Complementing the sculptures in the Kolonnadenhof, the façade along the colonnade on the eastern side of the Neues Museum is adorned with a series of busts of influential individuals. The series was produced in concert with the statues that stood in the atrium of the Altes Museum at the time.
While the Altes Museum sought to honour key figures from the history of art with its monumental sculptures, the busts along the façade of the Neues Museum honoured important art historians for the first time: “men who have made outstanding contributions to the arts and art history, and in particular, to the museums of Berlin”. In both instances – in the atrium of the Altes Museum and the colonnade along the façade of the Neues Museum – the architectural position on the threshold between inside and outside offered the chance for a contemplative viewing experience, mentally preparing visitors for what awaits them inside the museums.
Friedrich Drake (1805–1882) is the second sculptor after August Kiss to be commemorated in the display of portrait busts outside the Neues Museum, in honour of his contribution to art and art history, especially in Berlin, and on the Museumsinsel. A pupil of Christian Daniel Rauch, Drake was the creator not only of ‘Victoria’ (1869–73), which stands atop the Siegessäule in Tiergarten, but also of ‘Peace’ and the relief ‘History Instructing the Arts’ (1854) set in the tympanum of the eastern pediment on the Neues Museum.
When it opened in 1830, the Altes Museum at Lustgarten initially displayed antiquities and the Gemäldegalerie’s collection of paintings. Its founding was primarily conceptualized by the important historian of art and architecture, Aloys Hirt (1759–1837). He not only compiled a three-volume ‘History of the Architecture of the Ancients’ (1820–27), but also worked as an art consultant to the Prussian Crown. He initiated the founding of the Bauakademie in Berlin and, starting in 1810, was the first professor of archaeology at the newly-founded university (now Humboldt-Universität).
Esteemed in royal circles, portraitist Joseph von Kopf sculpted the bust of art historian Carl Schnaase (1798–1875) while in Rome. Along with Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Franz Kugler, Schnaase belonged to what was termed the ‘Berlin School’ of art history. Shortly after the publication of Kugler’s ‘Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte’, Schnaase released the first volumes of his eight-volume ‘Geschichte der bildenden Künste’ (or ‘History of the Fine Arts’). In this series, which was never completed, Schnaase’s critical point of departure was no longer the individual artwork itself, rather art history, seen as part of the wider cultural and intellectual history.
The portrait bust depicts the art historian and first director of Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie, Gustav Friedrich Waagen (1794–1868). Waagen made a name for himself through his systematic and chronological hang of works from the Gemäldegalerie collection. When it went on show at the Altes Museum, it was arranged according to schools of painting. His extraordinary professorship at Berlin University resulted in the history of art being recognized as an academic discipline for the first time.
This marble bust represents one of the first prominent German art historians: Franz Theodor Kugler (1808–1858). Soon after publication, both his ‘Handbuch der Geschichte der Malerei’ (1837) on the history of painting and his ‘Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte’ (1842) on art history were canonized as standard works. Kugler became famous for writing the first biography of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and a history of Frederick of the Great, which was illustrated by Adolph Menzel. From 1843 onwards he worked as a senior advisor on art at the Prussian ministry of culture.
The facade of the peristyle formed on the eastern edge of the Neues Museum is lined with a series of busts of eminent figures variously connected with art in Berlin in general and the Museumsinsel in particular. August Kiss (1802–1865) was an important Berlin sculptor who worked closely with Schinkel, architect of the Altes Museum. Kiss sculpted the ‘Fighting Amazon’ (1842) in front of the Altes Museum and the relief ‘Art Instructs Industry and the Crafts’ (1862) in the tympanum on the western pediment of the Neues Museum. In addition, the sculptor made a significant endowment of artworks to the Nationalgalerie collection upon his death.