Wilhelm von Bode

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Wilhelm von Bode
Wilhelm von Bode 1920.jpg
Wilhelm von Bode c. 1920
Born(1845-12-10)10 December 1845
Died1 March 1929(1929-03-01) (aged 83)
Nationality German

Wilhelm von Bode (10 December 1845 – 1 March 1929) was a German art historian and museum curator. Born Arnold Wilhelm Bode in Calvörde, he was ennobled in 1913. [1] He was the creator and first curator of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, now called the Bode Museum in his honor, in 1904.

Art history the academic study of objects of art in their historical development

Art history is the study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts; that is genre, design, format, and style. The study includes painting, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, furniture, and other decorative objects.

Curator content specialist charged with an institutions collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material

A curator is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution is a content specialist charged with an institution's collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material.

Calvörde Place in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Calvörde is a municipality in the Börde district of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It is part of the Verbandsgemeinde Flechtingen.



Wilhelm Bode in 1901 Wilhelm von Bode 1901.jpg
Wilhelm Bode in 1901

Bode studied law at the Universities of Göttingen and Berlin, but took an interest in art during his university years. While practicing law in Braunschweig he systematically rearranged the ducal art collections, and visited a number of museums and private collections in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. After studies in art history in Berlin and Vienna, he received his doctorate from the University of Leipzig in 1870 based on his dissertation Frans Hals und seine Schule. [2]

Humboldt University of Berlin university in Berlin, Germany

Humboldt University of Berlin is a university in the central borough of Mitte in Berlin, Germany. It was established by Frederick William III on the initiative of Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher as the University of Berlin in 1809, and opened in 1810, making it the oldest of Berlin's four universities. From 1810 until its closure in 1945, it was named Friedrich Wilhelm University. During the Cold War the university found itself in East Berlin and was de facto split in two when the Free University of Berlin opened in West Berlin. The university received its current name in honour of Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1949.

Braunschweig City and district in Lower Saxony, Germany

Braunschweig, also called Brunswick in English, is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany, north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker River which connects it to the North Sea via the Aller and Weser Rivers. In 2016, it had a population of 250,704.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sovereign state in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

In 1871 Bode participated in the so-called "Holbein convention" in Dresden, at which a number of prominent art historians convened to determine which of two versions of Hans Holbein the Younger's Meyer Madonna was the original work.

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city of the German state of Saxony, and with around 550,000 inhabitants, it is the state's second most populous city after Leipzig. It is the 12th most populous city of Germany, the fourth largest by area after Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne, as well as the third most populous city in the area of former East Germany, after (East) Berlin and Leipzig. Dresden is contiguous with Freital, Pirna, Radebeul, Meissen and Coswig, and its urban area has around 780,000 inhabitants, making it the largest in Saxony.

Hans Holbein the Younger German artist and printmaker

Hans Holbein the Younger was a German painter and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style, and is considered one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire, and Reformation propaganda, and he made a significant contribution to the history of book design. He is called "the Younger" to distinguish him from his father Hans Holbein the Elder, an accomplished painter of the Late Gothic school.

In 1872 he took a position as an assistant curator of sculpture in the royal museums in Berlin, and became director of the department in 1883. [1] He took over the Gemäldegalerie in 1890, and became general director of what is now the Berlin State Museums in 1905, succeeding Richard Schöne. Many of his efforts were devoted to the new Kaiser Friedrich Museum on Museum Island; his close relationship with the imperial family, his political astuteness, and his relationships with artists and collectors throughout Europe enabled to amass a major collection for the museum. [3] In the 1890s Berlin was far behind Munich and Dresden in its art collections, but with the enthusiastic participation of Wilhelm II, Bode was able to shift the center of the German art world to the capital. [4] He was also in charge of rebuilding the museums of Strasbourg, whose collections had been entirely destroyed in 1870 by prussian bombardments during the Franco-Prussian War. Bode occupied this post from 1889 to 1914, establishing the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Cabinet des estampes et des dessins as well as setting the grounds of part of the current Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame's collections.

Gemäldegalerie, Berlin art museum in Berlin

The Gemäldegalerie is an art museum in Berlin, Germany, and the museum where the main selection of paintings belonging to the Berlin State Museums is displayed. It holds one of the world's leading collections of European paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Its collection includes masterpieces from such artists as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach, Hans Holbein, Rogier van der Weyden, Jan van Eyck, Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, Giambattista Pittoni, Peter Paul Rubens, David Teniers the Younger, Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Antonio Viviani. It was first opened in 1830, and the current building was completed in 1998. It is located in the Kulturforum museum district west of Potsdamer Platz.

Berlin State Museums institutions in Berlin, Germany comprising seventeen museums in five clusters, several Research Institutes, libraries by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation

The Berlin State Museums are a group of institutions in Berlin, Germany, comprising seventeen museums in five clusters, several research institutes, libraries, and supporting facilities. They are overseen by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and funded by the German federal government in collaboration with Germany's federal states. The central complex on Museum Island was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1999. By 2007 the Berlin State Museums had grown into the largest complex of museums in Europe.

Richard Schöne German classical archaeologist

Richard Schöne was a German archaeologist and classical philologist.

Bode's writings on a wide variety of topics in art history, particularly Italian Renaissance art, were widely influential, and remain key texts in the field. His autobiography, Mein Leben, was published posthumously in 1930.

Italian Renaissance cultural movement

The Italian Renaissance was a period of Italian history that began in the 14th century (Trecento) and lasted until the 17th century (Seicento). It peaked during the 15th (Quattrocento) and 16th (Cinquecento) centuries, spreading across Europe and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity. The French word renaissance means "Rebirth" and defines the period as one of cultural revival and renewed interest in classical antiquity after the centuries labeled the Dark Ages by Renaissance humanists. The Renaissance author Giorgio Vasari used the term "Rebirth" in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects but the concept became widespread only in the 19th century, after the works of scholars such as Jules Michelet and Jacob Burckhardt.

The "Flora" bust

Bust of Flora by Richard Cockle Lucas Bust of Flora by Richard Cockle Lucas (1800-1883), wax - Bode-Museum - DSC02998.JPG
Bust of Flora by Richard Cockle Lucas

In 1910, it was revealed that a bust of Flora, which had been purchased by the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin, under the belief that it was by Leonardo da Vinci, may have actually been created by the English sculptor, Richard Cockle Lucas. [5] Von Bode, the general manager of the Prussian Art Collections for the Berlin Museum, had spotted the bust in a London gallery and purchased it for a few pounds. Bode was convinced that the bust was by Leonardo and the Berlin Museum authorities, and the German public, were delighted to have "snatched a great art treasure from under the very noses" of the British art world. [6]

Flora (mythology) goddess of prosperity in Roman mythology

In Roman mythology, Flora is a Sabine-derived goddess of flowers and of the season of spring – a symbol for nature and flowers. While she was otherwise a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, being one among several fertility goddesses, her association with the spring gave her particular importance at the coming of springtime, as did her role as goddess of youth. She was one of the fifteen deities who had their own flamen, the Floralis, one of the flamines minores. Her Greek counterpart is Chloris.

Leonardo da Vinci 15th and 16th-century Italian Renaissance polymath

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, more commonly Leonardo da Vinci ( ), was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, drawing, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time, despite perhaps only 15 of his paintings having survived. The Mona Lisa is the most famous of his works and the most popular portrait ever made. The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time and his Vitruvian Man drawing is regarded as a cultural icon as well. Leonardo's paintings and prepatory drawings—together with his notebooks, which contain sketches, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting—compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary Michelangelo.

Richard Cockle Lucas English sculptor and photographer

Richard Cockle Lucas was a British sculptor and photographer.

Shortly afterwards, The Times ran an article claiming that the bust was the work of Lucas, having been commissioned to produce it from a painting. Lucas's son, Albert, then came forward and swore under oath that the story was correct and that he had helped his father to make it. Albert was able to explain how the layers of wax had been built up from old candle ends; he also described how his father would stuff various debris, including newspapers, inside the bust. When the Berlin museum staff removed the base they found the debris, just as Albert had described it, including a letter dated in the 1840s. [6]

Despite this evidence, Bode continued to claim that his original attribution was correct. To support this, he displayed the Flora bust among a selection of Lucas's lesser work – this exhibition rather backfired, however, as it showed that Lucas had been regularly making wax sculptures inspired by the great works of previous times. [6]

Various claims and counter-claims have been put forward about the bust, from its being an outright forgery to being a genuine 16th-century piece (albeit not by Leonardo). Scientific examination has been inconclusive and unhelpful in dating the bust, although it is accepted as having at least some connection with Lucas. [6] The bust remains on display in what is now the Bode Museum labelled "England", "19th century" with a question mark. [7]

Major works

Bode Museum, Museum Island, Berlin. Bodemuseum.jpg
Bode Museum, Museum Island, Berlin.

Works in English translation

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  1. 1 2 "Dr. Von Bode Dead; Noted Art Expert". The New York Times. 2 March 1929.
  2. This work was later expanded with the help of Moritz Julius Binder to the work on Hals known as Bode-Binder
  3. Fox, Daniel M. (1963). "Artists in the Modern State: The Nineteenth-Century Background". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Blackwell Publishing. 22 (2): 135–148. doi:10.2307/427746. JSTOR   427746.
  4. Paul, Barbara (1995). "'Collecting is the noblest of all passions!': Wilhelm von Bode and the relationship between museums, art dealing, and private collecting". International Journal of Political Economy. 25 (2): 9–32. JSTOR   40470641.
  5. "Albert Durer Lucas". Burlington Paintings. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Craddock, Paul (2009). Scientific investigation of copies, fakes and forgeries. Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 432–434. ISBN   978-0-7506-4205-7.
  7. Härig, Beatrice (February 2010). "Flora's duel for waxy smile" (in German). "Monumente". Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  8. His work on Dutch painters included catalogs of paintings by the leading artists Rembrandt and Frans Hals