From Classical Gesamtkunstwerk to the Ideal Museum

The Glyptothek was built by Leo von Klenze (1784–1864), architect to the court of Ludwig I, between1816 and 1830. While the front is based on Greek temple façades, the interior, with its vaulted ceilings, is reminiscent of Roman baths.

There are 14 halls arranged around a large square inner courtyard. Originally, they had coloured marble floors, walls and arches decorated with coloured stucco and were lit by dim daylight from the half-rounded windows in the upper part of the courtyard walls. The exhibits were positioned against the walls and were overshadowed by the architecture. Klenze's Glyptothek did not really cater for optimum presentation of the originals. Instead, it aspired to be a classical Gesamtkunstwerk.

For more than 100 years the museum stood in its magnificent splendour. When the Second World War broke out it was closed and the antiques were removed and stored in monasteries. In the summer of 1944 the Glyptothek was hit by bombs. Without a provisional roof, the stucco décor fell into disrepair over the course of the following years.

When work started on the reconstruction in the 1960's, a concept that Martin von Wagner had presented even at the time of construction was revived: he argued the case for sand-coloured walls, monochrome floors, plain pedestals and large-format windows. The figures were to be moved into the centre of the rooms. The Glyptothek that was reopened in 1972 with its slurry coating on the visible brick walls, its blue-grey limestone floors and pedestals and the massive windows onto the inner courtyard offers just this: an unobtrusive but aesthetically immensely effective setting for these qualitatively outstanding antiquities.