The west wing of Floor 1 of Upper Belvedere is decidedly un-Klimt: not a glimmer of Jugendstil gold to be seen. But it still has many treats for the innocent visitor…
- Portraits, landscapes, and more from the 17th to 19th centuries
- Look out for:
- Jacques Louis David’s famous Napoleon portrait
- An unusual portrait of Empress Elisabeth
- The Belvedere is a dynamic museum, so the actual works on display may vary
- All info in English and German
- See also:
- Book tickets online* for Upper Belvedere
As with the Upper Belvedere Klimt and Vienna 1900 displays opposite, the rooms here are arranged by theme, drawing you through local art eras but also tackling topics such as the portrayal of the Habsburgs.
Think of it as a gentle stroll through an important period in Austria’s art history, with a few special appearances from international artists.
Here a few of my personal highlights:
(Napoleon at the St. Bernhard Pass. Photo courtesy of and © Belvedere, Wien. Reproduced with permission under the terms of Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 4.0.)
Much of the architecture and decoration of the Belvedere palaces glorifies the military achievements of their owner, Prince Eugene. The same might be said of Jacques Louis David’s iconic 1801 portrait of Napoleon.
This is one of five versions of Napoleon at the St. Bernhard Pass, popularly known as Napoleon crossing the Alps. The other paintings can be found in Paris and Berlin.
The Belvedere version pictures him atop a white charger in a suitably heroic pose, red robe flowing around him in the wind.
The imagery may have been slightly, ahem, “economical with the truth”; I daresay those breeches don’t make good winter wear.
However, nobody wants to see an emperor looking anything other than dashing and imperial. Least of all the emperor himself.
A cloned count?
In a 1760 painting of the family of Count Nikolaus Pálffy von Erdöd by Martin van Meytens the Younger (famous for his court and aristocratic portraits), the family appear to have alarmingly-similar faces.
No doubt an expert could likely explain this in terms of art history. But I choose to think that Count Nikolaus (or his wife) was particularly keen to silence any doubts about the paternity of the children.
The mid-18th-century landscape paintings by, for example, Johann Christian Brand caught my eye. The flowing, jumbled nature of the pre-industrialised landscapes are a joy: more curves and fewer lines, unlike our modern farmland.
A Messerschmidt bust
The busts by the Baroque sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt normally take bizarre forms. In contrast, his 1770 metal bust of Franz Mesmer is remarkable for its normality.
Elisabeth, Franz Joseph & other Habsburgs
Two paintings, in particular, stand out from the various portrayals of the Habsburgs, because they drift away from the more usual staged, ingratiating or myth-supporting alternatives:
- Franz von Matsch’s 1916 portrait of Emperor Franz Joseph on his deathbed, all the strength gone (though the face retains just a glimmer of Imperial steel)
- Anton Romako’s 1883 portrait of Empress Elisabeth with a dog
Elisabeth guarded her image with the intensity of today’s A-list celebrities. So it was quite a shock to see this dark, brooding picture which stands in stark contrast to the more usual (and kinder) painting of Sisi by George Martin Ignaz Raab next to it.
Opposite those two portraits, you find miniature versions of three monuments honouring other famous Habsburgs:
- Anton Dominik Fernkorn’s miniature of his equestrian statue of Archduke Karl
- Caspar von Zumbusch’s miniature of the Maria Theresa part of his 1888 monument to the empress
- Franz Anton Zauner’s model for his monument to Emperor Joseph II on Josefsplatz