About the institute
The Staatliche Museen’s Gipsformerei (Replica Workshop) is the largest institution of its kind in the world. High-quality art replicas of works mainly from the collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, but also from other European museums, have been produced here for almost 200 years. As a producer of sculpture replicas, the Gipsformerei faithfully upholds tradition in creating unique artworks using time-honoured production methods that demand a fund of expertise and extraordinarily delicate work executed by hand. As a result, the workshop represents a unique element in the cultural and architectural history of Berlin’s museums.
Nearly 7000 casts made from original works of art dating from all periods and from all cultures of the world are brought together in the extraordinary collection of this institution which looks back on a long and illustrious past. Besides replicas of works from European and Egyptian art periods, the workshop also offers objects from Central and South America, India and Africa. The oldest replicated artefact is the 25,000 year old Venus of Willendorf, while the largest is the 42-metre-high Column of Marcus Aurelius from Rome. We are unique in that, in selecting a work, interested purchasers can choose from our entire collection of moulds, hundreds of which are themselves centuries old.
More than any other material, plaster is ideally suited to recreate faithfully the intricate details of historical original objects. A special recipe containing the finest, high-quality gypsum alabaster is used in the production. The production of art replicas using moulds sometimes 200 years old entails a complicated, elaborate, and lengthy process. The mould has to be specially treated before and after each cast is made, in a process which sees a multitude of separate components assembled together before the completed cast is subsequently modelled. The valuable historical moulds undergo constant restoration to preserve them for future generations. Many of the moulds are very old and several have outlived the originals on which they are based and which have either been destroyed, lost, or irreparbably damaged. The mould collection is continually expanded to this day and remains available for scientific research.
The Gipsformerei, was founded in 1819 by King Friedrich Wilhelm III as the 'Royal Prussian Institute of Plaster Casting'. It has formed part of the Staatliche Museen since 1830, when the museums were known by their original name: the Royal Museums in Berlin. Predating the Altes Museum by ten years, it is therefore the oldest institution at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. In its early years its director, Christian Daniel Rauch, the most important Neoclassical sculptor in Prussia, oversaw the formation of a collection of plaster casts, intended for use by the Royal Museums in Berlin. Thanks to his agency on its behalf, the workshop can lay claim to an array of important moulds of sculpture from Italy. The workshop was commissioned to create study collections for the Academy of Arts (Akademie der Künste) and Berlin University, to name but a few. Its clients were not restricted to academic institutions, however, and art enthusiasts from the general public also had the opportunity to acquire faithful replicas from the collection of moulds. Among its early private clients, for instance, were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the brothers Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, all of whom were delighted with the quality of the objects fashioned for them here in Berlin.
The Replica Workshop has been located at several different sites in its long history, first moving into the basement of the Altes Museum, then the Königliche Gießhaus (or 'Royal Casting House') in Münzstrasse, before finally moving in 1891 to the purpose-built property in Sophie-Charlotten-Straße, in Charlottenburg. The building was purpose-built to house the workshop, and now holds the moulding workshop, painting studio and the storerooms for the historical moulds and models.
Exhibitions organized by the Gipsformerei
The Abguss-Sammlung contains some 2000 plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. It is used for teaching and study purposes at the university and also serves as a museum with the aim of making ancient sculptures accessible to a wider audience.
The exhibition allows visitors to gain a comprehensive overview of the history of antique Greek and Roman sculpture. It includes works ranging from the Cycladic period in the 3rd millennium BCE to the Geometric and Archaic periods, and sculptures from the Classical and Hellenistic periods to the time of the Roman and Byzantine empires around 500 CE. The collection is supplemented by a selection of works from other ancient Mediterranean cultures.
Thur – Sun 2–5 p.m. (admission free)
Works from the Gipsformerei and various collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, presented in conjunction with the Senate Chancellery of Berlin
Rotes Rathaus, Berlin
The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin has joined forces with the Senate Chancellery of Berlin to present a selection of works in plaster by Berlin sculptors from the period 1790 to 1850. The Alte Nationalgalerie, Skulpturensammlung, and Gipsformerei have provided the exhibition with several unique and rarely shown works. For a better understanding of the works, their history, and the original architectural settings in which they were displayed, photographs are also on view, taken from the holdings of the bpk image archive of German museums. Featuring works by Johann Gottfried Schadow, Christian Friedrich Tieck, Christian Daniel Rauch, Ludwig Wilhelm Wichmann, Friedrich Drake and others, the exhibition presents a survey of the Berlin school of sculpture, which was highly admired and respected in its day, not only in German-speaking countries, but across Europe. Focusing on the depicted figures rather than the places in which they were displayed, the selection reflects the dynamics of the social upheavals that dominated Prussia and sheds light on the Age of Humboldt.
The exhibition features original works in plaster from the 19th century. It encompasses designs for sculptures, models, and casts of the finest quality, which give an insight into the technical aspect of the handling of this transformable material. But above all, by including architectural ornament from the former Berlin Palace, designs for monuments in the urban space, and portraits of eminent figures from the world of culture and science, the exhibition also highlights the broad diversity of roles that art can serve in the public sphere and the possible uses of plaster. The extensive use of plaster coincided with the emergence of a new culture of remembrance and the popularization and appropriation of art by the bourgeoisie in the period between the French Revolution and the revolutions of 1848.
Mon–Fri 9–4 p.m. (admission free)