Sunday, May 24, 2015

Vienna Day 6: Art Museums and Sachertorte

Today is Sunday and somehow it became a lazy Sunday even though I'm still in Vienna. This morning I suffered from a major case of Eurovision Song Contest hangover and only got out of bed around 12:30pm-ish. However, I still made it to two museums to get another dose of art.
First I went to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, literally the "Museum of Art History" though also often referred to as museum of fine arts in English. The museum is housed in a palatial building on the famous Ringstraße...
...just opposite from the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) which is housed in an identical building. Built by Emperor Franz Joseph I, both were opened in 1891. Between the two museums lies the Maria-Theresien-Platz square featuring a memorial dedicated to one of the most famous members of the Habsburg dynasty.
One thing is for sure: Most of Vienna's museums are worth visiting alone for their architecture. Case in point, the stairway hall of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Stunning, non?!
The part of the museum I enjoyed best was the Kunstkammer, or art chamber, featuring art collected by the Habsburgs over centuries.
Anyone fancy ship model making? Now even with real gold! (Well, I'm not quite sure you can actually take the ship apart but anyway, that's what it reminded me of.)
I won't share too many pictures but honestly, I don't think I had ever seen such much gold in my life than I had at the Kunstkammer, which is like an own (not very) little museum within a museum.
I mean, even the books had gold and sparkle back then!
Back to the architecture: So many details...
...and even topical: This was the ceiling and wall design in some of the rooms housing the Egyptian exhibition.
The fine arts museum also hosts a great collection of paintings formerly owned by the imperial family including the largest Bruegel collection in the world as well as works of art by Rembrandt, Rubens, Dürer, Raphael, Vermeer, Tintoretto and so many more. To be honest, I was quite overwhelmed but the sheer number of paintings hanging on the walls. As I said before, I much prefer smaller and more compact collections instead of three and more rows of pictures hanging on top of each other.
To recover (for lack of a better word) a little, I went to sin. (Demel is a K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker, meaning the pastry shop was once a purveyor to the Austro-Hungarian court, and home of the famous Sachertorte.)
And seriously, I don't think there are enough churches in Vienna I can walk to to walk of all the calories the one piece of cake I ate had, but it was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.
After sinning, I visited the Albertina, another one of Vienna's famous art museums. The building was once the home of Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen, a noted art collector who started the largest and finest collection of old master prints and drawings in the world.
In addition to the art works, you can also view the rooms of Albert and his wife née Archduchess Maria-Christina of Austria, who was the favourite daughter of the famous Empress Maria-Theresia and the only one of her children allowed to marry for love. Other inhabitants of the palace include Archduke Karl and his wife Henriette of Nassau. The part I enjoyed most though was the exhibition "From Monet to Picasso" featuring paintings from the Sammlung Batliner. I love (most) impressionist and early 20th century art and it was a welcome change to all the previous centuries' art I have seen in the past few days.
In front of the Albertina also is a statue of Emperor Franz Joseph I who reigned Austria for 68 before dying in the midst of World War I two years before the end of the monarchy in what once was the Austro-Hungarian empire.

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