The Solly Collection, 1821–2021
Founding the Berlin Gemäldegalerie

03.11.2021 to 30.01.2022

November 2021 marks the 200th anniversary of the acquisition of the Solly Collection, which will be celebrated with a special exhibition at the Gemäldegalerie.

In the early 19th century, an unprecedented painting collection was established in Berlin. It was to become the basis of the picture gallery at the Königliches Museum, which opened in 1830. The English merchant Edward Solly (1776–1844) had acquired considerable wealth from trading in grain and wood, which he invested in paintings of all kinds. During his time in Berlin alone, between 1813 and 1818, he amassed over 3,000 works, mainly from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. 

What was so special about his collection is that many of these works were by little-known – but now highly regarded – artists such as Giotto, Botticelli, Jan van Eyck and Jan Gossart. The creation of this enormous collection was only possible due to the disintegration of the market and ownership conditions in the post-revolutionary period. After extended negotiations, the acquisition of the Solly Collection was secured in 1821 – an invaluable stroke of luck for the Berlin museums. 

This exhibition will pay tribute to the often underestimated, cosmopolitan and passionate art collector Solly, as well as to the founders of the Königliches Museum. The foremost of these was Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who laid the foundations for a world-class public art collection. 

By way of a carefully chosen ensemble of works, the exhibition will present the complexity and breadth of the Solly Collection and shed light on the ways in which the esteem of individual paintings has shifted over time. On display will be masterpieces, rediscoveries and – as they were called in 1830 – “historical curiosities”. 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue that discusses the origins of the collection and the negotiations around the purchase, as well as placing this outstanding acquisition in its historical context.

A special exhibition of the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Event at the Altes Museum
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt, 2021
Visitors to the Neue Nationalgalerie
© Ludwig Mies van der Rohe / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021 /Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Valerie Schmidt, 2021

10785 Berlin

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