Princess Group by Johann Gottfried Schadow

Analysis and Restoration

Double Statue of Princesses Luise and Friederike of Prussia by Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764–1850), an iconic example of Neoclassicism, is one of the Alte Nationalgalerie’s highlights. The marble sculpture from 1797 greets museum visitors from its position in the concourse. An earlier plaster version from 1795 served to transpose the composition into marble. The original plaster model is currently heavily damaged, has been structurally (incorrectly) altered, and is in dire need of conservation treatments; it was the focus of an extensive analysis and was restored from the beginning of 2019 until 2022.

Video: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / retinaFabrik

Original Plaster Model

The original plaster model for the double statue was last exhibited in Berlin’s neo-Gothic Friedrichswerdersche Kirche from 1987 to 2012. Visible signs of aging are present on the sculpture: the result of the 25-year exhibition period. Already before the Second World War, the two-figure sculpture was coated several times to protect it from pollution. The coating was applied as a ‘maintenance measure’. At the time there were no known non-destructive methods for cleaning plaster. As time passed, the coating shrunk, creating tension; as a result, today it is peeling off. Where the coating has flaked away there have also been losses in the top layer of the plaster surface. If this process of deterioration is not ended, the degradation will be beyond repair.

Furthermore, at an early stage (prior to 1903), the position of Luise’s left arm was altered, leaving it anatomically incorrect to this day. In her hand she holds a cloth, the folds of which appear to contradict the laws of gravity. The cloth has been fully modified several times. Comparing the plaster sculpture to historical illustrations and the marble version reveals its flaws.

The restoration of the original model is crucial; preliminary tests must be made. The sculpture will thus regain its lost authenticity and recover its original surface, form, and realism. In addition, the restoration will make it possible to exhibit the sculpture once again. Scholars are certain that an analysis of the original work – also in comparison with the marble sculpture – will yield extraordinary results, closing gaps in research on Schadow’s oeuvre and nineteenth-century sculpture in general.

Partners: Berner Fachhochschule / Haute école spécialisée bernoise, Hochschule der Künste Bern / Haute école des arts de Berne
Duration: 2019 to 2022
Funding: 2019 to 2022 from Staatliche Museen zu Berlin funds, 2021 Rudolf-August Oetker-Stiftung, Herrmann Reemtsma Stiftung, Kulturstiftung der Länder
Contact person: Theresa Bräunig, Sculpture restorer Alte Nationalgalerie, Dr. Yvette Deseyve, Curator of sculpture and sculpture Alte Nationalgalerie