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History

Construction under Prince Eugene of Savoy

The Baroque Belvedere palaces, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s summer residence, were designed by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, one of Central Europe’s greatest Baroque architects.

1697 Plot of land purchased to the south of Rennweg.

1712 Building work begins on the Lower Belvedere.

1715 Bologna-born late Baroque painter Marcantonio Chiarini begins the illusionist architectural painting in the Lower Belvedere’s central hall. The ceiling painting is by Martino Altomonte, one of the founders of an independent style of Baroque painting in the region of today’s Austria.

1717 Work begins on the Upper Belvedere.

1718 Work on the Baroque park is completed. Planned by French garden designer Dominique Girard, the gardens reflected the expertise he had acquired while working on the fountains and park at Versailles.

1719 The Turkish ambassador Ibrahim Pasha is received at the Upper Belvedere. Francesco Solimena, the greatest exponent of Neapolitan painting in his day, is commissioned to paint an altarpiece in the palace chapel and the ceiling painting in the Gold Cabinet. Prince Eugene selects Italian frescoist Gaetano Fanti for the illusionist architectural painting in the Marble Hall.

1720 Carlo Carlone, a pioneer of the Rococo style, is commissioned to paint the ceiling fresco in the Upper Belvedere’s Marble Hall. 

1723 Completion of the Upper Belvedere.

1732/33 To improve its structural stability, the Sala Terrena is remodelled into its current form by Hildebrandt. 

The Belvedere after Prince Eugene’s Death

1736 Prince Eugene of Savoy dies in his Vienna town palace on 21 April. As he does not leave a legally valid will, the committee set up by Emperor Charles VI declares Eugene’s niece Princess Victoria his heir.

1752 Maria Theresa acquires the Belvedere property.

1770 Lavish celebrations for the wedding of Maria Theresa’s daughter Maria Antonia to the French dauphin, later Louis XVI, on 17 April at the Belvedere.

The Belvedere Becomes a Museum

1776 Maria Theresa and her son Emperor Joseph II decide to transfer the Imperial Picture Gallery from the Stallburg to the Upper Belvedere. In the spirit of Enlightened Absolutism, the imperial collection is to be opened to the public.

1781 The picture gallery is opened at the Upper Belvedere, one of the world’s first public museums.

1811 Emperor Francis I decides to exhibit the collection from Ambras Castle at the Lower Belvedere. Magnificent armour and weapons, busts, small sculptures, decorative art and many paintings are placed on display. Today most of the Ambras Collection is at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

1888/89 The imperial collections are transferred to the recently constructed Kunsthistorisches Museum. After this is opened on 17 October 1891, there follows a period when the Belvedere palaces are not used as museums. 

The Residence

On the decision of Emperor Franz Joseph I, in 1896 the Upper Belvedere becomes the residence of the heir to the Austrian throne Franz Ferdinand. The building is renovated and adapted by architect Ministerialrat Emil von Förster.

Moderne Galerie

On 2 May 1903, the Moderne Galerie is opened in the Lower Belvedere. Founded on the initiative of the Secession, it is the first state collection to be devoted exclusively to modern art. Its foundation statutes stipulate that contemporary Austrian art should be juxtaposed with international modern art. The collection is soon enlarged to encompass earlier epochs. 

In 1908 the Art Nouveau icon, Gustav Klimt’s Kiss (Lovers) is acquired for the Moderne Galerie by the Austrian Ministry of Culture and Education; in 1911 the museum is renamed the k. u. k. Staatsgalerie.

The Austrian Gallery at the Belvedere

1944/45 The palaces are badly damaged during the Second World War. Sections of both the Upper Belvedere’s Marble Hall and the Lower Belvedere’s Hall of Grotesques are hit by bombs.

1953 After the buildings have been repaired, the museum is reopened in the Upper Belvedere as the Österreichische Galerie (Austrian Gallery).

1955 The Austrian State Treaty is signed on 15 May in the Marble Hall at the Upper Belvedere. 

1978 The Gustinus Ambrosi Museum in the Augarten is opened to exhibit the Austrian sculptor’s work following his death in 1975.

2000 Atelier Augarten opens, later to become Augarten Contemporary, an exhibition centre for contemporary art.

2002 The 20er Haus, a pavilion designed by Karl Schwanzer for the 1958 World Expo in Brussels, is incorporated into the Österreichische Galerie.

The Belvedere from 2007-2016 (Director Agnes Husslein-Arco)

2007 Adaptation and sensitive alteration of the Lower Belvedere and installation of a white cube in the Orangery; opening of the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery for temporary exhibitions. The Medieval Treasury, the study collection in the former Palace Stables, is also opened. 

2008 Ground-breaking ceremony for the remodelling of the 20er Haus and completion of permanent displays for all parts of the collection at the Upper Belvedere. 

2009 Opening of the Belvedere Research Centre on Rennweg and construction of a connecting corridor between the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery.

2010 Founding of the Institute for the Compilation of Catalogues Raisonnés at the Belvedere Research Centre.

2011 Opening of the 21er Haus as a new exhibition space for contemporary Austrian art in an international context and completion of conservation treatments in the Upper Belvedere’s Sala Terrena and Grand Staircase.

2012 Prince Eugene’s Winterpalais is added as a branch of the Belvedere.

2013 Opening of Prince Eugene’s Winterpalais in Vienna’s city centre (Himmelpfortgasse), the Belvedere’s fourth exhibition venue. The staterooms are opened to the public for the first time in its history.

since 2015 Conservation of the gilding in the Upper Belvedere’s exhibition spaces, restoring the rooms to their former splendour.

2015 Modernization of the Upper Belvedere by installing a high-tech heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and humidifying system.

since 2016 Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who moved into the Upper Belvedere in the late 1890s, had the glazing bars removed from the original windows. The Baroque geometry of these early windows is now being restored.

2016 The exhibition lighting is upgraded from halogen to LED in the Upper and Lower Belvedere and the 21er Haus.

Redisplay of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s Character Heads.