How the Mshatta Façade came to Berlin
The acquisition history as well as the further museological biography make Mshatta a prime example of a shared heritage and give it a model character for cooperation with the country of origin.
At the end of the 19th century, it was Rudolf Ernst Brünnow in particular who studied the monument in detail for the first time. On this basis and mediated by the Graz art historian Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941), Wilhelm von Bode (1845-1925) recognized the importance of Mshatta for scientific research. In 1902 he was able to attract the interest of the [German] Emperor to the façade. In a very short time Bode set all the necessary levers in motion to officially secure the façade as a gift from the Sultan for Berlin, to raise the funds for documentation and transport, and to organize the scientific documentation and dismantling. The fact that stones were stolen from the palace complex during the construction of the Hedjaz Railroad helped him with his arguments.
The donation of the façade would not have been possible without the personal friendship of the two monarchs, which had developed as a result of Emperor Wilhelm's visits to the Ottoman court (1889 and 1898), their similar economic interests and their shared autocratic political ideas. In addition to the agreement to build the Baghdad Railway and the visit to the Holy Land, the second trip in 1898 also brought with it the targeted promotion of German archaeology in the Ottoman Empire. ... On December 23, 1903, the royal gift, disassembled into 459 parts, arrived at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum (today's Bode Museum), which was still under construction.
One of the levels of meaning of the "massive" diplomatic gift is the connection with the region of origin. Today's Jordan was part of the Ottoman province of Syria until 1918. As legal successor, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has confirmed the legality of the façade's remaining in Berlin. Both King Hussein (1935-1999) and in 2010 Prince Hamzah ibn al-Hussein, the brother of the current King of Jordan, and most recently in 2011 the responsible minister Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, have made positive statements during their visits about the fact that Jordan's cultural heritage is prominently displayed in Germany. The German-Jordanian restoration workshop in June 2011 also expressed its commitment to the reciprocal responsibility and care of the site near Amman and the façade in Berlin. The awareness of a common cultural heritage bears a special responsibility for a key work of late antiquity and early Islamic art.
© Extract from: Stefan Weber und Eva-Maria Troelenberg. Mschatta im Museum: zur Geschichte eines bedeutenden Monuments frühislamischer Kunst. Jahrbuch Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 46. 2010 (2011), pp. 104-132.
© Translation from German: Universes in Universe