The Städel owns 2,700 paintings (of which 600 are displayed) and a collection of 100,000 drawings and prints as well as 600 sculptures. It has around 4,000 m² of display and a library of 100,000 books and 400 periodicals.
The Städel was founded in 1815 by the Frankfurt banker and merchant Johann Friedrich Städel. In 1878, a new building, designed according to the Gründerzeit style, was erected on Schaumainkai street, presently the major museum district. By the start of the 20th century, the gallery was among the most prominent German collections of classic Pan-European art; the other such collections open to the public were the Dresden Gallery, the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, and the Altes Museum in Berlin. In 1937, 77 paintings and 700 prints were confiscated from the museum when the National Socialists declared them "degenerate art".
In 1939, the collection was moved out of Frankfurt to protect it from damage in World War II. The collection of the Staedel, officially known as the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie of Frankfurt, was removed from the museum to avoid destruction from the Allied bombings, and the collection was stored in the Schloss Rossbach, a castle owned by the Baron Thüngen near Bad Brückenau in Bavaria. There, the museum’s paintings and library were discovered by Lt. Thomas Carr Howe, USN, of the American Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program. Although the Baron von Thüngen and his wife were uncooperative with the Americans, Frau Dr. Holzinger, a licensed physician and the Swiss wife of the Staedel museum director, was present at the site and assisted with the cataloging and the removal of the items to the Munich Central Collecting Point. Lt. Howe said, “The first room to be inspected was a library adjoining the sitting room in which we had been waiting. Here we found a quantity of excellent French Impressionist paintings, all from the permanent collection of the Staedel, and a considerable number of fine Old Master drawings. Most of these were likewise the property of the museum, but a few – I remember one superb Rembrandt sketch – appeared to have come from Switzerland. Those would, of course, have to be looked into later, to determine their exact origin and how they came to be on loan to the museum. But for the moment we were concerned primarily with storage conditions and the problem of security. In another room we found an enormous collection of books, the library of one of the Frankfurt museums. In a third we encountered an array of medieval sculpture – saints all sizes and description, some of carved wood, others of stone, plain or polychromed. These too, were of museum origin. The last storage room was below ground, a vast, cavernous chamber beneath the house. Here was row upon row of pictures, stacked in two tiers down the center of the room and also along two sides. From what we could make of them in the poor light, they were not of high quality. During the summer months they would be alright in the underground room, but we thought the place would be very damp in the winter. Frau Holzinger assured us that this was so and that the pictures should be removed before the bad weather set in.”
The gallery was substantially damaged by air raids in World War II and it was rebuilt by 1966 following a design by the Frankfurt architect Johannes Krahn. An expansion building for the display of 20th-century work and special exhibits was erected in 1990, designed by Gustav Peichl. Small structural changes and renovations took place from 1997 to 1999.
The Städel has European paintings from seven centuries, beginning with the early 14th century, moving into Late Gothic, the Renaissance, Baroque, and into the 19th and 20th centuries. The large collection of prints and drawings is not on permanent display and occupies the first floor of the museum. Works on paper not on display can be viewed by appointment.
The gallery has a conservation department that performs conservation and restoration work on the collection.
Selected works 
- Jan van Eyck, Lucca Madonna, 1390–1441, mixed technique, 66 x 50 cm
- Fra Angelico, Madonna with Child and Twelve Angels, 1430–1433, tempera on panel, 37 x 27 cm
- Rogier van der Weyden, Medici Madonna, c. 1460–1464, oil on panel, 61.7 x 46.1 cm
- Master of the Frankfurt Paradiesgärtlein, Paradiesgärtlein, between 1400 und 1420, mixed technique on oak, 26 x 33 cm
- Hieronymus Bosch, Ecce Homo, c. 1476, oil on panel, 75 x 61 cm
- Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1480–85, mixed technique on poplar wood, 82 x 54 cm
- Bartolomeo Veneto, Portrait of a Young Woman, between 1500–1530, mixed technique on poplar wood, 44 x 34 cm
- Rembrandt van Rijn, The Blinding of Samson, 1636, oil on canvas, 205 x 272 cm
- Johannes Vermeer, The Geographer, 1668–1669, oil on canvas, 52 x 45.5 cm
- Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, Goethe in the Roman Campagna, 1787, oil on canvas, 164 x 206 cm
- Edgar Degas, Musicians in the Orchestra, 1872, oil on canvas, 69 x 49 cm
The museum also features works by the 20th-century German artist Max Beckmann.
Jan van Eyck, Lucca Madonna
Oberrheinischer Meister, Paradiesgärtlein
Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Woman
Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, Goethe in the Roman Campagna
Edgar Degas, Musicians in the Orchestra
- Eva Mongi-Vollmer: Meisterwerke im Städel Museum. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main 2007. ISBN 3-9809701-3-2
- Bodo Brinkmann: Das Städel, Frankfurt am Main. Prestel Verlag (Prestel-Museumsführer), München 1999, ISBN 3-7913-2204-4
- Bodo Brinkmann und Stephan Kemperdick: Deutsche Gemälde im Städel 1500–1550 (Kataloge der Gemälde im Städelschen Kunstinstitut Frankfurt am Main, hrsg. von Herbert Beck und Jochen Sander). Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2005, ISBN 978-3-8053-3350-4
- John Charles Van Dyke (1914), "Staedel Institute, Frankfort", Munich, Frankfort, Cassel: critical notes on the Old Pinacothek, the Staedel Institute, the Cassel Royal Gallery, New York: C. Scribner's Sons
- Howe, Thomas Carr. 1946. Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art. New York: Bobbs Merrill. Pages 43–46.
- "Die Erweiterung des Städel Museums". Städel Museum. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- Kneen, Dale (Summer 2012). "Starchitects In Our Eyes". High Life (British Airways): 16–17.
- Das Städel including information in English
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