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On the History of Classical Archeology in Bonn

Even with the initial plans for the establishment of the University in Bonn (from 1815) the establishment of an art museum had been provided, which should present the most important ancient sculptures in plaster casts. Earlier collections of casts mainly served for training in art schools, e.g. in the 18th century in Dusseldorf. The Dusseldorf stocks then formed the Hall of Antiquitiy (Antikensaal) in Mannheim that was famous during the German Classicism. For university teaching casts had already been used by Ch G. Heyne at Gottingen (1763), where the sculptures had to be erected scattered in the University Library. The Bonn Museum, the Academic Art Museum, was new as a museum teaching facility and has been widely imitated. Even before the actual founding of the University, the first casts were commissioned in Paris.

As Director, Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker (1784-1868) was appointed in 1819 who for the first time in Germany already had officially represented archaeology in addition to philology at Giessen from 1809 to 1816 and who came to Bonn via Goettingen. Welcker taught archeology both in the premises of the Academic Art Museum, which until 1884 was housed in the main building of the University, and with the help of Books of tables in the University Library above the museum. Already in 1827 a first catalogue of the museum could be published. Welcker was one of the most important representatives of German idealism. In many of his works, he combined philological and archaeological knowledge in a manner still desirable today. In 1854 he resigned from his offices.

His successor in the magisterium as philologist and archaeologist was Otto Jahn (1819-1869), who shared the directorate of the Museum until 1861 with the philologist F. Ritschl. Jahn, who had excelled mainly by mythological studies and the first catalogue of vases in Munich before his time in Bonn, wrote here studies of Roman wall paintings, military insignia as well as the first essay on "Representations of Crafts and Trade." With him the historical critical method already let the idealistic claim resign. Among his philological works during his time in Bonn time above all the publication of the Roman satirists has to be mentioned. He also published several works of Goethe and some of his correspondence. In Bonn, he wrote the biography of Mozart that is still important. He could almost double the inventory of casts of the museum and for that he could enforce an extension of the premises. The original collection also was increased.

In 1870 Reinhard Kekulé (1839-1911) was appointed to Bonn as the first German professor of archeology alone. He mainly worked on ancient art history, where sculpture was in the foreground. The presentation of the ancient artistic production in corpora - comparable to the expenditure of ancient authors and inscriptions – that Jahn already had wanted, he mainly promoted through his plans for editing ancient terracottas. The Academic Art Museum benefited from this through numerous acquisitions in this field, especially from Southern Italy. Today they form one focus of the collection. Some important vases could also be acquired. The most important result of Kekulé’s Bonn term of office (he went to Berlin in 1889) was the construction of a separate building for the Academic Art Museum. He managed to get the Classical building of the old anatomy for the art museum. This building had been constructed in 1823-30 by Waesemann and Schinkel and had been cleared in 1872 and cleared Classical building of the old anatomy for the art museum. In 1884 the museum was enlarged with a new building for the collection of casts. In seven halls of the ancient art history from the Ancient Orient to the Roman period could be studied, with the mature Classical Period receiving the largest room and the rotunda of the Schinkel building, the former theatrum anatomicum. This arrangement is still more or less preserved today. Library, auditorium and original collection were housed in the side wings of the Schinkel building, thus spatially very limited.

Kekulé successor Georg Loeschcke (1852-1915) had excelled mainly by the first editing of Mycenaean pottery. In Bonn, through purchases and by encouraging donations he made sure that the original collection became one of the most multifaceted among the small antiquities museums. Library, photographic collection and auditorium were accommodated from 1908 in an institute building next to the collection of casts. Loeschcke had a large crowd of students from home and abroad, among whom, as with Welcker and Kekulé, were the Prussian princes, who traditionally studied in Bonn. In 1912 Loeschcke as his predecessor was appointed to Berlin.

His successor, Franz Winter (1861-1930), had received his doctorate by Kekulé on younger Attic vases and had then written the type catalog of ancient terracottas with him. His later works include the editing of Pergamon sculptures, the Hildesheim silver treasure and the Alexander mosaic. In his Bonn years (1912-1929) he was only able to provide preliminary works on the Pompeian mosaics and a History of Greek painting, for which he created a large number of outstanding watercolors as templates.

Richard Delbrueck (1875-1957), a student of Loeschcke, had been director of the Roman Institute from 1909 to 1915. As professor in Bonn (1928-1940) he wrote his still fundamental works on late antiquity art (Consular diptychs, porphyry works, imperial portraits, coin designs of the 3rd century). In 1940 he became Professor Emeritus due to political reasons. The museum was adapted to contemporary tastes by repainting the walls, but due to failure of the heating was only accessible in the summer. From the inventory the Attic vases were published for the first time comprehensively.

Ernst Langlotz (1895-1978) played a decisive role in the current chronology of Archaic and early Classical art, in the study of vase painting, the Acropolis korai as well as landscape styles of Archaic times. In Bonn (1944-1966) he had to cope with problems of the war and post-war times, in which the Academic Art Museum suffered some losses. In 1945 he was one of the few professors who attracted large amounts of students from all disciplines, because he knew how to convey the ancient times as a possibility of meaning. In Bonn he worked on problems of mature Classical art, especially of Phidias and his students, the reconstruction of some works and especially on the art of the Greeks in Sicily and Southern Italy. The original collection was enriched by important individual pieces, as were the casts of the Archaic and Classical sculpture. A second chair was established that Erich Kukahn (1910-1987), a researcher on Phoenicians and Iberians held from 1961-1975. The museum received a full-time curator.

Nikolaus Himmelmann (1929-2013) was professor from 1966-1994. His diverse scientific work was mainly focused on fundamental questions of the interpretation of Greek art, but also problems of later times to the present day. His work cannot be honored in more detail here. Numerous students from Germany and abroad attest to its effectiveness. By reinstalling a heater the museum was accessible to the public in winter again, the original collection was more attractive due to new display cases. Many original works from all genres and products from many areas could be acquired. The scientific analysis through catalogues, monographs on the history of the house, a list of casts, individual publications and by guides made great progress.
Link to list of publications

Hanns Gabelmann (1936-1996) completed his habilitation in 1971 in Bonn and was a professor of Classical Archeology since 1973. His scientific work in Bonn was mainly focused on tombs and grave sculptures of the Roman provinces and the iconography of Roman grave and government relief.


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