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The Gemäldegalerie first opened its doors as a public institution in 1830, in its original home overlooking Lustgarten, the 'Royal Museum' known today as the Altes Museum, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The combined art collection of Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg and Frederick the Great formed the basis of the collection in the 17th and 18th centuries. The first director of the gallery, Gustav Friedrich Waagen, arranged and expanded the Berlin collection according to systematic scholarly criteria as opposed to purely personal tastes, something which was genuinely innovative at the time.
The 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.