Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections at the Kunsthistorisches Museum


  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 1001 Bissonnet St Houston, TX, 77005 United States

Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections at the Kunsthistorisches Museum tells the multigenerational story of the Habsburg Dynasty, which ruled most of central Europe, Spain, Belgium, and parts of Italy for nearly six hundred years, from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries. Charles V (1500–1558), whose predecessors had expanded and consolidated the largest European empire since the Romans, once remarked that the sun never set on the Habsburg empire.

For most of the fascinating history of this global dynasty—from its dramatic rise to its fall—, Vienna served as the capital. The Habsburgs were passionate collectors, as well as generous patrons of the arts. Franz Joseph I (1830–1916), the penultimate emperor of the dynasty, created the Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna as a repository for the imperial art collections. The KHM possesses one of the most renowned collections in the world of Western art, and many of its objects are housed in the famed Kunstkammer Wien. Now, for the first time, audiences in the United States have an opportunity to view exceptional and rare artworks assembled by some of the most powerful European rulers to have shaped world history.

The unprecedented exhibition, and its accompanying catalogue, present an extraordinarily wide-ranging survey of the Habsburgs’ acclaimed collections, including classical Greek and Roman works, medieval arms and armor, tapestries, Old Master paintings, exquisite works of decorative art, ceremonial gilded carriages and sleighs, opulent costumes, and official court uniforms. Seen together, the collections reveal the pomp and splendor, the regalia and rituals, the prestige and spectacle associated with the Habsburg rulers. Many of the nearly one hundred works lent by the Kunsthistorisches Museum are drawn from the prized collections of Maximilian I (1459–1519), Rudolf II (1552–1612), and Maria Theresa (1717–1780). Most of these treasures have never before been in the United States, and many have not left Austria since they arrived.

For this major exhibition, we have had the unique privilege of collaborating with Franz Pichorner, deputy director general, and Christian Hölzl, head of exhibition management, of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. We owe the concept of the exhibition to Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner, director of the Imperial Carriage Museum Vienna. Her expertise on the Habsburg monarchs was invaluable to this project. We are also grateful to Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, director, collection of paintings, and Stefan Krause, curator of arms and armor, both at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. We warmly thank them and the dedicated curatorial team at the KHM for lending their treasures. In closing, we wish to express our deepest gratitude to Bank of America, the national sponsor of Habsburg Splendor.

Sabine Haag
General Director
Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

In cooperation with:

Kaywin Feldman
The Duncan and Nivin MacMillan Director and President
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (http://new.artsmia.org/)
February 15–May 10, 2015

Gary Tinterow
Director
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (http://www.mfah.org)

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June 14 –September 13, 2015

Michael E. Shapiro
The Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director
High Museum of Art, Atlanta (http://www.high.org/)
October 18, 2015 –January 17, 2016