The Collection

Hans Kels the Elder, Pietà, Upper Swabia, c. 1515, Lime, original polychromy on gesso, in part renewed, 52 × 75 cm, inv. no. P 1936-3, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK
Hans Kels the Elder, Pietà, Upper Swabia, c. 1515, Lime, original polychromy on gesso, in part renewed, 52 × 75 cm, inv. no. P 1936-3, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

In Düsseldorf, the systematic gathering of a collection of medieval sculpture began in 1928 with the restructuring of the city’s art possessions and the inauguration of the Kunstmuseum at the Ehrenhof exhibition complex. At that time it was resolved that the existing, rather insignificant stock of sculptures of the former Kunstgewerbemuseum, the Museum of Arts and Crafts, should be expanded into a collection in its own right. In 1929, the initial effort went chiefly into acquiring a great number of high-calibre sculptures of the fourteenth, fifteenth and early sixteenth century from the royal Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen Collection. That line of collection was continued in the 1930s. Along with the Picture Gallery, the sculptural domain felt the greatest benefits from the wide-cast purchases made between 1934 and 1936. They were able to respond to the dissolution of great private collections, bringing key works of the South German Late Gothic period to Düsseldorf, such as the Madonna by Daniel Mauch, the Pietà by Hans Kels the Elder, or the S. Christopher by the Master of Ottobeuren from the Oertel Collection in Munich. Particular attention was also devoted to the sculpture of the Lower Rhine and of the neighbouring Netherlands. Today these works of the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century mark a significant focus in the Collection at Museum Kunstpalast. An important weighting within the Baroque sphere was achieved in 1932, when the Academy Collection was taken over on permanent loan. With it came a group of sculptures by the former Flemish court sculptor, Gabriel Grupello.

Workshop of Gabriel Grupello, Madonna, Düsseldorf, c. 1716–1720, Lime, much of the polychromy on gesso renewed, partly not original, H. 134.5 cm, inv. no. P 1939-11, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

Workshop of Gabriel Grupello, Madonna, Düsseldorf, c. 1716–1720, Lime, much of the polychromy on gesso renewed, partly not original, H. 134.5 cm, inv. no. P 1939-11, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

After the Second World War, an entire series of purchases succeeded which, along with loans and gifts, enhanced the department considerably. That is especially true of two collections, the larger and small-scale sculptures of the Collection of Dr. M. J. Binder, which constitute a noteworthy gain in works of the Late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, and the Medieval sculptures from the Hermann Schwartz Collection in Mönchengladbach. The acquisition of five exceptional sculptures of this provenance in 1987 was a vital contributor to the rank of the Museum’s Sculpture Department.

 

 

Madonna, Normandy, c. 1300, Limestone with remnants of the original gesso, parts of the old paint preserved, H. 165 cm, inv. no. P 1987-3, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK
Madonna, Normandy, c. 1300, Limestone with remnants of the original gesso, parts of the old paint preserved, H. 165 cm, inv. no. P 1987-3, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

The Museum owes its collection of arts and crafts objects in large part to the Düsseldorf Kunstgewerbemuseum, founded in 1882 by the Rhenish-Westphalian association ‘Central-Gewerbe-Verein’. Alongside smaller, historically catalogued groups, including a number of sculptures, the Museum set out to compile collections of arts and crafts that, grouped according to material, were primarily to serve contemporary artists and artisans as inspiration and models for their own work. However, after around 20 years of successful work, the general renunciation of historicist artwork following the Art Nouveau movement undermined the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s foundations – the Gewerbe- Verein lost its financial backing and was dissolved in 1927. Its holdings were transferred in 1928 to the municipal Kunstsammlungen, founded back in 1913, in the new Ehrenhof premises. It included an extensive and diverse collection of furniture, textiles and Oriental objects plus numerous works in metal, wood and leather. Despite several exchanges and sales to which the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s collection was subjected both before and after being handed over to the City of Düsseldorf, as well as losses during the Second World War, the original areas of the collection are still discernible in the Museum today.

Highlights

  • Master of Erminold (?), The Virgin and Child Enthroned, Regensburg, c. 1290, Cembra pine, hollowed-out back, remains of the original polychromy on gesso, H 87 cm, inv. no. P 1987-1, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    Master of Erminold (?) The Virgin and Child Enthroned, Regensburg, c. 1290

  • Stammbaum Christi, Schwaben, um 1530, Linde, Fassung verloren, 159 × 110 cm, Inv.-Nr. P 1929-121, Foto: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    Family Tree of Christ, c. 1530

  • Meister von Ottobeuren; Christophorus, um 1515-1520; Linde, Rückseite gehöhlt, Fassung verloren, 120 x 46 x 17 cm; Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Foto: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    Master of Ottobeuren, Christophorus, c. 1510-1520

  • Daniel Mauch, Madonna auf der Mondsichel, Ulm, um 1510-1520, Linde, Rückseite gehöhlt, Fassung verloren, H 137 cm, Inv.-Nr 1936-2, Foto: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    Daniel Mauch, Madonna on the crescent moon, Ulm, c. 1500 – 10

  • Gottfried Schadow; Girl Bathing, c. 1784/85; Marmor; Marble, 98 x 31 x 35 cm; Museum Kunstpalast

    Gottfried Schadow (1764-1850), Girl Bathing, c. 1784/85

  • Gabriel Grupello, Porträtbüste des Kurfürsten Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz, Düsseldorf, um 1700, Marmor, H 110 cm (ohne Sockel), Inv.-Nr. AP 160, Dauerleihgabe der Sammlung der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (NRW), Foto: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    Gabriel Grupello (1644-1730), Bust of Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz, Elector Palatine, Düsseldorf, c. 1700

  • Gabriel Grupello, Porträtbüste der Kurfürstin Anna Maria Luisa aus dem Hause Medici, Düsseldorf, um 1700, Marmor, H 117 cm (ohne Sockel), Inv.-Nr. AP 161, Dauerleihgabe der Sammlung der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (NRW), Foto: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    Gabriel Grupello, Busts of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, Electress Palatine, Düsseldorf, c. 1700

  • Anfangsseiten einer Handschrift, Buchara 1540, Gouache auf Papier, 21,2 x 12,6 cm (geschlossen), Inv.-Nr. 11315, Foto: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    First pages of a manuscript, Buchara, 1540

  • Fassadenschrank mit Kabinett, Süddeutschland, Anfang 17. Jh., Marketerie und Intarsien auf Eichen- und Fichtenkern, 161,3 x 120 x 58 cm, Inv.-Nr. 18001, Foto: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

    Cabinet unit, early 17th century

  • Flügelaltar, Oberrhein, vollendet 1516, Linde, Fassung verloren, Rahmung teilweise erneuert, Mitteltafel im 19. Jh. aufgesockelt, bekrönendes Rankenwerk verloren, 172 x 318 cm (bei geöffneten Flügeln), ehem. in der oberen Beinhauskapelle in Baden im Aargau, dann Staatl. Museen Berlin, Inv.-Nr. P 1936-150, Foto: LVR-ZMB, Stefan Arendt – ARTOTHEK
Auf der Rückseite des Altars: Szene aus der Legende des Erzengels Michael sowie Michael begleitet von den Hll.Nikolaus, Erasmus von Antiochien, Magdalena und Elisabeth

    Winged Altar, Upper Rhine, completed in 1516

  • Mosque Gate, Egypt, 15th century

Holdings

The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. Joachim, Lower Rhine, c. 1500–10, Oak, H 94 cm, inv. no. P 1940-216, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK
The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. Joachim, Lower Rhine, c. 1500–10, Oak, H 94 cm, inv. no. P 1940-216, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

A major subject of the collection is Christian Art of the Late Middle Ages, with the iconographic Virgin and Child model. The various works are an impressive demonstration of how the treatment of the motif changed between the Romanesque and the Gothic. At the end of the fourteenth century a new type known as ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Soft-style’ Madonnas developed. A particularly precious piece in the Düsseldorf collection is the Virgin from Salzburg (?), of c. 1400. A further important topic of religious art is the motif of S. Anne, the Virgin and the infant Christ, which was read from the medieval period on as a memento of Mary’s immaculate conception by Anna. The group of figures from the Lower Rhine, dating from about 1500, includes Joachim, Anne’s husband; this has divested the work of its orthodox significance and altered its meaning to become a representation of Mary’s family, thus the emphasis shifts to the familial, human aspects of the Marian symbol.

Late Gothic Rhenish and South German sculptures

Other outstanding sculptures include Late Gothic Rhenish and South German figures of the saints or the Virgin, such as the S. Barbara from Mechelen/Malines, the group by the Master of the Biberach Holy Family, the S. Christopher by the Master of Ottobeuren or the Madonna by the magnificent woodcarver from Ulm, Daniel Mauch.

The holdings of objects of art and craft at the Museum are owed for the greater part to the Düsseldorf Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Arts and Crafts) which was founded by the Rhenish-Westphalian Central-Gewerbeverein in 1882. Apart from tending smaller, historically arranged stocks, its goal was to collect and display craft ordered in domains of material, first and foremost to serve contemporary artists and craftspeople as inspiration and a precedent for their own work. After some twenty years of successful operation, however, the general turn away from Historicism in artistic production in the wake of Art Nouveau also left the Kunstgewerbemuseum high and dry, bereft of its raison-d’être; the Gewerbeverein lost its financial base and disbanded in 1927. Its holdings were taken over by the new-founded Kunstmuseum in 1928, part of that stock being a comprehensive and many-facetted collection of furniture, textiles and objects from the Middle-East and a richly endowed stock of metal objects and wood and leatherwork. In spite of numerous instances of exchange and sale to which the Kunstgewerbemuseum collection was subject before and after its absorption by the City of Düsseldorf, as well as losses in the Second World War, it is still quite easy in today’s Museum to see what the original areas collected were.

St. Barbara, Mechelen, c. 1480, Oak, original polychromy on gesso, branded city hallmark “M”, H. 36 cm, inv. no. P 1987-2, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK
St. Barbara, Mechelen, c. 1480, Oak, original polychromy on gesso, branded city hallmark “M”, H. 36 cm, inv. no. P 1987-2, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

Baroque sculptures

Highly significant for the Collection at Düsseldorf are the works of the Baroque, and the sculptures of Gabriel Grupello in particular, as sculptor to the court of Elector Johann Wilhelm of the Palatinate. At the absolute centre of that career was the portrait of the ruler and his consort, Anna Maria Luisa, née de’ Medici. Among the Museum’s possessions are sculptures of the sovereign couple, mythological bronze sculptures, various marble reliefs, and an outstanding representation of the ‘Madonna of Victory’.

Middle-Eastern Crafts

The enchanting collection of Islamic arts and crafts has its roots in the work of the first director of the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Heinrich Frauberger, who, through the 1880s and 90s, systematically built up this area by acquiring manuscripts, miniatures, Koran covers, fabrics, and objects of metal, wood and pottery.

Netsuke, Tanuki as a Priest Japan, late Edo period, mid-19th c., Ivory, one eye of horn, H. 6.3 cm, inv. no. P 2005-232, Donated by Prof. Dr. Bruno Werdelmann, Photo: Lothar Milatz
Netsuke, Tanuki as a Priest Japan, late Edo period, mid-19th c., Ivory, one eye of horn, H. 6.3 cm, inv. no. P 2005-232, Donated by Prof. Dr. Bruno Werdelmann, Photo: Lothar Milatz

Asian Art

The domain of Asian Art goes back to a small but noteworthy stock of eighty-eight Japanese sword guards or tsuba from the Oeder Collection. Forming only part of the Gift of Hans Lühdorf, the Museum was endowed with a collection of more than 400 coloured woodcuts of the nineteenth century. Together with Bruno Werdelmann’s collection, one of the largest of netsuke or Japanese belt/receptacle toggles, some notable highlights of Japanese art and cultural history from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century now mark the Düsseldorf Collection.

The Werdelmann Donation also includes some 80 Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sculptures from the first centuries CE into the second half of the nineteenth century.

Textile collection

The Museum’s Textile Collection, one of the most comprehensive of its kind in Germany, documents European and Middle-eastern history of style through some 6000 objects from the Late Classical period onward into the twentieth century. One area of concentration on the way consists of Coptic textiles.

Pax, Antwerp, early 17th c., Cast silver, engraved, partly gilt, 20.5 × 29 cm,  inv. no. P 2001-14, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK
Pax, Antwerp, early 17th c., Cast silver, engraved, partly gilt, 20.5 × 29 cm, inv. no. P 2001-14, Photo: Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

Work in Metal, Work in Gold

Another subset of the collection is the area of metalworking and the art of the goldsmith, presented in sumptuously designed objects of banqueting culture and works from the ecclesiastical field. A Flemish pax dating from the early Baroque era, from the collection of Dr. M. J. Binder, is one example that counts as a special highlight.

Furniture, objects of Design

A great number of historical items of furniture, including pieces from the Gothic and Baroque eras, and little caskets and jewellery boxes from five centuries, form a collecting complex in their own right. In the 1980s it was extended to include a design section.

 

 

Research

Standing Shakyamuni Buddha with Double-Lotus Base, Nepal, 10th c., possibly even 8th/9th c.; his right hand held in varada mudra, the gesture of compassion and generosity; his left presumable holding a flower; bronze with dark patina, rubbed in parts, H 3
Standing Shakyamuni Buddha with Double-Lotus Base, Nepal, 10th c., possibly even 8th/9th c.; his right hand held in varada mudra, the gesture of compassion and generosity; his left presumable holding a flower; bronze with dark patina, rubbed in parts, H 32 cm, inv. no. P 2005-1114, Photo: LVR-ZMB, Stefan Arendt – ARTOTHEK

Collection of Coptic Textiles 

With the publication of the second volume of Die koptischen Textilien im Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf in the middle of 2010, this part of the museum collection has been virtually completely evaluated. The project has its roots in the collaboration agreed with Professor Dr. Martin Krause and his team at the Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie at the University of Münster in 2002. Museum Kunstpalast is fortunate in possessing  in more than 450 exhibits of Coptic fabric from the period between the third and the eighth century CE, one of the most extensive collections of this field. The catalogue, edited by Suzana Hodak, takes up the thread of the first volume, which appeared in 2004 under the editorship of Karl-Heinz Brune. With but few exceptions, the array treated by the two volumes comprises those pieces of textile where ornament in the purple and multi-coloured weaving is purely non-figurative or, where the motif is representational, it extends only to animals.

Collection of Buddhist and Hindu Sculptures

In 2004, a deed of gift brought Museum Kunstpalast the collection of netsuke of Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Bruno Werdelmann (1920 -2010), a collection not only comprehensive but which has already had devoted to it an exhibition and a scholarly holdings catalogue. The gift comes with a further collection consisting of some eighty works of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sculpture ranging from the first centuries CE into the second half of the nineteenth century. The majority of the exhibits are from Siam and the Khmer culture. Other sculptures are from Burma, China, India, Nepal, Laos and Tibet.

 

 

Collectors and Patrons

The round Netsuke (not figural here) holds a medicine can (inro) on the belt (obi) of a kimono. Photo: Lothar Milatz, Düsseldorf
The round Netsuke (not figural here) holds a medicine can (inro) on the belt (obi) of a kimono. Photo: Lothar Milatz, Düsseldorf

Netsuke from the Werdelmann Collection

Amongst the holdings at Museum Kunstpalast  for many years now, has been a small but exquisite stock of Japanese art. Alongside a collection of tsuba (Japanese sword guards) from the Oeder Collection, a gift to the museum in 2004 was the extensive Netsuke Collection of Professor Dr. Bruno Werdelmann. At first sight, netsuke are miniature carvings of ivory and wood, no more than a few centimetres high. What is unusual and special about these little figures is the two small holes that, in general, every netsuke has. They form a guide for a cord, so that these carvings double as functional belt toggles. As the Japanese kimono has no pockets, men would carry their everyday essentials in small pouches and bags on a cord attached to the belt. To prevent the receptacles from sliding off the cord and dropping, the netsuke would be attached to the cord, operating as a fastening and counterweight. In the early seventeenth century it was still fashioned as a simple ring or disk, but then it evolved over a two-hundred-year period into a sumptuous and richly detailed ornament of crafted ivory or boxwood for the Japanese man.

Netsuke, Courtesan and attendant, First half 19th century, Ivory, inv. no. P 2005-401, Photo: Lothar Milatz
Netsuke, Courtesan and attendant, First half 19th century, Ivory, inv. no. P 2005-401, Photo: Lothar Milatz

Japanese Carving

Professor Werdelmann’s interest in these small, precious and practical Japanese carved objects had been woken many years before, in the 1960s. From that time on, with a passionate enthusiasm, he gathered a collection of over 1100 items. A particular appeal of the collection lies in its great diversity of motif. This makes it a fascinating window not only onto the ‘world of the netsuke’, but also to the remarkable culture of the Edo period (1603 – 1867), because there is almost no sphere of life that has not been represented in a netsuke. One encounters Buddhist figures of veneration, the popular deities of good fortune, the ‘Immortals’ from Chinese and Daoist literature, and figures from Chinese and Japanese history. Mythical beasts take the viewer to Chinese cosmology and the rich trove of Japanese legend. In entertaining ways one is introduced to day-to-day life both urban and rural, and finds oneself smiling at the amusing representations of non-Asians. Then, other motifs illustrate sayings or aphorisms, and so lend the netsuke additional dimensions of meaning. Unaccustomed aspects, new artistic interpretations or strange symbols await discovery at every turn. Apart from all this, the collection has a broad time-span, from the early eighteenth century into the twentieth. Among the earliest items are carvings which still show the strong  influence of Chinese belt embellishment, of seal studs and toggles, which well illustrate the historical development of the netsuke.

Thus the Werdelmann Donation is a significant gain for the collection at Museum Kunstpalast and offers the opportunity to come to know more intimately an important area within the incomparable art of Japanese carvings.

Publications

Sculpture and Applied Arts

pdf of the list of publications

For catalogue orders please contact: petra.hecht(at)smkp.de

Out-of-print catalogues are available for reference at the library.

 

Selection of available catalogues

Jean Tinguely. Super Meta Maxi
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf / Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Hrsg. Margriet Schavemaker, Barbara Til und Beat Wismer, 2016. Texte von Kaira M. Cabañas, Hans-Christian von Herrmann, Dominik Müller, Johan Pas, Margriet Schavemaker, Barbara Til, Beat Wismer und Thekla Zell. 22 x 29 cm., 284 S., gebunden

The World of Netsuke
The Werdelmann Collection at the museum kunst palast Arnoldsche Verlagsanstalt, 2005, nur in englischer Sprache

Die koptischen Textilien im museum kunst palast Düsseldorf
Suzana Hodak, Teil 2: Figürliche und ornamentale Purpur- und Buntwirkereien, Band 13 der Reihe Sprachen und Kulturen des Christlichen Orients, 2011, (2 Bände und CD-Rom)

Das Borngräber-Zimmer - Neues Deutsches Design (Spot On 03)
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, 2009

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