Lower Belvedere and the former Orangery are venues for top temporary exhibitions. These shows focus on presenting Austrian art in an international context, as defined in the Belvederes original mission back in 1903 (when it was founded as the Moderne Galerie. They comprise retrospective shows of Austrian artists, based on research into their work and significance, and major thematic exhibitions exploring key movements and epochs in art.
An insight into medieval art can be gained at the Medieval Treasury, opened in 2007 at the former Palace Stables that once accommodated Prince Eugenes personal horses. This study collection gives the public access to the Belvederes entire holdings of medieval art.
The plan to build the Upper Belvedere in its present form replaced the original idea of a gloriette with a beautiful view over the city. Construction took place between 1717 and 1723. In the days of Prince Eugene, the Upper Belvedere primarily served the purposes of prestige and display; in the second half of the 1770s, it was adapted to house the Imperial Picture Gallery. Paintings were transferred from the Stallburg to the Upper Belvedere and the gallery was open to the public. Today, the Upper Belvedere houses the permanent displays showcasing masterpieces from the Belvederes collection dating from the Middle Ages to the present. The highlight is the collection of paintings by Klimt with the iconic Kiss.
The construction of the Lower Belvedere took place between 1712 and 1716. The architect was Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, who designed many of Prince Eugenes buildings and was Austrias greatest Baroque architect together with Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. The Lower Belvedere was accessed from Rennweg through the central gate, embellished with coats of arms and initials, into the cour dhonneur and from there the entrance originally led directly into the Marble Hall. While the Lower Belvedere was a residence, the Upper Belvedere was primarily designed for the purpose of prestige and display. Parts of the princes collections were also housed in the Lower Belvedere.
OrangeryThe Orangery was originally a winter garden that could be heated. As the south façade and roof could be removed in summer, the orange trees could stay in situ and did not have to be carried out of the building.
Although convertible buildings with heating to house sensitive plants in winter were known in Italy and Germany as far back as the sixteenth century, assembling and dismantling parts of these structures was very laborious. Prince Eugenes Orangery was a masterpiece of carpentry and greatly simplified the process using sliding constructions and other contraptions.
After Prince Eugenes death, the orange trees were transferred to Schönbrunn and his Pomeranzenhaus was converted into stables. A false ceiling was installed in 1805 and the original sliding roof was replaced. After 1918, this building housed parts of the Moderne Galerie; from 1953 to 2007 it was the Museum of Medieval Art. In 2007, the architect Susanne Zottl designed a modern, white cube exhibition space in the Orangery.
The Palace Stables, once home to the princes horses, were adapted into a study collection by Berlin architect Kuehn Malvezzi in 2007. This complements the permanent displays of Gothic masterpieces at the Upper Belvedere with the result that, except for a few objects that cannot be exhibited, the entire collection is on show. The study collection comprises approximately 150 works, ranging from a Romanesque crucifix to Late Gothic panel paintings and sculptures, and even including an altarpiece that reveals the forms of the Renaissance. There are works by prominent masters, such as Friedrich Pacher, and many by anonymous painters and sculptors. At the Palace Stables, study exhibitions are regularly staged that focus on a single object or ensemble and revolve around the museums core roles of conservation and research. The series Currently Restored showcases works from the Belvederes collection and has included the Vienna Christmas Relief from Hans Klockers workshop, the Late Gothic sculptures Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by the Master of Heiligenblut, the Abtenau Altarpiece by Andreas Lackner, and the Fragment of the Lenten Veil by Thomas of Villach.
This part of the Lower Belvedere once housed the farriers forge and adjoins the former stables in the large adjacent courtyard. In Salomon Kleiners plans it is labelled Forge, avec le Logement du Mareshal and Schmidten und Schmids-Wohnung (farriers forge and lodgings). In 1752 Maria Theresa purchased the entire Belvedere complex from Prince Eugenes niece, Princess Victoria. A number of years later, between 1761 and 1765, alterations were made to the Lower Belvedere and its ancillary wings and stables. The aim was to create apartments, which were to be used for various purposes by the Habsburgs in the palace itself and by the imperial guard Arcièren-Leibgarde (founded in 1763) in the ancillary buildings. According to the plans, the Spitzhofs structure was not altered, its continued existence explained by the fact that the stables were still in use and so the facility to shoe horses on site was retained. Many years later, minor alterations were made and the Spitzhof was expanded to its current width. In addition, as with other parts of the Lower Belvedere that had not been adapted into apartments, the Spitzhof was used as a storage space.
Belvedere Research CenterThe Research Center for Austrian Art in the Belvedere combines the classic museum tasks of collection, preserving and research in one place, creating new synergies in this way. The extensive holdings provide a unique overview of Austrian art from the fourteenth to the twenty-first centuries.
Users of the Research Center can consult the collections and also take advantage of the expertise of the staff in the Archive, Library, Picture Archive and Digital Belvedere. The material contained and studied in these departments is extensively available in databases.