Monumental

Highlights in the Pergamonmuseum

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Pergamonmuseum exterior view (1910 - 1930) by Messel, AlfredPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The Pergamonmuseum 

is the museum with the most and the largest monumental works world-wide. The youngest of the museum buildings on Berlin's Museum Island houses no less than three outstanding collections: 

The East frieze of the Altar (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


The
Collection of Classical Antiquities

is one of the world’s most important collections of Greek and Roman art and includes the Roman Market Gate of Miletus and the Hellenistic Pergamon Altar, two gigantic masterpieces of world architecture.

Proceeding Lion, detail from the Processional Way of Babylon (6th century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


The
Museum of the Ancient Near East

presents objects from more than six millennia of ancient Near Eastern cultural history. The 500,000 objects include one of the most spectacular finds excavated by German archaeologists, the Babylonian Ishtar Gate and Processional Way.

Rosette (Mshatta Facade) (743 - 744) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


The
Museum of Islamic Art

is one of the biggest and most significant of its kind in the world and brings together masterpieces by peoples influenced by Islam from the 7th to the 19th Century. The monumental 8th Century Mshatta Facade and the richly decorated Aleppo Room from the 17th Century reveal fascinating traces of the Middle East.

Panelling of the Aleppo Room (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

imposing
important
extraordinary
spectacular
gigantic
overwhelming
colossal
titanic

The highlights in the Pergamon Museum
are testimony to the immense splendour
of long-forgotten cultures, which
still resonate today.

unique
breathtaking
brilliant
grandiose
outstanding
enchanting
phenomenal
legendary

South frieze of the Altar: Aither and Uranos (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


THE PERGAMON ALTAR

is at the heart of the world-famous Pergamonmuseum. Built during the reign of King Eumenes II (197–156 B.C.E.), it is one of the best-known monuments of Hellenistic art.

On the steps of the monumental staircase to the Great Altar...

we find ourselves in the middle of a battle scene...

The north frieze of the Altar (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

... between gods and giants.

The mythical battle – a widespread subject in Greek art.

In the mythical battle with the giants, the gods as the guarantors of a just order are opposed by the mortal giants as the personification of chaotic-seeming natural forces.

South frieze of the Altar (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

More than 100 larger-than-life figures are depicted on the frieze, the original of which was 100 metres long.

Pergamon Altar (c. 170 BCE - c. 160 BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Only the west side of the Altar has been completely reconstructed in the museum with original frieze panels and some parts of the original architecture.

The East frieze of the Altar (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The friezes from the other sides are arranged on the opposite walls of the room.

Ambush on the eastern frieze!

The East frieze of the Altar: Athena (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Zeus‘ daughter Athena tears Alcyoneus away from the protective power of the earth.

The serpent sent by her tenses for the lethal blow.

Earth Mother Gaia pleads in vain for the life of her son.

The goddess defeats the giant.

The East frieze of the Altar (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

No battle scene is the same as any other...

The East frieze of the Altar (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The north frieze of the Altar: Gorgon (or “lion goddess”) and Poseidon’s opponent (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Clothes...

Hairstyles...

and footwear...

are reproduced in great detail.

3D Model Pergamon Altar (2nd Quarter 2nd century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Zeus, Athena, Nyx – captured exactly to the micrometre.

With the support of the federal government and the scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute, the Collection of Classical Antiquities was able to carry out a thorough 3D scan of the more than 2,000 year old masterpiece of Hellenistic art before its complete restoration was started in September 2014.

The room containing the Pergamon Altar is expected to remain closed to the public until 2023. But the Great Altar of Pergamon can be experienced in detail right now in the interactive 3D model.

Market gate of Miletus (Early 2nd century) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

THE MARKET GATE OF MILETUS

is one of the greatest treasures of the Pergamonmuseum. The impressive Roman city gate of Miletus from the 2nd Century C.E. was excavated on the west coast of Turkey near the city of Miletus in the early 20th Century and brought to Berlin. It was probably built during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian

Around 17 metres high, the city gate is an impressive representation of the connection between imperial Roman and Greek architecture.

The Market Gate soars up nearly to the top of the room and weighs 1,600 tonnes.

At least 60 per cent of the gate comprises the original ancient marble, making this the most completely preserved monument in the Collection of Classical Antiquities.

The Market Gate of Miletus is the biggest monument ever reconstructed in a museum.

Market gate of Miletus (Early 2nd century) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Just like many other Greek and Roman buildings, sculptures were part of the Market Gate as well. Only fragments remain of the two larger-than-life statues of an emperor.

...on the left in a general’s armour with a defeated barbarian woman at his feet...

...and on the right in the shape of a naked hero with a cornucopia.

The two sculptures were first set up as originals on the gate in 2009 following extensive restoration – on either side of the central aisle on the lower floor.

Model of the city center of Miletus during the Roman imperial period (1968) by Replica by Klaus Stephanowitz of the original model by Hans SchleifPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

In ancient times Miletus lay directly by the sea and was one of the major cities on the west coast of Asia Minor.

The two-story gate was built in the middle of the rich commercial city as a magnificent gateway between two squares, the Agora and the so-called South Market. It was probably built to mark the visit of Emperor Hadrian in 129 C.E.

Market gate of Miletus (Early 2nd century) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Like most ancient marble buildings and sculptures, the Market Gate was painted.

But the small vestiges of paint that still remain cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Ishtar Gate (reconstruction of the outer gate) (6th century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

THE ISHTAR GATE AND PROCESSIONAL WAY

The Museum of the Ancient Near East, too, welcomes visitors with an impressive monument, the Processional Way and the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon dating from the 6th Century B.C.E.

Only one of the city gates of Babylon was so richly decorated with coloured glazed bricks and animal reliefs. It comprised an outer and an inner gate. Only the smaller outer gate is reconstructed in the museum. We have to imagine the inner gate as being considerably taller.

Ishtar Gate (reconstruction of the outer gate) (6th century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The outer walls were completely covered with glazed brick bas-reliefs, depicting a total of about 575 animals.

This unique building ornamentation served as a backdrop with a cultic protective function, with the divinities thus embodied accompanying the processions which were always held for the Babylonian New Year celebrations.

Brick relief of a dragon (6th century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Bulls and dragons alternate, beasts symbolising the weather god Adad and the god Marduk.

Proceeding Lion, detail from the Processional Way of Babylon (6th century BCE) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Sex and war lurk here.

With upraised head...

...the lion strides along the walls of the Processional Way of Babylon. It symbolises Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility, but also of war.

Ishtar was one of the most important goddesses of the ancient oriental pantheon.

The Processional Way is partially reconstructed from countless coloured glazed brick fragments and was once an important part of the northern entrance to the city of Babylon, leading directly to the Ishtar Gate.

The 180 m of the city walls along the Processional Way are ornamented with decorative strips, rosette bands and striding lions.

The way was called ‘the enemy shall not prevail’ and made into such a magnificent Processional Way so that it could be the backdrop for the Babylonian New Year festival at the beginning of Spring.

Model of the Processional Way and Ishtar Gate of Babylon (before 1930) by Design: W. Andrae Construction: Fa. HummelPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

At the close of several days of festivities the cult images of the main Babylonian gods were drawn in a ceremonial procession along the colourfully embellished paved way back into the city.

Façade of the Mshatta Palace Detail (743 - 744) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


THE MSHATTA FACADE

The Qasr Mshatta Palace, presumed to be that of Caliph Al-Walid II, is one of the most important of early Islamic buildings. Built in Jordan in the 8th Century, its facade is now in the heart of Berlin. For many centuries the palace, which was never quite completed and which had collapsed, lay disregarded in the desert until it was discovered by the British archaeologist Layert in 1840. Kaiser Wilhelm II was so thrilled that the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II presented him with the facade as a gift in 1903.

Façade of the Mshatta Palace (743 - 744) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The facade of the Qasr Mshatta desert palace is the largest example of Islamic art in any museum anywhere. The ruins of the former palace, one of Jordan’s Desert Castles, are today directly next to the airport of the Jordanian capital Amman. For many centuries the site was visited only by Bedouin Arabs with their flocks. They gave the building its name Qasr Mshatta, which means ‘winter palace’.

Since it lacks inscriptions and characteristic symbols, Qasr Mushatta is thought to be one of the temporary residences built by the Umayyads in the Syrian and Jordanian desert and the surrounding area in the 8th Century. As hunting lodges or caravanserai they also provided strategic meeting places with Bedouin tribal leaders.

The only entrance to the building was highlighted in relief decoration.

Above a base decorated with friezes of leaves and winding plants a zig-zag ribbon of acanthus leaves divides the side walls into triangles...

Façade of the Mshatta Palace Detail (743 - 744) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

...decorated with winding vines.

Façade of the Mshatta Palace Detail (743 - 744) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

To the left of the gate the vines are swarming with birds...

Façade of the Mshatta Palace Detail (743 - 744) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

...animals, fabulous beasts and even human figures. Like the building itself, the reliefs were never finished.

Mshatta Mingling (2014) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Façade of the Mshatta Palace Detail (743 - 744) by UnknownPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The ornamentation of the Mshatta Facade leaves room for speculation...

...and shows a synthesis of cultures in early Islamic art.

Mshatta Digital (2015) by TU BerlinPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Qasr Al-Mshatta – a digital reconstruction of the never-completed desert palace of Mshatta by the Berlin Technical University and the Museum of Islamic Art.

Aleppo Room: Maria with child (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


THE ALEPPO ROOM

is the oldest still-preserved and artistically most valuable painted wall panelling from the Ottoman Empire. Taken from a residential house, the ensemble permits a unique insight into Syrian residential culture in the early 17th Century.

Panelling of the Aleppo Room (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

This is where the Christian merchant Isa Ibn Butrus (“Jesus, son of Peter”) once received his guests.

The rectangular reception room is divided into a square threshold area and three raised seating areas. The wood panelling, 35 m long and 2.5 m high, enclosed the lower part of the walls.

Fourteen wooden doors punctuate the panelling. These are an entrance door, cupboard doors and partly windows.

Only on closer inspection does the viewer notice that the central seating area is emphasised by its wide wooden panels with especially high-quality painting and by an ornate cornice.

The sumptuous paintings are what make the Aleppo Room so unique. The religious motifs give a rare insight into the pictorial language of oriental Christians.

Aleppo Room: Maria with child (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

They are outstandingly important because only a few examples of art of the 16th and 17th Centuries have been preserved.

The most important Christian motifs are in the main niche next to the door.

Mary and child...

Aleppo Room: The Last Supper (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

the Last Supper...

Aleppo Room: Binding of Issac (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

and the sacrifice of Isaac.

Aleppo Room: Medallion with Angel (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The pictures bear no close relation to Byzantine Christian art, but are painted in the style of contemporary Islamic book painting.

Aleppo Room: Peacock (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The most magnificent motifs are the peacocks among opulent blossom trees.

The red background is strewn with flowers and winding leaf tendrils, bouquets of flowers and continuous patterns of stars.

Panelling of the Aleppo Room (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

While the figurative paintings are largely inspired by Persian models, the ornamentation is in Ottoman Turkish style.

"God is with the generous ones.
He who is generous
reaps generosity."

The Aleppo Room is richly decorated with inscriptions of poems, psalm texts and proverbs. The texts, too, take up Christian and Islamic motifs so that visitors of both faiths could feel at ease.

Tolerance

The Aleppo Room signals tolerance in an impressive way, showing how different cultures once lived in peace side-by-side.

Aleppo Room: Cock (1600 - 1603) by ʿIsa bin Butrus, customer Halab Schah bin ʿIsa, productionPergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Credits: Story

Text: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Conzept / Editing: Astrid Alexander
Translation: Catherine Hales, Stephan Schmidt

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

www.smb.museum
Pergamonmuseum

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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