What do you buy a prestigious palace and museum for their 300th birthday? More insurance? (Ah, but they get that every year.) How about a special exhibition? Welcome to The Belvedere. 300 Years a Venue for Art, gift-wrapped for visitors to enjoy in Lower Belvedere’s orangery.
- Focuses on the evolution of the remarkable art collection
- Features works by many renowned names
- Also includes self-critical aspects
- All displays in English and German
- Book Lower Belvedere tickets* online
- Runs Dec 2, 2022 – Feb 25, 2024
- See also:
Three Centuries of Art
(Exhibition view; press photo courtesy of and © Johannes Stoll / Belvedere, Vienna)
When Prince Eugene of Savoy built himself a nice place in the country in the early 1700s, he no doubt imagined the cream of Viennese society dropping in to admire the frescoes.
Our Habsburg military genius might be less thrilled to know that even us mere peasants can now visit his Belvedere residence. And also perhaps jealous that the art on display surpasses anything he might have hung on his walls.
Belvedere is historical palace and premier art museum in one, where baroque marble halls meet Klimt masterpieces. And 2023 marks the 300th anniversary of the completion of the Upper Palace. A time for (mostly) celebration and commemoration.
The exhibition The Belvedere. 300 Years a Venue for Art takes us through the changing roles of the building and the evolution of the art collection.
Do not expect, though, vainglorious back-slapping of the kind Prince Eugene might have indulged in. The exhibition also applies a critical eye to some of the less pleasant periods of the past.
(Salomon Kleiner, View of Prince Eugene’s Garden and the Adjoining Gardens of the Salesian Convent and of Prince Schwarzenberg, 1731; photo: Library of the Belvedere, Vienna © Belvedere, Vienna)
On the history front, Belvedere served as a host for the Imperial Picture Gallery (opened to the public in 1777, when online tickets were hard to come by). We get a fascinating look at how the gallery walls looked: paintings displayed like a themed stamp collection.
After the collection moved elsewhere, Archduke Franz Ferdinand moved in, for example. And Austria’s post-occupation independence was signed, sealed, and delivered at Upper Belvedere in 1955.
Various pictorial exhibits complement that historical chronology, notably photos, paintings, and illustrations.
We see, for example, a 1715 aerial depiction of the neighbouring Schwarzenberg palace that shows Lower Belvedere under construction and reveals the rural nature of the area back then.
The long connection to art receives appropriate treatment, revealing how the focus and contents of the Belvedere collection changed through the years and often reflected prevailing political needs.
That dynamic evolution includes a darker chapter, of course: Belvedere played an ignoble role in the Nazi state’s plundering of cultural treasures. But dawn and day follow the darkest nights (fortunately).
(Modern Gallery 1903; press photo © Belvedere, Vienna)
Rather nicely, numerous works accompany the artistic chronology: a foray through the Belvedere collection that stretches from medieval masterpieces to contemporary feminist avant garde works.
These displays include, for example, paintings and sculptures by such names as Klimt, Schiele, von Amerling, Degas, Makart, Rodin, Waldmüller, Kokoschka, Oppenheim, Corinth, Laske, Moser, Lassnig, van Gogh, Arnulf Rainer, VALIE EXPORT, and others.
And rounding it all off are letters and other documents of historical value. Like one from Klimt himself talking about The Kiss (housed at Upper Belvedere) under its initial name of The Lovers (Liebespaar in German).
Good luck reading Klimt’s handwriting, though; that man missed his true vocation as a physician.
All-in-all a lovely walk through time in the company of some great art.
Dates, tickets and tips
Wander through 300 years of Belvedere from December 2nd, 2022 to February 25th, 2024. Any ticket giving access to Lower Belvedere includes the exhibition.
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
For some of that same time, Lower Belvedere has the additional treat of a Klimt exhibition that focuses on his sources of inspiration (February 3rd to May 29th, 2023).
For more on Austria’s wider modern history, try the aptly-titled House of Austrian History, which focuses on the post-Habsburg, post-WWI period.
For more on Prince Eugene, consider the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, which tackles military history and is not far from Belvedere. You’ll also find the bullet-ridden car from Franz Ferdinand’s ill-fated trip to the Balkans inside.
How to get there
Address: Rennweg 6, 1030 Vienna