All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances
So wrote Shakespeare. The entrance to Vienna’s Theatermuseum is on Lobkowitzplatz. Inside has a few surprises…
- Located inside a baroque palace
- Mainly temporary exhibitions with a couple of permanent displays
- Also a temporary home to a major collection of paintings
- Includes a special treat for fans of Beethoven
- €12* for an adult ticket
- See also: Vienna museums
A museum of theatre
If you’re going to open a theatre museum, then you need a suitable stage. Vienna’s Theatermuseum occupies Palais Lobkowitz, built in the late 1600s and former home to one of Beethoven’s chief sponsors.
The main attractions within depend on the current exhibition(s) – the museum offers one or two small permanent displays and an ever-changing repertoire of temporary exhibitions that draw on the extensive collections within the museum archives.
Among the permanent highlights:
- The masterful Nuda Veritas painting by Gustav Klimt, produced for an 1899 exhibition and purchased the following year by a strong supporter of the Vienna modernism movement (Hermann Bahr). Bahr’s estate bequeathed the painting to the museum
(The display includes reproductions of letters Klimt wrote to his client. It’s always fascinating to see the angular handwriting that seems to mimic Klimt’s style and personality.)
- The Teschnerraum with its collection of marionettes, many of which are works of art in their own right
- A small display of model stages, including a full model of the stage from the original Hofburgtheater they tore down to complete the Michaelerplatz end of the Hofburg palace complex. You can see the old theatre building on the right side of this photo from the end of the 19th century:
Look close to spot a stone eagle up on the roof. The Theatermuseum has that very sculpted bird on display, too.
The picture gallery and Eroica Saal
The first floor has a couple of jewels to offer up that you might not expect in a museum covering the theatrical arts.
One is the Eroica Saal, where Beethoven’s third symphony premiered. More on that here.
The other is a picture gallery.
Ah, but not just any gallery.
The Theatermuseum provides a temporary home to the public painting collection of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna while the Academy’s own galleries undergo extensive renovations.
If you anticipate one or two half-decent paintings and a few sketches by some narcissistic professor, then ratchet up your expectations. We have the likes of Rubens and Rembrandt, Tiepolo and Titian in here. And, more importantly, one of Vienna’s top pieces of art.
Created around the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, Hieronymus Bosch’s Last Judgment deserves a few minutes of your time to explore the details.
Your eye moves from the relative tranquility of the Garden of Eden in the left panel, across Judgment Day in the centre to the hellish nightmare of the right-hand panel, where Satan rules as some monstrous rat mole thing (my technical description).
You find yourself asking what kind of fevered imagination could possibly come up with such an astonishing array of fantastical figures and scenes.
For more of this kind of art, be sure to visit the magnificent picture galleries of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Tickets & visitor tips
At the time of writing, an adult ticket* costs €12 for access to the building and all the exhibitions.
Just opposite the ground-floor ticket counter is a small shop selling postcards, magnets, books etc. And the museum has a cloakroom and lockers (the latter taking €1 and €2 coins).
How to get to the Theatermuseum
Put the Theatermuseum on a long list of Viennese sites located right in the centre of town. The tourist information centre is practically a neighbour, for example.
Subway: Stephansplatz (U1 and U3) and Karlsplatz (U1, U2 and U4) stations will get you close.
Tram/bus: the 2A bus that drives around the town centre stops close by (get off at Albertinaplatz or Plankengasse). The nearest tram stop is Oper/Karlsplatz, with stops for the 1, 2, D, 62, and 71 trams.
Once you’re done in the palais, walk across the road for your next major site of interest: the Albertina staterooms and art museum.
Address: Lobkowitzplatz 2, 1010 Vienna | Website