Collecting in Eighteenth-Century Vienna

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on November 2, 2009

From Andrew Ayers’s summary of exhibitions in Paris this fall, as reported in Art Info:


Bruegel, Memling, Van Eyck … The Brukenthal Collectio
Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 11 September 2009 – 11 January 2010

A favorite of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, Samuel von Brukenthal (1721–1803) was an insatiable collector, amassing over 16,000 books, hundreds of objets d’art, and more than 1,200 paintings. In 1777, he became governor of his native Transylvania, where, in present-day Sibiu, Romania, he built a palace to house his collections that became a museum after his death. For the first time in France, about 50 major works from the Muzeul National Brukenthal are being shown. The curators’ selection highlights the Flemish paintings, dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries, which were much sought after in mid-18th-century Vienna. Besides the quartet mentioned in the exhibition title (for there were two Pieter Bruegels, father and son), artists such as Jacob Jordaens, David Teniers II, and Titian also feature in the show. Key works include Bruegel the Younger’s copy of his father’s Massacre of the Innocents in Bethlehem (Elder’s: circa 1567; Younger’s: circa 1586–90), Van Eyck’s Man in a Blue Turban (circa 1430), and Titian’s Ecce Homo (1560).

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From the Brukenthal Museum’s website:


Brukenthal Palace in Sibiu, Romania, 1778-1788

Baron Samuel von Brukenthal (1721-1803) was the only representative of the Transylvanian Saxon community who acceded to high public office in the Austrian Empire under the Empress Maria Theresa (1717 – 1780), the first such office being that of Chancellor of Transylvania. The years spent in Vienna, in this capacity, were the years when the Baron started acquiring his collection of paintings, mentioned in Almanach de Vienne (1773) as being one of the most valuable private collections and generally admired by the cultivated Vienna public of the time. Baron’s initial collections (comprising the collection of paintings, a collection of prints, a library and a coin collection) were mostly put together in the period between 1759 and 1774. We have scant information as to how they came into being, the earliest records in the Brukenthal family being the archive concerning acquisition of paintings dating from 1770 (by which time the core of the collection of paintings must have been acquired). Appointed Governor of the Principality of Transylvania, a position that he occupied between 1777 and 1787, Samuel von Brukenthal built a Late Baroque palace in Sibiu, modelled on the palaces in the imperial capital.

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