Braunschweig’s famous art museum is not only one of the oldest of its kind at 250 years, it is also home to one of Germany’s most important collections, encompassing works of art from Egyptian times to the present. Following a seven-year refurbishment, the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum (HAUM) is more splendid and extensive than ever before.
The HAUM is a superlative art museum, with 4,000 works of art spanning 3,000 years on 4,000 square metres of exhibition space. The collection includes antique sculptures and important paintings from the Baroque and Renaissance. Works such as Rembrandt’s ‘Stormy Landscape’, ‘Judith with the Head of Holofernes’ by Rubens and Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Wine Glass’ attract people from near and far. The self-portrait by Italian Renaissance painter Giorgione and ‘The Beautiful Polish Girl’ by Ján Kupecký also fascinate more than 7,000 visitors per month – ‘About twice as many as before the renovation,’ says Professor Jochen Luckhardt, Managing Director of the museum.
New works of art, new presentation
Following the completion of the renovation in 2016, the exhibition of paintings including 315 works is more extensive than ever. Around 70 of them are newly presented here, and some of them had not been available for public viewing since the end of World War II. ‘While significance in terms of art history often served as the sole guideline in the past, we are focusing on a broader perspective today,’ says Professor Luckhardt.
And new works are featured here accordingly. Thematic groupings are intended to open up new pathways to the old masterpieces for the viewer. Themes related to the present day can be discovered as well, such as migration. ‘We want to offer many things, and make many things possible,’ Professor Luckhardt explains. ‘Each work is now accompanied by a brief description.’ In addition, a free booklet permits a deeper and more complex insight into the works.
However, the HAUM also presents contemporary works in addition to older art. Pictures by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg can be found here, along with a ‘Room for Young Art’, which currently houses an exhibition by Berlin artist Susanne Weirich. ‘A museum must keep renewing itself in order to remain attractive,’ the museum’s director notes, referring to both the works as well their presentation in the HAUM.
Sculptures, arts and crafts, East Asian artifacts
The HAUM features many attractions aside from paintings, such as the largest collection of Italian Majolica ceramics north of the Alps, more than two hundred pieces of French enamel painting, Fürstenberg china and a noteworthy collection of East Asian works of art. The presentation of antique sculptures in the museum’s rooms facing the street nearly doubled the number of exhibits following the renovation.
A special highlight is the ‘Art Chamber’, a room full of curious objects arranged in display cases. Here you can marvel at items such as a bouquet of paper flowers that is more than 200 years old, or a prosthetic arm from the 17th century. The eye sweeps over corals, ‘magic’ stones, ostrich eggs, an anatomical model of a pregnant woman, and is finally caught by the imposing tusk of a narwhale that, according to Professor Luckhardt, once served as proof for the existence of the legendary unicorn. ‘However, you shouldn’t believe that people used to be less intelligent or more gullible than today,’ the museum director emphasises. ‘They had different knowledge available to them. ‘And when you consider all the things people believe today, just because they read them on the Internet...’
Research and library
The HAUM not only considers itself an exhibition and event venue in which educational museum tours and ‘International Family Days’ take place. Researching and publishing contexts in art history is another important task for the museum. Its library can also be considered from this perspective. With its collection currently numbering more than 75,000 volumes, it is among Lower Saxony’s largest libraries specialising in art history. It primarily contains works on the following topics:
Art history from its beginnings to the present
Italian, Dutch, French, German, English and Spanish art, with a focus on the 16th through 18th centuries
Drawings and sketches
Art outside of Europe
The reference library also has an extensive collection of magazines, some of which date back to the 19th century, as well as exhibition and auction catalogues. If you are interested in reading (more) at home, you can get copies made on site.
City landmark and second museum site: Burg Dankwarderode
Burg Dankwarderode (Dankwarderode Castle), which was built as a palace by Henry the Lion in the 12th century, is not only an impressive example of the architecture of Saxon lowland castles. As an ‘outpost’ of the HAUM, it also features quite a noteworthy collection from medieval times. Treasures of the House of Welf, the cloak of Emperor Otto IV and the original of the bronze ‘Burglöwe’, a statue of a lion that Henry the Lion had erected on Burgplatz around 1166 as a symbol of justice and government have been on display as highlights in the Knappensaal (Knaves’ Hall) since 1963. A copy of the heraldic lion still stands at the original location on the square today.
A site rich in history
Dankwarderode Castle served as the residence of Braunschweig’s dukes for centuries. The HAUM owes its name to one of them. Anton Ulrich (163 –1714), the art-loving Duke of Wolfenbüttel-Braunschweig, established the foundation for the museum with his collection of artworks. It initially manifested itself as the ‘Kunst- und Naturalienkabinett’ of Duke Charles I, grandnephew and successor of Anton Ulrich. The museum opened its doors in 1754 in the Kleinen Mosthof and was later moved to the Großen Mosthof. It opened around the same time as the British Museum in London and was among Germany’s first museums.