The Berlin Gipsformerei (Replica Workshop) was founded in 1819 by King Friedrich Wilhelm III as the ‘Königlich Preußische Gipsgussanstalt’ (Royal Prussian Institute of Plaster Casting). It joined the Royal Museums in 1830, the precursor of today’s Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and is the oldest institution within the group today.
The Gipsformerei was one of many initiatives to promote the arts, sciences and industry that were undertaken by the State of Prussia after its victory over Napoleon.
The advent of Neoclassicism saw a sharp rise in demand for antiquities. Casts still had to be imported at a high cost from Italy at the time and the Prussian state hoped that the manufacture of replicas would provide it with a new source of income. A director for the enterprise was sought, ideally with expertise in both sculptural and casting techniques, as well as a keen appreciation of art. The person who best fit this description was Christian Daniel Rauch, one of the most important Neoclassical sculptors in Prussia.
In the early decades, the institute still operated from Rauch’s workshop and did not have its own premises. After first moving to the basement of the Altes Museum and then to the Königliche Gießhaus (Royal Casting House) on Münzstraße, it found its final home in 1891 in a new building specially designed for the replica workshop on Sophie-Charlotten-Straße in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg. Since then, the mould-making workshop, the painting studio, and the storerooms for our collection of historical moulds and models have been located at this address.
The Gipsformerei’s holdings grew in tandem with the development of the Berlin museums. Each new collection area was sooner or later reflected in the workshop’s catalogue of available casts. The 19th century in particular saw the acquisition of unique models through the workshop’s cooperation with the study collections at the Akademie der Künste and the Berlin universities, as well as various research projects and expeditions undertaken by German archaeologists.
Regular exchanges and purchases by the Berlin museums also brought important artworks from other European museums to the cast collection of the Gipsformerei.