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Director’s Choice: Michael Eissenhauer’s personal highlights from the collection of the Gemäldegalerie


Just in time for the Frankfurt Book Fair, the latest edition of the internationally bestselling series Director’s Choice has now been released by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers in London, with a contribution from Michael Eissenhauer, Director-General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and Director of the Gemäldegalerie and the Skulpturensammlung.

The approach of the series is different to the typical museum guide: it invites directors from renowned international institutions to give their personal viewpoint on their own collections. Not only the official highlights of the collections, the authors also nominate some personal favourites and reveal fascinating links between works which would otherwise not be apparent in a visit to the museum. Previous editions have looked at institutions such as the National Gallery, London, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Frick Collection in New York and the National Museum in Warsaw.

Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie

Officially founded in 1830 with the opening of the Altes Museum, Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie boasts one of the most significant collections of European painting from the 13th to the 18th century anywhere in the world. Its encyclopaedic character is truly unique. Beginning in 1815, the collection was systematically composed in accordance with scholarly considerations, with the aim of bringing together painting from the entire range of regional and art-historical schools and movements. This led to the accumulation of an incomparable range of masterpieces from all epochs and styles, from the 13th to the 18th century, which can be studied in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie as in hardly any other gallery of Old Master paintings. The collection has a particular focus on German and Italian painting from the 13th to the 16th century, and 15th to 17th century Netherlandish painting. The museum showcases masterpieces from all art-historical epochs, including paintings by Jan van Eyck, Hans Holbein the Younger, Pieter Bruegel, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Sandro Botticelli, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt and Jan Vermeer van Delft. The current collection of the Gemäldegalerie comprises some 3000 works, of which approximately 1300 are on exhibit. 

Michael Eissenhauer

Michael Eissenhauer studied art history in Tübingen and Hamburg, where he received his PhD in 1985. Following this, he worked at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg and at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. In 1995 he became the director of the art collections of Veste Coburg, and in 2001 he took charge of the Staatliche Museen Kassel (Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel). Since 2008 Michael Eissenhauer has been the Director-General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the largest group of museums in Germany. Since August 2016, he has also been the Director of the Gemäldegalerie and the Skulpturensammlung, and the Museum für Byzantinische Kunst.

Director’s Choice: Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

For Director’s Choice, in addition to masterpieces by Jean Fouquet, Jan van Eyck, Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini, Michael Eissenhauer has also selected personal favourites by Joachim Patinier, Ludolf Backhuysen and Anna Dorothea Therbusch. In his texts, he points out surprising details and provides fascinating background information.

Director’s Choice: Gemäldegalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is available in German, English, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian, and can be purchased in the museum shops of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and online. Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd., editor: Michael Eissenhauer, 80 pages, numerous colour reproductions, paperback, ISBN 978-1-785510977, price: €9.95.