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Since their unification in the year 2000 they form one museum called Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art). On 19 October 2006, the Bode Museum was re-opened in its entirety, displaying the Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art, the Numismatic Colletion and works from the Gemäldegalerie - Old Master Paintings.
History of the Skulpturensammlung (Sculpture Collection)
The works of art originate from Rome, Italy, Constantinople (now Istanbul), Asia Minor, the Near East, Greece, Russia, Egypt and the Balkans. The objects illustrate how ancient images were either adopted in various regions or used for artistic inspiration.
One of the main areas in the collection is formed by the priceless ivory carvings. They include such items as the "Great Berlin Pyxis" (around 400 AD), a major work of early Byzantine applied art. The consecrated bread for the Eucharist was kept in this vessel which bears a variety of figurative motifs including a frieze depicting "Christ and the Apostles" and "Abraham's Sacrifice".
The variety and quality of works in the section containing Coptic Art of Late Antiquity are so impressive that this collection ranks among the best in the world. This art, primarily of secular Egyptian origin, consists mainly of objects associated with burials, such as statues and tombstones, but it also includes wood carvings, textiles, traditional paintings and ceramics.
The collection of Eastern Roman and Byzantine sculptures is second only in size to that of the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. The principles of form and style visible in characteristic examples of sculptures from Late Antiquity (3rd - 6th century AD) from Rome, Asia Minor, Syria, Greece and Egypt form the basis of inspiration for medieval sculpture in the Byzantine Empire.
The collection of icons concentrates on a special area of religious portrait painting on wood which dates back to the 6th - 7th century. After the "Iconoclastic Controversy" (843) this type of image developed a special cult character. These paintings of saints were revered as depictions of holy persons and powers. A selection of panels represents essential aspects of Russian icon painting ranging from the Novogorod school around 1400 to the Muscovite paintings of the nineteenth century.
After World War II the collections of Late Antique and Byzantine Art were separated in East and West Germany. They were re-united in 1992.
History of the Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (Museum of Byzantine Art)
The beginnings of the collection date back to the "Kunstkammer" art collection of Brandenburg-Prussia which was kept in Berlin's city palace until 1875. Objects from the time of the Great Elector (1640 - 1688) and sculptures of the Italian Renaissance formed the basis of the collection.
In 1883 Wilhelm von Bode founded the section Sculptures of Christian Epochs. This meant that the Italian sculptures were removed from the Graeco-Roman collection and united with the "Kunstkammer" objects to form an independent section. Bode was also responsible for the expansion of the collection and was supported by the Kaiser Friedrich-Museums-Verein which was founded in 1897 and is still active today.
In 1904 European sculpture was finally exhibited in its own rooms at the newly erected Kaiser Friedrich-Museum (today's Bode Museum). In 1930 parts of the collection were removed to the north wing of the newly built Pergamon Museum which accommodated the Deutsches Museum with German, Netherlandish, French and English sculpture.