Thursday, October 22, 2009
Return of the Neues
Here we have a view of the Neues museums original Egyptian court destroyed in the second world war.
The neoclassical Neues Museum was designed by architect Friedrich August Stuler and opened on Berlin's museum island in 1855 having taken more than a dozen years to build. The museum was set up to surround two interior courts one of which was an Egyptian court surrounded by lotus columns.
The museum was created to house Berlin's Egyptian collection as well as its amazing papyrus collection numbering in the tens of thousands of documents. The German excavations of Karl Lepsius in the 1840's brought back thousands of objects which became the impedes for the museum and became the backbone of the collection. Seventy years later the expedition of Ludwig Borchardt at tell el-Amarna struck pay dirt with the discovery of the studio of the sculptor Thutmosis filled with unfinished busts of the pharaoh Akhenaten and his beautiful queen, Nefertiti plus their daughters and many unidentified courtiers.
This excavation brought to Berlin an entire Amarna collection complete with the museum's natural star the now famous limestone bust of Nefertiti. The bust was extremely controversial at the time when exhibited and is still probably the museums biggest scandal today unfortunately for Cairo it is also the museum's biggest draw.
A deal had been made for the return of the bust but Hitler forbade the return and was soon declaring war on Poland. The Neues was closed in 1939 and its finest objects removed to safety but sadly near the end of the European war on November 23, 1943, the museum and its remaining contents were bombarded and destroyed.
For the last seventy years, the surviving rooms of the Neues have been used as storage space for the other less damaged museums on the island. It was big news this past week that after a nearly $400 million refurbish the museum had its Egyptian and papyrus collections returned to their former home bringing a new brighter period in its life and its great collection.