Of Italian descent and a native French, Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), following his meteoric rise and splendid career as a military leader, became one of the most influential Austrians who had a long-lasting impact on the country’s fate and its art and cultural history. As a diplomat and counsel to the emperors Leopold I, Joseph I, and Charles VI, he travelled across Europe from one theatre of war to the next, playing a decisive role in determining the future of the House of Habsburg. In 2010, the Vienna Belvedere, with its two palaces and Baroque gardens built by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt in the early eighteenth century as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, will be the venue of an exhibition presenting the prince as a general, statesman, and patron of the arts and sciences.
Throughout his lifetime, he devoted himself to the compilation of a comprehensive collection of paintings, copper engravings, incunabula, illuminated manuscripts, and books, which he displayed in his Viennese palaces. From ever changing war sites, Prince Eugene corresponded with artists and artisans, landscape designers and architects, as well as the most influential thinkers of his time. His acquisitions went down in the annals of European art and cultural history and facilitated the transfer of works of art from the court of the French king Louis XIV to Vienna. His interest in the natural sciences - in matters of which he relied on the expertise of the philosopher and scientist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - is reflected in a large collection of exotic animals and plants.
The exhibition will showcase exhibits from Prince Eugene’s art collections - predominantly paintings from the Galleria Sabauda in Turin and cimelia from the Bibliotheca Eugeniana - in an ambience simulating period interiors, thus conveying to the visitors the complex decoration of those buildings where Prince Eugene, as president of the Imperial War Council and member of the Privy Council, received such illustrious guests as the ambassador of the Ottoman Empire.