The ground floor contains numerous period rooms that exemplify different epochs and styles. It also houses exhibits from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The Italian Renaissance is represented by display cabinets, small-scale sculptures and maiolica. Objects that originated in connection with the Christian and Jewish faiths are also displayed on this floor, as are harpsichords, clavichords, lutes and an extensive porcelain collection.
Antique consecration relief
The depiction of a pair of ears in the form of a marble relief seems somewhat curious. However, such artefacts are not rare: they are votive offerings that were often found around sacred buildings, especially ancient temples. These votive offerings were dedicated to a deity either as a request for healing or as thanks for the recovery of the depicted organ. Examples of such replicated body parts of all kinds made of various materials, usually clay or stone, can be seen in the MK&G's Antiquities Collection. Whether this relief comes from one of the important sanctuaries of the healing god Asklepios, for example from Epidauros or Kos, can unfortunately no longer be determined due to a missing inscription. In the special case of this relief with the ears, another interpretation is conceivable, even the more accurate one: Possibly it was intended for one of the "listening deities" (Gr. theoí epékooi) (e.g. Aphrodite), in the hope that she might help the worries and needs of those praying. Both interpretations lead me to wonder whether human or divine ears are meant here.
Ulrike Blauth, Marketing
"But it won't fit in the living room" said a visitor to her companion as I stood in front of the "Hamburger Schapp" in the Hamburger Zimmer on the ground floor. At 2.60 metres high and 2.80 metres wide, the baroque cabinet is also too large for most Hamburg flats. The "Hamburger Schapp" was created at the end of the heyday of the Hanseatic cities around 1700 and even then was not intended for the living room, but for the large hallways of the merchants' houses. Although "Schapp" only means "cupboard", it describes a certain magnificent type of cupboard that was widespread throughout the North German coastal region. The "Hamburger Schapp" is therefore veneered with the precious walnut wood that was fashionable at the time and is decorated with elaborate carvings. In the carvings, the builder demonstrates extensive knowledge of the Bible. More than 20 figures are depicted, mainly female figures from the Old Testament. The putti on the capitals symbolise the Christian virtues of faith, love and hope, and the famous judgement of Solomon can be seen on the cornice of the cabinet. With its size and preciousness, the cabinet is an exciting testament to Hanseatic wealth.
Augustin Lavik, Annual Intern Conservation Furniture and Wooden Objects
This fascinating close-up of an ancient glass fragment comes from the MK&G Collection Online. In reality, the glass fragments are very, very small - just a few centimetres. A selection is on display on the ground floor in the Ancient Art and Antiquities collection. Go on a search for them, it's worth it. In bright colours, filigree patterns and abstract shapes, they lie together in a display case. You should then definitely take a look at more fragments in large view, very close and detailed, in the online collection of the MK&G: Simply enter the word "glass fragment" into the search field and browse through the close-ups - each one more beautiful than the next. I can't get enough of the diverse fragments, which remind me of abstract paintings. By the way, the images of the glass fragments are all in the public domain, so they can be downloaded and used for any purpose. I am sure: at least one image will make it into an album cover. At the latest, if I should ever form a band myself.
Philipp Göbel, Digital Communication
In the summer of 1981, I excitedly visited the "Tutankhamun" exhibition at the MK&G alongside my history teacher at the time. I can still remember the exciting journey by train from Lüneburg. The queue of visitors stretched as far as the Alster and I could hardly wait to finally admire the pharaoh's death mask. At that time, I had no idea that many years later I would work in this special museum as assistant to the director. The catalogue still has a place of honour on my bookshelf and my interest in Egyptian art has increased since then. November 2022 marks the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. This is one more reason why the relief fragment from the tomb of Maya is one of my favourite objects in this house. It is a fragment from the relief wall of a burial chamber. Maya is the name given to the pharaoh's treasurer. He holds lotus flowers in his right hand as a special gift for the tomb lord. On closer inspection, one can see many small pigments whose colourfulness is still visible today. What a special phenomenon!
Gerrit Irmela Scharpen, Assistant to the Director
Quatrefoil head Memento Mori
In the European Decorative Arts and Sculpture Collection, a small, finely crafted object always catches my eye: the quatrefoil head made of boxwood around 1650 reminds the viewer of the inseparability of life and death in its function as a "Memento Mori": the face of a child, a woman, a man and a skull on the four sides of the head symbolise the inexorable course of our precious lifetime. The head reminds us that we should no longer wait to shape our lives, but do what makes life our own. The head of four shows me that everything is already there, that I bring with me from birth, that everything is pre-drawn. My task is to find out what exactly that is, what my place is in the big picture. The millennia-long process by which humanity has created cultures and continually evolved seems to me powerless in the face of its own origin, nature itself. We are human beings. We live, breathe, pass away. No more and no less. And it is precisely this that gives us the freedom to draw from the full in harmony with being human.
Dominik Nürenberg, Communication
Tetradrachm from Entella
This silver coin, minted around 320 to 300 BC, may serve as an example for the numerous stories to be discovered in the collections. It came into the MK&G in 1921 as a brooch. The obverse depicts the head of the spring nymph Arethusa framed by dolphins. The reverse shows a horse's head with a palm tree. A Phoenician inscription refers to Entella, a Punic city in Sicily, as the place of minting. In the myth, the river god Alpheios harasses the nymph. With the help of the goddess Artemis, Arethusa, who has been transformed into a spring, manages to escape to Sicily, where she reappears as a life-giver a stone's throw from the sea. She becomes the patron saint of the city of Syracuse, founded by Greeks in the 8th century BC, which develops into one of the most powerful metropolises in southern Italy, and adorns the city's coins. Perhaps it is the beautiful story or the enchanting face of Arethusa that lead to the adoption of the Greek motif by Entella. More likely, however, is the orientation towards the Greek centre of power, for coins in antiquity not only served as a means of payment, but were an important medium for the transmission of news and propaganda.
Dr. Frank Hildebrandt, Curator, Head of the Ancient Art and Antiquities Collection
When I look into our Gliedermann's wooden eyes, at his imposing beard and curly hair, I recognise a man I used to meet regularly ages ago in the pampas of central Hesse. A childhood figure slowly fading from memory. "Bagger-Hans", probably around 40 at the time, was an illustrious, ever-singing friend of my grandpa's, and, as his nickname suggests, a digger driver. Hans and the man with the limbs are practically twins. In front of the display case, I ponder whether the mysterious "I.P." who carved the limb figure almost exactly half a millennium ago (!) also had a real person in mind. A friend, perhaps? His teacher, or someone he was in love with? But probably he was an anonymous ideal figure who was supposed to teach the inquisitive something about the body and its proportions. Or was the little wooden figure perhaps an aid for the painters, like today's figures with limbs? Or even a children's toy, the Ken for the 16th century Barbies? Wasn't I supposed to have found out more about that a long time ago? Anyway, for me he can remain the ancestor of Bagger-Hans.
Dennis Conrad, curator, exhibitions and projects
Lying Anubis from a coffin
Choosing a favourite object in a house full of favourite objects turns out to be a difficult task. Do I take the Feininger toy from the Applied Arts and Design Collection or rather the tea bowl with crane from the East Asian Collection? Spontaneously, I decide on the filigree jackal sculpture of the god Anubis. I am particularly attracted by the straightforward depiction of the animal. In Egyptian small sculptures or reliefs, the reduced forms always catch the eye. The emphasis on the outer lines also has a strong graphic effect and makes it easier to grasp what is being depicted. The use of familiar animals as figures of the gods also creates a direct link to one's own surroundings, so that one can feel very close to the gods. This figure belonged to a lid of a small coffin, which is connected to the meaning of Anubis. Thus Anubis, son of Osiris and Isis, was the god of the necropolis and responsible for the ritual preparation of the corpse, especially the embalming, mouth opening and burial ceremony. The god escorted the deceased before Osiris, weighed the heart and led the dead into the afterlife.
Annika Pohl-Ozawa, Registrar
Amulet with bezoar stone
The bezoar stone set in gilded silver is an enigmatic object in many respects. In 1952 it was acquired from the collection of Johannes Jantzen. Since the Bremen lawyer and art dealer collaborated with the Nazi regime, the origin of the bezoar was researched in order to rule out an unfair acquisition. But its history could not be clarified until now. An orange triangle now indicates that it is being examined as part of the provenance research at the MK&G. Bezoars have been said to have secret powers since the Middle Ages. They are supposed to protect against poisons in food. This effect is derived from their formation. The bezoars, also known as stomach stones, bind indigestible food residues in the stomachs of ruminants. When the clumps are disgorged, they dry out like stones. The name bezoar is derived from the Persian "padzahr", the word for antidote. The particularly large stones probably come from the Middle East and originate from camels. From the 16th century onwards, they were polished or precious set as collector's items in the art chambers. The bezoar in the MK&G has an eyelet and can also be worn around the neck on a chain for protection.
Dr. Silke Reuther, Provenance Research
The Hamburg cabinetmaker Carl Friedrich Heinrich Plambeck received a prize at the World's Fair in London for his showpiece table made in 1851. The elaborately designed table was even described as one of the "most beautiful works" shown there. To demonstrate his skill, Plambeck used thinly cut mother-of-pearl, ivory and metal for ornate surface decoration in addition to exotic woods. What is special for me, however, are the coloured inlays. They form backgrounds, flower garlands as well as clothing in strong colours. What kind of material is this, I have always asked myself. The former MK&G furniture restorer Horst Krause restored this table in the early 1980s and, as a trainee at the time, drew my attention to the remarkable technique. Animal glue, mixed with blue, red, yellow or green pigments, has been poured out as a thin slab and sawn out like veneer. In a relatively short period around the mid-1850s, this colourful technique was used on furniture throughout Germany.
Carola Klinzmann, Conservation Furniture and Wooden Objects
Sculpture group Janus, Mars and Minerva
"I am more interested in the future than in the past, for I intend to live in it." This sentence by Albert Einstein comes to mind when I look at the sculpture group. Janus, the god with two faces, one young, the other marked by age, is omnipresent. Uniting youth and age, he symbolises past and future, beginning and end. Minerva kneels before him. Is she, the patron goddess of war, wisdom and the arts, mourning the past? Or does she hope for an answer from the aged Janus in order to be able to avert an imminent danger? In contrast, Mars, the god of war and violence, stands in front of Janus in a confident pose, without even glancing at him. Undeterred, he pursues his brute warfare, but is in competition with Minerva. For she embodies intelligence and strategy, qualities that have already helped her to prevail against Mars. What I find fascinating is not only the realisation of the ancient myth, but also the topicality of the baroque sculpture. We should all learn from the past and make the right decision that we can live with in the future.
Franziska Schmottlach, Intern European Decorative Arts and Sculpture Collection
The inventory card for this daguerreotype, which was unusual for its time, succinctly states "Young man putting on glasses". When it was patented in 1839, the daguerreotype was the first practical photographic process, but its production was costly: Silver-plated copper plates served as image carriers, which had to be polished, made light-sensitive with iodine and developed in highly toxic mercury vapour immediately after the picture was taken. Each picture was a costly unique specimen. The bourgeois clientele had themselves posed accordingly in the studios in front of draped curtains and painted landscape backdrops. The "Young Man" cares surprisingly little about these conventions when he looks past the camera with a slightly strained gaze and covers his face with his raised hands and half-attached visual aid. He had to hold still in front of the camera for up to half a minute for this apparent snapshot. Whether this photograph was meant to illuminate how the new medium sharpens the gaze will remain a mystery - neither the sitter nor the photographer are known. Her work, however, is an invitation to go on a voyage of discovery in the rich detail of these photographic miniatures.
Sven Schumacher, Photography and New Media Collection
Ancient ribbed bowl made of glass
Among all the great objects in the Collection of Ancient Art and Antiquities, the vases, the sculptures, the small art, it stands out visually: the small Roman ribbed bowl made of mosaic glass, whose intense blue captivates the viewer's gaze. This blue is further emphasised by a white spiral pattern with a three-dimensional impression. But this bowl impresses me not only because of its ravishing colour. The artist has pulled out all the stops of his skill for it, culminating in centuries of experience in handling this precious material. The colourful effect of the glass was aimed at replicating vessels made of precious stones such as agate, giving free rein to imagination and chance. And the most amazing thing: despite the fragile material, the glass bowl has survived the millennia almost unscathed. This may be due to the fortunate circumstance that it served as a burial object, or to the fact that this little treasure has always been appreciated and protected over the course of time. For me, the mystery of its exact origin, its owners and its path through history also contribute to the fascination that this object exudes.
Ulrike Blauth, Marketing