[ . . . ] the thought fills me with pride and happiness today that Berlin stands before all the world with artists who are able to produce something of such magnificence. It shows that the Berlin school of sculpture is at a level which even the Renaissance could not possibly have surpassed. And I think all of you will humbly agree that the working example of Reinhold Begas and his conception – based, as it is, on a knowledge of antiquity – served for many of you as a guiding light in solving the great task before you.
Here, one could also draw a parallel between our age and the great artistic accomplishments of the Middle Ages and the Italians, for those works were likewise commissioned by the sovereign and art-loving ruler, who also chose the master artists. The master, in turn, attracted young followers from whose ranks certain schools then developed.
Now, gentlemen, the Pergamon Museum also opened at the very same time today in Berlin. I also view this as an important chapter in the history of art and as a good omen and a fortuitous coincidence. What presents itself to the awestruck public in those rooms is of such bounteous beauty as to surpass the imagination.
How does art fair in general in the world? It takes its examples [and] creates from the great wellspring of mother nature, and this wellspring, that is to say, mother nature, despite her tremendous, apparently unbounded, infinite freedom, nevertheless functions according to the eternal laws that the Creator Himself has imposed and which can never be surpassed or violated without endangering world progress.
So it goes with art. At the very sight of the glorious vestiges of the classical age one is overcome by the feeling that here reigns an eternal, ever steady law, the law of beauty and harmony, [the law] of aesthetics. This law was made manifest by the ancients in such a surprising and magnificent manner, in such perfect form, that we – with all our modern sensibilities and all of our technical ability – still say of an especially worthy achievement: “That is almost as good as 1900 years ago.”