Habsburgs art in America

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The Habsburgs ruled much of Europe from the 11th to the 20th centuries. They originally built their castle in Switzerland but after seven generations they moved to Austria. The line died out in 1780 when Maria Theresa of Austria died but continued on through her husband, the Duke of Lorraine and became known as the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

The Hofburg Palace was built in Vienna in the 13th century and became the principal winter residence. The summer palace, the Schonbrunn, came later, built in the 1700s. I was in Vienna a couple of times and visited the Schonbrunn. It was a beautiful place similar to Versailles. Over the years the Hofburg was expanded to include several other buildings that today include the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Spanish Riding School, and the National Library. The Hofburg now houses the official residence and offices of the President of Austria.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum was built in the late 19th century to house the extensive Habsburg art collection and make it accessible to the general public. About 100 masterpieces from this collection are currently on tour in the USA, the majority have never left Austria before. The show is a sample of the arts through time starting with medieval armor and moving right through to the last Habsburg coronation gown of 1916.

Upon entering, the first things to see are several sets of armor and among them, Maximilian the First’s armor made in 1492. Not only was it a beautiful piece of art but I was struck by how small and delicate it was.

Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress by Velázquez
Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Blue Dress by Velázquez

Included are paintings by Correggio, Giorgione, Rubens, Tintoretto and Titian. For me the pièce de résistance was an immediately recognizable Velasquez painting of the Infanta Maria Theresa. Maria Theresa went on to have 16 children, 13 of them lived and one of them was Marie Antoinette who was married off to Louis XVI at the age of 14.

The last rooms included a large 18th century carriage drawn by two horses and an intricately carved golden sleigh that belonged to Maria Theresa pulled by a single horse with bells all over its harness.

The exhibit is traveling to the following cities:

Minneapolis Institute of Art – Until May 10, 2015

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – June 14 – September 13, 2015

High Museum of Art, Atlanta – October 18 – January 17, 2016