Anton Graff, portrait of Elisabeth Makaria Nicolai, c. 1795
© Stadtmuseum Berlin

Works of Art in Bellevue Palace

On 15th October 2021, four newly decorated rooms featuring artworks with a focus on civic democratic life in Germany were unveiled at Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the President of Germany. Dr Jan Mende, curator of the Museum Knoblauchhaus, designed the rooms, which include loans from the Stadtmuseum Berlin.

by Dr. Jan Mende

Permanent exhibition

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier previously inaugurated the “Robert Blum Hall”, dedicated to the 1848 Revolution, in 2020. The themes of the new rooms include the Enlightenment and Jewish salon culture around 1800, while two rooms are dedicated to the Prussian star architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and the brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt. With this clear focus on the Enlightenment as a new era of civic engagement, the Federal President seeks to remind us “what Prussia was and what it could have been”.

Christian Friedrich Tieck, portrait bust of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, bronze, model 1819, cast 1856
© Stadtmuseum Berlin
Dr Jan Mende, a curator of the Stadtmuseum Berlin, was commissioned to select the art, which included works from the Stadtmuseum’s holdings.

One is the famous bust of Schinkel by sculptor Friedrich Tieck. It is accompanied by an entire series of copperplate engravings of “Architectural Designs” by the architect. The sensational mineral cabinet in the Humboldt Room is also accompanied by portraits of the two brothers from the holdings of the Stadtmuseum Berlin. The room centres on five display cases with rock samples that Alexander von Humboldt brought back from his travels in Mexico, Italy, Russia and Kazakhstan – on loan from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

The real highlight of the newly unveiled rooms is the “Salon Voltaire”, which in addition to busts of French philosopher Voltaire and Prussian King Frederick II also features an entire picture cabinet with portraits by Swiss painter Anton Graff. Known as a portraitist of poets and intellectuals, Graff’s delicate and piercing portrayals found favour with the “educated classes” of his day.

Sections of the portraits of the publisher Friedrich Nicolai (left) and the poet Karl Wilhelm Ramler by Anton Graff
© Stadtmuseum Berlin

Anton Graff in the “Salon Voltaire”

Three of the six paintings on display in the “Salon Voltaire” belong to the Stadtmuseum Berlin’s collection. These include the portraits of the married couple Elisabeth Makaria Nicolai (painted around 1795, presumably as a memorial painting after her death, see the picture above) and Friedrich Nicolai (painted in 1783) as well as a portrait of the poet Karl Wilhelm Ramler (painted around 1775). Portrait collections were very popular with the educated classes of the 18th century. An exemplary collection of 18th-century portraits can be viewed at the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt. By taking up this tradition, the “Salon Voltaire” pays tribute to the Enlightenment movement and its values of reason and civic freedom.

Exhibition venue

Schloss Bellevue
Amtssitz des Bundespräsidenten
Spreeweg 1
10557 Berlin

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