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The Silk Route - World Travel: Fragment of Egyptian mortuary relief c 1470 BC, Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany
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Germany: Berlin Museums
2013, 2018

Museum Island Altes Museum Neues Museum Alte Nationalgallerie Bode Museum
Deutsches Historisches Museum
Gemäldegalerie Spy Museum
Berlin: Pipe pistol in Spy Museum

 

Berlin has some of the greatest museums in the world, many on Museum Island. The Pergamon Museum, with the fabulous Pergamon Altar and Ishtar Gate, is a separate article.

Museum Island

Museuminsel Berlin
The Jungfernbrücke is the oldest bridge spanning the western arm of the Spee around Museum Island, the Kupfergraben.

Museuminsel Berlin
The Cathedral on Museum Island.

In September 2013 we returned to Berlin. It had been over twenty years since our previous visit and we wanted to see how the city had changed and to visit some of the wonderful museums. Our impressions of the changes in the city can be found at Berlin 1990 & 2013.

Museuminsel Berlin
A depiction of Berlin in 1650 on the Schleusenbrücke which spans the Kupfergraben.

Berlin has many treasures in its museums but there were two which we had long wanted to see: the Pergamon Altar and, even more, the Ishtar Gate.

We chose to stay at the Derag Livinghotel Grosser Kurfürst which is just south of Museum Island and even more conveniently, just across the road from Markische Museum U-bahn station.

Museuminsel Berlin
Statue at the entrance to the Altes Museum with the cathedral behind.

Museum Island is a unique area of five closely-sited museums on an island in the River Spee where the city of Berlin was founded. These are the Altes Museum opened in 1830 and built close to the cathedral which ia also on the island, 1845-1855 Neues Museum, 1867-1876 Alte Nationalgalerie, 1897-1904 Bode Museum and the 1910-1930 Pergamon Museum.1

Since reunification there has been an ongoing process of renovation of the buildings to bring their facilities up to date.

This is only a tiny fraction of what is held in the museums, just some of the items we found of particular interest or beauty. Due to ongoing renovations various collections may not be accessible - the Staatliches Museums website should have helpful advice.

 

Altes Museum

altes Museum Berlin
One of two statues flanking the entrance to the Altes Museum.
altes Museum Berlin
Statue of Nike, Greek goddess of victory.
altes Museum Berlin
Boy with Thorn
Roman copy, c 150 AD.
The original "Spinario" originated in the late 3rd century BC.

The oldest of the museums on the island lies at its southern end. It is a pure classical building, fronted by eighteen fluted ionic columns, a fitting home for classical antiquities, which was badly damaged in the Second World War.

The entrance is a lovely bright rotunda, modelled on the pantheon in Rome, with classical statues.2

altes Museum Berlin
A very beautiful funerary relief, the so-called "Stele Giustiniani". c 460 BC

 

altes Museum Berlin
Asklepios, Greek god of healing, with trademark snake and staff.
altes Museum Berlin
Hygeia, Greek goddess of health.
Aphrodisias: the Great  Theatre
Torso of an Old Fisherman, Aphrodisias, Turkey, c 200 BC.
The head is a plaster cast of the original which was discovered in 1989 in Aphrodisias.
altes Museum Berlin
Mosaic: Centaurs fighting Cats of Prey c 130 AD
This magnificent mosaic was once part of the floor decoration of the palace dining room of Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli outside Rome.
altes Museum Berlin
Deified Empress Livia 42-54 AD
Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus, is a fascinating character - especially vivid in I Claudius by Robert Graves. She was deified by Claudius, her grandson, in 42 AD.
great baths
great baths

 

Neues Museum

neues Museum Berlin
Fragment of a pillar: King Seti I in front of the god Osiris, c1290 BC.

This museum combines three collections: the collection of Egyptian art from the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, of prehistoric objects from the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, and of classical antiquities from the Antikensammlung.3  Having a particular interest in certain aspects of Ancient Egypt, there was a quite a bit here of interest, and of course it holds the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti which is zealously guarded to stop photography.

neues Museum Berlin
Kneeling figure of Queen Hatshepsut with cultic vessel, c 1475 BC.

In the ancient temples that remain in Egypt there isn't a huge amount of original colour,except for restored buildings such as the Tomb of Nefertari which we were lucky enough to see in 2000. So it's illuminating to see painted reliefs and realise how immensely colourful the massive walls of the ancient structures must have been.

neues Museum Berlin
Head of a statue of either Queen Hatshepsut or King Tuthmosis III, c 1460-1450 BC.
neues Museum Berlin
Representation of the deified Pharaoh Amenhotep I; 1152-1145 BC. The transparent garment is unusual.

One of my favourite characters in ancient Egypt is Queen Hatshepsut, a remarkable woman. The daughter of Tuthmosis I she married her father's son and heir Tuthmosis II. They had no children so that when he died the son of one of his secondary wives became pharaoh: Tuthmosis III. As he was only a child at this time, Hatshepsut ruled in his place, eventually taking the step of declaring herself pharaoh. She was depicted as a man in many images as the pharaoh was, of course, traditionally male. She ruled for 20 years - even after Tuthmosis III reached manhood. It was only when she died that he took his place as ruler. He obliterated as much of Hatshepsut as he could find from the records, including temple images and instances of her name. The mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut is one of the most beautiful buildings at Luxor.

It was great to find some representations of Hatshepsut here.

neues Museum Berlin
Representation of the deified Queen Ahmose-Nofretari, a Theban and mother of Amenhotep I; 1152-1145 BC.
neues Museum Berlin
Kneeling figure of King Sesostris I c 1950 BC.
neues Museum Berlin
Standing-striding figure of Akhenaten or his son Tutankhamun c 1340-1330 BC. During this period representations of people were more lifelike rather than idealised.
neues Museum Berlin
Fragments of reliefs: Egyptian soldiers and Nubian mercenaries, c 1470 BC.
Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
neues Museum Berlin
neues Museum Berlin
neues Museum Berlin
Wall relief showing an ox being butchered.
neues Museum Berlin
Berlin Green Head c 350BC.
This Egyptian head, from the Ptolomeic period, is carved from a green stone with a beautiful finish.
neues Museum Berlin
Fragment of a wall relief from the Sun Temple of King Niuserre.4
Trappers netting migratory birds in the Nile delta. Some birds were killed immediately, others transported to poultry farms for fattening.
Troy
Gold of Troy, 3000 BC, found by Schliemann.
Troy
Gold of Troy found by Schliemann, 3000 BC.
A famous photograph shows Schliemann's wife wearing these.
Troy
Trojan gold vessel in the shape of a ship, 3000 BC, found by Schliemann.

The German archaeologist Schliemann found treasure while excavating at Troy, the legendary city on the west coast of Turkey. He proclaimed as "Priam's Treasure" and much of of it is now held in Russia though some can be seen here in he Neues Museum and Berlin and some in Istanbul.

neues Museum Berlin
Ceremonial gold hat, southern Germany, c 1000-800  BC.
neues Museum Berlin
Roman marble sarcophagus with lions, 300 BC.

A 74 cm tall ceremonial gold hat from the late Bronze Age is another fascinating artefact in the Neues Museum. It is made from a single beaten gold sheet. The ornamentation on the dome and brim of the hat is thought to represent a calendar with which calculate the difference between solar and lunar years and to predict lunar eclipses.5

neues Museum Berlin
Head of Queen Tiy, Egypt, c 1350 BC.

Another celebrated artefact is the head of Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III. It is a beautifully expressive facial carving. She wears the headdress of the cow goddess, Hathor, which was allowed for her role in official acts of worship where she took the part of female deities at the side of her husband.6

neues Museum Berlin
Bust of a king, possibly AmenhotepIV/Akhenaten.



Tiy was the mother of Amenhotep IV who later changed his name to Akhenaten.

neues Museum Berlin
Souvenirs from Berlin including a postcard of the famous bust of Nefertiti.
neues Museum Berlin
Head of a queen, possibly Nefertiti.
neues Museum Berlin
Head of a princess, daughter of Akhenaten, with the classic features of her father.

 

The Pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife, Nefertiti, are famous - she for her beauty and he for attempting to impose a monotheistic religion in Egypt, worship of the sun god or Aten. This replaced the millenia-old traditional worship of many gods, which, nevertheless, became reestablished after Akhenten's death.

The famous bust of Nefertiti is displayed in a glass case zealously guarded to stop any photography. It is a portrait of a beautiful woman, looking confident and regal, though the missing left eye is rather disconcerting!

 

Alte Nationalgallerie

alte nationalgallerie Berlin

Since the Neue Nationalgallerie was opened in 1968 the original Nationalgellerie has become the Alte Nationalgallerie and holds almost exclusively nineteenth century paintings and sculpture.

With limited time and such a great deal to see this was not high on our list and we did not visit.

alte nationalgallerie Berlin
We didn't visit it again in 2018!

 

Bode Museum

bode museum Berlin
High relief wood carving, Western Roman Empire, c 400AD.
A wonderfully detailed carving: Roman soldiers come to the aid of a besieged city, the Barbarian attackers trying to escape on horseback.8

 

The Bode Museum opened - as the Kaiser Friedrich Museum - in 1904. It was originally the idea of Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, which was put into practice some years later by Wilhelm von Bode, after whom it was renamed in 1956. He was also its first director.7 Standing at the northern tip of Museum Island it was to house the Renaissance collection. Today it houses the sculpture collection and the Museum of Byzantine Art.

 

bode museum Berlin
Mosaic from the Church of San Michele in Africisco, Ravenna, c 545-546AD.

 

Deutsches Historisches Museum

Historisches MuseumCharlemagne
Workshop of Albrecht Dürer, 1514.
Charlemagne died and was buried in Aachen, Germany in 814. He set out to unite the Germanic peoples into one nation and convert them to Christianity; he was made Roman Emperor in 800.
Historisches Museum
Martin Luther (1483-1546), c. 1529.
Lucas Cranach the Elder
The German theologian was a prime mover in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

1500 years of German history from the Middle Ages to reunification exemplified in paintings, sculpture, clothing and artefacts from all spheres of life.9

Historisches Museum
First World War Propaganda Poster
"The Road to Peace!"

 

Gemäldegalerie

Gemäldegalerie
Portrait of a Young Man, c. 1500
Davide Ghirlandaio
Gemäldegalerie
Herzog Anton der Güte von Lothringen, c. 1543.
Hans Holbein the Younger
Davide Ghirlandaio


Gemäldegalerie
Hieronymus Holzschuher, 1526
Albrecht Dürer
Gemäldegalerie
Portrait of a Young Woman, c. 1500

 

The Old Masters Gallery10 has a collection of around 3,000 paintings from the 13th century to around 1800; about half are on display.

Two portraits of a young man and woman by the Italian Renaissance painter Davide Ghirlandaio caught my eye. He was brother to the more famous Domenico who led the the Ghirlandaio workshop in Florence. Michelangelo was an apprentice here.

Gemäldegalerie
"Amor Vincit Omnia" - "Love Conquers All", 1603
Caravaggio

 

And there is a magnificent Caravaggio - "Amor Vincit Omnia".

The fabulous collection of paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn is extensive with some famous and not so famous.

Gemäldegalerie
The Gallery has a fine collection of Rembrandts including these two: "Self-portrait with a velvet beret" 1634, and "The Mennonite Preacher Anslo and his wife".
Gemäldegalerie
"The Money Changer"
Rembrandt van Rijn:

 

 

 

I very much liked "The Money Changer", a wonderful chiaroscuro study of concentration.

 

Spy Museum

Spy Museum
Enigma
The encryption machine used by the Germans in the Second World War which was cracked by a team of British cryptoanalysts at Bletchley Park near London. The machine shown in the image is the "Turing Bomb", developed by mathematician Alan Turing, which played a major part in deciphering coded Enigma messages; it had a huge influence on the course of the war.
Spy Museum
Refreshingly honest acknowledgement of German failures.
Spy Museum
Tobacco Pipe Pistol
SOE, United Kingdom
replica
The pistol was fired by removing the mouthpiece and twisting the bowl while pointing the stem at the target.

 

Opened in September 2015 the Spy Museum11 is fascinating - lots of children there seemed to enjoy it too. It charts the history of spying which goes back at least 2500 years, including a network run by the celebrated spy master of Elizabeth I of England, Walsingham, charged with protecting the queen at all costs.

On display are many artefacts, mostly from the twentieth century, and there are lots of hands-on activities, including a laser maze!

Spy Museum
Lipstick Pistol
KGB,USSR, 1960s
replica
Spy Museum
Concealed Camera
A 600 Mark bonus was given to a "Neuerer-Kollektiv"(lit: newer collective) of the State Security Service of the GDR for the idea of a summer dress that could conceal a spy camera F-21. The camera was hidden in a wearable bra.
Spy Museum
A roomful of double spies.

 

References

  1. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: Museuminsel Berlin
  2. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: Altes Museum
  3. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: Neues Museum
  4. SMB-digital: Relief fragments from the Sun Temple of Niuserre
  5. SMB-digital: Golden Zeremonialhut
  6. SMB-digital: Kopf der Teje
  7. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: Bode Museum
  8. Bode Museum: Befreiung einer belagerten Stadt
  9. Deutsches Historisches Museum
  10. Gemäldegalerie
  11. Spy Museum
  12.