Born in 1871, Margarete Gütschow played a prominent role in the development of Roman archaeology and art history. Growing up in a wealthy family in Lubeck, Germany, Margarete had a culturally lively background. She traveled a lot; she never married and decided to move to Italy for several months. She arrived in Rome in 1910 and began collaborating with the German Institute of Archaeology, and began to develop her passion for archaeology as an assistant there. When the First World War broke out, the German Archaeological Institute was closed and she had to come back to Germany. In 1918, at the age of 47, she enrolled at the University of Berlin to study classical archaeology. It was here she met Gerhart Rodenwaldt, the director of the Corpus der antiken Sarkophagreliefs. From now on, her studies would be focused exclusively on funeral sculpture.
In 1925 she had the opportunity to go back to Rome, where she acquired photographs and researched funeral sculpture as Rodenwaldt’s assistant. She also wrote a number of articles about iconography and sarcophagi in Rome and Lazio. Her most famous work concerned the restoration and museum exhibition of the numerous classical sarcophagi fragments found out in the galleries of Pretestato’s catacomb in Via Appia Pignatelli, including the identification of fragments of the famous sarcophagus of Balbinus (238 AD). Her diligence was recognized by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred archaeology.
After several years of hard work for the German Archaeological Institute, she received the title “Ordinary Member of German Archaeological Institute” in 1935. Official documents highlighted the exceptional nature of this title, because Margarete Gütschow did not complete her studies with a Ph.D. In 1938, Margarete Gütschow published her first and only book: “Das Museum der Prätextat Katakombe” (Atti della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia, Memorie 4,2). She also wanted to write a volume for the aforementioned Corpus der antiken Sarkophagreliefs, but the book was never finished.
The years of World War II were hard; Margarete Gütschow was now elderly and had many economic difficulties. She returned to Germany in 1944 and received an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg. She died in Schleswig on the 29th of July 1951.
Post by Raffaella Bucolo
Book cover image provided by Raffaella Bucolo, author of Margarete Gutschow: Biografia E Studi Di Un’archeologa