The Gemäldegalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin possesses one of the world’s most important and diverse collections of Italian painting from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It owes this wealth to the growing interest at the beginning of the 19th century, across Europe but particularly in Prussia, in early Italian paintings from the time of Giotto and Raphael. These paintings formed the backbone of the Königliches Museum (Royal Museum), opened in 1830, which the holdings of the Gemäldegalerie can be traced back to. The aesthetic, historical, and political value of these pictures can hardly be underestimated – they functioned as identity-building vehicles of culture, as means of creating political leverage, and as objects of speculation. They set the standards by which audiences went about developing their sense of taste and cultural understanding and are still a point of reference for the creations of contemporary artists.
On the basis of recent findings from the painting collections, a panel discussion will look at the art trade in Berlin in and around 1820 and illuminate the Europe-wide contacts of today often unknown dealers, collectors, and civil servants and their possible impact on the shape of the collection. The discussion will ask: which acquisitions were planned by the authorities? Which accessions were thanks to the initiative of citizens and scholars? Which historical and artistic values were attributed to these paintings then and which do we see in them today? And where did all these works come from, and how should their provenances be dealt with?
Participation is free of charge, the number of participants is limited.
The panel discussion includes:
Michael Eissenhauer, director-general of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and director of the Gemäldegalerie and Skulpturensammlung
Sarah Salomon, researcher at the Gemäldegalerie and Skulpturensammlung – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Early Italian Painting as Prussian Cultural Heritage?
This event is being held to coincide with the publication of a new book in German: Altitalienische Malerei als preußisches Kulturgut. Gemäldesammlungen, Kunsthandel und Museumspolitik 1797–1830 (whose subtitle translates as: ‘Painting Collections, Art Dealing, and Museum Politics 1797–1830’) by Robert Skwirblies, published by the De Gruyter Verlag, Berlin, ISBN: 978-3-11-043940-3.