Schnütgen donated his collection to the city of Cologne in 1906, and
it was installed in an annex of the Museum of Applied Arts in Cologne in
1910. In 1932, it was installed in a museum of its own in Deutz (across
the Rhine from Cologne).
The installation by the Museums director Fritz Witte, in 1932, reflected a new interest in rarity, authenticity, condition and quality of execution. The objects were installed on individual pedestals or in cases. Isolation of objects was thought to force their "objective assessment." They became objects of aesthetic devotion.
The stark, spare installation allowed the text to assign new meanings to the objects. Fritz Witte exploits the objects as symbols of national identities in Führer, a guidebook he wrote for the installation in 1936.He used the fragments as visual proof that the Rheinland had traditionally been a Christian culture. In light of the Nazi, anti-Semitic rhetoric of the time, some viewers may have seen the objects as legitimizing the exclusion of Jews.
The Schnütgen Museum closed in 1939. It reopened in 1956 in the restored medieval church of Saint Cecilia in Cologne. The collection has entered into fresh relationships with German culture and European civilization.
|This white marble figure holding a book, usually identified as the Prophet Moses, was originally mounted on the high altar of Cologne Cathedral. Like Saint Barbara in Section 2, it is one of a group of fragments removed from three sides of the black marble altar in 1766, when a tabernacle was built above it.|
from the High Altar of Cologne Cathedral
Cologne, c. 1310-1322
Marble with gilding
|Since its establishment in the early Middle Ages, the cult of the Archangel Michael was widely spread and popular across Europe. In times of war, rulers called on the saint for protection. Isolated sanctuaries on mountaintops imitating the original Italian shrine of Saint Michael on the Gargano peninsula, like Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, became centers of pilgrimage. Saint Michael is shown here as a youthful warrior overcoming the devil, who appears in the form of a dragon. Only the handle remains of the sword he once held in his raised right hand.|
Master of Elsloo
Limburg (Netherlands), c. 1490-1500
|The wild man, a literary and artistic invention of the medieval imagination, was thought to live in remote, mountains and forests. This creature, animal in body but distinctly human in spirit, symbolizes the fight between the celestial and lower worlds. Originally part of a choir stall and possibly placed on top of the high side wall, the hirsute figure once struggled with an attacker, most likely a griffin. The latter is lost except for the talon, which grasps the wild man's lower leg, and the three claws remaining on his right arm. The wild man has raised his arms, also partly lost, to fight off his aggressor.|
Man from a Choir Stall
Cologne, late 14th century
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