Friday, April 1, 2011

Upper Belvedere

The extensive Belvedere complex consists of two nagnificent Baroque palaces the Upper and Lower Belvedere, the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The buildings are set in a Baroque park landscape in the 3rd district of Vienna, south-east of the city centre. It houses the Belvedere museum. The grounds are set on a gentle gradient and include decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. The Baroque palace complex was built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy
David's Napolean
Emperor Joseph II decided to transfer the k.k. Gemäldegalerie (Imperial Picture Gallery) from the Imperial Stables—a part of the city's Hofburg Imperial Palace—to the Upper Belvedere. Inspired by the idea of enlightened absolutism, the intention was to make the imperial collection accessible to the general public. The gallery opened five years later, making it one of the first public museums in the world. A series of eminent painters served as directors in charge of the imperial collection in the Upper Belvedere up to 1891 when it was transferred to the newly-built Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) on Vienna's splendid Ringstrasse. While the Upper Belvedere was transformed into a picture gallery at the end of the eighteenth century, the Lower Belvedere served chiefly to house family members fleeing from Napoleon

The Upper Belvedere underwent a period of reconstruction and modernisation from 1897, based on plans by the architect E. von Förster and commissioned by the Austrian crown prince Franz Ferdinand, so that the imperial family was able reside there from 1899. After the crown prince and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, the palace stood empty.

In 1919, the Belvedere passed into the ownership of the Republic of Austria and was successively adapted as a museum. Bomb attacks in 1944 and 1945 did great damage to both palaces, which were carefully restored after the war. The most important event in Austria’s post-war history was the ceremonial signing of the Austrian State Treaty on 15 May 1955 in the Marble Hall of the Upper Belvedere, restoring sovereignty to Austria. The Marble Hall is the central ceremonial room of the Upper Belvedere and is open to the public.

Incredible history here.  I enjoyed the museum. The highlight was for me the Napolean painting.  Fine collection and well displayed.  The gardens were nice, though they are not connected to the palace (for tourist management reasons).       

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