The construction work of the Lower Belvedere lasted from 1712 till 1716. The architect was Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, who built several buildings for Prince Eugen and was the most important Austrian baroque architect together with Johann Bernhard Fischer.
The entrance leads through the middle gate emblazoned with arms and initials into the Ehrenhof and from there into the Marble Hall originally. The Lower Belvedere served as a residential palace whereas the Upper Belvedere served for representative purposes in particular. Besides this, the Lower Belvedere also held parts of the princes’ collections.
Originally guests would have been welcomed with great ceremony in the Lower Belvedere’s two-storey Marble Hall. The walls’ structuring has been borrowed from the architecture of triumphal arches while war trophies and prisoners allude to Eugene’s successes as an imperial commander. By contrast, the oval shaped plaster medallions showing scenes from the life of Apollo recall the prince’s aesthetic interests. The ceiling fresco by Martino Altomonte depicts Apollo in a sun chariot. Eugene is represented as a nude hero as Mercury announces gifts from the pope honouring the prince’s achievements at the battle of Peterwardein in 1716.
The Marble Gallery was most probably planned as a space to present the three Herculaneum Women. These classical statues were placed in the second, fourth and sixth niches while the remaining highly dynamic sculptures were by the Baroque artist Domenico Parodi. In 1736, the Herculaneum Women were sold to the Dresden court and Parodi created three further sculptures to replace them. In the Marble Gallery the walls are also embellished with stucco war trophies referring to Prince Eugene’s military successes. On the ceiling a stucco relief glorifies the prince, showing him at the centre, enthroned and armed, being honoured with awards while Peace approaches banishing Envy and Hatred.
Hall of Grotesques
Decorating ‘‘sale terrene’’ and garden pavilions with painted grotesques on the walls and ceiling was very popular in Vienna in the early eighteenth century. Augsburg-born painter Jonas Drentwett adorned the ceiling of the Lower Belvedere’s Hall of Grotesques with the Four Seasons and the Four Elements (in the corners). The windowless walls show Vulcan’s Forge and the Three Graces embodying masculine and feminine principles. The majority of these paintings have been preserved in their original condition. However, the wall facing the Privy Garden was hit by a bomb in 1945 and thus required restoration.
Originally, the Marble Gallery was adjoined by a salle de conversation, its walls covered with silk painted with branches and birds. Under Maria Theresa, this room was redesigned into a gold cabinet (or mirror and porcelain cabinet) as part of the adaptation of the Lower Belvedere. Some of its decoration was taken from Prince Eugene’s city palace on Himmelpfortgasse with additions being made for the Lower Belvedere as required. One can assume that this redesigned Gold Cabinet had been completed by 1765.