Prunk means pageantry or splendour, and stall means stable. So the Prunkstall* is where Prince Eugene’s horses probably enjoyed better housing than many people of the time.
The only horses inside now are those pictured in the religious art on display – the three main rooms host Belvedere’s medieval collection, though the most prominent items are on show in the upper palace.
© Belvedere, Wien
You can get a feel for the original stabling from the horse-faced reliefs on the decorated ceiling, and the stone water basins along the walls of the largest gallery. Those same walls are now packed with altar panels and paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries, similarly-aged altar reliefs and a giant intact altarpiece.
The second gallery has more of the same, while the third features sombre-looking statues made of sandstone, pottery and various types of timber, including limewood, Swiss stone pine, walnut and willow.
As these are not the crème de la crème of the Belvedere medieval collection, there’s not too much information on each piece. Which is not to say there aren’t one or two highlights. As a non-expert, here are mine:
- I enjoyed the rather unpleasant devil character in the early 16th century painting of a scene from the legend of St. Cosmas and St. Damian (number 57 in the booklet).
- Not sure if it was deliberate, but the painting of the Adoration of the Magi from around 1500 (number 12) has Joseph at the back looking slightly miffed at the lack of attention.
- The winged altarpiece from 1520/30 (number 96) has some intriguing devil faces.
- The painting of the martyrdom of St.Erasmus (number 77) doesn’t hold back in its depiction of how that martyrdom came to be (grotesque torture instrument included). I’m keeping quiet but there’s a reason he’s the patron saint of abdominal pain.
- My wife says it’s not an anachronism, but the painting of St.Ambrose from 1498 (number 81) shows him wearing a pair of glasses.
- UK visitors will enjoy the altar wings from 1490/95 on the wall shared with Gallery 1: it’s George and the dragon (who you can also spot in the previous gallery, too).
- Look for the pearwood relief of the Fall of Man from 1521. It’s incredibly detailed and reminds me of the tiny boxwood rosary pendant on display in the Kunstkammer.
- The stables only open from 10am to noon, so you might want to nip in here fairly early before doing the rest of the Belvedere complex.
- Inside the entrance room, be sure to pick up one of the free English-language booklets. It guides you through the history and contents of the collection. Don’t forget to put it back when you’re done.
- Take a good look at the sculptures in the end gallery, just so you can make a comparison with the masterpieces housed at Upper Belvedere.
*Don’t forget the r: a Punkstall would be something completely different.