Exhibition | The Belvedere in Vienna

Posted in anniversaries, exhibitions by Editor on May 13, 2022

Salomon Kleiner, View of the Gardens of The Belvedere, detail, ca. 1731
(Vienna: Bibliothek des Belvedere)

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Opening in December at The Belvedere:

The Belvedere in Vienna: 300 Years a Place of Art
Lower Belvedere, Vienna, 2 December 2022 — 7 January 2024

It took more than a decade to build the summer residence of Vienna’s most famous general, Prince Eugene of Savoy. In 1723, construction of the upper palace drew to a close and the Belvedere estate was finally completed. The 300th anniversary of this event presents the perfect occasion for the museum to reflect on its history. Both as a museum and a landmark building, the Belvedere has stood for power and prestige throughout the ages, serving as the setting for courtly festivities, at times as a royal residence, and as the venue for the signing of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955. In an extensive exhibition, the museum will examine the building’s changing roles.

The show will mark the Belvedere’s 300th-anniversary year of 2023. Presented as a homage to an institution dedicated to the arts throughout the centuries, the exhibition casts a critical eye on historical developments and institutional changes. It illustrates the abundance and diversity of the museum, highlighting the collection’s evolution and the role of the holdings as symbols of power.

In 1777 when Marie Theresa opened the Imperial Picture Gallery in the Upper Belvedere to the public, she made a groundbreaking decision heralding a new age of enlightened absolutism: the collections would no longer be limited to courtly representation but would also serve to educate the general public. The Belvedere thrived during the succeeding centuries as both a place for the arts and a scene for glamorous events such as Marie Antoinette’s wedding. It was also the residence of the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand, and the site where the Austrian State Treaty was signed. All of which is mirrored in its building and collection history.

The importance of the Belvedere as an art nexus over the centuries is examined in detail based on the rich holdings of the collection: they reflect the institution’s changing thematic concerns. The circulation and transfer of objects—additions and disposals of works from the collection due to museum reforms and barter transactions—provide further clues. This is particularly evident during the period from 1938 to 1945, when the museum was an agent and beneficiary of the Nazi state’s looting and cultural exploitation policy. Numerous works acquired after 1933 have been returned to the rightful heirs of the former owners since the enactment of the Austrian Art Restitution Law in 1998—the most notable example being Klimt’s Woman in Gold in 2006.

The Belvedere gallery and its collections reopened after World War II, once the damaged buildings and gardens were restored to their former glory. In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty was signed in the Upper Belvedere and presented to the public from the palace’s balcony.

The exhibition covers the period from the completion of the upper palace in 1723 to the present day, and illustrates the Belvedere’s role as a museum that honors the past, reflects on the present, and looks toward the future.

New Book | In the Shadow of the Empress

Posted in anniversaries, books by Editor on May 13, 2022

Maria Theresa was born on this day (13 May) in 1717; from Little, Brown and Company:

Nancy Goldstone, In the Shadow of the Empress: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters (Little, Brown and Company, 2021), 640 pages, ISBN: ‎978-0316449335, $32.

The vibrant, sprawling saga of Empress Maria Theresa—one of the most renowned women rulers in history—and three of her extraordinary daughters, including Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen of France.

Out of the thrilling and tempestuous eighteenth century comes the sweeping family saga of beautiful Maria Theresa, a sovereign of uncommon strength and vision, the only woman ever to inherit and rule the vast Habsburg Empire in her own name, and three of her remarkable daughters: lovely, talented Maria Christina, governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands; spirited Maria Carolina, the resolute queen of Naples; and the youngest, Marie Antoinette, the glamorous, tragic queen of France, and perhaps the most famous princess in history.

Unfolding against an irresistible backdrop of brilliant courts from Vienna to Versailles, embracing the exotic lure of Naples and Sicily, this epic history of Maria Theresa and her daughters is a tour de force of desire, adventure, ambition, treachery, sorrow, and glory.

Each of these women’s lives was packed with passion and heart-stopping suspense. Maria Theresa inherited her father’s thrones at the age of twenty-three and was immediately attacked on all sides by foreign powers confident that a woman would to be too weak to defend herself. Maria Christina, a gifted artist who alone among her sisters succeeded in marrying for love, would face the same dangers that destroyed the monarchy in France. Resourceful Maria Carolina would usher in the golden age of Naples only to face the deadly whirlwind of Napoleon. And, finally, Marie Antoinette, the doomed queen whose stylish excesses and captivating notoriety have masked the truth about her husband and herself for two hundred and fifty years.

Vividly written and deeply researched, In the Shadow of the Empress is the riveting story of four exceptional women who changed the course of history.

Nancy Goldstone is the author of six previous books including Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots; The Rival Queens: Catherine de’ Medici, Her Daughter Marguerite de Valois, and the Betrayal that Ignited a Kingdom; The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc; Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe; and The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily. She has also coauthored six books with her husband, Lawrence Goldstone. She lives in Del Mar, California.

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