The magnificently designed Bode-Museum is home to two collections: the Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art and the Münzkabinett. In addition, the museum also contains paintings from the Gemäldegalerie, which are presented alongside the European sculpture to form a dialogue between the two art forms.
The collection features an array of spell-binding masterpieces such as Donatello’s ‘Pazzi Madonna’ and Antonio Canova’s ‘Dancer’ and several examples of important German sculpture by Tilman Riemenschneider and Ignaz Günther. The collection of ancient sculpture is one of the largest in the world.
It has its roots in the Brandenburg-Prussian royal Kunstkammer or ‘cabinet of art’. The efforts of two men, Gustav Friedrich Waagen and especially Wilhelm von Bode, resulted in the significant development of the collection in the 19th and early 20th century through the acquisition of great numbers of sculptures mainly of Italian and German origin. In the building that rises up from the Spree like a moated palace, the collection was presented in a startlingly innovative fashion that broke with traditional museum practice at the time. Combined with historical architectural elements, the works of art were displayed in surroundings that were supposed to convey the spirit of the age in which they were created and thus ‘heighten’ their visual impact.
The museum’s department of Byzantine art boasts first-class holdings of late-antique and Byzantine works of art ranging from the 3rd to 15th century. Nearly all the works originate from the ancient Mediterranean region, with particular emphasis on pre-Christian and Christian sarcophagi from Rome, figurative and ornamental sculpture from the Eastern Roman Empire, exquisite ivory carvings and mosaic icons, as well as everyday and religious objects from post-pharaonic Egypt.
With over half a million objects, Berlin’s Münzkabinett is one of the most important numismatic collections in the world. Alongside coins and medals, the collection also contains non-numismatic forms of money, seals, tokens, and jetons as well as minting tools. Spread over four large cabinets on the second floor containing 4000 coins and medals, the exhibition in the Bode-Museum presents a history of humankind in metal, from the beginnings of coinage in the 7th century BC to the euro coins of the present day.
All exhibits can also be viewed in the online interactive catalogue, where they are described in more detail. Further treasures in the collection currently not on view in exhibitions are available for scientific research in the study room on the Bode-Museum’s lower floor, where the numismatic special library can also be used.