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History


Construction under Prince Eugene of Savoy

The Baroque Belvedere palaces, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s summer residence, were designed by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, one of Central Europe’s greatest Baroque architects.

1697
Plot of land purchased to the south of Rennweg.

1712
Building work begins on the Lower Belvedere.

1715
Bologna-born late Baroque painter Marcantonio Chiarini begins the illusionist architectural painting in the Lower Belvedere’s central hall. The ceiling painting is by Martino Altomonte, one of the founders of an independent style of Baroque painting in the region of today’s Austria.

1717
Work begins on the Upper Belvedere.

1718
Work on the Baroque park is completed. Planned by French garden designer Dominique Girard, the gardens reflected the expertise he had acquired while working on the fountains and park at Versailles.

1719
The Turkish ambassador Ibrahim Pasha is received at the Upper Belvedere. Francesco Solimena, the greatest exponent of Neapolitan painting in his day, is commissioned to paint an altarpiece in the palace chapel and the ceiling painting in the Gold Cabinet. Prince Eugene selects Italian frescoist Gaetano Fanti for the illusionist architectural painting in the Marble Hall.

1720
Carlo Carlone, a pioneer of the Rococo style, is commissioned to paint the ceiling fresco in the Upper Belvedere’s Marble Hall.

1723
Completion of the Upper Belvedere.

1732/33
To improve its structural stability, the Sala Terrena is remodelled into its current form by Hildebrandt. 


The Belvedere after Prince Eugene’s Death

1736
Prince Eugene of Savoy dies in his Vienna town palace on 21 April. As he does not leave a legally valid will, the committee set up by Emperor Charles VI declares Eugene’s niece Princess Victoria his heir.

1752
Maria Theresa acquires the Belvedere property.

1770
Lavish celebrations for the wedding of Maria Theresa’s daughter Maria Antonia to the French dauphin, later Louis XVI, on 17 April at the Belvedere.


The Belvedere Becomes a Museum

1766
Maria Theresa and her son Emperor Joseph II decide to transfer the Imperial Picture Gallery from the Stallburg to the Upper Belvedere. In the spirit of Enlightened Absolutism, the imperial collection is to be opened to the public.

1781
The picture gallery is opened at the Upper Belvedere, one of the world’s first public museums.
1811
Emperor Francis I decides to exhibit the collection from Ambras Castle at the Lower Belvedere. Magnificent armour and weapons, busts, small sculptures, decorative art and many paintings are placed on display. Today most of the Ambras Collection is at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

1888/89
The imperial collections are transferred to the recently constructed Kunsthistorisches Museum. After this is opened on 17 October 1891, there follows a period when the Belvedere palaces are not used as museums.


The Residence

1896
On the decision of Emperor Franz Joseph I, in 1896 the Upper Belvedere becomes the residence of the heir to the Austrian throne Franz Ferdinand. The building is renovated and adapted by architect Ministerialrat Emil von Förster.


Modern Gallery

Looking back on a history of more than 100 years, the Austrian Gallery has succeeded in positioning itself as the leading museum of Austrian art.
1903
The Modern Gallery at the Lower Belvedere opened as a state-owned museum and counterpart of the imperial collections. The intention behind its foundation was the presentation of Austrian art in an international context. The collection was expanded through acquisitions by the Ministry of Culture and the Association of Visual Artists in Austria – Vienna Secession, as well as gifts from private donors.

1908
Gustav Klimt’s Kiss (Lovers), an icon of Art Nouveau, was acquired for the Modern Gallery by the Ministry of Culture and Education.

1912
Presenting a survey of Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present, the Modern Gallery was renamed Austrian State Gallery. Its holdings were complemented by loans from the Association of Friends of the State Gallery.

1915 bis 1938
The art historian Franz Martin Haberditzl officiated as provisional director of the Royal and Imperial Austrian State Gallery. Substantial additions to the collection were made through significant donations and permanent loans from patrons, including the families Bloch-Bauer, Lederer, Wittgenstein, and others. At the request of Adele Bloch-Bauer, several portraits by Gustav Klimt were transferred to the Austrian State Gallery on permanent loan.

1918
The Austrian State Gallery was enlarged to comprise the Upper and Lower Belvedere.

1923
The Baroque Museum opened at the Lower Belvedere.

1924
The Gallery of the Nineteenth Century was installed at the Upper Belvedere to present Austrian and international artists and temporary exhibitions.

1929
The Collection of Twentieth-Century Art opened at the Modern Gallery in the Lower Belvedere’s Orangery, and a number of sculptures were installed in the Privy Garden.

1938 bis 1945
Bruno Grimschitz held office as director.
The close relationship between the museum’s administration and the NS regime manifested itself in a high budget for “native German art” and the closure of the Modern Gallery under the pretext of “saving degenerate art from confiscation”. In spite of large-scale salvage operations, important works including Gustav Klimt’s Faculty Paintings were lost.

1945 bis 1955
During World War II, the palaces suffered considerable damage. The Marble Hall at the Upper Belvedere and the Grotesque Room at the Lower Belvedere were destroyed in air raids. Starting in 1945, the palaces of the Belvedere underwent reconstruction and restoration.

1953
Renovation completed, the museum resumed operation as Austrian Gallery at the Upper Belvedere.

15. Mai 1955
The Austrian State Treaty was signed in a ceremony at the Upper Belvedere: “Austria is free!”

1968
Hans Aurenhammer was appointed director.
The exhibition programme was decided upon by the competent ministry.

1982 bis 1991
Hubert Adolph functioned as director.
The 1980s were marked by a lack of funds and shorter opening hours.

1992 bis 2007
Gerbert Frodl officiated as director.
In the 1990s, the federal museums were modernised under the motto “A Billion for Our Museums”. Both palaces were thoroughly refurbished while the museum continued its operations. The conservation department was moved to the Guard’s Court at the Lower Belvedere. The collections were reinstalled at the Upper Belvedere; the Baroque Museum and the Medieval Collection were newly set up at the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery respectively. Such prestigious exhibitions as Claude Monet (1996), Klimt and the Women (2000) or Franz Xaver Messerschmidt attracted international attention and ensured attendance records.

2000
The Augarten Studio, later called Augarten Contemporary, was opened as an exhibition venue for contemporary art.

2002
The 20er Haus, a pavilion designed by Karl Schwanzer for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, was incorporated into the Austrian Gallery.

2007 bis 2017
Term of Agnes Husslein-Arco as director of the Belvedere.

2007
The Lower Belvedere was adapted and sensitively restored to its original state, with a White Cube built into the Orangery; the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery opened as venues for temporary exhibitions, and the Medieval Treasury was installed as a show depot at the former Palace Stables.

2008
The first sod was turned for the reconstruction of the 20er Haus. The integration of all collections under the roof of the Upper Belvedere was finally completed.

2009
The Belvedere Research Centre opened on Rennweg. A passageway was built to connect the Lower Belvedere to the Orangery. The Institute for the Compilation of Catalogues Raisonnés was installed at the Belvedere Research Centre.

2011
The 21er Haus opened as a new venue for presenting contemporary Austrian art in an international context. The restoration of the Upper Belvedere’s Salla Terrena and Grand Staircase was completed.

2013
Prince Eugene’s Winter Palace in Himmelpfortgasse opened as the Belvedere’s fourth exhibition venue. The staterooms of this magnificent town palace were made accessible to the public for the first time in the building’s history.

2015
The Upper Belvedere underwent refurbishment and modernisation: heating and ventilation systems, air conditioning, and a humidification system were built in. The Character Heads by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt were newly installed according to their original set-up.

2016
In July 2016, Dieter Bogner takes over as CFO and prepares the institution for the dual leadership.

Since 2017
Dual leadership of Stella Rollig (CEO and artistic director) and Wolfgang Bergmann (CFO)