Suermont-Ludwig Museum, Aachen

A double glass door at the entrance of the museum. The museum name is in text, high up on the doors. To the left are the letters S and L, to the right, the letter M. The museum is at number 18 on the street.
The entrance on Wilhelmstraße

The Suermont-Ludwig Museum in Aachen is housed in an 1800s mansion, which has been extended over the years such that it now covers the whole of its lot, where once there were gardens at the back. It’s a gem of a museum, containing art and some curiosities from Aachen collectors, that’s well worth a couple of hours to visit. There’s a lot of religious art and if that doesn’t interest you, you can easily knock an hour off. It is closed on Mondays.

Floorplan of the original Villa Cassalette, showing how the museum has spread into the gardens through three periods of extension work
Info leaflet in the cloakroom

Entrance is normally €6, €3 for concessions, but I went on a Thursday and had free entry. I hadn’t seen mention of that on their website, so it may not be every Thursday. I think the guard said something about all museums being free, so if you can find out which day it happens on, that would be a good day to make a museum day of it. There is a very reasonably priced 6-museum card for €14, though.

The entrance and cloakroom are on the ground floor, along with a small but well-stocked library – worth a look for the ceiling alone, but the quiet makes it a place not to stay unless you want to read in peace. Up the staircase for the sprawling galleries. Only the first floor was in use when I went, but there looks to be extra space on the second floor for more exhibits – perhaps only on paid days.

A large display room showing Aachen residents' collections. It's an eclectic group, with mummies, glassware, hunting equipment, locks and more.
Room of curiosities – even the ceiling is an exhibit
A display case showing over 40 small models of medieval figures, each dancing with the grim reaper.
Medieval figures dance with death
The oldest items here are a small elongated vessel (an alabastron from Rhodes 500-475BC) and a colourful bird, probably a handle of a vessel (Syran, c.800)
A painting of religious allegories, overseen by Jesus and angels in the sky, while people succumb to and try to escape from temptation and devils.
They were just putting this painting back as I wandered through. Seemed to warrant a photo
Ornate decoration in the ceiling. Not lavishly coloured, but there are very detailed carvings.
The ceiling decoration
Statue in a display case of Jesus with a Samaritan woman at a well. The woman is looking straight at Jesus while pouring water into an amphora, with the stream going directly in even while she isn't looking.
Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the well, 1520-1530. Christ and the cocky Samaritan at the well, more like – she’s not even looking, and not spilling a drop!
Painting of genteel folk making music. All are finely dressed with ruffs and much shiny clothing, maybe silk. They lounge, play or look on with great confidence
And while we’re talking about rocking an attitude, look at these genteel folk making music. Especially the one in a white silk(?) jacket

Exhibits are grouped first by their century – largely 15-1600 and 16-17 – and then thematically. There is a large selection of Dutch paintings.

A painting of peasants drinking outside in a village while children play with animals in the street
Joost Cornelisz or Cornelis Droochsloot, Village with Drinking Peasants, c.17th
A painting of a Dutch river, meandering through the landscape with a bridge in the foreground and a town in the middle, while a mountain rises at the back of the scene.
Pieter Vermeer, Dutch River Landscape
A painting of married man and woman, separate but painted and arranged such that the man faces right and the woman left, so that they complement one another
A married couple – it was a Dutch ‘thing’, apparently, to have separate paintings of married couples arranged in relation to each other.

The painting below is displayed on a screen, so the animation can be shown. The painting has been simply (in effect, probably not in practice) such that the bee that sits on the flower at top flies away, a dragonfly flies in to sit on the blue flower and so on. I found it mesmerising, and it brought the painting to life in a very interesting way.

A screen shows a still life painting, with a shell containing flowers, more shells and a lizard in the foreground. Insects alight on the flowers, and have been carefully animated so as to bring motion to a still life.
Balthasar van der Ast, Flowers in a Shell and Snail Shells

There is free wifi in much of the museum, which is useful for looking up occasional latin phrases (perhaps I should have known that Ecce Homo means a representation of a scourged Jesus, bound and crowned with thorns. Equally, I would have ignored one, but by the time I was on the third, I had to check). I looked up the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, which is referred to in the painting below. Workers recruited early were offered a denarius for their full day’s work, which was a very generous offer. Through the day, more people were recruited, not offered a set amount but told it would be fair. At the end of the day, all were paid a denarius, to the complaints of those early workers. And this is like religion – devout all your life or not, the rewards are open to all.

A painting of a market, with goods, sellers and buyers in the forefront. Behind people are milling - presumably some of these are workers about to head to the vineyard.
Kopie nach Pieter Aersten (1508-1575), Market Scene, (with the parable of the workers in the vineyard)
Naked nymphs or angels painted in bright colours on a background of cloud and blue sky - the ceiling in the library
Ceiling decoration in the library – taken at an angle in an attempt not to disturb readers

A lovely museum, big (one of the largest provincial museums in Germany, the entry hall info board says) but not too big and with lots of beautiful things to see.

A large brown building on a large square. People are sitting on the steps in front of the huge building, which has turrets on both the left and right side. Trees run up the side of the plaza towards the city hall.
Aachen’s city hall

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