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The Kunsthistorisches Museum (lit. "Museum of Art History", also often referred to as the "Museum of Fine Arts") is an art museum in Vienna, Austria. Housed in its festive palatial building on Ringstraße, it is crowned with an octagonal dome. The term Kunsthistorisches Museum applies to both the institution and the main building. It is the largest art museum in the country.
It was opened around 1891 at the same time as the Natural History Museum, Vienna, by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary. The two museums have similar exteriors and face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz. Both buildings were built between 1871 and 1891 according to plans drawn up by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer.
The two Ringstraße museums were commissioned by the emperor in order to find a suitable shelter for the Habsburgs' formidable art collection and to make it accessible to the general public. The façade was built of sandstone. The building is rectangular in shape, and topped with a dome that is 60 meters high. The inside of the building is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco ornamentations, gold-leaf, and paintings.
The museum's primary collections are those of the Habsburgs, particularly from the portrait and armour collections of Ferdinand of Tirol, the collections of Emperor Rudolph II (the largest part of which is, however, scattered), and the collection of paintings of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, of which his Italian paintings were first documented in the Theatrum Pictorium.
Notable works in the picture gallery include:
- Jan van Eyck: Portrait of Cardinal Niccolò Albergati (c. 1431)
- Albrecht Dürer: Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
- Tintoretto: Susanna and the Elders (1555–56)
- Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Summer (1563)
- Antonello da Messina: San Cassiano Altarpiece (1475–1476)
- Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio:
- Peter Paul Rubens:
- Raphael: Madonna of the Meadow (1506)
- Rembrandt: Self Portrait (1652)
- Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting (1665/66)
- Diego Velázquez: Several portraits of the Spanish royal family, a branch of the Habsburg, sent to Vienna.
- Pieter Brueghel the Elder:
- The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559)
- Children's Games (1560)
- The Tower of Babel (1563)
- The Procession to Calvary (1564)
- The Gloomy Day (February - March) (1565)
- The Return of the Herd (October - November) (1565)
- The Hunters in the Snow (December - January) (1565)
- The Peasant and the Nest Robber (Bauer und Vogeldieb), 1568
- The Peasant Wedding (1568/69)
- The Peasant Dance (1568/69)
- Thomas Gainsborough: Landscape in Suffolk (1748; currently not on display)
The collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum:
- Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection
- Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities
- Collection of Sculpture and Decorative Arts
- Coin Cabinet
- Ephesus Museum
- Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments
- Collection of Arms and Armour
- Secular and Ecclesiastical Treasury (in the Schweizerhof)
- Museum of Carriages and Department of Court Uniforms (in Schönbrunn Palace)
- Collections of Ambras Castle (in Innsbruck)
- the Austrian Theatre Museum in Palais Lobkowitz
Also affiliated are the:
One of the museum's most important objects, the Cellini Salt Cellar sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini, was stolen on May 11, 2003 and recovered on January 21, 2006, in a box buried in a forest near the town of Zwettl, Austria. It was featured in an episode of Museum Secrets on the History Channel. It had been the biggest art theft in Austrian history.
The museum is the subject of Johannes Holzhausen's documentary film The Great Museum (2014), filmed over two years in the run up to the re-opening of the newly renovated and expanded Kunstkammer rooms in 2013.
Media related to Kunsthistorisches Museum at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website (in English)
- Photoartkalmar.com: Spherical panorama of entrance
- Flickr.com: Hofburg's Armory photo gallery