A Place of International Encounter
The Winterpalais was commissioned by Prince Eugene of Savoy as a magnificent residence and stately palace within Viennas city walls. There were three phases in its construction spanning a period from 1696 to 1724. The prince engaged the architects Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and later Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt to design his city residence. After Prince Eugenes death, the palace was acquired by Empress Maria Theresa in 1752 and subsequently used for the Hofkammer (Court Treasury) and later as the Ministry of Finance. Since 2013, this magnificent, Baroque gem has been open to the public under the direction of the Belvedere. It will return to the Ministry of Finance at the beginning of 2018.
Prince Eugenes town palace and the history of its construction and interior design vividly document his rise to power.
Between 1724 and 1729, the Art of War tapestries from the workshop of Jodocus de Vos were presented in Prince Eugenes official antechamber. The walls used to be lined with red velvet; unfortunately there is no record of the ceilings original decoration.
In Prince Eugenes day, the State Bedroom was considered the enfilades most outstanding room. The green velvet wall covering was interspersed with wide borders embroidered with grotesque motifs. This most spacious stateroom also contained a magnificent bed, which served the purpose of ceremony rather than sleeping. The central ceiling fresco by Louis Dorigny features the Marriage of Hercules and Hebe and is surrounded by illusionistic architecture painted by Marcantonio Chiarini.
This stateroom, once used as an Audience Chamber, was adorned with red velvet wall coverings. One of its eye-catching features was a hot-air stove representing Hercules Fighting Ladon, the dragon guarding the Garden of the Hesperides (today at Schönbrunn Palace). The ceiling fresco by Andrea Lanzani depicts Hercules Ascending to Olympus and has survived intact.
The Yellow Room and the adjacent room originally accommodated the princes picture gallery. A long hall stretching over five window bays, it displayed paintings by artists such as Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, and Guido Reni, as well as two lacquer cabinets. When the remodelling of the palace began in 1752, the room was divided and a false ceiling installed. This still conceals a ceiling fresco of Boreas Abducting Orithyia by Louis Dorigny.
The Conference Room, furnished with a fireplace and a tile stove, still betrays its original function. The walls were covered by tapestries featuring grotesque motifs from the Brussels-based studio of Jodocus de Vos. It is unclear whether the ceiling painting by Paul Strudel, The Victory of Justice over the Unjust Ruler, formed part of the original decoration.
The magnificent Gold Cabinets original carved ceiling has been completely preserved. According to the periods taste, the walls were covered with mirrors and brackets on which Asian porcelain was presented. Parts of the decoration were transferred to the Lower Belvedere and used for the latters Gold Cabinet. The empty surfaces were subsequently decorated with specially created paintings by Franz Caspar Sambach and Franz Zogelmann.
Altogether three library rooms, including the so-called Hall of Battle Paintings, highlighting seven oil paintings depicting the military commanders victorious battles, accommodated major parts of Prince Eugenes extensive book collection. After Prince Eugenes death, Emperor Charles VI acquired his books, manuscripts, and prints for the Court Library.
The small chapel is an addition dating from the reconstruction started in 1752. The wall paintings are particularly interesting, as they seem to be by the hand of a yet unidentified painter from the circle of the Vienna Academy. Prince Eugenes own small chapel used to be installed in the rear section of the State Bedroom, but has not survived. It is believed that both the altar and the parquet flooring come from this original chapel.