The SPSG Sculpture Collection comprises some 5,000 objects, with a broad spectrum ranging from ancient sculptures to works from the height of the Berlin School of Sculpture in the 19th century. Sculptures in marble and sandstone, a few in wood and ivory, embossed copper works, and objects in bronze, iron, cast zinc, terracotta, ivory paste, plaster of Paris, and electrotype adorned the palaces and gardens and decorated the interiors. Commissions and acquisitions by the Brandenburg-Prussian court led to their integration into a complex interplay of various art forms that came into being from the 17th to early 20th centuries. With their artistic statements the objects are part of the art and cultural history of Brandenburg-Prussia and reveal much about the intellectual, philosophical, and religious context of those who commissioned them.
In spite of initial transfers of ancient sculpture as a gift to Augustus, the elector of Saxony, in 1723–27, and for the founding of the royal museum in Berlin in 1830, the palaces and gardens still feature abundant examples of ancient statuary. These were acquisitions by Frederick II in Charlottenburg Palace as well as in Sanssouci Park and its palaces, especially in the library and Small Gallery at Sanssouci Palace, the Picture Gallery, and the New Chambers, as well as objects acquired by Crown Prince Frederick William (IV) for Charlottenhof Palace and the Roman Baths and by Prince Carl in Glienicke Palace.
Frederick William IV and particularly his youngest brother Prince Carl purchased medieval objects in Italy for their collections. They are mounted as spolia, or fragments, in the covered walkway of the Church of Peace in Sanssouci Park (where they have been partially replaced with copies) and in Prince Carl’s “Klosterhof” (cloister) in Glienicke Park.
Dutch and German sculpture from the 17th and early 18th centuries by François Dieussart, Gabriel Grupello, Bartholomeus Eggers, Andreas Schlüter and Michael Döbel commissioned by “Great Elector” Frederick William of Brandenburg and by his successor Frederick III/I are part of the museum presentations in Oranienburg, Caputh, and Charlottenburg Palaces.
Frederick II’s placement of sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Lambert Sigisbert Adam, François Gaspard Adam, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Louis Claude Vassé, Guillaume Coustou the Younger, Charles-Philippe, Edme Bouchardon and Jean-Pierre Tassaert in Sanssouci Park and Palace, in the Picture Gallery, and in the New Chambers set new artistic standards that prepared the way for sculpture’s subsequent evolution in Berlin. Portrait busts by Jean-Antoine Houdon, from the Rheinsberg Palace collection of Prince Henry, a younger brother of Frederick II, were a highpoint of the late 18th century. In the 19th century, this was followed by Christophe Fratin’s animal sculptures, which are located in the Sicilian Garden in Sanssouci Park and at Prince William’s (I) Babelsberg Palace.
Italian sculpture is also represented in the collection, most remarkably by a porphyry copy of a portrait of Duke Bracciano by Gian Lorenzo Bernini as well as through small bronze sculptures from the broader circle of Giambologna, at the New Palace. In Sanssouci Park the western pleasure ground and the façade of the New Chambers are embellished with decorative sculptural works from Carrara from 1749 that cite not only ancient prototypes but also works by Bernini or Giambologna. Garden sculptures commissioned of Giovanni Antonio Cybei by Prince Henry are preserved in the park at Rheinsberg Palace.
Commissions also went to sculptors from the Berlin area, such as Friedrich Christian Glume, or to artists who came from other regions after 1740 at the behest of Frederick II, such as Georg Franz Ebenhecht, Johann Peter Benckert, and Johann Gottlieb Heymüller – and later the Wohler family and the Räntz brothers. They worked mainly in sandstone, but were increasingly required to carry out works in marble that would adorn Sanssouci Park and its palaces.
In the Neoclassical period, which first took hold in Brandenburg-Prussia at the beginning of Frederick William II’s reign in 1786, the masterworks of Johann Gottfried Schadow marked the prelude to the development of the Berlin School of Sculpture. His works can be viewed in Paretz, Charlottenburg and the New Garden.
In the late 18th and especially in the 19th century, the Berlin School of Sculpture flourished and became quite popular. It was mainly influenced by Christian Daniel Rauch and Friedrich Tieck. Their works and those by the subsequent generation of students, which included the brothers Karl und Ludwig Wichmann, Julius Simony, Ridolfo Schadow, the sculptors from the Wolff family, Heinrich Drake, Gustav Bläser, Julius Franz, Ernst Rietschel, Julius Troschel, Eduard Mayer and many others, are an intrinsic part of public space in Berlin and Brandenburg whose absence is unimaginable and which also make up a major part of the SPSG sculpture collection. Buildings and their corresponding parks from the reigns of Frederick William III and Frederick William IV, in particular, were designed with these sculptures.
Some sculptors from that generation, such as Ridolfo Schadow and Karl Steinhäuser, worked for longer periods in Rome. Their methods of work, joining Neoclassicism and Romanticism, accommodated their patrons’ aesthetic taste. The collection’s holdings from the 19th century characterize several aspects, including the Rauch school’s high art of portraiture, with examples in the New Pavilion in Charlottenburg; the Romanticism of the “Deutsch-Römer” (German Romans), in the Orangery Palace at Sanccouci and in the vestibule of Charlottenburg Palace; and the broad range and perfect decorative arts application of materials for the sculptural works in all of the palaces and parks.
Late works of the Berlin School by Carl and Reinhold Begas or Walter Schott are more indebted to the neo-Baroque, and several of their sculptures were placed in the surroundings of the New Palace during the era of the last emperor, William II.
After the historical transfer of works of art, the regulation of cultural assets with the previously reigning Hohenzollern dynasty in 1926 and looting as a result of World War II led to extensive losses for the palace ensembles in the 20th century. Acquisitions after 1945 could only partially compensate for them.
In Sanssouci Park, which is home to the largest outdoor installation of marble sculptures north of the Alps, Eduard Stützel began to make up for losses with copies in the 19th century, a practice that founded a tradition of preserving the visual world in the park. Replicas continue to be made of sandstone sculptures – and since 1990 of marble ones as well – to serve as replacements for masterworks threatened by weathering.
Dr. Silke Kiesant
Collection catalogue of the Sculpture Collection
Saskia Hüneke u. a.:
Antiken I. Kurfürstliche und königliche Erwerbungen für die Schlösser und Gärten Brandenburg-Preußens vom 17. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert
Bestandskataloge der Kunstsammlungen: Skulpturen; Antike und Mittelalterliche Sammlungsobjekte.
Herausgegeben von der Generaldirektion der Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin 2009
Other literature in preparation:
Bestandskatalog Antiken, Bd. II
Antike Spolien aus der Sammlung des Prinzen Carl von Preußen in Glienicke
Bestandskatalog Französische Skulpturen
Bestandskatalog Inkrustationen, Steinschneidearbeiden und Mikromosaiken