Location: Lower Belvedere and Orangery
The Congress of Vienna is one of the most important international mega events in European history. Two hundred years ago, Vienna became Europe’s political, cultural, and social hub for a period of several months. The Congress was hosted by Emperor Francis I of Austria. All of the major European powers sent their delegates in order to confer about how to reorganise the continent, which had lost its stability during the Napoleonic Wars. Austria was represented by the Prince of Metternich, who also functioned as the president of the Congress. The declared goal was to achieve peace in Europe through a balance of powers and thus secure order on a long-term basis. The diplomatic negotiations were accompanied by a number of social events and entertainments, the enormous splendour of which has been captured in numerous written and pictorial documents. In those days, Vienna was flourishing as a centre of cultural life, with many artists coming to the imperial city and inspiring all genres of domestic art production. Europe in Vienna - The Congress of Vienna 1814/15 will be on view at the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery from 20 February to 21 June 2015. The comprehensive exhibition will highlight both the political and social aspects of this extraordinary event, which kept all Europe on tenterhooks over several months.
There is hardly another political, diplomatic and social event of the nineteenth century that was documented by such a great diversity of materials like the Congress of Vienna, which turned the metropolis on the River Danube into the hotspot of Europe for a brief period of time. Preparing the objects for the exhibition confronted the curators Sabine Grabner and Werner Telesko with the challenge of vividly presenting a diplomatic and historical process that is mainly perceived as a social event. The exhibits range from reportage prints and caricatures to history paintings and portraits in various dimensions and media – from miniature to sculpture and life-sized oil paintings. The scope of the Congress of Vienna as a phenomenon of social and artistic ramifications is to be displayed in the form of masterpieces from all genres. The thematic spectrum will take into account both the exciting chronology of events – from the European Wars of Liberation and the occupation of Vienna in 1805 and 1809 to the Battle of Leipzig of 1813 – and an adequate consideration of their protagonists, who came from the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie alike.
All in all, the Congress proved a remarkable political success. The borderlines between the individual European powers were redefined on a long-term basis. Especially the power equilibrium that had been reached in Vienna had a far-reaching impact on the entire continent. Peaceful negotiations helped settle a number of conflicting interests and tensions. For almost forty years, no further martial conflicts occurred on a European level, due to the stability that had been brought about. Initially, Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Great Britain had decided that France, Spain, and the lesser powers should not have a voice in the decision processes. Yet the experienced French diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand eventually succeeded in getting France to participate in the deliberations of the major powers. ‘You have come in time to see great things happen. Europe is in Vienna.’ This is how the French nobleman Charles Joseph de Ligne welcomed Count Auguste de La Garde, one of the famous chroniclers of the Congress. De Ligne’s assessment is not a retrospect invention or justification, but is confirmed by many contemporary sources. Thanks to its telling combination of Europe and Vienna, this wording has given the Belvedere’s exhibition its title.