Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dürer, Michelangelo, Rubens: The 100 Masterworks of the Albertina

Albertina, Vienna, 14 March — 29 June 2014

The exhibit Dürer, Michelangelo, Rubens: The 100 Masterworks of the Albertina for the first time shows around 100 top-class masterpieces from the collection of the Albertina in the context of the chequered and exciting life story of its founders, Prince Albert of Saxony, Duke of Teschen and Archduchess Marie Christine. The large-scale presentation unites the highlights of the collection, from Michelangelo through Rembrandt and Rubens to Caspar David Friedrich. The centrepiece of the Albertina, Dürer’s famous Young Hare, is now once again accessible to an interested public in the context of this exhibit after a decade-long period of grace.

The time span documented by the large-scale exhibit extends from 1738 to 1822: from the age of the courtly Baroque under Maria Theresia and the Enlightenment under Joseph II, through the premodern period and the years of the revolutions in America and Europe to the Biedermeier period of the Vormärz (the years leading up to the revolutions of 1848 in Germany) following the Vienna Congress.  The stations in life of the founders of the collection, Prince Albert of Saxony, Duke of Teschen and Archduchess Marie Christine, including Dresden, Rome, Paris, Brussels and Vienna, present the leading centres of art and politics, and in the process provide insight into the multi-layered networks of collectors and art dealers, the feudal life of the European aristocracy, as well as the political and intellectual reorientation under the auspices of the Enlightenment.

Loans from throughout the world supplement the holdings of the Albertina in this presentation and convey a poignant picture of the circumstances and the passion for collecting of the namesake of the Albertina. A splendid service, as well as paintings and busts of the Duke and his wife, but also other important documents of the time, such as the hat of Napoleon, worn by him at the Battle of Eylau, originate from, among other sources, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Vatican and various private collections.

Albrecht Dürer
Hare, 1502
Watercolour, bodycolours, heightened with opaque white
© Albertina, Vienna

Friedrich Heinrich Füger
Albert and Maria Christina Presenting Pictures of Their Relatives in Italy to Their Family, 1776
Distemper on parchment
Belvedere, Vienna

Alexandre Roslin
Archduchess Maria Christina, 1778
Oil on canvas
Albertina, Vienna (Dauerleihgabe der Oesterreichischen Nationalbank)

Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen with the Map of the Battle of Maxen, 1777
Oil on canvas
Albertina, Vienna (Dauerleihgabe des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien, Gemäldegalerie)

Michelangelo Buonarroti
Male Nude Seen From the Back With a Flag Staff, ca. 1504
Black chalk, heightened in white
© Albertina, Vienna

Michelangelo Buonarroti
Study of a Seated Young Man and Two Studies of the Right Arm, (Recto), around 1511
Red chalk, heightened with white
© Albertina, Vienna

Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Big fish eat little fish, 1556
Pen and brush in grey and black, transfer lines
Albertina, Vienna

Nicholas Rubens with Coral Necklace, ca. 1619
Black and red chalks, heightened in white
© Albertina, Vienna

The Painter and the Patron, around 1565
Pen with brown ink
Albertina, Vienna

Albrecht Dürer
Praying Hands, 1508
Brush, gray and white ink, gray wash, on blue prepared paper
Albertina, Vienna

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
An Elephant, 1637
Black chalk
Albertina, Vienna

Leonardo da Vinci
Half-Length Figure of an Apostle, 1493-1495
Silverpoint, pen and brown ink on blue prepared paper
Albertina, Vienna

Peter Paul Rubens
Ruben’s daughter Clara Serena, 1623
Black and red chalk, heightened with white chalk
Albertina, Vienna

Jakob von Alt
Duke Albert’s Palace on the Augustine Bastion, 1816
Pen, watercolor
© Albertina, Vienna

Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age

The Mauritshuis : 11 October 2008 - 11 January 2009

Interest in urban development was just as great in the seventeenth century as it is now. New ramparts were raised outside the city gates, squares and market places emerged, streets were laid and canals dug; in short, cities gained ever more ground. Many painters were captivated by the burgeoning metropolis, which became a new and appealing subject. Jan van der Heyden and Gerrit Berckheyde were the most consistent and best known practitioners of this genre. They depicted Amsterdam and Haarlem many times over. Landscape painters, such as Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan van Goyen and Aelbert Cuyp, also turned their hands to cityscapes.

Vermeer’s masterful

View of Delft,

one of the most impressive paintings in the Mauritshuis’s permanent collection, was the highlight of the exhibition. Among the cities ‘portrayed’ in the seventeenth century, and also on view in the exhibition, were Dordrecht, Hoorn, Nijmegen, Middelburg and The Hague.

Pride of Place was organized jointly with the National Gallery of Art in Washington were it was also on view.

Growth Spurt

In the course of the Golden Age, the Northern Netherlands evolved into a flourishing nation of traders. This resulted in social urbanisation. Cities were subject to an enormous growth spurt because of an increasing average life expectancy, a rising birth rate and the waves of immigrants flooding the mercantile nation. The population grew so exponentially and rapidly that cities were forced to expand beyond their walls.

Dutch Prosperity

Holland was by far the most urbanised region of the Lowlands, as is clearly evident in the many cityscapes of Haarlem, Delft and Amsterdam. Not only did these cities rank among the largest and most prosperous in the Golden Age, they were also among the most frequently portrayed. Amsterdam led the way, growing into a port and trading centre of international stature in the seventeenth century. Built in 1648, the Town Hall (the present Palace on Dam Square) is a commanding symbol of this rising prosperity. At the time, this phenomenal building was even considered the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, reason enough for Gerrit Berckheyde and Jan van der Heyden to memorialise it on numerous occasions.

Early Cityscapes

Cityscapes from the beginning of the seventeenth century often show cities in silhouette. This was related to the genre’s origin, which was closely related to the advent of cartography in the sixteenth century. Cartographers generally embellished their maps with the ‘skylines’ of cities, so-called profile views, which early cityscapes strongly resemble. A broad view of a city from outside its walls makes it seem part of the surrounding landscape with polders or stretches of water. This view must have tempted landscape painters to depict the city as well. For example, Salomon van Ruysdael presented Nijmegen gracefully merging into the landscape of the typical Waal River in his

View of the Valkhof.

A Bird’s Eye View of Amsterdam

One of the most spectacular cityscapes in the exhibition is the

Bird’s Eye View of Amsterdam (c. 1660) by Jan Christiaen Micker.

It shows the city from an elevated vantage point, which strikes a familiar note to us in the twenty-first century, since it resembles an aerial photograph. The painting is a copy of the very earliest bird’s eye perspective of Amsterdam made by the cartographer Cornelis Anthonisz in 1538. The city is depicted with the IJ River at the north and, curiously, the south at the top. Micker depicted shadows cast by the dark clouds playing over the sun-drenched city below. We look down at Amsterdam before its first expansions. The city’s former layout can still be discerned today in its ground plan.

Artful Deception

A cityscape can be understood as a type of ‘city marketing’ of the time. It presented a ‘portrait’ of the city and expressed a sense of civic pride. Characteristic monuments and occasionally new buildings were meticulously recorded in paint. Artists, though, did not always adhere to reality, and sometimes devised creative ways of showing off their city to best advantage. Accordingly, the most important structures, such as churches and towers were frequently depicted larger than life. That a topographically correct rendering was not always crucial for the successful presentation of a city is particularly clear in Vermeer’s View of Delft. In his renowned painting, Vermeer strategically placed the most important buildings in his native city closer to one another than they actually were.

More images from the exhibition:

Gerrit Berckheyde
The Zijlpoort in Haarlem, c. 1670
oil on canvas
89.5 x 151 cm (35 1/4 x 59 7/16 in.)
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Jacob van Ruisdael
Haarlem with the Bleaching Fields (c. 1670–1675) 

Gerrit Berckheyde (Dutch, 1638–1698), A Hunting Party near the Hofvijver in The Hague, c. 1690
oil on canvas, 58 x 68.5 cm (22 13/16 x 26 15/16 in.), Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague

The Hague, the seat of government in the Dutch Republic, remains the political center of the Netherlands even though Amsterdam is the nation's capital. A sense of The Hague's 17th-century courtly life—princes, high-ranking officials, and foreign envoys all resided there—is evident in Berckheyde's scene of an elegant party departing on a falcon hunt. The Dutch parliament still meets in the governmental buildings lining the pond in Berckheyde's composition

Adriaen van de Venne (Dutch, 1589–1662), Middelburg with the Departure of a Dignitary, 1615
oil on panel, 64 x 134 cm (26 3/16 x 52 3/4 in.), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Salomon van Ruysdael (Dutch, 1600/1603–1670), The Valkhof at Nijmegen, 1652
oil on panel, 69.9 x 92.1 cm (27 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.), The Ivor Collection

Jan van der Heyden (Dutch, 1637–1712), The Keizersgracht and the Westerkerk in Amsterdam, c. 1667–1670
oil on panel, 54 x 63 cm (21 1/4 x 24 13/16 in.), Eijk and Rose-Marie van Otterloo Collection

Completed in 1638, the Westerkerk stood between the Keizersgracht (the Emperor's Canal) and the Prinsengracht (the Prince's Canal). It was intended not only as a neighborhood church for the inhabitants of the elegant canal-side houses, but also as the principal Protestant church of the city. The church tower is still the tallest in Amsterdam.

Pieter Saenredam (Dutch, 1597–1665), The Old Town Hall of Amsterdam, 1657
oil on panel, 65.5 x 84.5 cm (25 13/16 x 33 1/4 in.), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, on loan from the City of Amsterdam

From an interesting review:

In reviewing the exhibition currently at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age, Blacke Gopnik writes in his Washington Post article The ‘Golden’ Compass that contemporary viewers may not know how to correctly look at classic Dutch landscapes and cityscapes.

He suggests that this is more than having a background knowledge of the artists or particular paintings, and in fact has to do with physical proximity to the painting, a reference to a kind of “sweet spot” from which the painting was intended to be seen, particularly in terms of being close enough to the image for it to fill a significant part of your visual field; but also, in some cases, requiring a vantage point from one side or the other.

A case in point is

Daniel Vosmaer’s Delft from an Imaginary Loggia, (image above, top) which looks “off” at first, but apparently resolves into a strikingly naturalistic scene when viewed from a position close to the bottom left of the painting. Some are more natural seeming in appearance when seen from a distance or in reproduction, like Adriaensz Berckheyde’s The Grote or St. Bavokerk in Haarlem (image above, bottom), but still evidently reveal their full force only when seen up close.


The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue with contributions by Ariane van Suchtelen, Arthur Wheelock and others, and an introductory essay by Boudewijn Bakker. This accessible publication includes colour illustrations of and entries on all the exhibited paintings. The catalogue is preceded by two essays elucidating urban development in the Northern Netherlands and the cityscape as an artistic genre.

Paul Klee Fulfillment in the Late Work

From August 10 to November 9, 2003 the Fondation Beyeler presented a comprehensive review of the late work of Paul Klee. Beginning with the exquisitely colored pointillism of the Düsseldorf years (1931-32), through Klee’s emigration to Switzerland in 1933 as a result of the Nazi takeover, to the artist’s death in 1940, the exhibition represents every facet of this rich and productive final phase of his career.

The exhibition was conceived in collaboration with the Sprengel Museum, Hanover. It resulted from a need felt by both of our institutions, each harboring a significant Klee collection, to convey a valid picture of the rich and varied development of the work created by this German artist who chose exile in his homeland during the Third Reich.

The exhibition focused on a great overarching theme which holds significance not only for the art of the past but for modernism as well – that of the “late work”. We should recall that it was the major late work of artists of the waning nineteenth century – Cézanne, van Gogh, Monet – that provided crucial impulses to modern art. When in the second third of the twentieth century a few major representatives of the ever-young avant-garde themselves suddenly faced the “last things”, the ultimate questions of existence, remarkable turns often resulted. There emerged aesthetic idioms of great compellingness: the precursors of the “modern late work.” Those of especially outstanding quality included, apart from Matisse’s, the late work of Klee, which at the same time represented one of the earliest “stocktakings” in modern art.

After a long, successful teaching career at the Bauhaus, in Weimar and Dessau, Klee was offered a professorship at the Düsseldorf Academy. This marked the beginning of his renowned “pointillist” phase, in which his colorism reached an apex of subtlety and concision. Yet this superb, finely articulated style found an abrupt end when, after the Nazis came to power, Klee was suspended from his post in April 1933. In December of that year he emigrated to Bern, the city of his boyhood and youth, which from then on he would seldom leave. With an impressive artistic effort Klee now abandoned the dreamworld of the Düsseldorf period for a visual language that was harsh, conden-sed, as if in reaction to injury. The pulsating, mythically evocative patterns of the pointillist phase gave way to the scars of a perception under duress. This break could be traced in the exhibition, at those points where major works of the Düsseldorf years are confronted with those from the fateful year 1933 and thereafter

(e.g. Head of a Martyr, 1933).

The next ceasura came in 1935. Klee fell seriously ill. His continually worsening symptoms would be diagnosed posthumously as incurable progressive scleroderma, or harding of the skin. From that point on, every painting could be considered as belonging to an emerging late work. At first, Klee’s creative powers collapsed – only 25 works were done in that especially difficult year of 1936. The exhibition brought together a number of key works of the two years 1935 and 1936, in which the Europe-wide political catastrophe was followed by Klee’s private tragedy.

Two aspects of the year 1936 deserve emphasis: on the one hand, we find a renewed interest in the constructing of forms, of the kind especially characteristic of the earlier Bauhaus years. The often fragile, intertwined graphic traces of the 1920s congealed into fields of meaning of a new poignancy. Examples are the threatening black arrow lying heavy on the lineatures of the

Affected Town,

or the black Gate to the Depth suddenly opening in a field of colored rectangles. On the other hand, suggestions of those black barlike lines began to appear

(After the Flood),

which, in conjunction with luminous colored grounds, would become characteristic of the final phases, from 1937 onwards.

A good three-fourths of the works on view originate from the years 1937-40, in which Klee’s style experienced a final condensation and his productivity peaked (1253 works in 1939 alone). The year 1937 had already brought a marked increase. Klee’s condition stabilized, and encouraged the vision of a new, fragile freedom sub specie aeternitatis. By this time the late style, with its dark lines and bars on a colored ground, was coming to complete maturity. In a sense, it showed Klee translating the mobility and ease of drawing into the more permanent terms of the painted image. Some of his lines began to suggest figures, others remained largely abstract, while still others developed into symbols and signs with potential linguistic reference or fraught with encoded meaning. Klee’s paintings and drawings now reflected a subtle interplay between an evocation of the condition humaine in all its ridiculousness, wisdom and tragedy, and metaphysical aspects of existence that remain inaccessible to the intellect.

The following years brought a further, surprising increase in Klee’s production. In 1938, especially, he executed many large-format paintings – including the largest he had ever done. This was the period of full maturity within the late work. The exhibition included several of these outstanding works, which also hold a place of prominence in the oeuvre as a whole


Forest Witches, 

The Grey Man

 and the Coast, Rich Harbour).

With consummate sovereignty the artist now began to address the great subjects of mythology, man’s inner journey, and the role of the artist as a mediator be-tween aesthetic form and the elemental forces of being.

Following the great, “symphonic” major works, the year 1939 was marked especially by a feverish drawing activity. This included an intensive concern with a special category of mediating beings – the angels. These are represented in the exhibition above all by one of those sequences of drawings which were characteristic of Klee’s final years.

If the years 1938 and 1939 brought an emotionally moving unfolding of a final abundance, the year 1940 stood under the sign of the irrevocably approaching “ultimate things.” Using an often dramatically heightened palette, Klee now evoked insights into the dark realm of transition.

Death and Fire,

Going Next Door,

and Boat Trip in Darkness

show, each in its own way, this aspect of the final, merciless engima that stood between the fatally ill artist and release. The exhibition closed with three of the famous works from the estate which Klee left untitled, but which have become known by such telling titles as

Captive (Figure of This World/Next World), 

Last Still-Life,

and The Angel of Death.

All in all, the present exhibition provided an unprecedented insight into this late work, one of the first and most compelling in all of modernism. While other recent exhibitions of artists’ late oeuvres have tended to focus on some special facet of technique or on the production of a single year, the Fondation Beyeler exhibition gave the first review of Klee’s late work in all its breadth to have been seen for many years. Yet the emphasis, as rarely in the past decades, was purposely not placed on the frequently exhibited drawings, but on the paintings and major colored works on paper of this period. Still, the drawings were represented as well, in the form of selected sheets and series.

The exhibition brought together major loans from some of the finest Klee collections in Europe and the U.S. Foremost among these are the Paul-Klee-Stiftung in Bern, and the family collections of Livia Klee and Alexander Klee. Major works have also generously been made available by The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; the Sprengel Museum, Hanover; the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel; the Emanuel-Hoffmann-Stiftung; the Kunsthaus, Zurich; and further public and private lenders.

A catalogue was published in a bilingual edition (German and English) by Benteli Verlag, Bern. It includes essays by Matthias Bärmann, Ernst Beyeler and Ulrich Krempel, as well as a chronology by Stefan Frey. Approx. 200 pages with approx. 100 full-color illustrations.

From an excellent review of new Klee exhibition:

Opened Mountain, 1914 (detail). Photograph: Private collection

A work like Opened Mountain may have its origin in complex chromatic rhythms, but soaring above the method is the stupendous vision of intersecting light beams, or veins of precious minerals, in vermilion, gold and indigo – a wonderful party going on inside a sullen black crag.


They're Biting, 1920: ‘a fishing trip that hinges on a single imbalance’. Photograph: Tate

Father and son have cast their line from the bank, and contained in that marvellous arc are the sun, a boat, the water, the distant landscape and Klee's own signature, like a tiny insect alighting on the page, with the lugubrious fish hanging dumb-mouthed below. What a serene scene, what a perfect catch – except that an exclamation mark dangles before the fish by way of kindly warning.

Fish are emblematic in Klee's art. One looks into his pictures as into an aquarium where the world is weightless, delicate, translucent and free, and time seems quite irrelevant. The clock submerged in Fish Magic, one of the show's most famous works, points uselessly to nine while the glittering creatures drift unhurriedly around it and strange discs glow in the dark like planets.
The rhythms of the cosmos are no more or less significant to the fish than the hours of the human clock.

More images:

Harmony of the Northern Flora

 More reviews of new Klee exhibition:

Cubism Beyond Borders

In a special investigation of the far-reaching influence and wide-ranging interpretations of Cubism in the early twentieth century, the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, brought together iconic works from France, the Americas, and Eastern Europe in Cubism Beyond Borders, on view August 31- December 8, 2013.

The exhibition featured paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from the Blanton’s collection by Pablo Picasso, Albert Gleizes, Max Weber, Arshile Gorky, Alexander Archipenko, and others, as well as Diego Rivera’s Still Life with Gray Bowl (1915), (below) on loan from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.

In the first decades of the 1900s, Paris was considered the capital of artistic innovation, with many young artists visiting, moving to, or studying in the city. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque’s development of Cubism between 1907 and 1914 reverberated throughout Paris’s annual salons, where the revolutionary new style found an international audience of artists. Picasso and Braque never codified their innovations, and Cubism thus remained an evolving and open-ended challenge to the traditions of form and space in painting to which artists from around the world were eager to respond.

Rivera’s Still Life with Gray Bowl

exemplifies one such response. Painted while the Mexican artist mingled with the avant-garde in Paris, Still Life with Gray Bowl represents Rivera’s remarkably innovative approach to the Cubist vocabulary.

Arshile Gorky’s Composition with Vegetables (circa 1928)

and Albert Gleizes’s The Cubist Composition: Madonna and Child (1928)

were among other highlights of the exhibition, and further demonstrate Cubism’s broad geographic scope and variety of palettes and interpretations. While Gleizes worked at the forefront of so-called “Salon” Cubism in Paris as one of the movement’s principal theorists and populizers, Gorky, an Armenian immigrant to America, voraciously studied Cubism from afar through reproductions in art magazines and visits to Albert Eugene Gallatin’s visionary collection of modern European art, the Gallery of Living Art, then housed at New York University.

Likewise, Ukrainian artist Alexander Archipenko, residing in Paris and Nice, introduced a Cubist spatial sensibility to sculpture in works such as Egyptian Motif (1917), also featured in the exhibition.

Extending the international dialogue examined in the Blanton’s America/Americas installation – a grouping of twentieth-century works from the museum’s permanent collection created in North, South, and Central America - Cubism Beyond Borders sparks new conversations about the ways in which Cubism defied tradition, transcended national borders, and continually captivates the global imagination.

More images from the exhibition:

Earl Horter, Manhattan Night, c. 1932

Max Weber, New York at Night, 1915

Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections

In 2015, a major American collaboration will bring masterworks amassed by one of the longest-reigning European dynasties to the United States. Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections showcases masterpieces and rare objects from the collection of the Habsburg Dynasty—the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and other powerful rulers who commissioned extraordinary artworks now in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The exhibition, largely composed of works that have never traveled outside of Austria, will be on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA); the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH); and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Debuting in Minneapolis in February 2015 before traveling to Houston and Atlanta, Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections explores the dramatic rise and fall of the Habsburgs’ global empire, from their political ascendance in the late Middle Ages to the height of their power in the 16th and 17th centuries, the expansion of the dynasty in the 18th and 19th centuries to its end in 1918 with the conclusion of World War I. The 93 artworks and artifacts that tell the story include arms and armor, sculpture, Greek and Roman antiquities, court costumes, carriages, decorative-art objects, and paintings by such masters as Correggio, Giorgione, Rubens, Tintoretto, Titian, and Velázquez. Key masterpieces that have never before traveled to the United States include:

A portrait of Jane Seymour (1536), Queen of England and third wife to Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the Younger

• Jupiter and Io (c. 1530/32) by Correggio

Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The exhibition will be on view in Minneapolis from February 15 to May 10, 2015; Houston from June 14 to September 13, 2015; and Atlanta from October 18, 2015, to January 17, 2016.

“The exhibition grew out of a visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s famed Kunstkammer Wien, a veritable treasure box of masterworks and one of Europe’s great cultural gems,” explained Michael E. Shapiro, the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High. “The Kunstkammer only recently reopened after a nine-year renovation that hid the majority of the art from public view. For American audiences, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to peek inside the chambers of one of the most important imperial art collections in the world.”

“Habsburg Splendor is an unprecedented presentation and wide-ranging survey of the Habsburg Dynasty, a true visual feast,” said Kaywin Feldman, director and president of the MIA and hosting curator. “By bringing together the Habsburgs’ paintings, decorative arts, costumes and armor, we can give our visitors a rich, tangible and fascinating sense of the lives and legacies of these important European rulers who shaped world history.”

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with our partner institutions in Minneapolis and Atlanta to bring to our audiences so many extraordinary masterpieces of European art,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “The selection of paintings—by Giorgione, Titian, Correggio, Arcimboldo, Rubens and Velázquez, among others—is simply staggering. And, I know our visitors will be captivated by the carriages, armor, liveried horses and pomp of the court costumes.”

“We’re delighted to share our Museum´s unique wonders with our American friends,” added Dr. Sabine Haag, general director of Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. “The exhibition will show the extraordinary wide range of the Habsburgs’ collections, including masterpieces of Roman antiquity, medieval armory, early modern painting and craftwork, as well as gorgeous carriages and clothing. We hope this will inspire visitors to make the trip to Vienna to see the collection in person and to discover even more of our treasure.”

Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections chronicles the Habsburgs’ story in three chapters, each featuring a three-dimensional “tableau”—a display of objects from the Habsburgs’ opulent court ceremonies—as context for the other works on view.

The first section features objects commissioned or collected by the Habsburgs from the 13th through the 16th centuries. In this late medieval/early Renaissance period, Habsburg rulers staged elaborate commemorative celebrations to demonstrate power and to establish their legitimacy to rule, a tradition that flourished during the reigns of Maximilian I and his heirs. Works from this era—including sabres and armor, tapestries, Roman cameos and large-scale paintings—illustrate the significance of war and patronage in expanding Habsburg influence and prestige.

Tableau: Suits of armor displayed on horseback, and jousting weapons from a royal tournament.

Highlights include:
• Armor of Emperor Maximilian I (c. 1492) made by Lorenz Helmschmid
• Bronze bust of Emperor Charles V (c. 1555) by Leone Leoni
• A rock crystal goblet made for Emperor Frederick III (1400–1450)

The second and largest section of the exhibition highlights the apex of Habsburg rule, the Baroque Age of the 17th and 18th centuries. The dynasty used religion, works of art and court festivities to propagate its self-image and claim to rule during this politically tumultuous time. Paintings by Europe’s leading artists demonstrate the wealth and taste of the Habsburg rulers, while crucifixes wrought in precious metals and gems, as well as sumptuous ecclesiastical vestments, reflect the emperor’s role as defender of the Catholic faith.

Tableau: A procession featuring a Baroque ceremonial carriage and sleigh, with carvings by master craftsman Balthasar Ferdinand Moll.

Highlights include:
• An ivory tankard (1642) by Hans Jacob Bachmann
• Infanta Maria Teresa (1652–53), a portrait of the daughter of Philip IV of Spain and eventual wife of Louis XIV of France, by Velázquez
• An alchemical medal (1677), illustrated with portraits in relief of the Habsburgs, by Johann Permann

The exhibition concludes with works from the early 19th century, when the fall of the Holy Roman Empire gave rise to the hereditary Austrian Empire—a transition from the ancien régime to a modern state in which merit determined distinction and advancement. Franz Joseph, who would reign longer than any previous Habsburg, saw the growth of nationalism and ultimately ruled over a dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. As heir to the Habsburg legacy—and in the spirit of public education and enrichment—he founded the Kunsthistorisches Museum in 1891. Reflecting the modernization of the Habsburg administration, the exhibition ends with a spectacular display of official court uniforms and dresses.

Tableau: Uniforms and women’s gowns from the court of Franz Joseph.

Highlights include:
• Campaign uniform of Franz Joseph (1907)
• A velvet dress made for Empress Elisabeth (c. 1860/65)
• An evening gown made for Princess Kinsky (c. 1905)
• Ceremonial dress of Crown Prince Otto for the Hungarian Coronation (1916)

More images:

The Three Philosophers by Giorgione
Yearc. 1505–1509
TypeOil on canvas
Dimensions123 cm × 144 cm (48 in × 57 in)
LocationKunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Fire, 1566, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. 

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner, director of the Imperial Carriage Museum, Vienna. The hosting curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is Kaywin Feldman, director. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the lead hosting curator is Dr. David Bomford, director of conservation; his curatorial team comprises Dr. Helga Aurisch, curator, European art, and Christine Gervais, associate curator, decorative arts and Rienzi. At the High Museum of Art, the hosting curator is Dr. David A. Brenneman, director of collections and exhibitions and Frances B. Bunzl Family Curator of European art.

A full-color catalogue is being published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with essays by Dr. Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner, director of the Imperial Carriage Museum, Vienna; Dr. Franz Pichorner, deputy director, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; and Dr. Stefan Krause, curator of arms and armor, Kunsthistorisches Museum. Additionally, a virtual exhibition of additional pieces will be viewable online, deepening the visitor experience and providing further opportunities for the public to engage with the art and its history.

A Brief History of the Habsburgs
The noble House of Habsburg rose to prominence in the late Middle Ages through strategic marriages, political alliances and conquest. In 1273, count Rudolph IV gained control of Germany as King of the Romans, and Habsburg domains continued to grow leading up to Pope Nicholas V’s coronation of Frederick III as Holy Roman Emperor in 1452. Under Frederick’s son Maximilian I and his successor, Charles V, the Habsburgs achieved world-power status, assuming the title of emperor without papal consent and enfolding Spain and Burgundy into the Habsburg-controlled territories. The dynasty split into Spanish and Austrian branches shortly thereafter, and in the 17th and 18th centuries the male lines died out, resulting in the loss of Spain.

In 1740, Maria Theresa—the sole female Habsburg ruler, who reigned for a remarkable 40 years—seized control of the Austrian line to become the final ruler of the House of Habsburg. The early 19th century witnessed the final demise of the Holy Roman Empire and the establishment of the main Habsburg line’s successors: the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. A hundred years later, in 1916, Emperor Charles I inherited a dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy upon the death of longtime Emperor Franz Joseph. More than 600 years of Habsburg sovereignty came to an end in 1918 with the close of World War I.

High Museum of Art
The High is the leading art museum in the southeastern U.S. With more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African- American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography, folk art and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists. For more information about the High, visit

Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Home to more than 85,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of world history, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) inspires wonder, spurs creativity and nourishes the imagination. With extraordinary exhibitions and one of the finest wide-ranging art collections in the country—Rembrandt to van Gogh, Monet to Matisse, Asian to African—the MIA links the past to the present, enables global conversations and offers an exceptional setting for inspiration. The 2013 fiscal year marked the highest attendance—679,357 visitors—in the nearly 100-year history of the MIA. For more information, visit

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States. Located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the Museum comprises two gallery buildings, a sculpture garden, theater, two art schools and two libraries, with two house museums for American and European decorative arts nearby. The encyclopedic collection numbers some 65,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present. The Museum’s collection of some 30,000 photographs spanning the full history of the medium is internationally renowned. For more information, visit

Kunsthistorisches Museum
The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien is one of the foremost museums in the world, with rich holdings comprising artworks from seven millennia, from Ancient Egypt to the late 18th century. The collections of Renaissance and Baroque art are of particular importance. The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien’s extensive holdings are on show at different locations: the main building on Ringstrasse houses the Picture Gallery, Kunstkammer Wien, the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, the Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection and the Coin Collection. Other collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien are housed in the Neue Burg (i.e. the Collection of Historical Musical Instruments, the Collection of Arms and Armour and the Ephesus Museum), in Hofburg Palace (the Treasury), and in Schönbrunn Palace (the Collection of Historical Carriages). The collections on show at Ambras Castle in Innsbruck are also part of the holdings of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.

The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes

In 2009 the Peabody Essex Museum presented The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes, 70 works by Dutch masters of maritime art working in the time of Rembrandt and Vermeer. Painted during the peak years of Dutch artistic achievement between 1600 and 1700, these superlative, emotional works are the first in which European artists realistically depicted natural settings, rendering coastal atmospheres with great focus and virtuosic technique. Artists such as Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Porcellis, Simon de Vlieger and Ludolf Backhuysen were masters of air, light and water, and used their prodigious talent to convey a world of political allegory and mystical allusion on canvas.

Nothing matches the sea as a subject for its versatility, its many moods, and the endlessly intriguing optical effects of water and light. Dutch masters of paint and color attracted to the seascape developed novel approaches to composition and technique. The methods pioneered by the artists in this exhibition traveled well, spreading from the Netherlands to England, the rest of Europe, and ultimately to the Americas, serving as the foundation for the many examples of maritime paintings in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum. Fittingly, the Museum was the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, originating from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.

The Sea – A New Subject

With works celebrating Dutch trade and commemorating military victories, the seascape became a popular genre serving the tastes of a prosperous Dutch Republic. Aristocratic patrons and wealthy burghers commissioned works intended for intimate viewing and public display.

A Sea of Symbols

The sea and the vessels traversing it bore rich meaning for Flemish and Dutch artists, who voraciously mined the visual vocabulary offered by maritime subjects. A ship could represent the progress of an individual soul or the unified destiny of a nation with equal impact. Storms and shipwrecks supplied ample drama in the form of obvious danger from greater powers, as in

Seascape with Sailors Sheltering from a Rainstorm by Bonaventura Peeters the Elder,

while half-hidden rocks and submerged sea creatures suggested mystery, uncertainty or the realm of the supernatural. Military assertions and ecclesiastical refuge took geological forms that clearly communicated the artist’s position — or that of his patron — on Dutch political or spiritual life.

Vistas of the Netherlands

As the Dutch emerged as a world military and economic presence, they projected an increasingly consistent image of their country and lifestyle through their art. Luminous streams of sunlight amid atmospheric clouds characterize a typical lowland sky. Coastal cities as depicted by Abraham Storck were recognizable to 17th-century inhabitants and represented the general nature of Dutch life at the time, rather than resorting to biblical allusions or historical conventions.

Far Horizons

National exploration and expansion enlivened Dutch painting, fueling a particular desire for Scandinavian and Mediterranean scenes. Commercial relationships ultimately altered Dutch taste and imagination with fir trees and glaciers from the North, and idealized monuments and ruins from the South. Art aficionados would be familiar with such Italian settings, and the very sight of them evoked pleasure, elegance and exoticism. The sun-suffused A Spanish Three-Decker at Anchor off Naples by Abraham Willaerts breezily captures Mediterranean light and atmosphere and would have deftly transported Dutch viewers abroad.

Patronage, Battles and the Exotic

The inspiration of military might in Golden Age painting cannot be overstated. Netherlandish forces were unabashed in their celebration of naval victories and heroes. Pictures such as A Dutch Settlement in India, Probably Surat by Ludolf Backhuysen were commissioned by Dutch provincial potentates, cities or by the admirals themselves. Artists often accompanied the fleet to commemorate battles, at times compressing various episodes of a naval event into a single scene, bringing all of the pictorial power of war and seascape to bear. The interplay of gun smoke, fire and water tested the limits of artistic technique and infused every painting with potency and true bravado.

From an excellent review: (images added)

In many of these we see the Dutch taking pride at the boldness of seafaring men:

Andries van ­Eertvelt's moonlit "Embarkation of Spanish Troops" (1630s) bustles with swashbuckling activity and operatic lighting...

At the other end of the spectrum, works such as

Porcellis's "Dutch Ships in a Gale" capture the fragility of all that oak, hemp and canvas—here the wind-lashed sails of a foundering merchant vessel look like shredded silk. The symbolism of the sea and of shipwrecks is explored in fascinating detail. On one hand, we can read such works as the anonymous

"Wreck of the Amsterdam"

and Jan Blanckerhoff's "Shipwreck Off a Rocky Coast" (c. 1660) as allegories warning of disaster when the "ship of state" is manned by a shipload of fools..

There is also a vivid dialectic between the representation of North Sea light and the miracle of Mediterranean light that many of these artists discovered when they went to Italy. The ravishing sunset of

Hendrik van Minderhout's "Italianate Harbour Scene" (1670) echoes the gilded luminescence of Claude Lorrain's Italian seaports, while the yellows, pinks and veiled quality of
Pieter van den Velde's "Ships at Anchor Off a Mediterranean Harbor" (1680s)
strikingly anticipate Turner's magical hand.

In works such as

Eertvelt's "Dutch Ships Sailing Off a Rocky Shore" (1610-15),
the scrupulous depiction of ­multitudinous figures clambering about the decks and rigging—each face painted with an individuality of expression—conveys not only the relative insignificance of these crews and vessels against the challenging forces of nature, but also the sheer number of able seamen needed to sail these doughty ships..

Then there are those magnificent "sea fights," in which the actions depicted often depended on what the Dutch or English patron wished to memorialize. Painted around 1670,

Storck's "The Royal Prince and Other Vessels at the Four Days' Battle, 1-4 June 1666"
records the only genuine Dutch victory during the Second Anglo-Dutch War and boasts a wonderful visual rhythm of masts and sails against a counterpoint of clouds and waves. Likewise, the elder

Van de Velde's "Battle of ­Scheveningen" (1655),
based on his own eyewitness sketches, combines action that occurred at different times into one virtuoso scene of Dutch triumph.
From another excellent review (images added)
This well-produced show presents 72 paintings by about three dozen of the genre’s most esteemed practitioners. It was organized by the National Maritime Museum, in Greenwich, England, where it appeared under the title “Turmoil and Tranquillity: The Sea Through the Eyes of Dutch and Flemish Masters, 1550-1700.”

Nautical history buffs will be in heaven. Many paintings document — or, more accurately, recreate and commemorate — major events in maritime warfare. Some of these are spectacular. Painted in 1687,

Willem van de Velde the Younger’s “Gouden Leeuw at the Battle of the Texel, 21 August 1673” shows nearly a dozen battleships deployed across a 10-foot-wide canvas. Viewed from the rear with sunlight brightening its full set of sails, the majestic Gouden Leeuw (Golden Lion) has cannon smoke billowing from both sides. Black haze fills the canvas’s right side, and other ships engage one other in the murky distance. Usually made on commission, pictures of this sort represented victories at sea. They were a form of patriotic propaganda...

The catalog entry for Jan Peeters’s “Ships and a Galley Wrecked on a Rocky Coast,” a turbulent scene that includes a fortress on a distant cliff, notes, “The castle, strong, fortified and built high up on the rocks, represents protection, as well as the belief and hope placed in God.”
More images from the exhibition:

"The Darsena delle Galere and Castello Nuovo at Naples," 1703, by Caspar van Wittel. Photo: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom

"A Dutch Ferry Boat before a Breeze," late 1640s, by Simon De Vlieger, Photo: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom

"Fishermen on Shore Hauling in their Nets," circa 1640, Julius Porcellis. Photo: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom

"The Port of Genoa," circa 1660, by Adriaen Van Der Cabel. Photo: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom

"Mediterranean Harbour Scene with the Saint Jean Cathedral at Lyons," 1660, by Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraten. Photo: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom

Jan Peeters, 'Ships and a Gallery Wrecked on a Rocky Coast'. Photo: Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

Jan van de Cappelle, 'A Calm Sea with a Jetty and Ships'. Photo: Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

A Spanish Three-Decker at Anchor off Naples, 1669, Abraham Willaerts. Oil on canvas, 865 x 545mm ©  National Maritime  Museum

Italianate Harbour Scene with the Monument of Ferdinand de’ Medici at Leghorn, 1670, Hendrik van Minderhout. Oil on canvas, 1475 x 2615mm ©  National Maritime  Museum

The Merchant Shipping Anchorage off Texel Island with Oude Schild in the Distance, 1665. Ludolf Backhuysen. Oil on canvas. 1065 x 1650mm. Provenance: Caird Collection, 1937, BHCO916 (p.74) ©  National Maritime  Museum

"Dutch Ships in a Gale," circa 1620 by Jan Porcellis. Photo: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom

The Wreck of the Amsterdam, c.1630. Anonymous. Oil on canvas, 1257 x 1778mm. Provenance: Palmer Collection, BHCO724 (p.70) ©  National Maritime  Museum,
Seascape with Sailors Sheltering from a Rainstorm, c. 1640 ©  National Maritime  Museum,