The Glyptothek, Munich

Originally established in 1830 by Crown Prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Glyptothek in Munich houses one of the world’s greatest collections of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture.

The exterior of the building is starkly classical, and while the interior was once richly decorated with elaborate plasterwork and boldly coloured walls, it’s reconstruction following bomb damage in the Second World War has resulted in much more muted modern galleries. The interior walls are now bare brick, the domed ceilings are stripped of their decoration, and the resulting atmosphere is much more airy, calm and cool.

The the interior of the Glyptothek, Munich

The the interior of the Glyptothek, Munich

The Glyptothek is a bustling place, with a busy little cafe, a well-stocked bookshop and the usual stream of school groups trailing through its echoing rooms. However, during my visit earlier this year, I managed to snatch a few moments of magical solitude it these hallowed halls. Outside it was chilly, the ground covered in thick snow, but inside the museum I found a warm, peaceful haven.

I was especially taken with Room XI, which contains portrait busts and heads from the Roman period. To find myself in this bright, spacious gallery surrounded by so many illustrious faces, some well-known and instantly recognisable, some whose identity is now lost for ever, was a wonderful experience made even more special by the way that the sculptures are exhibited here, with row upon row of ancient eyes staring right back at me.

Roman portraits in Room XI of the Glyptothek, Munich

Roman portraits in Room XI of the Glyptothek, Munich

It’s an experience that I won’t forget in a hurry.

Portraits of Empress Julia Domna and Emperor Septimius Severus in the Glyptothek, Munich

Portraits of Empress Julia Domna and Emperor Septimius Severus in the Glyptothek, Munich

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4 Responses to “The Glyptothek, Munich”

  1. what beautiful haunting pictures

  2. There’s something about looking into the faces of the long dead – sculptures and portraits – that fascinates me, I find myself desperately trying to ‘read’ them, and wishing they could talk back to us. I suppose there’s also that knowledge that they were once warm flesh and blood too and that fate awaits us all – poignant indeed.

    • I like the way you have put that! I think the fact that these sculptures are so realistic and lively in form, but the marble is so cold and dead, adds to their strangeness…

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