The Altes Museum (Old Museum) in Berlin is a museum of ancient art, renowned for its vast collections of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities.
History and building
Opened to the public in 1830 as the Königliches Museum (Royal Museum, the current name was adopted in 1845), the Altes Museum is housed in an imposing Neoclassical building, designed by Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, located on the Lustgarden park in the Museuminsel (Museum Island) cultural district of Berlin.
Schinkel’s design carefully mixed various references to classical architecture, such as the frontal portico adorned with ionic columns and a large rotunda, clearly inspired by that of the Pantheon in Rome.
The museum’s building, severely damaged during the World War Two, was re-opened in 1966 after a major restoration. In 2011, the museum underwent a complete renovation, after a design by Hilmer Sattler architects.
The Altes Museum in Berlin, south facade; photo: Jan-Willem Reusink
Johann Heinrich Hintze, The Königliches Museum in Berlin (now Altes Museum), oil on board, 1832; © Stadtmuseum Berlin | Photo: Oliver Ziebe
The Lustgarden park in Berlin with the Altes Museum on the left and the Berliner Dom on the right; photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Karl Friedrich Schinkel, The Königliches Museum (now Altes Museum), transverse section, 1825-1828
The Altes Museum rotunda; photo: Jasper Arends
Collection and permanent exhibition
The permanent collection of the Altes Museum, known as Antikensammlung, encompasses Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, including sculptures, mosaics, sarcophagi, vases, and jewels.
Chronologically arranged, artifacts on view in the permanent exhibition include world-famous masterpieces – such as the classical Greek sculptures of the Berlin Goddess (580-560 B.C.), the Praying boy (ca. 300 B.C.), and the Portrait of Pericles (ca. 430 B.C.) -, the Roman-Hellenistic Spinario sculpture (225-200 B.C.), the Recumbent man Etruscan funerary urn from Chiusi (ca. 500 B.C.), the Medea Roman marble sarcophagus (140 B.C.), and the Centaurs floor mosaic from Emperor Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, near Rome (120-130 A.D.).
View of the permanent exhibition “Ancient Worlds, Greeks, Etruscans and Romans” © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung / Achim Kleuker
Room with Greek sculptures; Photo: David Almeida
Roman marble heads; photo by Sanickels
the “Recumbent Man” from Chiusi, funerary urn, Etruscan art; photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
The “Medea Sarcophagus”, Roman art; photo by Ljubar
The “Centaurs” mosaic from Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli; photo: Garrett Ziegler
The “Boy with Thorn in Foot” (also known as “Spinario”) Roman sculpture; photo. Bauke Karel
Marble head of Memnon, foster child of Herodes Atticus, Roman art, ca.170 A.D.; photo by Ljubar
The museum also holds a 500,000-piece collection of coins and medals, dating from the 7th century B.C. to the present, a selection of which is on view in the Münzkabinett gallery.
The Altes Museum also organizes temporary exhibitions, guided tours, workshops and educational programs for adults and children.
The museum’s building, fully accessible to impaired people, includes a cafe, and a shop.
Cover image: photo by Daniel Mennerich