The Gemäldegalerie

Not many people visit this gallery in Potsdamer Platz due to its slightly out of the way location in relation to Museumsinsel. However, it holds one of the most important collections of European art dating from the 13th to the early 19th century.

Rembrant self portrait at the Gamaldegalerie in Berlin

Most notably, it is home to the second largest collection of Rembrants in the world after the Rembrant Museum in Amsterdam. The collection would have been bigger, had not a fire at the end of the second world war destroyed 11 Rembrants as well as hundreds of other works. 

The gallery currently exhibits about 1500 works, including those by Eyck, Bruegel, Dürer, Raphael, Tizian, Caravaggio, Rubens and Vermeer.  If you don’t have time to take all of them in, here are my top three highlights.

Caravaggio Amor Vincit Omnia
Amor Vincit Omnia

This painting caused a big fuss, not only because of the erotic representation of Cupid, but also because of the realistic touches Caravaggio gives him – such as dirty feet which are unbefitting of a god.

The painting has a photographic quality and striking chiaroscuro lighting. A recent article in The Guardian explains why Caravaggio may have been ” the first master of photographic technique, two centuries before the formal invention of the camera”, and it is interesting to view his paintings in the gallery with this in mind.

Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel
Netherlandish Proverbs
This painting is a lot of fun. A first glance it looks like the lunitics have taken over the asylum, but it’s a pictorial depiction incorporating 119 proverbs.

You can spend hours trying to make sense of it all – be warned, Dutch proverbs are very different from English proverbs. However, we have quite a few in common as well, such as “To bang one’s head against a brick wall”, “It depends on where the cards fall”, “The die has been cast”…

Raphael Terranuova Madonna
Terranuova Madonna
Raphael’s Madonna was ground-breaking as it imbues her with a human, earthly quality, which diminished some of the distance and respect previously attributed to her, but at the same time brought her closer to the people. For example, the background shows that she is on earth, not in heaven surrounded by angels as was traditional.

To her right is St John, from whom her child accepts a scroll on which is his fate as the sacrificial lamb of God is written. In a motherly response, Madonna’s left hand is half raised – which became a noted gesture.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s