were placed under the protectorate of the Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, and Julius Meyer with Wilhelm Bode were appointed directors.

The first act of the new directorate was the purchase of the finest private collection in Germany, that of Barthold Suermondt of Aachen, for which the government made a special appropriation of 340,000 Thalern ($204,000). This brought an addition of two hundred and nineteen paintings, principally of the seventeenth century Dutch Little Masters, together with a number of German and Spanish pictures. By the exclusion of mediocre work and the addition of important examples the numerical strength of the museum collection remained the same, but its artistic value was measurably heightened. Thus by private purchases were added during the seventies three Rembrandts, notably his ” Anslo,” Dürer’s ” Madonna with the Finch,” a large altar-piece by Crivelli, the ” Andromeda ” and the ” Bacchanal,” by Rubens, and many others.

The founding of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum Association in 1896 materially aided Doctor Bode, who, on the death of Julius Meyer, had become sole Director, to purchase further valuable can-vases. His energetic leadership has steadily in-creased the artistic quality of the collection without having lost sight of its educational character. To him alone is owing the Rembrandt Room with twenty-two examples. Dürer, of whom no work was shown before 1880, is now represented with seven important examples. Dr. Bode’s profound scholarship and expertism has also resulted in making the Berlin collection the most reliable for its attributions.

The opening of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, in 1904, was the occasion for the gift of the James Simon collection of a number of selected early Italian and early Netherland works, and of the Adolf Thiem collection of seventeenth century Dutch art.


R. 29—Italian paintings of the 14th, and the first half of the 15th centuries.

R. 30—Florentine paintings of the 15th century.

R. 31—Sculptures of the della Robbias.

R. 32—Sculpture in marble of Donatello and Desiderio, and old Florentine paintings.

R. 33—Italian Bronzereliefs.

R. 34 — Ferrarese and Bolognese paintings.

R. 35—Lombard paintings.

R. 64— The Carpets after Raphael’s Cartoons.

R. 38—Florentine paintings of the 15th century. R. 37—Umbrian and Paduan paintings of the 15th century.

R. 41, 44, 43—Venetian paintings of the’ 15th century.

R. 42—Venetian and Lombard sculpture, and Venetian paintings.

R. 40—Florentine sculpture of the 15th century in marble.

R. 39 Collection James Simon.

R. 36—Italian bronze sculpture.

R. 45—Florentine paintings of the 16th century.

R. 46—Venetian paintings of the 16th century.

R. 47—Italian paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries.

R. 48 — Tiepolo Room.

R. 49—Spanish paintings.

R. 50—French, English and German paintings of the 18th century.

On the lower floor, in the section of German sculpture (right wing), German Primitives.

R. 67— Dürer and Holbein.

R. 65, 66—German paintings of the 16th century. R. 73—Loan collection.

R. 72—The Ghent Altar-wings.

R. 70, 68, 69—Netherland paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries.

R. 62, 63, 60 — Rubens, and Flemish paintings of the 17th century.

R. 61 — Loan collection.

R. 59, 58—Frans Hals, and Dutch paintings of the 17th century.

R. 57— Rembrandt.

R. 56, 54, 53, 55, 52—Dutch paintings of the 17th century.

R. 51 — Adolf Thiem collection and Flemish paintings.