The Gallery of Old Masters (Gemäldegalerie) boasts one of the world’s most important collections of European painting ranging from the 13th to 18th century. Masterpieces from all epochs in the history of art are on permanent display here, including paintings by Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Jan Vermeer van Delft. The gallery is especially proud of its strong collection of German and Italian painting from the 13th to 16th century and painting from the Low Countries dating from the 15th to 17th century.
The paintings in the collection have been on show in their present home at the Kulturforum since 1998. The design proposals for the gallery's new building were submitted in an architectural competition in 1986, with the contract awarded to the architects Hilmer & Sattler the following year. With distinctly Prussian austerity of expression, the simple building rises above the sloping piazzetta, while inside its individual galleries are grouped around a light-filled central hall. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent remerger of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in 1991, the Gallery of Old Masters was expanded with the addition of a study gallery.
In its sense of architectural restraint, the simple designs of the façade are deliberately reminiscent of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Altes Museum. And in keeping with this, the individual galleries within demonstrate a classical sense of proportion. From the large central hall, conceived as a place of quiet reflection with indoor fountains designed by Walter De Maria, visitors can weave their way through the galleries at leisure, dipping in and out on their personal tour through the collection.