The collection of paintings at the Burgerbibliothek of Berne gives an insight into the Bernese and Swiss artistic tradition. The paintings show still lifes, interiors and landscapes. The majority of the holding consists of a large collection of painted portraits.
300 portraits, 16th —18th century
The city of Berne has a rich portrait painting tradition. The portraits painted since the 17th century testify to what was the most important area of work for Bernese artists. People’s demand for portraits of themselves – initially from the patriciate and later also from the town’s bourgeois class – drew artists from the rest of Switzerland and other countries to Berne, where there was a booming business.
The Portraits Collection includes paintings of Bernese mayors, doctors, theologians, librarians and other well-known personalities, together with the famous group portrait of the Library Commission by Johannes Dünz (1645—1736). Portraits using techniques other than painting that are not included here and, in some cases, not indexed, are to be found in the Graphics Collection, Photographic Archives and in the private archives.
Please book in advance to use the collection and associated documentation.
A significant proportion of the portraits produced in Berne are privately owned. In order to show the paintings to a wider public and make them accessible for research purposes, in 1962 the Burgerbibliothek of Berne started to establish a photographic directory of Bernese portraits in private ownership, in public institutions and held by art dealers. The portrait documentation comprises 10,000 works and is increasing continously. Not only painted portraits are documented but also drawings, miniatures, busts, graphic prints and historic photographs, provided that the persons depicted can be unambiguously identified.This unique record can be searched using the Online Archive Catalogue and provides an important finding aid for researching individual and family history, art and art history and other areas of interest.