Bode Museum took its name in 1956 after its first director and major collector, the art historian and museum curator, Wilhem von Bode (1845-1929). The museum is located on the northest part of the Museum Island in Berlin and it was built in 1897. It opened in 1904 under the name of the deceased husband of Prussia’s Empress Victoria-Kaiser Friedrich Museum.

The building was severely damaged during WWII and it witnessed subsequent waves of restoration for a good part of the second half of the 20th century. In 2006, after blending the Eastern and Western Berlin art collections (following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe), the museum reopened to its present form and content. It mainly features the Museum of Byzantine Art and the Sculpture Collection. One of the major contemporary benefactors of the museum is Reinhold Würth, collector of modern and contemporary art who also gifted the museum with masterpieces of the earlier periods, originating in south-western part of Germany (the Hohenlohe area). 

Since its opening, the museum challenged traditional concepts of high art by setting painting and sculpture on equal pair. It currently features one of the largest collection of ancient sculpture in the world. 

The collection of Byzantine art mainly features late antique and Byzantine works ranging from the 3rd to the 15th century, mostly from the ancient Mediterranean area. 

The collection of sculptures was extended significantly in the 19th and 20th century by its initiator, Wilhem von Bode, with works predominantly of German and Italian origin. Noteworthy is a series of works by Donatello, the renown Italian Renaissance sculptor, such as Virgin with the Child (dated 1410/1415), displaying Gothic influences (e.g. elongated eyes shape).

One important fact that deserves to be mentioned about Bode Museum is that it problematizes the  widely accepted, in the Western cultural canon, imagery of major saints such as Saints Margaret, Barbara, Saint George. These saints were often depicted in ways that transgress their gender limitations or prerequisites. Since women saints were seen as martyrs, much too often, their martyrdom is directly connected to the mutilation of their sexual organs, as a reminder that these were women who defied the norms of their time, by refusing to marry. Male saints like Saint George, on the other hand, who has been considered as the symbol of Western type of male chivalry was sometimes represented in an ambiguous way. In some works, the focus shifts from the 3rd century Roman soldier who defeated a dragon (an addition of the 9th century) to marry a princess, to a youthful appearance (often seen as nude) who endures the martyrdom of a female (his nipples are burnt). That is, the symbolic behind some representations of Saint George is one of a cultivated state of virginity, which exclusively belonged to women, at the time. This  physical and spiritual state of sainthood is underlined by his refusal to marry the princess, as well as by the focus on the dragon killing, an animal which, as we know, is  seen as a symbol of sexuality in the Western cultural canon.

Resources> 

-https://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/skulpturensammlung-und-museum-fuer-byzantinische-kunst/collections-research/about-the-collection/

-the tags near the collections’ display 

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