By presenting both the Sculpture Collection and the Museum of Byzantine Art, the Bode-Museum forges a very special link. Objects from late antiquity and Byzantine times give an impression of the West Roman and East Roman empires, whose art interacted with medieval sculpture in many ways. The focus of the collection is on sarcophagi from Rome, sculptures and architectural ornaments from Constantinople, and objects of everyday Egyptian culture. Following on from that is the rich collection of sculptures from the Gothic period in Italy, as well as from the Renaissance and Baroque. The exhibition includes works of late German Gothic sculpture represented by Tilman Riemenschneider, southern German Renaissance, and last but not least the 18th-century Baroque art of the Prussian state.
Wilhelm von Bode collected sculpture and painting as sister arts, and also exhibited them together to some extent. This concept is alluded to by today’s presentation of the Sculpture Collection in the Bode-Museum: selected works from the Old Master Paintings are integrated into the exhibition rooms of the Sculpture Collection. In the future, the dialogue between the genres of painting and sculpture will be more conspicuous in the Bode-Museum.
The joint exhibition of painting and sculpture will become enlivened by the inclusion of a larger selection of works from the Old Master Paintings. At the same time, this facilitates the presentation and perception of precious works of art from the Old Master Paintings in the context of the Museum Island. In this way it becomes evident that the Old Masters belong to the context of the Museum Island collections as a whole.
The Sculpture Collection includes a rich collection of works by Tilman Riemenschneider. They are presented in a showroom exclusively dedicated to that master sculptor. The Four Evangelists and a panel from the altarpiece of the Münnerstadt Mary Magdalen Altarpiece are particular attractions. The altar was created between 1490 and 1492 and was originally unpainted, being one of the first works of this type in Germany.
The Dangolsheim Madonna is one of the most important works of late German Gothic art. It was created around 1470 by Nikolaus Gerhaert von Leyden, a revolutionary artist who was active in Strasbourg as well as several places in southern Germany. The characteristic feature of the Dangolsheim Madonna is its unprecedented vividness: the figure seems to rotate in front of the beholder’s eyes.
Half of the upper main floor of the Bode-Museum is reserved for Italian sculpture, with the individual showrooms being dedicated to the respective epochs. One of the highlights on display is the “Pazzi Madonna” created in 1422 by Donatello. He sculpted the image in very low relief but, at the same time, arranged it according to the laws of perspective. Hence, he lent depth to the figures, and the beholder gets the impression that their bodies extend into the background. Bernini’s “Putto” (ca. 1618) and Canova’s “Female Dancer” (1809 – 1812) are exhibited on the same floor.
One focus of the Sculpture Collection and the Museum of Byzantine Art is on outstanding, precious ivory carvings. These include the so-called “Great Berlin Pyxis” created in Rome around AD 400. The round vessel is an important example of early Byzantine minor arts. Its main pictorial motif, a frieze of vivid, delicately modeled figurines, shows “Christ and Apostles” and “Abraham’s Sacrifice.” Both in its size and outstanding artistic quality, the “Great Berlin Pyxis” surpasses similar pyxides of late antiquity.
The historical entrance of the Bode-Museum on the northern tip of the island leads directly to the rooms of the Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art. Crowned by the Large Cupola, the entrance is an imposing counterpart to the Rotunda of the Altes Museum. Visitors will be able to reach the Archaeological Promenade via the new rooms beneath the Small Cupola. Running under the railroad line, the promenade will connect the Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art to the Pergamonmuseum. The James-Simon-Galerie will serve as the central reception building.