Neues Museum, alte Schönheit

Fresken im Ägyptischen Hof von Karl Eduard Biermann  .
 It's  impossible for me to visit Berlin without thinking about how it looked the first time I visited in 1984 as a college student.   My best girlfriend and I stayed in a cheap pensione whose back half had been blown away and was closed off simply by shutting a hallway door, something I found out accidentally at 2 AM while looking for the WC.   
visitor,  Akhenaten with family, architecture
A trip through Checkpoint Charlie led us through a wasteland of bombed out buildings, many of them with trees growing up through them.  I recall thinking that the Communists left the mess as some sort of message.

Through subsequent visits I have seen Berlin knit itself back together, then reinvent itself to become once again a world class city filled with artists of all kinds.

During my most recent visit, I was excited to see the Neues Museum, the original home of the Egyptian Museum, which has recently reopened.
remnants of niche ornament
The Neues Museum, on Berlin's Museum Island, was completed in 1855 by Friedrich August Stüler, and was once Prussia's most important and famous public buildings. It was bombed to smithereens during WWII and left empty and largely exposed to the elements for over 60 years.
Neues Museum Bacchus Room in 2000, note vine marks on walls.  image via Wikipedia
Bacchus Room in 2009 after renovation.  image via Wikipedia

Some aging ornament in a gallery of the Neues Museum
Gallery ornament, detail
Under the splendid design and direction of British architect David Chipperfield, the Neues Museum was rebuilt, as a sort of archeological site itself,  incorporating old and new, displaying its collection and its history in equal measure.

Ornamental painting, bullet holes,  exposed brickwork, and modern finishes all work together to create an historic environment for one of the world's most famous archeological collections.

The modern areas of the building are pure form and space, and are simply breathtaking.
Glimpses of the building's former glory, with its 19th century decorative treatments, are particularly thrilling.
 circa 1855 ceiling borders in the Neues Museum
A fragment of a lost ceiling, Neues Museum
Nefertiti enshrined at the Neues Museum, image via Wikipedia
The centerpiece of the museum's collection is the breathtaking bust of Nefertiti.  She is displayed alone in a lovely domed room with malachite green walls of polished plaster. I cannot describe how inspiring this sensitive and beautiful portrait really is. No photograph can do her justice.
exposed brickwork and original decorative fragments form the backdrop for the Neues Museum displays
Wall ornamentation, Neues Museum, Berlin

For more information and images about this building and its renaissance,  have a look at these sites:

Neues Museum website, virtual architectural tour.

New York Times article about the museum renovation, with many great pictures.

AIA Architect Magazine review and photos of the Neues Museum.

Exterior Views, original plans, and architectural designs, at Wikipedia

Click on images to view larger

photos in this post by Lynne Rutter, March 2011  unless otherwise noted.


  1. Lynne, I loved your detail photographs and enjoyed taking the virtual tour. I was especially excited to see your photos of the 19th century decoration - I've always been drawn to that interpretation of Pompeii, and am in the process of painting a small room in that style. So thanks for the inspiration! Mark

  2. Fabulous pictures and lots of great info, Lynne! Thanks for posting these.

  3. These pictures are such treasures! The Bacchus Room is amazing and the ornament against the windows is the best.

  4. Hard to believe it was left open and exposed for so long. Some things just don't make sense.

    The ornament panels by the gallery windows very much remind me of those that we saw in the Villa Farnesina in Rome.

    Thanks for inspiring us yet again!

  5. thanks all. I really love the window ornament and the neoclassical references in it. and I am sorry my pictures are not more clear. The Soviet space-age era Fernsehturm is visible outside the window, for yet another level of era-mixing.

  6. Fascinating! thanks for bringing this to us and all the pix too!

  7. What wonderful things you must get to see and experience. I can only dream and wish. Thanks for sharing. Richard at My Old Historic House

  8. Wow, Germany was not one of the places toward the top of my list for visiting; however, looking at the Neues Museum and reading your great review has raised it a bit! Thx!


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