Art market Magazine May 2014

 
HERITAGE 
 
The Vienna Kunstkammer 
 
T 
 
he legendary…
HERITAGE

The Vienna Kunstkammer

T

he legendary Kunstkammer has opened again at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) of Vienna, in Austria. Ten years of meticulous restoration
in the museum's laboratories have resulted in twenty rooms and three hundred showcases at the cutting edge of technology. Beneath painted ceilings and coloured marbles, this is the biggest cabinet of curiosities in the world, covering a thousand years of history. In the Renaissance, all great princes or curious-minded humanists had to have their own Kunstkammer, literally meaning "chamber of arts". Some added a "Wunderkammer" or "cabinet of marvels", expressing their keen interest in nature. If this term is somewhat clichéd today, it was not so at the time. The Medici and the Habsburgs jointly tried to outdo each other. Precious stones, seeds and shells poured from

caravels. Time was of no account; gold and silver flowed like water. Artists moved around from court to court. In the house of the Habsburgs of Austria, Frederick III (14151493) assembled the pieces of an imperial treasure trove. His descendant, Ferdinand I (1503-1564), brother of Charles V, brought them together in a Kunstkammer (1565). His sons continued the tradition, each with their own collections. The ambassador to Maximilian II (15271576) in Vienna brought him ostrich eggs and rock crystal. At Ambras Palace in Innsbruck, Ferdinand II of Tyrol (1529-1595) added a number of natural curiosities to his Wunderkammer, while Charles II (1540-1590) enriched his own at Graz. Meanwhile, Ferdinand I's aunt, Margaret of Austria, was probably the first woman in the 16th century to take an interest in exotic objects, which she readily showed to Albrecht Dürer in her cabinet at Malines in the Netherlands.

READING
"The Kunstkammer treasures of the Habsburgs", by Sabine Haag and Franz Kirchweger, published by Brandstätter, KHM, 2013.

A patron's imagination
He was no Adonis, but he was rich. The son of Maximilian II, Rudolf II of Habsburg (1552-1612), was an extraordinary man. He grew up at the Spanish court, and was

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© Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Gallery 36 of Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien.

Art Market Magazine May 2014
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