The collection of paintings now shown in the 'Alte Pinakothek' is - in contrast to similar galleries in London or in Germany for example Leipzig - mainly based on the collection of the individual reigning Princes of Bavaria. Up to the nineteenth century secular collecting as well as the presentation of paintings were reduced to the residences of princes in Munich the 'Residenz' and later on their palaces in the country where they would reside during the summer months.
Earliest collecting activities of the reigning Princes of Bavaria to be traced go back to the first half of the 16th century. Wilhelm IV commissioned a series of history paintings representing heroic men among them Albrecht Altdorfers 'Battle of Alexander'. They most certainly hang in the 'Residenz' and symbolized regal virtues.
Maximilian I created around 1600 an elaborate scheme for the presentation of his works of arts. He was a keen collector and acquired works by Albrecht Dürer, who's paintings had a strong revival already eighty years after his death. Some of the works by Rubens you will see also go back to his collecting activities. In the Residenz he created rooms dedicated to the presentation of his several collections following the so called 'Kunstkammer' principle: works of nature, like shells, stones and remnants of unusual animals like the unicorn, were presented together with works of arts. Did the first give testimony about nature, the second gave testimony about the intellectual and artistic abilities of man creating therefore a microscopic reflection of the microcosm of the world.
Although the reign of Max II. Emanuel the grandson of Maximilian I was characterized by wars against the Turks and his involvement in the wars about the Spanish succession in the late 17th century he was also a very assiduous collector. Having lost Bavaria in 1704 he resided as Governor of the Netherlands in this country. When he returned 10 years later he accomplished major building projects with the construction of the country palaces of Schleißheim and Nymphenburg. Some of the main rooms in Schleißheim were executed as a picture gallery modelled on the prototype of the Grande Gallerie in Versailles. There he displayed some of his acquisitions, which were following his political interests mainly Flemish and also Spanish paintings of the 17th century and which enhanced the political functions of the house.
As the use and meaning of all the collecting activities I just introduced to you wanted to show, paintings were presented to a rather reduced group of people. They tried to explain and give sense to certain political constellations and were presented as such to people with whom the reigning princes argued their political interests. Paintings were part of the scenery in which politics and diplomatic intercourse were staged. Therefore the public for their presentation was mainly composed of courtiers and eventually representatives of the estates of the realm. This rather restricted public changed from the late 18th century.
With the dying out of the Bavarian branch of the reigning family, the Wittelsbach, a branch residing in the Palatinate close to the French border came to power from 1777. Karl Theodor who was also strongly influenced by the French Enlightenment brought with him a major art collection. He built a picture gallery opened to the general public in the Hofgarten the residential gardens close to the Odeonsplatz and showed there around 700 paintings from the collection. He thought that the impression which art would leave on the viewer, could reform human beings bringing out the best in them. It was with this pedagogical aim that he invited his people to view it.
During the Napoleonic wars, Bavaria opted for Napoleon and was rewarded with the regal crown in 1805. Up to then Bavaria had already been organised into a more or less modern state with for example the dissolution of the estates of realm. Part of this reorganisation through the later King Maximilian I had also been to dissolve the independent Earldoms in Franconia and the Free Cities. Of particular interest for the collection was the secularisation of goods belonging formerly to the church. Paintings mainly from monasteries were valued and if they fitted to the standard of the regal collection, included. With the two big collections which had come from the Palatinate and the secularised paintings which were now part of the regal collection it became more and more obvious that the Gallery in the Hofgarten would not suffice anymore to house and present even remotely its most important works.
Ludwig I had already acquired major paintings during his years as Prince Royal among them the 'Madonna Tempi' by Raphael. Once he was king he privately bought two major collections of early German old masters the collection Boisserée and the Collection of the Dukes of Oettingen-Wallerstein, works he later on integrated in the Pinakothek. As Prince Royal the second King of Bavaria Ludwig I had already insisted on the building of a new exhibition gallery. On April 7th 1826, Raphael's birthday, the 'Pinakothek' ( = house for pictures) was opened to the public. The new gallery was the product of a co-operation between the King Ludwig I, the gallery's director and painter Georg v. Dillis and the architect Leo v. Klenze. The size of the rooms, the natural lighting through the roof of the building as well as the pictorial wall-decoration which has now disappeared were all meant to valorise the paintings and to allow optimised viewing conditions. Large rooms showed larger pictures and the highlights of the collection, whereas smaller rooms on the side were dedicated to smaller pictures. The centre piece became the largest room in the middle of the first floor. Here Rubens' 'Last Judgement' linked the paintings of the southern schools which were housed in the western half of the building with the northern schools in the eastern half. The 'Pinakothek' is one of the first self-contained public galleries - a monument to painting dissolved from residential buildings and playing an independent role within the architecture and planning of a town.
During World War II the Pinakothek got severely damaged. When it was rebuilt by the architect Hans Döllgart it was decided not to make an exact reconstruction but to keep the general shape of the old building and to show the scars of the war in the formation of the façade. The staircase, which used to be in the east-wing of the building was now integrated in the new entrance hall. Nevertheless main elements of the organisation of the building, like its hanging in schools remained. And when the gallery was rehung in 1998 after some renovation work it was decided to more or less recreate most of the original hanging and meaning of the gallery. You will therefore find, that the guides present in the gallery will introduce to you different schools of paintings, each of them having chosen a different artist whose work will stand as an example for his school.
To help you to find the works you would like to see I would like to introduce
to you the guides:
Anna Rühl: Rogier van der Weyden / early Dutch Old Masters
Ines Dobmeier: Albrecht Dürer / early German Old Masters
Jochen Meister: Raphael / Italian Renaissance
Martin Hirsch: Peter Paul Rubens / Flemish School
Esther Wipfler: Rembrandt / Dutch School
Ester Emmerich: Italian Baroque
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