Habsburg Splendor at the High Museum

habsburg 3ATLANTA, Oct. 12, 2015 – A major American collaboration brings masterworks amassed by one of the longest-reigning European dynasties to the High Museum of Art. “Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections,” on view Oct. 18, 2015, through Jan. 17, 2016, showcases masterpieces and rare objects from the collection of the Habsburg Dynasty—the emperors of the Holy Roman Empireand other powerful rulers who commissioned extraordinary artworks now in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. “Habsburg Splendor,” largely composed of works that have never traveled outside of Austria, was co-organized by the High, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

The exhibition 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 centuriesto its decline in 1918 at the end of World War I. The more than 90 artworks and artifacts that tell the story include arms and armor, sculpture, Greek and Roman antiquities, court costumes, a carriage and sleigh, decorative art objects, and paintings by such masters as Correggio, Giorgione, Rubens, Tintoretto, Titianand Velázquez.

Key masterpieces traveling for the first time to the United States include:habsburg 4

  • – “The Crowning with Thorns” (c. 1602/1604) by Caravaggio
  • – 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
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. 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)
habsburg 5GOLDEN AGE
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. 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 ancient 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 will end with a spectacular display of official court uniforms and dresses. Highlights include:habsburg 2
  • – 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)

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner, director of the Imperial Carriage Museum, Vienna. At the High, the consulting curator is Gary Radke, professor emeritus of art history at Syracuse University. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue 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.


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