Overview of Your Tour
The Belvedere complex is an architectural masterpiece of a bygone aristocratic splendor designed to project a sense of earthly harmony. This terrestrial utopia was founded in the first decades of the 18th century as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, the commander-in-chief of the Austrian army and one of the most successful military commanders in modern European history. Among the most significant buildings of its time, the grandiose palace of the Upper Belvedere is a masterstroke of Baroque architecture while the surrounding formal gardens were inspired by classical antiquity. The great water basin in the upper parterre, the tiered fountains and cascades populated by nymphs and goddesses, the marble statues of gods and heroes, and the intricacy of the wrought iron gates still testify to the legacy of Eugene’s patronage of the arts.
Against this backdrop, the Prince’s private apartments eloquently illustrate his taste and the artistic achievements of his time. Along with your guide, consider the Baroque elements of the Festive room in the Upper Belvedere. After Eugene’s death, the complex continued to play a significant cultural role in Austrian history. Inspired by the idea of enlightened absolutism, the Belvedere became one of the first public museums in the world with the intention to make the Habsburgs’ imperial collection accessible to the general public.
Today, the Belvedere Museum exhibits a world-class compilation of Austrian and international paintings from the Middle Ages to the present day, including items of the Austrian National Gallery masterpieces. Such pieces include Gustav Klimt’s most acclaimed paintings from his golden period: The Kiss, Judith, landscapes from the Attersee series, and other sophisticated portraits of high society ladies. As a counterpoint, the dramatic and contorted style of Klimt’s younger colleague, Egon Schiele (also on display) evokes the unfolding trauma of the First World War in a profoundly autobiographical manner. The museum also boasts works of Jacques-Louis David, Caspar David Friedrich, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Giuseppe Segantini, and Vincent van Gogh.
After the one-hour excursion through the grounds and palaces, our Belvedere tour moves you through an introductory 1.5-hour tour to point out the Art Museum’s highlights. Besides Klimt’s and Schiele’s great canvasses representing Fin de siècle Vienna’s avant-gardism and sophisticated art patrons, you’ll encounter David’s well-known Napoleon on The Great St. Bernard Pass (1801), where the artist’s propagandist pathos is combined with his fiery boldness. In a different way, Caspar David Friedrich’s atmospheric Seashore in the Fog combines romantic introspection with metaphysical symbolism in a sensitive, precisely painted maritime landscape. Austrian painting in the era of Biedermeier is represented by Friedrich von Amerling’s emotive rendering of familial affection in Rudolf von Arthaber and his Children (1837) and by Ferdinand Waldmüller’s On Corpus Christi Morning (1857), where the realistic reproduction of sunlight demonstrates the sacred on earth.