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Alte Pinakothek to Open the Paintings of Elector Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz
Godfried Schalcken, Five prudent and five fatuous virgins © Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen - Alte Pinakothek Munich.

MUNICH.- The collection of paintings amassed by Elector Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz (1658–1716) at the beginning of the 18th century in his residence in Düsseldorf was one of the most important of its kind in Europe. In less than 40 years, one of the first major collections of Netherlandish Baroque painting outside Holland and Flanders was assembled.

For the first time in 300 years, this exceptionally distinguished collection is now being exhibited again in all its glory in Munich: for the duration of the exhibition, the Alte Pinakothek will be transformed into Johann Wilhelm’s painting gallery where a sensual panorama of Baroque delights will be spread before the eye. A reconstruction of the elector’s two painting cabinets, with more than 200 small format, largely Netherlandish paintings – hung so closely that there are hardly any gaps in between – will form the remarkable focal point in the exhibition.

Four detailed drawings and the identification, for the first time, of a number of paintings have enabled these cabinets to be reconstructed with considerable precision. The extensive collections of paintings held in Munich have made it possible for this Baroque display of paintings to be experienced once again, for a short time, in its original spatial context, adding a surprising perspective to the way we view works of art today.

This treasure trove of paintings gathered by the art-loving Wittelsbach elector found its way to Munich in 1799 and 1806 where it now forms one of the core holdings of the Alte Pinakothek. Key works in Johann Wilhelm’s collection include a number of paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck, as well as Rembrandt’s ‘Passion Cycle’ and more than twenty exquisite works by the Düsseldorf court painter Adriaen van der Werff. Exceptional Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings such as Raphael’s »Canigiani Holy Family« or Guido Reni’s »Assumption of the Virgin Mary« were in Johann Wilhelm’s possession. Even at that time, the exhibition of these works in the gallery in Düsseldorf, built exclusively for this purpose, attracted art-lovers from across Europe – who, in turn, spread the fame of the collection in their enthusiastic reports – over a period of more than one hundred years.

The presentation of Johann Wilhelm’s collection in the Alte Pinakothek has also provided the perfect occasion for displaying a number of masterpieces by artists such as Jan Brueghel the Elder and Adam Elsheimer, especially restored for this exhibition, which have not been seen for many decades. The re-acquisition of important works, combined with significant loans from Paris, Florence, Los Angeles, Rotterdam and Wuppertal, returning to the Alte Pinakothek for the first time in many years, complete this reconstruction. Through the addition of intricate Netherlandish works of exquisite perfection, the ideal taste at the Court of Johann Wilhelm is made apparent in this cabinet presentation. In this respect the exhibition also makes a significant contribution to research into the history of the holdings of the Bavarian State Picture Collections. Large groups of works have been brought together and displayed for the first time in an historical framework.

Three comprehensive publications accompanying the exhibition present Johann Wilhelm as a collector and client operating on a European scale, and analyse the Baroque art of representation and the history of the gallery’s reception. The reconstruction of the picture cabinets in the Alte Pinakothek is also documented. Based on a comprehensive reworking of previous catalogues and inventories, these publications cover the whole of Johann Wilhelm’s imposing collection of paintings. In addition, Nicolas de Pigage’s famous catalogue of works in the gallery of 1778 has been reprinted. It contains detailed copperplate engravings of the paintings, enabling today’s visitors to take an imaginary tour through the Düsseldorf gallery of the 18th century.





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