The Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna

The Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna

The Three Philosophers; c. 1508

The Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna

The Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna stands out among the museums of the world by virtue of its collections. Opened in 1891, the building is often described as a Gesamtkunstwerk of Historicism and houses collections of art from Pharaonic Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome to the Middle Ages, as well as the collection of items deriving from the Imperial Kunstkammer from the Renaissance to the 19th century, the Coin Collection and above all the collection of paintings in the Picture Gallery.

 Head of Sesostris III, Green Schist

Head of Sesostris III, Green Schist

Thousands of objects are displayed in an area covering over 20.000 m2 and it would take days to view the whole collection even if our visitors devoted only a few minutes to the contemplation of each object, and time is precious. Nevertheless, the contemplation of a work of art demands from the onlooker both a certain degree of patience and the willingness to enter into a dialogue with the object. Given that the average museum visit lasts only two to three hours, this is only possible with a limited number of exhibits. These should therefore be the most precious and important works in our collections, or even in the world.

Freyung Square in Vienna from the Southeast; 1758

Freyung Square in Vienna from the Southeast; 1758

In order to give visitors an idea of what they should concentrate on or to enable them at least to evoke the memory of these works in their own private „museum of imagination”, we have put together this small collection of A Hundred Masterpieces from the Kunsthistorische Museum. This small compendium contains a selection of the most important works displayed, and though the choice of exhibits was necessarily subjective, it is ultimately intended as a representative survey of our collections.
It is my hope that it will serve not only as pleasant reminder of the objects the visitor has seen but will also provide an impulse for future visits to the Kunsthistorische Museum.

Emperor Karl VI and Count Gundaker Althann; 1728

Emperor Karl VI and Count Gundaker Althann; 1728

The Kunsthistorische Museum itself was built between 1871 and 1891 by the Emperor Franz Joseph for the collections
it still houses today. Together with its companion across the square, the Natural History Museum, and the Hofburg it was originally planned as part of the Imperial Forum on the Ringstrasse, which was, however, never completed. The architects were Gottfried Semper and Carl Hasenauer. In accordance with the style of Historidsm, prevalent in the late 19th century, they chose the Neo-Renaissance style for the interior and exterior decorations of this palatial building. The harmony of architecture and plastic and pictorial decorations creates a „Gesamtkunstwerk“ and a worthy setting for the „Monuments of Art and Antiquity” as the collections were called in the Emperor’s dedication, inscribed above the main entrance.

Emperor Rudolph II; 1603

Emperor Rudolph II; 1603

Gemma Augustea, Two-layered Onyx

Gemma Augustea, Two-layered Onyx

Goblet, Rock Crystal; c. 1580

Goblet, Rock Crystal; c. 1580

Judith Showing the People the Head of Holofernes; c. 1730

Judith Showing the People the Head of Holofernes; c. 1730

Statue of Gemnefhorbak

Statue of Gemnefhorbak

Nilpferd; Fayence Hippopotamus; Faience

Nilpferd; Fayence Hippopotamus; Faience

Pair of Fibulae

Pair of Fibulae

Pitcher from the Nagyszentmiklos Treasure, Gold

Pitcher from the Nagyszentmiklos Treasure, Gold

Schönbrunn Palace, Court Facade; 1758

Schönbrunn Palace, Court Facade; 1758

Schönbrunn Palace, Seen from the Garden; 1758

Schönbrunn Palace, Seen from the Garden; 1758

Sebastiano Venier; after 1571

Sebastiano Venier; after 1571