Originally built as a lavish stately residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, then acquired in the eighteenth century by Empress Maria Theresa before being used for the Court Treasury and later as the Ministry of Finance, this Baroque jewel in Vienna’s city centre is a centre of art and culture once again. With the opening of the Belvedere’s fourth museum, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s most important rooms in his state apartment are now accessible to the public.
Building on the historical legacy and far-reaching impact of the cosmopolitan prince, a further important art hub has been established in Vienna’s city centre that is fed by interactions between the town and the garden palace – the Winter Palace and the Belvedere. They have now been reunited after more than 260 years. Following the first exhibition, dedicated to the prince on the occasion of his 350th birthday, the main aim is to create a dialogue between cultural heritage and contemporary art – an approach that has been realized with great success at some of the world’s great art institutions including the Belvedere Palace. The staterooms in Vienna’s Himmelpfortgasse have become a place of artistic encounter between the Baroque setting, the Belvedere’s collections, and contemporary art. Presentations are developed with direct reference to the site and the result is inspiring new artworks created in situ, drawing on the palace’s unique ambiance and history. Vital starting points are the city palace’s architecture, the prince’s former collections, and the holdings of the Belvedere.
Between 1724 and 1729, the Art of War tapestries from the workshop of Jodocus de Vos were presented in Prince Eugene’s official antechamber. The walls used to be lined with red velvet; unfortunately there is no record of the ceiling’s original decoration.
In Prince Eugene’s day, the State Bedroom was considered the enfilade’s most outstanding room. The green velvet wall covering was interspersed with wide borders embroidered with grotesque motifs. This most spacious stateroom also contained a magnificent bed, which served the purpose of ceremony rather than sleeping. The central ceiling fresco by Louis Dorigny features the Marriage of Hercules and Hebe and is surrounded by illusionistic architecture painted by Marcantonio Chiarini.
This stateroom, once used as an Audience Chamber, was adorned with red velvet wall coverings. One of its eye-catching features was a hot-air stove representing Hercules Fighting Ladon, the dragon guarding the Garden of the Hesperides (today at Schönbrunn Palace). The ceiling fresco by Andrea Lanzani depicts Hercules Ascending to Olympus and has survived intact.
The Yellow Room and the adjacent room originally accommodated the prince’s picture gallery. A long hall stretching over five window bays, it displayed paintings by artists such as Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, and Guido Reni, as well as two lacquer cabinets. When the remodelling of the palace began in 1752, the room was divided and a false ceiling installed. This still conceals a ceiling fresco of Boreas Abducting Orithyia by Louis Dorigny.
The Conference Room, furnished with a fireplace and a tile stove, still betrays its original function. The walls were covered with tapestries featuring grotesques from the Brussels-based studio of Jodocus de Vos. It is unclear whether the ceiling painting by Paul Strudel, The Victory of Justice over the Unjust Ruler, formed part of the original decoration.
The magnificent Gold Cabinet’s original carved ceiling has been completely preserved. In keeping with the period’s taste, the walls were covered with mirrors and brackets supporting Oriental porcelain. Parts of the decoration were transferred to the Lower Belvedere and used for the latter’s Gold Cabinet. The resulting empty surfaces were subsequently decorated with paintings commissioned especially for this purpose from the artists Franz Caspar Sambach and Franz Zogelmann.
A total of three library rooms, including the so-called Hall of Battle Paintings with seven oil paintings showing the general’s victorious battles, accommodated major parts of Prince Eugene’s extensive book collection. After Prince Eugene’s death, Emperor Charles VI acquired his books, manuscripts, and prints for the Court Library.
The small chapel is an addition dating from the reconstruction started in 1752. The wall paintings are particularly interesting, as they seem to be by the hand of an as yet unidentified painter from the circle of the Vienna Academy. Prince Eugene’s own small chapel used to be installed in the rear section of the State Bedroom, but has not survived. It is believed that both the altar and the parquet flooring come from this original chapel.
Daily 10 am to 6 pm
Himmelpfortgasse 8, 1010 Vienna
+43 1 795 57 134