Saturday, November 21, 2015


Autumn of 2015, the Caumont Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence

Art lovers and patrons since the 16th century, the Princes of Liechtenstein have amassed one of the largest private art collections in Europe. Primarily dedicated to Western art, from the Renaissance to the late 18th century, the Princely Collections include paintings (approximately 1,700), sculptures, drawings, engravings, furniture, books and precious objects. The collection was started in the 17thcentury, inspired by the ideals of princely patronage of the arts, characteristic of the Baroque period, ideals which the family continue to promote today. If the majority of the Princely Collections is to be found in Vaduz, a selection is nevertheless accessible to the public in some of the other family residences, notably in Vienna: the Liechtenstein City Palace (with its neoclassical and Biedermeier style) and the Liechtenstein Garden Palace (with its Renaissance and Baroque influences).


Bordered by the Rhine and the Alps, the State of Liechtenstein is situated between the Austrian province of Vorarlberg and the Swiss cantons of St. Gallen and Graubünden. This small principality of 160 km2is the last surviving remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, founded in 962. A constitutional monarchy, with German as its official language, today it is closely linked to Switzerland. Switzerland represents Liechtenstein’s diplomatic interests abroad. The two countries share the same postal system and form a customs and monetary union. The Principality comprises the former feudal territories of Schellenberg (current-day Oberland) and Vaduz (current-day Unterland), acquired by Prince Johann Adam Andreas I von Liechtenstein, respectively in 1699 and 1712. on 23 January 1719, these lands were united and elevated to the rank of Principality by Emperor Charles VI. In 1806, Liechtenstein became a sovereign state of the Confederation of the Rhine (1806-1814) with Napoleon’s aid. Between 1815 and 1866, it was part of the German Confederation and was later attached to Austria, from which it separated after the revolution of 1921. It was from that time onward that Liechtenstein forged close ties with Switzerland. Neutral during the Second World War, Liechtenstein benefitted from an industrial and economic boom in the 1950s.The current sovereign, Hans-Adam II (b. 1945) has significantly increased the importance of Liechtenstein on the world stage.

With the exception of the Italian artworks, the quasi totality of the 16th-century paintings displayed in this room are representative of the most significant and recent acquisitions by Prince Hans-Adam II. These include Renaissance paintings from Germany 

Quentin Massys (1466-1530)The Tax Collectors Late 1520s oil on panel - 86,4 x 71,2 cm Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–ViennaEntered the collections in 2008, acquired by Prince Hans-Adam II

(The Tax Collectors by Massys, acquired in 2008, and  

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)
oil on panel, 38.7 x 24.5 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienn

Venus by Cranach, acquired in 2013), 

Flanders (Virgin and Child by Gossaert acquired in 2015), 

Holland (Saint Sebastian by Cornelisz. von Haarlem 

and Portrait of Alessandro Farnese by Mor, acquired in 2010 and 2015 respectively),

and Spain (Portrait of Don Diego by Sánchez Coello, acquired in 2007).

The human figure is omnipresent in all thirteen paintings, attesting to the return to favour of the human figure in Renaissance art. In painting, this triumphant advent of the individual may be seen in both the prevalence of the portrait and of nudes, as well as the large-scale representation of sacred, historical or mythological figures. 

Focused on the physiognomic and psychological representation of an individual, the art of portraiture, in the Flemish and Italian traditions, comes in the form of intimate likenesses, three-quarter view

(Raphael’s and 

Franciabigio’s Portrait of a Man  

Bernardino Zaganelli da Cotignola (c.1470-c.1510)
Portrait of a Lady
circa 1500
oil on panel - 32,7 x 25 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
This piece entered the collections in 1882, sold in 1950, and acquired a second time in 2003 

and Portrait of a Lady by Bernardino da Cotignola), and ceremonial portraits, where the subjects are depicted standing (for example, the portrait of Alessandro Farnese by Antonis Mor) (above). Another aspect of Renaissance art is the prevalence of sacred figures, imbued with human attributes, and oftentimes depicted within an intimate or private setting, such as  Jan Gossaert’s Virgin and Child (above.)

Also common were representations of the saints by Cranach the Elder and Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem for example, or 

Cristofano Allori
Judith with the Head of Holofernes,
1613 - oil on canvas - 141 x 117 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna © LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

figures from the Old Testament (Cristofano Allori). These figures tended to dominate the entire composition. 

 From 1509 onward, Lucas Cranach the Elder painted a large amount of naked Venuses, standing, sitting or lying down. If some convey an explicit moral message, by means of the presence of the goddess of love or a moralizing inscription in Latin, others, like this one, do not. According to a formula of which he was particularly fond, the German artist paints the young woman against a black background, with her feet on stony ground. He displays his mastery of the female canon through this slender body, endowed with small high breasts and a doll-like face. The long wavy blond hair, almond-shaped eyes and necklace—a gold band decorated with stones and pearls—are also typical of the painter. Another trademark, the transparent veil that covers her sexual organs, revealing more than it covers. Moreover, the female subject fixes the viewer with an insolent look. This nude is decidedly ambiguous: is this a heroic nude of a chaste Venus or an erotic nude of the priestess of love?


Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Mars and Rhea Silvia
circa 1616/1617 - oil on canvas - 207,5 x 271,5 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

This artwork depicts Mars and Rhea Silvia, the parents of Romulus and Remus, whose myth evokes the founding of Rome. The enterprising god of war benefits from the aid of the matchmaking Love in order to approach the frightened priestess, seated before the altar of the goddess Vesta. Between 1610 and 1620, Rubens was at the head of a flourishing workshop in Antwerp. The master executed preparatory studies and detailed sketches which his students then painted under his direction, with the exception of the faces, hands and other delicate sections. Particularly representative of the painter’s pictorial verve, the ample drapes or folds of the fabric, and the skin colour accented with tones of pink, yellow or purple may be clearly seen in this work.

The Princely Collections boast thirty-five signed works by Rubens—one of the largest ensembles of Rubens in the world. The oldest date from the early 17thcentury, while the most recent, the monumental  

Assumption of the Virgin Mary was painted by the Flemish master in 1637, three years before his death. The latter was acquired by Karl Eusebius I von Liechtenstein, who met the artist at the court of the Archduchess Isabella in Brussels in 1628. 

However it was Karl Eusebius’s son, Johann Adam Andreas I who amassed the majority of the Rubens collection, with the aid of the Forchondt brothers, merchants from Antwerp and Berlin.Thanks to the latter, in 1693 he acquired the eight monumental canvases of the Decius Mus cycle (the name is in reference to the history of the Roman consul, Decius Mus), which at that time, had been attributed to Van Dyck, as well as  

Venus in Front of a Mirror (circa 1614). 

Furthermore, thanks to the assistance of Jan Peeter Bredael, another important Antwerp merchant, Johann Adam Andreas I acquired the monumental Mars and Rhea Silvia in 1710. He also succeeded in acquiring another jewel for the collection:  

Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens, at the age of five, as well as the 

double portrait of Albert and Nikolaus, the painter’s sons (circa 1626). 

Several of the Rubens acquired by Johann Adam Andreas I would later leave the Liechtenstein Collection. However, these shortcomings were filled, in part, thanks to the acquisitions of Franz Josef II—the Modello of Mars and Rhea Silvia—and by Hans-Adam II—

The Conversion of Saint Paul, 

Christ Triumphant over Sin and Death, 

sketches for The hunt of Meleager and Atalanta and Diana’s Hunt.


The paintings in this room, each with a strong narrative dimension, depicting objects, animals or figures, may be characterized by their eclecticism. In this, they can be said to illustrate the stylistic and iconographic evolution of European painting between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, resulting in the advent of different pictorial genres. 

Alongside ‘high genre painting’ devoted to sacred and profane history, which continued to be the subject of numerous commissions, new subject matter presented itself, including landscapes, genre scenes and still lifes.Particularly present in the Princely Collections, religious painting can be seen in all its stylistic and iconographic diversity. 

When Hans-Adam II acquired in 2008 

The Finding of Moses by Francesco Solimena (circa 1690), his intention was to continue the tradition linking the Princely family to the Neapolitan painter who had painted a portrait of Josef Wenzel I when he visited the Imperial Court of Naples, in 1725. The Princes of Liechtenstein have always had a particular penchant for Classical antiquity and mythology. Indeed, it was during a trip to Rome in 1748 that Josef Wenzel I commissioned 

Batoni’s Venus Presenting Aeneas with Armour forged by Vulcan and Hercules at the Crossroads for his Viennese palace on the Herrengasse.


Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669)
Cupid with the Soap Bubble
1634 - oil on canvas - 74,7 x 92,5 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787)
Hercules at the Crossroads
1748 - oil on panel - 99 x 74 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienn

Among the jewels of the Princely Collections can be seen a remarkable series of Flemish and Dutch paintings dating from the 17thcentury. Some are representative of the Flemish Baroque style—beginning with two of the most prestigious collaborators of Rubens, Frans Snyders and Anthonis van Dyck, while others evoke the austere context experienced by many of the great Dutch Masters working in the Northern Netherlands, including Rembrandt and Frans Hals. Talented portraitists, capable of adding a psychological dimension to a face, the two latter artists revolutionized the genre of portraiture, whether individual or collective, which at that time was increasingly popular. In the second half of the century, in Amsterdam, Rembrandt also provided history painting with a new lease of life, both religious and secular (historical and mythological). From the outset, Dutch and Flemish painting of the Golden Age was one of the preferred domains of the Liechtenstein family, advised in this matter by veritable experts, such as Berlin art historian, Wilhelm von Bode, during the reign of Johann II.

Frans Hals (1582-1666)
Portrait of a Man
circa 1650/1652 - oil on convas - 108 x 80 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

This portrait of a non-identified male subject is emblematic of the production of the famous Haarlem portraitist, Frans Hals. The work is typical of the artist’s oeuvre on the one hand, for its rapid execution, and the large, visible brush strokes making use of a sober palette of blacks, browns, greys and whites, and on the other hand, through the expressiveness of the face. The model’s raised eyebrows and hint of a smile seem to address the viewer with a rather mischievous look.Hals’ narrative device is both simple and effective: he focuses on the face and the hands, rendering these in great detail, whereas the rest appears very rough, almost sketched. The magic therefore, comes from this very paradox: the figure seems to come alive on the canvas despite its unfinished aspect. The ability to inject life into his models is synonymous here with the instantaneousness expression of his character portraits.Hals is one of the most skilled portraitists in terms of capturing and expressing the psychological traits of his models.

Anthonis van Dyck (1599-1641)Portrait of Maria de Tassis (1611-1638)circa 1629/1630 - oil on convas - 129 x 92,8 cmLiechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna © LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

Painted at the age of nineteen, Maria de Tassis came from the Antwerp branch of the family. The subject’s family originally came from Bergamo and were credited with introducing the first European postal system at the end of the 15th century.Van Dyck also produced two likenesses of Maria’s father, Antonio, which are also part of the Princely Collections.This portrait perfectly illustrates the painter’s skill and his innate sense of elegance. The rendering of the silk and the lace of the French-style dress, but also the pearls, precious stones and ostrich feather is typical of Van Dyck’s style between 1627 and 1632.Parallels may be drawn between this portrait of Maria de Tassis and the portrait by Van Dyck of a non-identified female model housed at the National Gallery of Washington. The rendering of the women’s clothing seems to suggest a type of signature or hallmark from this particular period of the artist’s production. 

Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691-176 5)Interior of the Pantheon, Rome 1735 - oil on canvas - 127,3 x 99,4 cm Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna © LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

Josef Höger (1801-1877), View of Palais Rasumofsky from the Garden Pavilion circa 1837, watercolour over pencil, 22.5 x 32.3 cmThe Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna © LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna


The Princes of Liechtenstein are the owners of numerous properties, each built in a different architectural style. Some of these have been beautifully depicted in some remarkable gouaches and watercolours, which provide the viewer with an insight into the princes’ elegant taste in decor. At the request of Johann I Ferdinand Runk, a gouache series of thirty views of the Liechtenstein family properties was painted between 1813 and 1824, including views of the unfinished Baroque chateau in Plumlov, the facade of the Garden Palace in Rossau, and the colonnades of Feldsberg and Adamsthal. Furthermore, in the 1830s, Josef Höger executed exterior views of Liechtenstein Fortress near Mödling, the ‘Frontier Chateau’ and of the Palais Rasumofsky in Vienna. During the reign of Alois II, Rudolf von Alt executed several watercolours of the Liechtenstein properties in Moravia and Vienna. He reproduced the intimate atmosphere of various Viennese princely mansions, at Eisgrub and Maria Enzersdorf, with their furniture and works of art in situ. The views of the living rooms, bedrooms, libraries and offices are as much an illustration of the interior design, as they are a testimony to the taste and art de vivre of the various members of the Princely family.


Paintings of landscapes and still lifes emerged in the 16thcentury in northern Europe, but became widespread in the following century. Despite being classified as ‘minor genres’, they proved to be extremely popular with art lovers. The Liechtenstein family were no exception and collected both the Great Masters, such as Jan Davidszoon de Heem whose still lifes were already being sold at astronomical prices during his lifetime, as well as rarer names such as the Dutch painter of flowers, Jan van Huysum. 

Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789)
oil on convas, 66,5 x 82,5 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
This piece entered the collections in 2007, acquired by Prince Hans-Adam I

The princes’ abiding interest in antiquity was centred on the theme of Arcadia as evidenced in the neoclassical-style landscapes painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini, Claude Joseph Vernet and Hubert Robert. First appearing in the 17th century, the taste for urban landscapes known as ‘vedute’ continued to gain in popularity during the 18thcentury. The imaginary landscapes of Hubert Robert combined nature and the lyricism of ruins, a subject matter specific to the Enlightenment, in works such as 

Hubert Robert (1733-1808)
Capriccio with the Pantheon and the Porto di Ripetta
oil on canvas - 101,9 x 145,9 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
Capriccio with the Pantheon and the Porto di Ripetta (1761), a prototype of the reception piece that would allow him to enter the Académie Royale in 1766. Jan Davidszoon de Heem ranks high amongst the Dutch and Flemish painters specializing in still lifes, a genre imbued with a poetic, even metaphysical dimension.


Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842)
Portrait of Princess Karoline von Liechtenstein, née Countess von
Manderscheidt-Blankenheim (1768-1831), as Iris
1793 - oil on canvas - 222 x 159 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

The famous French portraitist Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun painted this portrait of the wife of Prince Alois I during a sojourn in Vienna. Forced into exile between 1792 and 1795, the former official painter of Marie-Antoinette toured Europe and painted portraits of aristocrats and high society.In 1793, she executed for the Liechtenstein Palace on the Herrengasse, pendants of Princess Karoline as Iris, 

and of her sister-in-law, Maria Josepha Hermenegilde von Esterhazy, as Ariadne on Naxos. 

Amongst the traditional attributes of Iris, the female messenger of the gods—usually represented with wings, the caduceus and winged shoes—the artist retains only the veil. The latter symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth, and is traditionally painted in the colours of the rainbow, although this is not the case here. In mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow and according to Homer, the rainbow represents the trail of Iris’s ‘storm-swift feet’ across the sky. This is why Vigée-Lebrun depicts the princess as flying in this portrait.  

Friedrich von Amerling (1803-1887)
Portrait of Princess Marie Franziska von Liechtenstein (1834–1909) at the
age of two,
1836 - oil on board - 56,7 x 50,5 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

In 1836, Friedrich von Amerling painted the tender portrait of Princess Marie Franziska at age two, which is one in a series of portraits of the children of Alois II. Close to the prince, of whom he painted an official portrait in 1845, at that time Amerling was the preferred portraitist of the Liechtenstein family. Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, famous for his landscape paintings, depicted the future Emperor, Franz Josef I of Austria at the age of two, dressed in a soldier’s outfit, a kind of state portrait in miniature. The Biedermeier style developed in Germany and Austria between 1815 and the revolution of 1848. The Biedermeier style is evocative of a comfortable homely lifestyle, and is characterized by its fine craftsmanship showcasing the materials and regional expertise. In painting, the style is distinguished by its sensitive approach to nature, meticulous execution and a predilection for the smaller format. The Liechtenstein family played an important role in the spread of the Biedermeier style. Their wealth, coupled with the desire to decorate some of their homes in a more contemporary, less ornate style, for example the Liechtenstein City Palace in Vienna, contributed to the style’s growing renown. The Liechtenstein family is the owner of the most complete Biedermeier collection in the world despite the sale of numerous pieces to the Wien Museum and the Belvedere Museum.

Friedrich von Amerling
Lost in Her Dreams,
circa 1835 - oil on canvas - 55,3 x 45,1 cm
Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna © LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna

Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller
Portrait of the Future Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria (1830-1916) as a Grenadier with Toy Soldiers
1832 - oil on panel - 34,8 x 29 cm - Liechtenstein. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna
© LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna