Glyptothèque is a French term for a collection of statues or a museum housing such a collection. Probably originating around 1816, the word's first use was in describing the Munich Glyptothek. Carlyle mentions glyptothèques amongst many other types of institutions that house art or knowledge, in a criticism of such institutions as merely shadows of the great minds that created the works housed therein. He pines for times when rulers encouraged and funded actual genius, rather than merely paying for an accumulation of works created in the past, as if that accumulation could make up for the lack of actual intellect within their realm.

The first glyptothèque, built between 1816 and 1830 in Munich and designed by Neo von Klenze, adopts the style of a neoclassical forum. Luis I of Bavaria (1786-1868), the Crown-Prince who ascended to the throne in 1825, commissioned the building intending for it to turn Munich into a "German Athens," a haven for ancient Greek art and culture. Although his efforts did indeed transform Munich into a hub of culture, they also show the very symptoms that Carlyle attacks in "Signs of the Times." Rather than find an artist who could create magnificent work, exemplary of the talent in Bavaria, Louis I looked to the past and, in collecting the works of other lands and times, sought to gleam some of their glory for his own land. "In defect of Raphaels, and Angelos, and Mozarts," Louis I "has only to impose a new tax, and with the proceeds establish Philosophic Institutes," like the Glyptothek, "to which it is expected the stray agencies of Wisdom will swarm of their own accord, and hive and make honey." These words, however, apply more generally as well, showing that, though the Munich Glyptothek and all subsequent glyptothèques fit the example perfectly, so would any similar museum or institution.


Lexilogos, dictionnaire français. Viewed 30 March 2009.

"Louis I, King of Bavaria." Encyclopedia Britannica online, Viewed 30 March 2009.

Norman, Gertrude. A Brief History of Bavaria. Munich: Heinrich Jaffe, 1906. 70-74.

Last modified 1 April 2009