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Arrival of the Cupola of the Cave of the Ring-Bearing Doves at the Humboldt Forum

18.06.2018
Humboldt Forum

On Thursday 14 June 2018, the cupola of the Cave of the Ring-Bearing Doves was relocated from the Museum für Asiatische Kunst to the Humboldt Forum. The cupola is the first major object from the Museum für Asiatische Kunst to be installed in the reconstructed Berlin Palace, which is slated to open at the end of 2019.

Months of preparations went into getting the two-tonne cupola ready for the move. The conservator Holger Manzke fabricated a special covering for the cupola to provide it with maximum protection. A system of padding pressing on the paintings from within prevented loose pieces from falling off. This allowed any loose sections to be immediately fixed in place when the padding was removed. Packed inside a wooden crate inside this special padding, the cupola of the Cave of the Ring-Bearing Doves made its way to the Humboldt Forum. In order to get to the third floor in the lift, the wooden covering had to be removed, since there was only 1.5 cm clearance between the cupola and the edge of the lift. The cupola is now located in its eventual exhibition space in the Humboldt Forum, where it will be placed atop the reconstructed supporting structure of the cave and carefully unpacked.

 

The cave has been dated to the 5th or 6th century, and is of global scholarly significance. It was brought to Berlin in 1902 from the Turpan region on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, in what is today China. The researcher trio of Albert Grünwedel, Theodor Bartus and Albert Le Coq found the cave among a unique system of 100 sacred caves, some of which were adorned with ornate Buddhist paintings. In 1914, the expedition participants decided to send a number of wall paintings from the cave to Germany. In some ways, this was a rescue mission, as the local population in the Kuch region had been predominantly Muslim since the 11th century, and they no longer had any interest in Buddhist pilgrimage sites, which had led to deterioration and destruction. At the end of 2019, the Humboldt Forum will form a new cultural hub in the centre of Berlin. By bringing together outstanding collections and key exhibits – including objects and artworks from the Museum für Asiatische Kunst and the Ethnologisches Museum – the Humboldt Forum encourages audiences to make new discoveries about the past, present and future. The key stakeholders in the Humboldt Forum are the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, along with the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kulturprojekte Berlin, the Stadtmusem Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.