Monday, August 19, 2019


Here is a model of the Berlin Museum Island. The two arms of the river Spree in black forming the island are clearly visible. In the back, the Hohenzollern City Castel in dark gray is under reconstruction. It will be called the Humboldt Forum, a place of exhibition and cultural exchange. On the left in light gray rises the "new" Lutheran Berliner Dom (cathedral) compensating somehow - as I explained - for the Catholic Kölner Dom (Cologne cathedral).

The Museumsinsel proper is filled with the relatively small Altes Museum followed by the Neues Museum and to the left by the Alte Nationalgalerie. Behind the massive building of the Pergamonmuseum dominates the scene and last not least the Bode-Museum is located at the island's end.

The James Simon Galerie. In the background the still shabby facade of the Neues Museum.
As of late, the Berlin Museum Island has an extra attraction, the James Simon Galery.

The new central entrance facility giving access to all five museums on the island is named after the great "benefactor Henri James Simon, a German entrepreneur, art collector, philanthropist and patron of the arts during the Wilhelmine period (Wikipedia)."

Here are some maps of Berlin's center showing the development of the Museumsinsel:

In 1696 baroque fortification protect the City Castel and the
royal garden later called Lustgarten.
Further to the north, the island is fallow land.
In 1804 the city had extended to the west with the Zeughaus, Prinz Heinrich Palais,
the opera, St. Hedwigskirche and the Französische Kirche on Gendarmenmarkt.
Only small building activity is seen on the island in the north.
In fact, the Berlin Museum Island was initiated by order of the Prussian King Frederik Wilhelm IV on 8 March 1841, "Implementation of my plan to transform the entirety of the Spree island behind the Museum into a sanctuary of the arts and sciences."

In 1841 the now called Altes Museum already existed and further north the building of the
Neues Museum is finished. Note the old Berliner Dom on the right of the Lustgarten.
The Prince Heinrich Palais has become the University.
In 1908 four museums had been built. The Pergamonmuseum ist still missing.
Note the massive new Berliner Dom on the right of the Lustgarten.
When Red Baron recently was in Berlin, he visited the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie on a Sunday morning. I was there early to avoid the crowds of tourists invading, in particular, the Pergamonmuseum but the Neues Museum too. There you find James Simon's most popular gift the Nefertiti bust, Berlin‘s Mona Lisa.

Double Statue of the Princesses Luise and Friederike of Prussia
by Johann Gottfried Schadow
This time I concentrated on the Alte Nationalgalerie where I was greeted at the entrance by two charming sisters, Luise and Friederike, Johann Gottfried Schadow's masterpiece. Luise, Prussian queen by marriage to Frederick William III, resisted Napoleon more than her husband. Therefore, many of my countrymen venerate the beautiful patriot as Germany's Jeanne d'Arc.

Paintings with famous court scenes by Prussia's glorifier, Adolph Menzel, dominate the exhibition in the Old National Gallery.

Proclamation of Wilhelm I as Deutscher Kaiser at Versailles by Anton von Werner.
This painting is not in Berlin's National Gallery. I took the photo at Friedrichsruh
in the Sachsenwald forest where retired Bismarck spent his remaining years.
But there are paintings of Anton von Werner too the well-known painter of the Kaiserproklamation at Versailles.

Anton von Werner 1895:
Crown Prince Frederick at the Court Ball in 1878
Von Werner also portrayed tout Berlin in the Second Reich. Stately Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm in the white uniform of a cuirassier is the undisputed star of the Berlin society. On him are based all the hopes of a necessary liberalization of the Prussian state of authority. And the prince surrounds himself with liberals: Opposite stand two co-founders of the Progressive Party, Berlin's mayor and President of the Reichstag Max von Forckenbeck, and in the red robe of the dean of the medical faculty the physician Rudolf Virchow, whose political leitmotif is freedom paired with its daughters: education and prosperity.

Between the Crown Prince and Virchow stands the physiologist and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, President of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt. Finally, von Werner pays respects to his famous colleague Adolph Menzel - also liberal-minded - showing the little man entering the White Hall at the City Castle through the door.

Back to Adolph Menzel.

Adolph Menzel by Reinhold Begas 1875
Adolph Menzel 1850/51: Flute concert by Frederick the Great at Sanssouci
Menzel's best-known painting of 1850/52 is the Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci. The venue is the concert hall in Sanssouci Castle. King Frederick II is in the center. On the left behind him sitting on the sofa as the guest of honor, his sister, Margravine Wilhelmine von Bayreuth. To her left is the other sister of the king, Princess Amalie, later becoming the Abbess of Quedlinburg.

The standing gentlemen from left to right are Baron Jakob Friedrich von Bielfeld, Opera Director Gustav Adolph von Gotter, President of the Academy of Sciences Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, mathematician and physicist, as well as Kapellmeister Carl Heinrich Graun. Sitting behind the king are court lady Countess Sophie Caroline von Camas and Frederick‘s boyhood friend, Isaak Franz Egmont Chevalier de Chasôt.

The musicians are: On the harpsichord Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach; standing right to him Concertmaster Franz Benda. On the right edge of the painting, Johann Joachim Quantz, Frederick's flute teacher.

Adolph Menzel 1844: Rear building and backyard.
Nobody knew in 1844 when Menzel painted a precursor of the Berlin wall that he would become the painter of Prussia's glory.

Adolph Menzel 1848: Round table of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci
The Old National Gallery only has a colored sketch of another famous Menzel painting: Friedrichs Tischrunde in Sansouci.

In all those wars Frederick had waged 180,000 Prussians had died. The Treaty of Hubertusburg in 1763 ended the Third Silesian War. It was called a peace of exhaustion confirmed by the king himself when he wrote, "Our fame in wars is magnificent to look at from afar; but whoever is a witness, in which misery this fame is acquired, under which physical deprivations and efforts in heat and cold, in hunger, dirt, and nakedness, he learns to judge celebrity quite differently.

This is a late insight after 16 bloody battles fought but now Frederick started to act according to the maxims of his Political Testament, "It is the duty of every good citizen to serve his fatherland, to remember that he is not alone in the world for himself, but that he must work for the good of the society in which nature has placed him. I have tried to fulfill this duty according to my weak forces and insights."

Adolph Menzel 1849: A petition Frederick's subjects dare to present during the king's morning ride.
Frederick took up his anti-machiavellian ideas that a ruling prince is the first servant of his state and has the task of making his people happy. He worked like a man possessed on the "retablissment" and on the improvement of the life of his subjects. He also indulged in magnificent buildings such as the New Palace in Potsdam, begun in the year of the peace treaty of 1763 and completed in 1769.

Adolph Menzel 1852: The Jewish cemetery in Prag.
Here is a strange painting. It looks as if Menzel had experimented with cubism.

Adolph Menzel 1857:
The encounter of Frederick II and Emperor Joseph II at Neisse in 1769 (Sketch)
Another famous Menzel painting shows the reconciliation between Prussia and Austria.

Adolph Menzel 1857:
The encounter of Frederick II and Emperor Joseph II at Neisse in 1769
There is a marked difference between the colored sketch and the final painting. The encounter between the young Kaiser Joseph II and aging Frederick is warmer, more intimate in the finished work. In 1857 Menzel did not know that nine years later the two German dynasties would fight a fraternal war for supremacy.

Adolph Menzel 1857: Handshake between the Duke of Wellington and Blücher
after the battle of Belle-Alliance (Waterloo)
In the same year, Menzel also finished a painting of Prussian glory that you saw already.

Adolph Menzel 1871:
The departure of King Wilhelm I from Berlin on 31 Juli 1870 to meet his army.
Finally, as an old man, Menzel adulated the victory over archenemy France in 1871.

At the terrasse of the James Simon Gallery.
People look down on to the left branch of the river Spree.
The restaurant is inside the building behind the windows.
So much history called for a meal and a drink. The personnel of the restaurant at the James Samuel Galery was not run in yet. Although the waiting time was long, the food was not too bad.

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