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Alte Pinakothek: The Old Testament

Works of art on the history and figures of the Old Testament

People love good stories. There are enough good stories in the Old Testament to provide an entire Hollywood studio with great material. The scenarios range from the catastrophe of the flood to the temptation of Adam and Eve, a thrilling crime story about Susanna and the Elders to dramatic scenes such as the sacrifice of Isaac. Of course, Hollywood very soon recognised the potential of such material and much of it has been filmed many times. But the great painters in the history of art have already been painting these images for hundreds of years. In its latest exhibition, the Alte Pinakothek shows works by the great masters on the greatest stories from the Old Testament. The works include those by Albrecht Altdorfer, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens and Claude Lorrain.
During the Renaissance the bible experienced strong competition from the stories of Ancient Greece and Rome. They had quite an advantage over the bible, with their subjects of sex and sensuality. But the subjects from the Old Testament remained topical throughout the centuries. In 1516 Hans Baldung Grien painted one of the most famous themes, the Great Flood. Naked and barely clothed people battled for their lives in the swirling floodwaters. Noah’s Ark at the centre of the picture is reminiscent of a priceless casket to which some desperate souls attempt to cling, in order to climb on board. The painting is on loan from the museums of the City of Bamberg. However, most of the paintings come from the inventory of the Alte Pinakothek. For example, the famous work by Albrecht Altdorfer, “Susanna and the Elders” from 1526. A biblical crime story is being told here: two elderly judges observe Susanna while bathing and intend to force her into having sex with them. If she refuses, the judges shall accuse her of adultery. Susanna refuses and is sentenced to death for adultery a short time later by the two elderly men. Whoever does not know what happened next should look it up. Indeed, it is an important tip in general for the exhibition. Those who no longer know any stories from the Old Testament, except maybe those of the flood and Adam and Eve, should perhaps read them beforehand. Painters such as Rubens and Tintoretto used subjects such as “Susanne and the Elders” primarily to show the naked Susanna. But Albrecht Altdorfer’s painting is quite chaste. Only Susanna’s feet are being washed by her maid, and she is very small within the picture.
The occasion for the exhibition is the 21st Conference of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament at the Ludwig-Maximilian University. On this occasion, 37 paintings will be shown in the entire Alte Pinakothek. Many of the pictures from the inventory will also remain in their original location during the exhibition, thus creating an exciting route through the history of art.
Exhibition duration: until 20.10.2013
Opening times: daily except Mon 10.00 - 18.00, Tue 10.00 - 20.00
Admission prices: Tue-Sat 9 Euro | reduced 6 Euro, Sun 3 Euro | reduced 2 Euro