creator of the original Metropolis Robot


Walter Schulze-Mittendorff (1893-1976), creator of the original Metropolis Robot

Born January 31, 1893 in Berlin-Tiergarten, Germany. In 1907, at age fourteen he began an apprenticeship in sculptural arts at the studio of Otto Rossius in Berlin-Steglitz, which he finishes in 1911. In 1913 he begins to study sculptural arts at the "Königliche Akademie für Bildende Künste zu Berlin" (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Berlin), where he received the status of 'Künstler-Einjähriger' in 1914.

After the first World War, he continued his studies at what is now the "Akademie der Künste" (Academy of the Arts) in Berlin, and in 1920 he was accepted into the 'Meisteratelier' (Masterclass) of the Academy of the Arts. The same year he received the Academy's 'Dr. Paul Schultze-Preis für Bildhauerei' (prize for sculptural achievement), and in 1923 he is awarded the 'Rome-Prize'.


In 1920 his fellow student and friend, painter and film architect Robert Herlth, introduced him to director Fritz Lang who was looking for a capable sculptor for his film "Der müde Tod" (The Weary Death, or "Destiny", (English title) for the purpose of producing of the plastic elements needed for the production. The encounter with Fritz Lang marked the start of Schulze-Mittendorff's lifelong œvre in German film.

In 1925 Fritz Lang once again engaged the sculptor's skills for the plastic elements in the film "Metropolis". At 32 years old, Schulze-Mittendorff created the Machine Man "Maria", the head of "Hel", the "Seven-Headed Fantastic Beast", and the group of figures, "Death and the Seven Deadly Sins". In 1932 he worked with Lang for the last time, where he created the characteristic looks of Dr. Mabuse, with his mask for "Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse" ("The Testament of Dr. Mabuse").

After the national socialists' seizure of power in 1933, he created the sculptures for the film "Amphytrion" (1935) and also participated in the set costume design. In 1940 he signed a contract as costume designer with 'Terra-Filmkunst GmbH'.

After World War II, in 1947 he continued with work in film with the German film production company DEFA, which later became the state film monopoly of the German Democratic Republic, There, he would become the chief costume designer. In 1962, barely a year after the erection of the Berlin Wall, his contract ended, and being a citizen of West-Berlin, the contract was not able to be extended.

From 1962 until 1968 Walter Schulze-Mittendorff worked as a freelance costume designer. He participated in 18 West German film and television productions. In 1964, French-German film critic, historian, writer and poet, Lotte Eisner comes to visit him and requests that he rebuilds the Machine Man "Maria" from the film "Metropolis" for the Cinémathèque Française. This copy of the figure that he created is on display to this day at the film museum of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.

Walter Schulze-Mittendorff died on August 14, 1976 in Berlin-Grunewald, having left the world with an everlasting impact by his body of work for people to contemplate for centuries to come.


We encourage you to peruse the official Walter Schulze-Mittendorff site to see some of the other inspirational works and learn about the man behind the Maschinenmensch. Watch for future releases on this site of other WSM Art pieces and exhibits.

© Bertina Schulze-Mittendorff