The Oldest Museum Institution in the Country and One of the Most Important Cultural Organizations in Serbia: The National Museum in Belgrade
National Museum in Belgrade was founded in 1844, thanks to the initiative of the Head of the Ministry of Education and “the father of Serbian drama” Jovan Sterija Popovic. It was built on the Republic Square on the site of the famous Belgrade tavern Dardanelles, which gathered bohemians and intellectuals of the capital. The building dates from 1903, and it was built for the Treasury Directorate. Subsequently, the Fund Mortgage Bank was transferred to it, and since 1952, the museum has been housed in the building.
The project for the edifice was made by architects Andre Stevanovic and Nikola Nestorovic. The two-story building was erected according to the principles of the Neo-Renaissance with elements of the Neo-Baroque and three decades later the structure underwent reconstruction according to the project of Vojin Petrovic, who added a new wing and atrium.
The collection consists of more than 400,000 archeological and artistic objects from prehistory, antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the New Age.
Atrium is filled out with collections from the Paleolithic period, through ancient Greece, to artifacts from the time of the Roman Empire. Emphasis was placed on the culture of Lepenski Vir (archaeological site), the occurrence of copper metallurgy, and the development of the Roman provinces.
The first floor displays art objects from the early Middle Ages to the First Serbian Uprising (1804-1813). The collection includes icons, stone decorations, ceramics, jewelry, and applied art objects. The rest of the space is occupied by the paintings made in Serbia in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as drawings and graphics created by domestic and foreign masters.
The second floor houses permanent exhibitions divided into two departments (achievements of the foreign artists and Yugoslav artworks related to the 20th century) and a section dedicated to thematic exhibitions.
The greatest treasure of the museum is Miroslav’s Gospel from 1190. It is the oldest Cyrillic manuscript and the most reliable testimony of Serbian literacy from the 12th century. It was written for Miroslav, the Prince of Hum and the brother of the Stefan Nemanja, the Grand Prince of Raska, for the needs of the Church of St. Peter on the river Lim, his endowment. The Gospel is written on white parchment and decorated with about 300 miniatures and initials in color and gold.
Among the displayed artifacts the following pieces stand out:
Statues From Vinca (6th and 5th millennium BC): ritual zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures made of clay. The Vinca treasure consists primarily of female figures with triangular faces and large eyes, which represent the Goddess of fertility, i.e., the Great Mother.
Dupljaja Chariot (16th-13th century BC): two terracotta chariots that were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century in the vicinity of Bela Crkva (the village of Dupljaja). They originate from the Middle Bronze Age and are associated with the cult of fertility and vegetation. The chariots carry human figures (idols) with beaks instead of noses. The chariots and idols are decorated with spirals, circles, and swastikas.
The Belgrade Mummy (2nd millennium BC): the mummified body of the priest Nesmin from the temple of the God of Fertility Min, donated to the museum in 1888 by the Serbian lawyer Hadzi Pavle Ridjicki.
Golden Masks From Trebeniste: the masks originate from the necropolis near Lake Ohrid, whose graves date from the end of the 6th to the beginning of the 5th century BC. Masks, along with jewelry, sandals, gloves, and warrior equipment, were buried with the deceased, and they are a rare testimony to the occurrence of the prehistoric aristocracy.
The Belgrade cameo: a preserved fragment of triangular-shaped sardonyx depicts the triumph of the emperor on a horse trampling conquered barbarians. The cameo was discovered in the vicinity of Smederevska Palanka, and it was estimated that it was created between 325 and 330.
When it comes to the domestic painting of the 19th and 20th century the museum treasure consists of achievements of Konstantin Danil (Portrait of Mrs. Vailgling), Dimitrije Avramovic (Apotheosis of Lukijan Musicki), Katarina Ivanovic (Self-Portrait from 1836), Stevan Todorovic (The First Serbian Association for Gymnastics), Paja Jovanovic (Decorating of the Bride; The Takovo Uprising), Uros Predic (Saint Sava Blesses Serbian Children; Refugees from Herzegovina), Nadezda Petrovic (Resnik from 1904) and many others.
In addition to the accomplishments of local masters, the museum also contains artworks of some of the most influential artists in history: Titian (Portrait of Queen Christina of Denmark), Raphael (Madonna with Christ), Tintoretto (Madonna and Child With Donor), Cézanne (Breakfast in the Field), Renoir (The Bather, Two Women With Umbrellas), Monet (Rouen Cathedral), Lautrec (Yvette Guilbert Portrait), Degas (Three Ballerinas in Blue), Gauguin (Tahitian Girl), etc.
The museum also includes the Gallery of Frescoes, Museum of Vuk and Dositej, Memorial Museum of Nadezda and Rastko Petrovic, Museum of Lepenski Vir, and Archaeological Museum of Djerdap.